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Northern Ireland Act 1998: Section 75 Designations

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Northern Ireland Act clearly defines the vast majority of public bodies to which the Section 75 obligation will apply. However, the Secretary of State may designate additional bodies, including UK departments carrying out functions relating to Northern Ireland, to which the obligation should apply. George Howarth, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, met the Equality Commission on 20 December to discuss the contents of the proposed Designation Order. At this meeting the Equality Commission suggested a number of other bodies for inclusion in the order and these bodies are being reviewed as a matter of urgency.

Garda Siochana and RUC: Members' Religious Affiliations

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Information on the religious affiliation of members of the Garda Siochana is a matter for the Government of the Republic of Ireland. At 31 December 1999, the percentage of Roman Catholics in the RUC Regular force was 8.39 per cent.

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Irish Population: Religious Affiliations

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (A) What percentage of the population of the territory which now comprises Northern Ireland was Roman Catholic in (i) 1918 and (ii) 1998; and

    (B) What percentage of the population of the territory which now comprises the Republic of Ireland was Protestant in (i) 1918 and (ii) 1998.[HL610]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton : Responsibility for the collection of figures relating to the population of Northern Ireland has been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly and is therefore no longer a matter for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. However I have asked for those figures which are available to be obtained and given to you. As regards figures relating to the population of the Republic of Ireland, that is a matter for the Government of the Republic of Ireland.

Cote d'Ivoire: Coup

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to the new Government of the Cote d'Ivoire following the coup headed by General Robert Guei on 24 December 1999.[HL672]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Peter Hain, strongly condemned the coup on 24 December, and called on all parties to work for a peaceful and rapid restoration of democratic constitutional rule.

We also fully backed the EU declaration which condemned the military coup and emphasised that future EU co-operation depends on a rapid restoration of democratic rule.

Our Ambassador in Abidjan has made representations to General Guei, and to the Minister for Planning and Development, Seydou Diarra, the Minister of Finance, N'Golo Coulibaly, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Christophe M'Bou, urging respect for human rights and for a timetable for an early return to democracy. On 25 January, General Geui announced that general elections would be completed by 31 October, a move which we have welcomed.

Commonwealth Institute

Lord Orme asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the relationship between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Commonwealth Institute.[HL846]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Commonwealth Institute ceased to be a Non-Departmental Public Body, under the direction of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on 31 December 1999. This was a Commonwealth Institute initiative. Its new status is that of an independent charity, in the form of a company limited by guarantee. I am arranging for copies of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the new body to be placed in the Library of the House.

Under the terms of its agreement with the Commonwealth Institute, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is investing £8.055 million in a severance package in 1999-00 and 2000-01. The funding will restore and develop the building, support new programmes and provide the institute with financial stability while its plans take effect.

This development means that the Imperial Institute Act 1925 and the Commonwealth Institute Act 1958 need to be repealed, and we shall be seeking that this be done as soon as possible.

I wish the institute well as it becomes a pan-Commonwealth agency dedicated to promoting the Commonwealth.

GCHQ: Compensation to Former Employees

Lord Orme asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will announce the compensation schemes for the 14 trade unionists dismissed from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).[HL847]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I can announce that I have today laid before Parliament the two schemes that will put into effect the compensation of the 14 former GCHQ employees for their loss of pension rights. Details of the two schemes will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

DSS Staff: Assistance to Scottish and Welsh Administrations

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many members of the Department of Social Security staff have been seconded from the Correspondence Section based at Quarry Bank, Leeds, to Scottish and Welsh administrations for training purposes; what is the length of their secondment; and what is the current backlog of correspondence from Members of Parliament and members of the public awaiting replies.[HL677]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): This is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the noble Countess.

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Letter to the Countess of Mar from the Working Age Services Director of the Benefits Agency, Mr Alexis Cleveland, dated 1 February 2000.

The Secretary of State has asked Peter Mathison to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about how many members of the Department of Social Security staff have been seconded from the Correspondence Section based at Quarry Bank, Leeds, to Scottish and Welsh administrations for training purposes; what is the length of their secondment; and what is the current backlog of correspondence from Members of Parliament and members of the public awaiting replies. As he is unavailable due to annual leave, I am replying.

The Benefits Agency (BA) Parliamentary Correspondence Unit based in Quarry House, Leeds, has not seconded any members of staff to the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly administrations.

However, the BA Parliamentary Correspondence Unit based in Leeds was responsible for helping to establish new units based respectively in Edinburgh and Cardiff to deal with correspondence originating from Scottish and Welsh administration.

Experienced staff from Quarry House have spent around four weeks in Edinburgh and Cardiff training staff in the new units. Both units are now fully operational and working closely with us to help clear the arrears.

There is currently a backlog of 382 cases.

A recovery action plan has been drawn up. Additional resources have been drafted in from other parts of the Agency to clear all outstanding areas within the next six weeks.

I hope this is helpful.

EU Member States: Human Rights and Armed Forces Discipline

Lord Renton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list those cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights in which the exercise of a right under the European Convention on Human Rights was found by the court to conflict with the law in the country concerned for maintaining discipline in one or all of its armed forces.[HL752]

Lord Burlison: According to the European Court of Human Rights website (www.echr.coe.int.), there are 37 cases listed under "military discipline/armed forces" where the Court found violations of one or more articles of the human rights convention. A check on whether those violations related specifically to a conflict with the law for maintaining discipline in one or all of the armed forces in the country concerned could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

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Chinook Fleet: Cockpit Voice and Flight Data Recorders

Baroness Park of Monmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many aircraft in the Chinook fleet have been fitted with (a) cockpit voice recorders and (b) flight data recorders; how many aircraft have not been so equipped; and when it is expected the programme will be completed.[HL656]

Lord Burlison: Cockpit voice and flight data recorders will be fitted to the RAF Chinook Mark 2/2a fleet as part of the Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) programme. The trial installation of HUMS into a MK2a and subsequent flight trials have been completed successfully and work is now in progress to fit the system to all 40 aircraft of the Chinook MK2/2a fleet. This should be completed by August 2001.


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