Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Iran: Efforts to Combat Narcotics Trade

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: We are aware of the efforts that Iran makes to counter the narcotics trade, an effort which deserves to be more widely recognised. Most of the heroin sold in Britain originates in Afghanistan. Iran is a key country on the heroin route from Afghanistan to Europe and is in the front line in the war against this trade. It has made good efforts in recent years to stem the traffic. Close to 3,000 deaths among frontier guards in the past 20 years is a regrettable reflection of the commitment that Iran has made to try to combat this menace.

In that connection, I should like to announce that the Government are donating £300,000 to the United Nations Drug Control Programme to provide Iranian frontier personnel with 1,020 bullet proof vests. This donation will enhance the capacity of Iran's frontier personnel to combat the drug traffickers and to reduce the sad toll of casualties which they have borne.

No supplier has yet been nominated for these goods. If they are sourced from the UK, an export licence would need to be granted. If such a licence were granted, this would represent an exception to our arms embargo on Iran and would be announced.

Strategic Export Controls

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: We will shortly be placing a copy of the updated Summary in the Libraries

25 Mar 1999 : Column WA179

of the House. During the course of research for the Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls a number of technical errors were discovered in the Summary, which forms an Appendix to the Annual Report. These errors, which pre-date 1 May 1997, are:


    the entry for Burma should have read "Does not cover contracts existing at the time of imposition". Previous versions of the Summary had stated that existing contracts were covered. (1991 EU embargo).


    the entry for Liberia should have specified that the embargo did not apply to ECOWAS peacekeeping forces. Previous versions of the Summary had omitted this point. (1992 UN embargo).


    the entry for Sudan should have read "the embargo does not cover contracts existing at the time of imposition". Previous versions of the Summary had stated that existing contracts were covered. (1994 EU embargo).


    the date of the introduction of the EU arms embargo against China should read 27 June rather than 26 June 1989 as in previous versions.

In addition, for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia we have added that the embargoes were originally imposed in 1991. The 1996 Ministerial statements (referred to in the Summary) confirmed the EU's position on arms exports to these countries.

We have taken the opportunity of publishing the Annual Report to correct these errors.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls.[HL1725]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: The Government have published the Annual Report today. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and in the Vote Office. The Report will also be available on the FCO website.

Millennium Compliance

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 10 March (H.L. Deb., col. 218) concerning millennium compliance, how many telecommunication operators licensed by Oftel have:


    (a) effectively declared that all their services will be immune from both the internal and external effects of the "millennium bug";


    (b) declared themselves to be free from substantial risks of material disruption;


    (c) in hand programmes that will be complete by 1 June 1999 to ensure that their operations will be free from substantial risks of disruption;


    (d) in hand programmes that will be complete by 1 September 1999 to ensure that their operations will be free from substantial risks of disruption; and

25 Mar 1999 : Column WA180


    (e) in hand programmes that will be complete by 1 December 1999 to ensure that their operations will be free from substantial risks of disruption.[HL1502]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Oftel has a primary category of 20 companies, including BT, the cable operators and the four mobile operators, which provide direct services to customers (e.g. dial tone) and 999 and these have been the main focus of Oftel attention. These are the 20 companies to which the answers to questions (a) to (e) relate. Question a.

Programmes within the 20 primary tele- communications operators are being assessed based on both the internal and external dependencies of operators throughout Oftel's programme of assessment work. Although it is not possible to provide an absolute guarantee that there will be no adverse effects arising from the bug, Oftel judges that the programmes of all companies reviewed so far show that they are reducing risk to an acceptable level. Question b.

Assessments and Oftel prioritisation have been driven by the "no material disruption" criterion. It is however important to distinguish between the effects of the bug and congestion that may occur on networks due to excessive demand at the start of the New Year. The 20 primary operators are reviewing normal network management and control provisions to ensure that network integrity and 999 operation are preserved. Question c.

Only a handful of companies will have fully completed programmes by 1 June. Telecommunications is a networked industry and there are aspects of testing at the interconnection level that need to continue until programmes are complete. Many of the 20 primary operators are due to complete at 30 June. Question d.

Oftel is confident that all 20 companies on its primary list will have completed their programmes by 1 September. Question e.

See answer to d. above.

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 10 March (H.L. Deb., col. 218) concerning millennium compliance, whether 100 per cent. availability of telecommunications will be essential for the effective implementation of all contingency plans both of industry and government.[HL1501]

25 Mar 1999 : Column WA181

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: All organisations should have business continuity plans so they can maintain essential services in the event of date related failures, whether the failures are internal or external, such as telecommunications. Risk assessment of the likelihood of such failures and their potential impact is an essential element of the business continuity plan.

All parts of the national infrastructure are interdependent upon each other, which is why the Government brought together the key service providers and users in the National Infrastructure Forum, led by Action 2000. The National Infrastructure Forum promotes the independent assessment of the Year 2000 preparedness of critical service providers and this information is shared with members of the National Infrastructure Forum and the wider public and business communities so that it can help inform their risk assessments.

Within government the Home Office is responsible for the Emergency Communications Network. This is a private telephone network, independent of the public network, for use by local authority co-ordinators responding to emergencies, with connections to government departments, agencies, the military and public utility connections.

Private Security Industry: Regulation

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to announce proposals on regulation of the private security industry.[HL1758]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): We intend to publish a White Paper containing the Government's proposals for a framework for comprehensive regulation of the private security industry tomorrow. Copies will be placed in the Library.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to amend the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.[HL1759]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We looked afresh at the scheme as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The review recommended no changes to the basic structure of the scheme. In the financial settlement following the review more money was made available for the scheme, with the aim of ensuring that the number of cases settled equalled or exceeded the number of new applications received so that the number of cases outstanding remained broadly constant or fell. We want to see the resources now available used as effectively as possible for the benefit of victims and taxpayers alike.

We are accordingly undertaking a public consultation exercise inviting views on whether and, if so, how the scheme might be refined or improved within the parameters of the present tariff-based arrangements and the financial provision set for the next three years.

25 Mar 1999 : Column WA182

A consultation document entitled Compensation for Victims of Violent Crime--Possible changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is accordingly being sent to a wide range of practitioners, interested organisations and the media. The document will be made available to other enquirers on request. Copies have been placed in the Library.

The consultation document sets out the background to, and rationale for, the scheme. It summarises historical details for applications received and awards paid, and sets out performance plans for the coming three-year financial cycle. It offers suggestions on how the tariff of injuries might be changed to improve internal consistency and to make it more comprehensive, and summarises a number of other suggestions put forward at various times on what other changes might be made. It also identifies ways in which scheme resources could be released to pay for changes considered desirable if the cost of those changes exceeded the provision available.

The consultation document invites comment by mid-June. After that we will analyse carefully the responses received and consider how best to take matters forward.

In the interim, I have today laid before parliament a draft of alterations to the scheme, seeking to add additional injury descriptions to the tariff of awards. This is without prejudice to the consultation exercise. The purpose is the limited one of enabling the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority to settle outstanding claims from applicants whose injuries are not currently listed in the tariff but which are considered sufficiently serious to qualify for at least the minimum award of £1,000. The proposed changes require approval by the affirmative resolution procedure before they can take effect.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page