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15 Oct 1998 : Column WA119

Written Answers

Thursday, 15th October 1998.

Immigration Act Detainees

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Immigration Act detainees are held in each of the prisons or detention centres in use for this purpose, at the latest convenient date; and, of the total, how many were detained from the port of entry to the United Kingdom.[HL3338]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The available information, relating to persons held in detention solely under Immigration Act powers as at 31 August 1998 by place of detention, is given in the table. Regrettably, information on the number of those persons detained from arrival at a United Kingdom port of entry could only be obtained at disproportionate cost through the examination and cross referencing of individual prison detention and immigration records.

Persons recorded as being in detention(1) solely under Immigration Act powers as at 31 August 1998, by place of detention

LocationTotal Detainees
Immigration detention centres
Dover Harbour18
Heathrow's Queen's Building13
Manchester Airport3
Tinsley House144
Prison establishments
Canterbury 7
Haslar 132
High Down17
Holme House2
Wormwood Scrubs17
Other prison establishments5

(1)Excluding persons detained in police cells.

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Royal Assent

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list those occasions since the war on which Royal Assent to a Bill has been given prior to a Bill passing all its stages through both Houses of Parliament.[HL3304]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Royal Assent Act 1967 provides that Royal Assent is achieved when it is either (a) "pronounced in the presence of both Houses in the House of Lords" or (b) "notified to each House of Parliament, sitting separately by the Speaker of that House". There have been no occasions on which Royal Assent has been given prior to a Bill passing through all its stages in both Houses.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out in detail the normal procedures for obtaining the Royal Assent to a Bill, indicating which documents are submitted to Her Majesty for this purpose and which documents Her Majesty is required to sign before a Bill becomes an Act.[HL3306]

The Lord Chancellor: The procedure is set out in Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice (22nd Edition) pages 563-565 (copy attached).

I draw the noble Lord's attention to the following passage: "When Royal Assent is wanted, the Lord Chancellor submits to the Sovereign a list of those bills which are ready for Royal Assent or which are likely to have passed by the time Royal Assent is to be declared. The list is prepared by the Clerk of the Parliaments" (p563). It is this list, in the form of Letters Patent prepared by the Crown Office, that the Queen signs.

Investment Income Tax Credits

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are still reviewing their proposal to tax credits on dividends for people with small incomes who do not pay income tax, in particular the elderly[HL3291]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes.

Baroness Park of Monmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Given the July 1997 budget decision to halve the tax credit paid on investment income from 20 per cent. to 10 per cent. with effect from April 1999, what plans they have to allow non-taxpayers, many of whom are pensioners who will lose income, to reclaim a notional tax credit of 10 per cent. on dividends from April 1999.[HL3241]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have under review the situation of non-taxpayers affected by the withdrawal of payable tax credits from April 1999.

Greece and Turkey

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What role they see for the International Court of Justice in resolving the range of disputes between Greece and Turkey; and [HL3316]

    What is their estimate of the possibility of armed confrontation between Greece and Turkey; and what action they are promoting with others to defuse the situation.[HL3318]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Her Majesty's Government believe that it is for Greece and Turkey to agree upon the most effective forum in which to discuss their bilateral issues. We continue to urge both sides to adopt an open and flexible approach, including over recourse to the International Court of Justice.

Her Majesty's Government encourage all efforts aimed at the reduction of military tension between Greece and Turkey. In this context, we welcome the efforts of the NATO Secretary-General to work with Greece and Turkey to build confidence in the region. In particular, we welcome the Secretary-General's announcement of 4 June 1998 that Greece and Turkey had agreed to the implementation of the 1998 Yilmaz/Papoulias agreements to reduce tension and avoid incidents in the Aegean.

Nuclear Disarmament

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the follow-up, both nationally and internationally, to the initiatives on nuclear disarmament set out in the Strategic Defence Review; and whether the possibility of establishing a Five Power Nuclear Forum is becoming a reality.[HL3329]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Reduction of the number of warheads deployed on each Trident submarine should be completed before the end of the year, as planned. Adjustments are being made to future warhead production refurbishment and decommissioning plans to maintain an operationally available stockpile of fewer than 200 warheads. Surplus nuclear material is being placed under Euratom safeguards. Work on publication of past defence missile material production and the study on verification technologies, skills and techniques are both under way.

Internationally, we welcome the establishment by the Conference on Disarmament of an Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, and will play an active part in getting negotiations off to a good start. We continue to consider further ways to achieve

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progress towards our goal of global nuclear disarmament, building on the steps we have taken in the Strategic Defence Review and bearing in mind the commitment by the Nuclear Weapon States to work together for the success of the preparatory process for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the conference itself and related issues.

Russia: Nuclear Safety

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest estimate of the Russian Government's ability to control and protect the safety of their 23,000 nuclear weapons; and what negotiations are taking place between NATO and Russia on measures to de-alert nuclear forces.[HL3330]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Russia has assured us that it continues to maintain robust command and control arrangements for, and to ensure the security of, its large numbers of nuclear weapons. It is clear that the Russian authorities are themselves very aware of the potential dangers of any diversion of nuclear weapons. We are watching the situation closely.

The NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council has discussed reductions in tactical nuclear weapons, detargeting and nuclear weapons safety and security. There are no plans for NATO-Russia negotiations on nuclear issues.

Burundi: Sanctions

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies they have made of the impact of sanctions on children in Burundi; what their conclusions are; and what action they are consequently promoting.[HL3332]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government are sympathetic to the plight of the most vulnerable sections of Burundi society, particularly women and children, many of whom are directly affected by the sanctions. We have pressed for the exemptions covering humanitarian supplies to be fully implemented.

Under the UK Presidency, the EU underlined its hope that there will soon be sufficient progress at the Burundi peace talks for regional states to re-examine the sanctions issue.

Her Majesty's Government have not carried out studies on the impact of sanctions on children in Burundi. But the United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations that we support have based their applications for funding on detailed needs assessments and studies. We have provided £5 million for bilateral humanitarian assistance programmes in Burundi since 1995.

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