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28 Oct 1999 : Column WA35

Written Answers

Thursday, 28th October 1999.

Judicial Appointments

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take to provide further information about the system for judicial appointments in England and Wales.[HL4448]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The first ever Judicial Appointments Annual Report, covering the period 1 April 1998 to 31 March 1999, is published today. The report includes a detailed account, with relevant statistics, of the competitions for each judicial office during that year as well as information about how the judicial appointments system works and details of the changes I have made, and plan to make, to that system. Copies of the report have been placed in both Libraries. The report is also available on the Internet.

Criminal Prosecutions: Expenditure

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the relative annual expenditure on (a) the prosecution of offenders; (b) criminal legal aid; and (c) advice and assistance for defendants and suspects, for each of the last five years for which figures are available.[HL4219]

The Lord Chancellor: Annual expenditure for the prosecution of defendants, criminal legal aid and advice and assistance for each of the last five years was as follows:

Prosecution of defendants by the Crown Prosecution Service and Serious Fraud Office (gross expenditure)*
Criminal legal aid (net expenditure) in the Magistrates' and Crown Courts**
Advice and assistance (net expenditure) in criminal matters

*A wide number of agencies undertake prosecutions as well as private prosecutions. It is not practicable to obtain the cost in respect of all these prosecutions. The CPS and SFO are two principal prosecution agencies.

**Legal Aid expenditure includes the cost of defending actions brought by all prosecuting agencies and by private individuals.

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Questions for Written Answer: Delays

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why eight Questions for Written Answer, tabled before the Summer Recess, remained unanswered on 13th October; and what steps are being taken to improve the speed of response of government departments to such questions in this House.[HL4247]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Unfortunate administrative misunderstandings resulted in the regrettable delay in answering the Questions referred to. The departments concerned are strengthening their procedures in order to improve the service provided to this House.

Iraq: Child and Maternal Mortality

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the publication of the UNICEF survey into child and maternal mortality in Iraq, what action they intend to take to encourage additional international funding for humanitarian efforts in line with UNICEF'S proposals.[HL4230]

Baroness Amos: The UNICEF study showed that child mortality had fallen in Northern Iraq where Saddam Hussein's regime does not manage the oil-for-food programme but has risen in Bagdad controlled Iraq where it does.

We are taking the lead in pressing for more revenues to be made available to the oil-for-food programme and for these revenues to be used to meet the most urgent needs of the vulnerable, especially children, and we will consider sympathetically requests from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to help fund the humanitarian efforts highlighted in this survey.

However, opportunities for increasing international funding are constrained by the Government of Iraq's refusal to co-operate in allowing non-governmental organisations to work freely in Iraq.

Russia: Steel Industry

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the know-how fund or other British institutions or consultants are engaged in the restructuring of the steel industry in Russia.[HL4308]

Baroness Amos: There is no UK government-financed assistance currently engaged in the restructuring of the steel industry in Russia.

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Powers of Entry to Private Premises

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which statutory instruments giving powers of entry to private premises have come into force since May 1997.[HL4295]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton) : This information could only be collated at disproportionate cost.

Immigration (Carrier's Liability) Act

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What decision they have reached on changes in the administration of the Immigration (Carrier's Liability) Act 1987 (ICLA) in order to offer further incentives to carriers.[HL4472]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Home Department, Ms Roche, has agreed to proposed extension of the concessions contained in the Approved Gate Check (AGC) Scheme. AGC status is an administrative concession which benefits carriers who are responsible towards their obligations under the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act 1987 and who operate a sufficiently high standard of checking procedures abroad for their services to the United Kingdom. Where a passenger arrives in the United Kingdom without documents from a station that has been granted AGC status, the carrier will normally be given the benefit of the doubt. In such a case, because of the high standard of checking, it is assumed that apparently genuine documents must have been produced at the time of embarkation and must have been subsequently disposed of. Charges are normally waived accordingly. My honourable friend has agreed that the concession will now be extended to include certain circumstances where passengers arrive with mutilated documents. Provided that the inadequately documented passenger/arrival with a mutilated document:

    (a) arrives from an AGC station; and

    (b) there is no evidence of (i) a reasonably apparent and material falsity; and/or (ii) a reasonably apparent impersonation; and/or (iii) use of a fantasy or other unacceptable travel document; the charge will normally be waived unless, in the case of a visa national, it is clear from the mutilated document that (because, for example, every visa page is intact) the passenger at the point of check-in did not hold a requisite United Kingdom visa or exemption from the visa requirement. Mutilated documents include documents which have been partly destroyed, usually by the removal of pages and/or photographs.

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Colleges and Universities: Guidance on Mental Health Issues

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to disseminate, or to encourage the dissemination of, best practice advice to universities and colleges to deter self-harm and suicides among students.[HL4348]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Responsibility for student welfare rests mainly with further and higher education institutions and their student unions. I understand that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Standing Conference of Principals and the Association of Managers of Student Services, with advice from the National Union of Students, are jointly preparing guidance on mental health issues (including stress, depression and self-harm) for the further and higher education sector. This is due to be issued next year.

London Transport: Disposal of Property

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What Instructions or permissions to sell property they have given to London Transport in the last year.[HL4285]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): London Transport routinely disposes of property and does not require the Government's permission to do so.

Train Signals Passed at Danger

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the reasons given for each of the signals passed at danger incidents at the 10 signals most commonly passed when at danger on the rail network.[HL4241]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: This information is contained in Railtrack's 1998-99 Railway Group safety report, including reasons given for each signal passed and any mitigation measures introduced. A copy of the report is in the House Library.

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that railway safety systems designed to stop trains overrunning signals set at danger are incapable of being overridden by drivers.[HL4244]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The new train protection and warning system (TPWS) must be approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) before it can be brought into operational use. I am advised that HSE will require assurance that if a train passes a red signal or travels at excessive speed it will

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not be possible for the driver to override the automatic braking. However in the event of a signalling fault, it may be necessary temporarily to isolate the TPWS equipment on a train in order to allow the train to proceed to a station. HSE is currently examining what means are to be provided for isolating such equipment and the rules for their use. I am advised that arrangements for deterring misuse forms an essential part of HSE's consideration.

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