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17 Feb 1999 : Column 77

Written Answers

Wednesday, 17th February 1999.

Asylum Seekers: Legal Aid in EU Member States

The Earl of Dartmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): All member states have arrangements under which either legal aid or a free legal adviser may be provided to asylum seekers. The arrangements vary between member states and the availability of support may be restricted in certain types of case.

General Pinochet: Arrest Warrant

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor: Senator Pinochet was arrested by officers of the Extradition Squad of the Metropolitan Police Service at the request of the Kingdom of Spain on the evening of Friday 16 October 1998 pursuant to a provisional warrant issued earlier the same evening by Bow Street Magistrates' Court under Section 8 of the Extradition Act 1989 and Article 16 of the European Convention on Extradition 1957. The Crown Prosecution Service was informed of the arrest on Monday 19 October 1998. It could not, therefore, have acted before that date.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor: I refer the noble Lord to my Answer given on 11 February 1999 (WA 50-51) to him.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Lord Chancellor: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to him on 10 February 1999 (WA 28).

Raptors, Game Birds and Racing Pigeons: Research

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether progress has been made in assessing the impact of raptor numbers on game bird and racing pigeon interests; and what future work is planned.[HL1116]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My noble friend Lady Hayman on 14 January 1998 (WA 203) reported on the work of the Raptor Working Group, which was set up in 1995 to investigate this matter.

In the last 12 months, the group has taken forward the programme of work outlined in the parliamentary Answer. It has concentrated on formulating possible solutions to the conflicts arising between certain birds of prey and game and pigeon interests. The group submitted an interim report to Ministers in November 1998.

The Working Group intends to complete this year its programme of work, which will include the following:


    to consider the results and implications of the 1998 national survey of hen harriers; assess the results and implications of the research on raptor predation of red grouse as influenced by moorland management practices; review the findings of the Langholm management trial; assess the results of the research on interactions between racing pigeons and birds of prey and consider practical mechanisms for the resolution of any problem in this area; review outputs from Scottish Natural Heritage's Moorland Working Group and other fora; consider means to assess why illegal killing of birds is still prevalent.

It will then produce a final report and recommendations to Ministers in late 1999.

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: UK Powers

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answers by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 30 November 1998 (H.L. Deb., col. 236) on the constitutional position of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, that the United Kingdom is only entitled to impose legislative solutions "as a matter of last resort", whether they will clarify the circumstances in which legislative solutions might be imposed, and precisely what action could be taken.[HL1024]

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The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The circumstances in which the United Kingdom would be justified in using its paramount powers to legislate for the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are described in paragraphs 1497 to 1513 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution (Cmnd 5460).

Chile: Home Secretary's Visit

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on 18 January (WA 88) about the visit of the Home Secretary to Chile in 1966, whether the Home Secretary engaged in any political activity; and, if so, whether they will give full details.[HL928]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary tells me that during his stay he met a number of Chilean students in the Chilean Students' Federation and talked about politics and other subjects. But at this distance of over 32 years he cannot recall anything which could be defined as "political activity" beyond that. In October 1966, my right honourable friend published an article in the Tribune newspaper on the prospects of reform under the then Government of President Frei. A copy of the article is in the Library.

Metropolitan Police Costs Forecast

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the total cost to public funds of the Metropolitan Police in 1999-2000.[HL1118]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District has estimated that net revenue expenditure for the Metropolitan Police for 1999-2000 will be £1,880,068,000 and he intends to issue precepts which would result in a council tax for police purposes of £77.44 for a property in valuation Band D.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has discussed this with representatives of local authorities in the Metropolitan Police District.

He has informed the Receiver that he is content with the estimates and the proposed precept.

In Inner London, the Receiver's precepts cover also the Inner London Magistrates Courts Service and the Inner London Probation Service. His proposals would result in council taxes for these services of £6.40 and £8.78 respectively for a property in valuation Band D.

Compared to the current year, the proposed precepts would result in an increase in the Receiver's council tax of 5.2 per cent. in Inner London and 9.5 per cent. in the rest of the Metropolitan Police District.

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Asylum Seeker Support Arrangements

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish further details about the operation of the asylum seeker support arrangements for which provision is made in Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Bill.[HL1119]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: On 17 February, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will place in the Library a draft process manual which describes the way the Home Office proposes to discharge its responsibilities for supporting asylum seekers, and what they may expect. The draft manual will be revised and may be expanded as more detailed elements of the scheme are designed and settled. Once the policy is in its final form, it will be sub-edited into clearer English.

Television Licence Fee Concessions for Blind People

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What broadcasting licence fees are payable by registered blind persons resident in (a) England and Wales; (b) Scotland; and (c) Northern Ireland respectively.[HL924]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Throughout the United Kingdom, registered blind people are entitled to a reduction of £1.25 in the television licence fee and therefore pay £96.25 for a colour licence and £31.25 for a black and white one. This year's review of the future funding of the BBC will include a consideration of the current concessionary arrangements, including the reduction for blind people, and whether a suitable alternative structure could be available.

Forthcoming Elections: Guidance to Civil Servants

Baroness Pitkeathley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice has been given to civil servants on the conduct of government business during the forthcoming elections to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and local councils in England on 6 May, and to the European Parliament on 10 June.[HL1117]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay): The Government have issued guidance to civil servants on the principles which they should observe in relation to the conduct of government business in the period before the forthcoming elections.

The guidance stresses that civil servants should conduct themselves in accordance with the Civil Service code and is based on the need to maintain political impartiality of the Civil Service and the need to ensure

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that public resources are not used for party political purposes.

The guidance will come into force on 13 April for the 6 May elections and on 20 May for the 10 June elections.

Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Joint Consultative Committee with Liberal Democrat Party: Confidentiality

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Mr. Ashdown is free to impart to other Members of the House of Commons details of the discussions which take place and the papers circulated within the Cabinet committees of which he is a member.[HL848]

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The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The degree of discretion required for the proceedings of the Joint Consultative Committee depends on the subject matter and nature of the discussion.

Joint Consultative Committee with Liberal Democrat Party

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which members of the Liberal Democrat party attend cabinet committee meetings; and[HL869]

    Which cabinet committees are attended by Liberal Democrats.[HL870]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Joint Consultative Committee with the Liberal Democrat Party is chaired by the Prime Minister. Other Ministers and Liberal Democratic spokesmen are invited to attend as necessary.

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