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Written Answers

Tuesday, 16th June 1998.


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they have had with the Disasters Emergency Committee to clarify whether there is a difference of analysis between that committee (and its member organisations) and the Government on the nature of the crisis in Sudan and on what response is most appropriate; and, if they have had discussions, what the outcome of those discussions proved to be.[HL2187]

Lord Whitty: We have had no discussions directly with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) on the analysis of the crisis in Sudan. We are in close contact with our international non-government organisation partners, many of whom are members of the DEC, and we actively support the work of several of them in the Bahr el Ghazal region. We have a common aim, to ensure that enough food reaches the most vulnerable as quickly as possible to prevent more people dying.


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they have taken to help resolve the logistical difficulties being encountered in getting supplies to victims of the earthquake in Afghanistan.[HL2190]

Lord Whitty: We are very conscious of these difficulties, and in particular the urgent need for helicopters, which are the only way of reaching some of the villages affected by the earthquake. We have investigated through both military and civilian channels the possibility of providing helicopters from the UK, but our enquiries suggested that it would be much more cost-effective and considerably quicker to source helicopters from countries closer to Afghanistan. We have provided details of potential suppliers in the region to the UN, who are now securing additional capacity. We have offered to consider requests for funding to meet hire costs, but we understand this is not required at present.

As part of an aid package announced earlier this year we provided £1.9 million to the UN to help agency co-ordination and logistics. This included funding for the UN aircraft which are now being used to deliver relief supplies and personnel to the earthquake affected areas.

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Sierra Leone

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they will take following the new United Nations Security Council resolution on Sierra Leone adopted on 5 June lifting the arms embargo and imposing one on non-governmental forces in Sierra Leone.[HL2269]

Lord Whitty: The new resolution supersedes part of UN Security Council Resolution 1132. It ensures that the arms embargo to Sierra Leone applies to non-governmental forces and makes explicit exception for the Military Observer Group of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOMOG) and the United Nations.

Following the adoption by the UN Security Council on 5 June of the new resolution, Orders in Council are now being prepared giving full effect in our law to the arms embargo imposed by the new resolution.

Government Expenditure Per Capita

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the rate of public funds expenditure per head spent on each resident of (a) England (b) Scotland for each year since 1979, expressed in (a) cash terms and (b) as a percentage of total public expenditure.[HL2126]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I would refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to his question of 6 April, which referred him to Public Expenditure: Statistical Analyses 1998-99 (Cm 3901). As well as figures for aggregate identifiable general government expenditure by country, to which my previous Answer referred, the same publication also includes--in Tables 7.2A to 7.6B--a breakdown of identifiable expenditure by country from 1992-93 to 1996-97 into 11 functional categories, presented in both cash and per capita terms together with their respective indices. Data back to 1984-85 can be obtained from the earlier publications referred to in my previous Answer.

Government Cars

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For how many hours per day government cars are required to keep their engines running in order to ensure that their catalytic converters always operate properly; and[HL2141]

    Further to the Written Answer by the Chairman of Committees on 1 June (WA 12), why cars under the control of the Government Car and Despatch Agency are not fitted with security devices which can be powered from the car battery alone for extensive lengths of time; and[HL2142]

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    Whether the Government Car and Despatch Agency require that the engines of their cars are kept running in their parking places in government offices in order to provide power for their security devices; and, if not, why the parking areas at the House of Lords are so much less secure that battery-draining security systems have to remain operational.[HL2143]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Responsibility for these matters has been delegated under the terms of its Framework Document to the Government Car and Despatch Agency. I have asked its Chief Executive, Mr. Nick Matheson, to write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Lord Berkeley from the Chief Executive of the Government Car and Despatch Agency, Mr. N. Matheson.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey has asked me in my capacity as the Chief Executive responsible for the Government Car Service (GCS) to reply to your parliamentary Questions dated 4 June 1998 about (a) the proper use of catalytic converters in GCS cars; (b) the power needs of security devices fitted to some GCS cars; and (c) the appropriate use of such devices within the precincts of the House of Lords.

