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UK/EU Balance of Contributions

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The United Kingdom became a member of the European Community in 1973. Details of gross contributions, abatement, public sector receipts and net contributions for the period 1973-74 to 1997-98 can be obtained from various departmental reports of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Departments or, previously, Government Expenditure Plans. The net contribution figure for 1998-99 was published in the footnote to Table B12 of the pre-Budget Report (Cm 4479).

Britain in Europe

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No.

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House of Lords: Political Balance

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the political balance of the second Chamber of the Parliament of Westminster should match the proportion of votes cast at the previous general election.[HL842]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Government set out in their manifesto the broad principle which we believe should govern the appointment of life Peers, which was that over time their balance should more accurately reflect the balance of votes cast at the previous general election. In the White Paper Modernising Parliament Reforming the House of Lords (Cm 4183 January 1999) we said that our intention in relation to the transitional House was to move toward broad parity between Labour and Conservative. We also said that the principle of broad parity and proportionate creations for other parties would be maintained throughout the transitional period. Our most important principle with regard to membership of the House of Lords is that no party should seek a majority of members.

Human Rights Joint Committee: Impartiality

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being or will be taken to ensure that human rights issues will not be subordinated to party political considerations by the proposed Joint Committee on Human Rights.[HL751]

Baroness Jay of Paddington : The Government do not have a majority on the Select Committees of this House, and Select Committees in the Commons are appointed in proportion to party representation in that House.

Joint Committees and Select Committees in both Houses have long had a reputation for political impartiality; there is no reason to believe that the Joint Committee for Human Rights will not work in that tradition.

Millennium Dome: Costs

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total cost to date to the taxpayer of the Millennium Dome and all works directly associated with it at the Greenwich site.[HL770]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Millennium Dome at Greenwich and its contents are being paid for partly out of Lottery funds and partly by private sector sponsorship, commercial income and visitor revenue--not from tax revenues. English Partnerships, the Government's urban regeneration agency for England, which owns the land on which the Dome is sited and which is grant

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aided by the Exchequer, through the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has incurred £15.53 million in costs in respect of works directly associated with preparing the site for the Millennium Dome, north of the Jubilee Line and North Greenwich Transport Interchange. These works have consisted of the remediation of the site together with the provision of roads, footpaths, services, landscaping, river wall works and associated fees.

Task Forces and Review Groups: External Members

Lord Smith of Clifton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On which task forces, policy reviews and similar advisory bodies, external (that is, non-Civil Service and non-ministerial) members were serving on 1 January; and for each of these bodies:

    (a) on which date they were set up; and

    (b) on which date they are expected to report.[HL853]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My answers to the noble Lord, the Lord Roberts of Conwy on 11 November [Official Report, cols. WA 245-248], and 1 February [Official Report, col. WA 20] provided details of all task forces, review groups and other ad hoc advisory groups with external members established since May 1997. The lists provide a breakdown of membership, remit, reports published and dates bodies wound up, where appropriate. These lists will be updated and published every six months. I am not prepared, on grounds of cost effectiveness, to commission further work outside these six-monthly periods.

Millennium Dome: Web Poll

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to take any measures to respond to and address the tenor of opinion expressed on the website[HL720]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Within the New Millennium Experience Company's (NMEC) marketing strategy there is a rolling programme of promotions which highlight the many positive aspects of the New Millennium Experience both nationally and regionally. The company also promotes the positive reactions from the "exit polls" of the majority of visitors to the Dome. Where there are serious factual errors in media reports, NMEC seeks to corrrect them. In addition, the Millennium Experience has its own website, from which people can obtain information--both promotional and factual.

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China: Falun Gong

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the United Nations Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance to conduct an urgent assessment of the persecution of the Falun Gong in China, so that an informed discussion of the problem can take place at the forthcoming meeting of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva; if not, what other courses they are pursuing, in upholding the rights of Falun Gong members to carry on their peaceful activities, and, in particular, what steps they are taking to ensure that the freedom of the Falun Gong is upheld in Hong Kong.[HL755]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We have been concernd about the treatment of Falun Gong adherents and leaders since the group was banned by the Chinese authorities in July 1999, including reports of excessive sentencing of 32 adherents in a mass trial in Beijing on 31 January. This has been raised during ministerial level contacts with Chinese Ministers and through our high level bilateral human rights dialogue. The EU Presidency carried out a demarche on 14 January expressing our concern at the detention and excessive sentencing of political dissidents, and Falun Gong leaders. We will continue to press the Chinese Government for a satisfactory response.

It is for the United Nations Special Rapporteur himself--as an independent expert--to decide whether he should investigate the case of Falun Gong within the terms of his mandate.

We note that Falun Gong practitioners have been permitted to hold demonstrations in Hong Kong in accordance with the law even though the organisation has been declared illegal on the mainland. This is in accordance with the "One Country, Two Systems" principle.

"Your Britain, Your Europe" