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Gibraltar: European Elections

The Earl of Dundonald asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Extension of the European parliamentary franchise to Gibraltar will require amendment of the 1976 European Communities Act on Direct Elections. This will require the agreement on all European Union member states.

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The United Kingdom tabled the necessary amendment on 16 March and we expect it to be considered as part of the negotiations on establishing common principles for European Parliamentary elections which are currently underway.

Once the 1976 Act has been amended, primary domestic United Kingdom legislation will be needed.

Firearm and Shotgun Certificates: Register

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the working group set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers to finalise the detailed database needed to fulfil the statutory obligation to establish a central register of firearms and shotgun certificates has submitted the requirement to the Association of Chief Police Officers Police National Computer Steering Committee; if so, whether they will arrange for a copy of it to be placed in the Library of the House; and, if not, when it is now expected that it will be submitted.[HL1697]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I understand that the detailed requirement has now been finalised and submitted to the Association of Chief Police Officers Police National Computer Steering Committee for consideration. I have arranged for a copy to be placed in the Library.

Prisoners: Temporary Release on Licence

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the report on Latchmere House by the Chief Inspector of Prisons (1996), what action they are taking on temporary and early release from prison to participate in employment.[HL1661]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The arrangements for temporary release which were introduced in 1995 already allow eligible prisoners to be released on facility licence to participate in employment.

Following a comprehensive review of the Release on Temporary Licence arrangements, changes to the system were introduced in September 1998 which included allowing facility licence to be granted for working out schemes for longer than five consecutive days at any one time where the needs of work make this necessary.

Asylum and Immigration: MPs' Hotline

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the "MPs' Hotline", for queries about asylum and immigration casework, is permanently engaged.[HL1659]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There is one telephone designed for the MPs' helpline. The helpline receives an average of 80 calls a week, each lasting an average of

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10 minutes. Her Majesty's Government are taking steps to improve the level of service.

Refugee B538623/3(S): Social Security Benefits

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the person whose Home Office reference is B538623/3 (S), who was recognised as a refugee on 15 May 1998 and whose wife and five children arrived to join him in August 1998 with valid entry certificates, why they have refused to provide him with documentation confirming their eligibility for social security payments; and whether it is possible to feed, clothe and house a family of seven people on social security benefits for a single person.[HL1657]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The appropriate documentation was sent on 17 March to the representatives acting for this applicant who will now be able to apply to his local Department of Social Security office for social security benefits in respect of both himself and his family. The assessment and adequacy of social security benefits is of course a matter for the Department of Social Security.

National Identity Card

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further consideration has been given to the introduction of a National Identity Card Scheme, voluntary or mandatory, following the issue of the 1995 Green Paper Identity Cards: a consultation document (Cm 2879) and the Report of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in 1996 (HC172 Session 1995-96).[HL1709]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Policy on a national identity card is kept under review but the Government have not yet reached any firm conclusions about the merits of such a scheme.

Charities and Fundraising Organisations

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are in favour of codes of practice and standards to regulate the activities of charities and fundraising organisations such as the private sector's IS 9000 or the standards for international fundraising organisations as promoted by the Accrediting Bureau for Fundraising Organisations (ABFO). [HL1694]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: All charities and fundraising organisations must adhere to the relevant statutory regulatory requirements. Voluntary codes of practice and standards can be a valuable addition where they help organisations to achieve better administration,

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the provision of high quality services and the promotion of public confidence. It is, however, for individual organisations to decide whether or not to adopt any particular voluntary code.

Proof of Age Cards

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what extent the Proof of Age Card has been introduced to cover age restricted products such as alcohol, tobacco and fireworks; to what extent the industries concerned have been prepared to develop a multi-purpose card; and what is the Government's involvement in this matter.[HL1708]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Portman Group's "Prove It" card covering alcohol sales has been available for some years and has the Government's support. More recently we have encouraged a range of industries to develop a multi-purpose proof of age card to assist retailers selling age restricted goods generally. Citizen Card, sponsored by a number of producer and retail interests, was launched on 15 February and is available nationally to young people between the ages of 12 to 18. The Government have welcomed this industry initiative.

Softwood and Softwood Timber Products

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What have been the quantity and value of softwood and softwood timber products imported into the United Kingdom in each of the last 10 years, and what are the estimates in each of the next 20 years.[HL1674]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): It is possible to differentiate most, but not all, imported timbers between softwood and other timber. For those categories which can be distinguished, available figures for UK imports of softwood are:

YearThousand metric tonnes£ million

The figures cover Standard International Trade Classification

(Rev 3) 247.30, 247.40, 248.20 and 248.30.


HM Customs and Excise Business Monitors MA20 and MQ20.

Estimates of imports for each of the next twenty years are not available. However, estimates of UK demand (of which imports are a component) published by the Forestry Commission, but on a different basis, are available as follows:

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Coniferous sawnwood demand.

YearThousand cubic metres product volume


Revised Forecasts of the Supply and Demand for Wood in the UK by Adrian Whiteman (published by Forestry Commission 1996).

EU Internal Market

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to Article 14(1) of the Consolidated Version of the European Community Treaty, what proposals have been advanced and what discussions have taken place to agree a new date, other than that of 31 December 1992, by which the Council shall "adopt measures with the aim of progressively establishing the internal market", and, with reference to Article 14(3) of the European Community Treaty, what proposals the Commission has made to the Council to "determine the guidelines and conditions necessary to ensure balanced progress in all the sectors concerned".[HL1568]

Lord Simon of Highbury: The Cockfield White Paper established the general legislative programme for the completion of the Single Market with a target date of 31 December 1992. In line with this, the Council adopted a wide range of measures with the aim of progressively establishing the Internal Market. As the legal framework of the Single Market was largely put in place by the end of 1992, this aim has been achieved and there has been no need to discuss further dates.

Work is, however, continuing on ensuring that the Single Market is functioning effectively and there will remain a need for legislation in, for instance, new or changing areas of the economy. In pursuing this, the Commission presented to the European Council meeting at Amsterdam a Single Market Action Plan (SMAP), which included a number of targets, covering the period June 1997 to December 1998. The SMAP also contributes to the process of economic reform in the EU which the UK strongly supports. Now that the SMAP has expired, we expect the Commission to propose to the Council shortly a follow-up programme. These initiatives are obviously in line with the intentions of, though not actually based on, Article 7b EEC (Article 14(3) of the Consolidated Version of the European Community Treaty).

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