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21 Jul 1999 : Column WA103

Written Answers

Wednesday, 21st July 1999.


Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made by the continuing programme of development aid to rebuild Montserrat's economic infrastructure.[HL3652]

Baroness Amos: I refer the noble Lord to the answer given by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development in another place to my honourable friend the Member for Stevenage (Mrs. Follett) on 14 July 1999, Official Report, col. 220.

In addition, we have committed £2.7 million for road repairs, with associated plant and equipment costing a further £600,000. We have also improved the electricity and water supplies in the north of the island. We have funded the construction of business premises, costing £700,000, and are also supporting a project to encourage the revival of the private sector through the provision of loans, training and retail space for small enterprises. External transport links to Antigua have been maintained and a project to upgrade the heliport to basic International Civil Aviation Organisation standards is currently under way. Consultants will be appointed shortly to begin the design work required to rehabilitate WH Bramble airport. Since 1997 we have financed a number of improvements to the Little Bay Jetty to lengthen its economic life. Work will start soon on the improvement of landside facilities to enable the efficient and safe handling of Montserrat's goods trade over the next five years.

These measures are being taken forward as part of a programme of priority actions for the rebuilding of Montserrat agreed in the Montserrat Country Policy Plan by Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Montserrat.

Reproductive Health and Contraception: Catholic Church's Role

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to bring forward policies to support the Secretary of State for International Development's contention that the Catholic church is playing a "deeply obstructive role" in the development of women's reproductive health, as reported in the Guardian of 30 June.[HL3656]

Baroness Amos: We recognise the contribution of the Catholic Church to development. However, we do not agree with its position concerning reproductive health and contraception.

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The Government's policies to promote reproductive health in developing countries focus on ensuring that all women and men are able to exercise their right to good quality reproductive health services, including the widest possible range of safe, effective and affordable contraceptives and barrier methods to prevent sexual infection. DFID also works with developing countries to make abortion safer, where legal.

Child Support, Scotland

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the statement by the Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 1 July (H.L. Deb., cols. 437-442), whether there is a conflict in Scotland between the proposed formula for child support payments in Great Britain and the duty to maintain contact with estranged children, as laid down in Sections 1 and 2 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1996.[HL3576]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): There is no conflict.

Sections 1 and 2 of the Children (Scotland) 1995 Act set out the responsibilities of parents and include their right to maintain personal relations and direct contact with children if they are not living with each other.

The proposals for reform set out in the White Paper A new contract for welfare: Children's Rights and Parents' Responsibilities (Cm 4349) are intended to ensure that non-resident parents also fulfil their responsibility to support their children. The new rates strike the right balance between protecting the needs of the children and ensuring that non-resident parents have sufficient income left to meet other expenses. In most cases this will include the costs of maintaining contact with their children, although, where these costs are exceptionally high, the normal child support rates can be reduced.

We believe that parents living apart from their children should be encouraged to maintain regular contact with them. Chapter 7 of the White Paper sets out the way in which our plans will support this important aspect of parental responsibility.

NHS Wheelchair Prices

The Earl of Courtown asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the price range within which the National Health Service purchases the basic wheelchair.[HL3661]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): There are three main suppliers of basic wheelchairs to the National Health Service: Remploy Healthcare, R & B Lomax Ltd

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and Invacare (UK) Ltd. They all supply both user-propelled and attendant controlled chairs. Prices range from a "one chair only" price to a "commitment of 500 to 749 chairs" as follows:

User Propelled ChairsOne only 500+
Attendant ControlledOne only 500+


NHS Supplies.

Northern Ireland: Decommissioning

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Good Friday Agreement prohibits the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the Northern Ireland Executive if the IRA fail to decommission their arms and ammunition by May 2000.[HL3558]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): Under the Good Friday Agreement, decisions on exclusion from ministerial office are for the Assembly to take on a cross-community basis. Paragraph 25 of Strand One and paragraphs 1-6 of the decommissioning section are the relevant provisions. The exclusion provisions are given effect by Section 30 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why it is not possible to exclude those who default on a commitment to decommissioning, or on actual decommissioning, from the Northern Ireland Assembly.[HL3524]

Lord Dubs: There is no provision in the Good Friday Agreement for exclusion in any circumstances from the Assembly. Paragraph 25 of Strand One of the agreement provides for exclusion from ministerial office by decision of the Assembly taken on a cross-community basis. This is given effect by Section 30 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. To take the decision away from the Assembly and provide for automatic exclusion in defined circumstances would go beyond the Good Friday Agreement.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the event of a default on the requirement to decommission arms by Sinn Fein/IRA the Northern Ireland Assembly were suspended, further legislation would be required to establish a new assembly which excluded the defaulting parties; and, if not, under what power such an Assembly would be set up.[HL3525]

Lord Dubs: These matters are relevant to the Northern Ireland Bill, debated in the House on 14 July. Under that Bill as presented, a suspension period would

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be brought to an end, and devolved power restored, by order of the Secretary of State in accordance with Clause 2. Clause 4(6) deals with the consequences of the exclusion of a party from ministerial office. There is no provision, under existing or proposed legislation, for exclusion from the Assembly.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the timetable or time limits over which General de Chastelain is to preside will be included in the Northern Ireland legislation which is to establish an Assembly.[HL3526]

Lord Dubs: The Assembly has already been established by the Northern Ireland (Elections) Act 1998 and will assume devolved powers under the provisions of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The Northern Ireland Bill, currently before the House, provides for suspension of the devolved powers of the Assembly if, among other matters, the Decommissioning Commission reports that there has been a failure to take, in accordance with the Joint Statement, a step specified by the Commission. Paragraph 3 of the Joint Statement provides for the process of decommissioning to begin within the period specified by the Commission. Paragraph 4 provides for the Commission to specify that actual decommissioning is to start within a specified time.

Business Rates: Forthcoming Revaluation

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to phase in the increases in business rates payable in London following the non-domestic rating revaluation due to take effect in April 2000.[HL3738]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We fully understand concerns about the revaluation and the need of those likely to be affected to know, as early as possible, how they will be affected. They need time to plan ahead. However, we do not yet have complete information about the detailed effects of the revaluation, and will not do so for a while.

We therefore aim to publish in late September a consultation paper outlining options for handling the impact of revaluation in England. We recognise the need in formulating the proposals for this consultation paper, to take account of the views of those likely to be affected. We are therefore convening a consultative forum of representative national bodies to consider the issue and I expect the first meeting to be later this summer.

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