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Persistent Young Offenders: Time from Arrest to Sentence

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Figures on how long it took to deal with persistent young offenders in 1998 will be published on Thursday 17 June. Copies of the press notice announcing the figures, and of the statistical press notice issued by the Lord Chancellor's Department detailing the method of calculation of the figures, will be placed in the Library.

Immigration Policy: Unmarried Partners

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: It has been decided that, in order to demonstrate a commitment akin to marriage, it is not necessary to demonstrate a prior cohabitation period of four years, and the prior cohabitation period has therefore been changed to two years. The probationary period before settlement may be granted has been increased to two years, which means there will be a four-year cohabitation period before the grant of settlement. Where applicable, these new arrangements will be taken into account when deciding whether or not to initiate enforcement action.

The other provisions of the concession remain unchanged.

Immigration Policy: Spouses and Domestic Violence

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have decided to introduce a concession, which will be outside the Immigration Rules, for overseas spouses who wish to remain in the United Kingdom but who wish to leave their partner because of domestic violence before completion of the 12-month probationary period. In order to benefit under this concession the overseas national will need to provide objective evidence that he or she has been the victim of domestic violence. This is essential if such applications are to be dealt with swiftly and with fairness and consistency.

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The concession will come into force with immediate effect. An applicant whose marriage breaks down during the probationary year as a result of domestic violence may be granted indefinite leave to remain exceptionally, outside the Immigration Rules, provided the domestic violence occurred while the marriage was subsisting and the applicant is able to produce one of the following forms of evidence that domestic violence has taken place: an injunction, non-molestation or other protection order (other than an ex parte or interim order); or a relevant court conviction; or full details of a relevant police caution.

Where a prosecution is pending against the sponsor the applicant may be granted further periods of six months' limited leave to remain, subject to the same conditions, until the outcome of the criminal prosecution is known. Where a hearing seeking an injunction, non-molestation order or other protection order is pending, a decision on the application will be delayed pending the outcome of that hearing.

In addition to helping victims of domestic violence, we have decided, in the interests of compassion and fairness, that where an applicant is widowed during the probationary period he or she may also be granted indefinite leave to remain exceptionally outside the Immigration Rules, provided that the Secretary of State is satisfied that the marriage was subsisting at the time of the sponsor's death.

These arrangements will also be applied to those who have been admitted to join a person settled here under the unmarried partners concession which was announced on 10 October 1997.

Further Education Colleges: Staffing

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of:

    (a) permanent teachers;

    (b) fixed-term teachers; and

    (c) casual teachers, employed in further education colleges in England in 1996-97 were white and non-white respectively.[HL2895]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Further Education Funding Council collects and publishes information on staffing numbers in further education colleges. It is compulsory that full-time staff and some part-time staff indicate their ethnic origin but voluntary for part-time staff on shorter contracts. The published analysis does not differentiate between part-time and casual staff.

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For those staff identifying their ethnic origin, 6 per cent. of full-time staff and 6.8 per cent. of part-time staff identified themselves as non-white.

These figures are broadly similar to the proportion of non-whites in the population.

University Student Support: Applicants' Details

Lord Chesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, when applying for assistance towards tuition fees at university from local education authorities, students are asked to provide details of their ethnic origin.[HL2864]

Baroness Blackstone: There is no requirement under the Education (Student Support) Regulations 1999 for LEAs to request information on the ethnic origin of an applicant for student support. LEAs do, however, have to establish a student's nationality and place and country of birth in order to assess his or her eligibility for student support. This is because the eligibility criteria include conditions on residency and settled status. These conditions vary, depending on, for example, whether or not the student is a UK or EU national; or on whether the student is a refugee or has exceptional leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom.