All GCS cars are fitted with catalytic converters. Broadly speaking, a catalytic converter works by engine exhaust emissions reacting with compounds within the catalytic converter, cleaning the emissions from the engine. This reaction only works when the compounds in the converter have reached a high temperature. Until that point, the emissions from a cold engine are no cleaner than from a normal car engine. Therefore it is important that the car engine should be kept at an optimum operating temperature if the car is going to be used frequently. However if the car is likely to be stationary for some time, then it makes sense to turn off the engine. Our drivers are under clear instruction to keep their engines running to a minimum consistent with security requirements, and to be mindful of the environmental impact of our operations at all times. Our drivers use their professional judgment on when to keep their vehicle engines running.

The agency's security vehicles are fitted with a number of security devices. I cannot discuss in any detail what these devices are, or how they operate, but I can assure you that the most modern and efficient equipment is used. These devices are always kept active when a vehicle is on official duty and is occupied. One particular system requires that the engine is running for it to function at all.

It is for these reasons that the engines of security vehicles are kept running when occupied and not because there is any inherent lack of security in the areas surrounding the House of Lords.

The Prime Minister: Press Articles

Lord Onslow of Woking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the articles which have appeared in the national press in the Prime Minister's name during the past 12 months.[HL1926]

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The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): The Prime Minister has written many articles for national, international, regional and local newspapers and specialist magazines to explain government policy and initiatives designed to improve the lives of the people of Britain. He will continue to do this. A full list of articles is not kept.

Intelligence and Security Committee: Appointment

Lord Steel of Aikwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Prime Minister intends to fulfil his obligation to appoint a Member of this House to the Intelligence and Security Committee; and for how long now the position has been vacant.[HL1338]

Lord Richard: The Prime Minister has now appointed the right honourable Lord Archer of Sandwell QC to the Intelligence and Security Committee to replace Baroness Ramsay, who became a Minister on 2 December 1997.

Prison Service Health Care Directorate: Temporary Staff

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the names of temporary staff working in the Health Care Directorate of the Prison Service on 6 April; and, for each person, the nature of the duties carried out, the duration of employment and the name of the agency through which that person was hired.[HL2148]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The names of individuals who work in the Prison Service or information that could identify them are not normally published. On 6 April 1998, there were 10 staff working on a temporary basis in the Directorate of Health Care. Their duties included a variety of tasks, largely of a clerical or secretarial nature.

Metropolitan Police District Boundaries

Lord Orme asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to change the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police District to make them coterminous with the boundaries of the 32 London boroughs.[HL2302]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government are committed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. Aligning the operational boundaries of the different agencies is an important element in this. The Crime and Disorder Bill's proposed changes to the youth justice system and creation of local crime reduction partnerships give added emphasis to the importance of boundary alignment. The recently

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announced changes to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will make police and CPS operational boundaries coterminous.

We have in recent months received strong representations that the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police District, which stretch into Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey, make more difficult effective joint working between the different criminal justice agencies.

The present boundaries are an historical anachronism dating back to early in the 19th century, before the advent of modern local government.

The Government have therefore decided that the Greater London Authority Bill, which will come before this House later this year, will provide for a change to the boundaries of the Metropolitan Police District to make them coterminous with those of the 32 London boroughs. As a result, those parts of Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey which are currently policed by the Metropolitan Police Service will be policed by the respective county police forces.

This change will mean that local councils and criminal justice agencies in the county districts of the Metropolitan Police District will not have to work with two different police forces, which leads to inefficiency and duplication. The change will help to promote effective joint working between agencies as they implement the provisions in the Crime and Disorder Bill.

These boundary changes will also support democratic accountability and enable the Metropolitan Police to focus on policing London, a major task in itself. A majority of elected members on the new Metropolitan Police Authority will provide the vital democratic link between Londoners and the Metropolitan Police. Residents in those parts of Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey currently policed by the Metropolitan Police will not have a vote in the elections for the mayor and assembly members. It is therefore right that those areas be policed by county forces whose police authorities already provide local democratic accountability in their areas.

We expect this change to take place in April 2000. Implementing it will require close co-operation between the relevant police forces, police authorities and local councils, and other interested parties. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has written to them today to inform them of this decision and to seek their views on how it should be implemented.

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