Service Personnel: Secondary Medical Care in NHS Hospitals

Lord Craig of Radley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of service personnel who required secondary medical care in a National Health Service hospital in the latest available 12-month period were placed on the hospital consultant's or other waiting list and treated in turn with non-service patients.[HL2718]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): All service personnel who require secondary medical care in a National Health Service hospital are placed on the hospital consultant's or other waiting list and treated in turn with other NHS patients on the basis of clinical need.

Yugoslavia: Cost of Bombing Damage

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the estimate of the total cost of the damage to Yugoslavia from the bombing, published in the Independent on 17 May, of 200 billion dollars.[HL2812]

Lord Gilbert: It is impossible to make any reliable estimate of the cost of the damage to Yugoslavia as a result of the NATO bombing campaign. I cannot, therefore, comment on the figure of £125 billion published in the Independent of 17 May.

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Yugoslavia: NATO Targeting Doctrine

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether British representatives at NATO consulted the Treasury over the targeting doctrine that NATO had adopted.[HL2813]

Lord Gilbert: No.

Tobacco Advertising Directive

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the draft regulations to implement the Tobacco Advertising Directive 98/43/EC.[HL3062]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): We have today published draft regulations to implement Directive 98/43/EC banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship. Copies will be placed in the Library.

Organic Farming and Gene Transfer from GM Crops

Lord Winston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the report on organic farming and gene transfer from genetically-modified crops commissioned from the John Innes Centre will be published.[HL3053]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The report is being published today. Copies are being placed in the Library.

Food Standards Committee Report: Government Response

Lord Winston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to respond to the report of the Food Standards Select Committee.[HL3052]

Lord Donoughue: On 15 June we published the Government's response to the Select Committee (CM 4377).

We have also placed in the Library of the House a summary of other responses to the consultation on the draft Food Standards Bill.

Agriculture Council, 14/15 June

Lord Grantchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 14 and 15 June.[HL3136]

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Lord Donoughue: My right honourable friend the Minister represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the European Union Agriculture Council in Luxembourg on 14/15 June.

Concluding a negotiation launched under the UK Presidency last year, the Council reached a unanimous landmark agreement (Spain abstaining) on battery cages for laying hens, the farming system which is most heavily criticised on grounds of animal welfare. From 1 January 2003 any new battery cages must meet new and more welfare-friendly standards. Conventional battery cages will be banned altogether after the end of 2011.

One of my aims was to accommodate non-cage systems of the kind which many UK producers have voluntarily adopted out of concern for animal welfare, and my right honourable friend was pleased to have secured terms which will allow producers who have such systems to keep them, without significant change, also until 31 December 2011.

We regard it as important that, as we raise standards of animal welfare in the European Union, our producers should not be undermined by producers in third countries operating on lower standards. This week's agreement includes a firm undertaking from the Commission to seek wider international agreement on animal welfare standards in the next round of World Trade Organisation negotiations which starts early next year.

The Council also reached unanimous agreement on standards for organic livestock, ending nearly three years' discussion. Consumers and producers will benefit from knowing that all livestock products sold as organic must in future conform to a minimum set of requirements applicable throughout the EU. It remains open to each member state to set stricter (but not less strict) standards for its own producers. We intend that there should be early discussion between government and UK organic farming organisations about the implementation of the new rules.

In the light of the problem of dioxin contamination in Belgium, the Council agreed on the urgent need to improve the monitoring and control of foodstuffs, and in particular invited the Commission to carry out a thorough review of feedingstuffs legislation and labelling.

The Council also agreed the 1999 CAP price proposals by qualified majority, Italy voting against. This largely prolongs the status quo for the 1999-2000 marketing year, in advance of the Agenda 2000 price cuts beginning next year. As part of the deal, my right honourable friend secured an important Commission commitment to allow member states to apply more flexible set-aside rules where this brought environmental benefits, as well as their agreement to correct an anomaly which prevented fruit and vegetable producer groups including non-grower members on their boards.

Ministers also registered the importance they attach to milk consumption by schoolchildren and undertook to reflect further on how to encourage such consumption in a cost-efficient way.

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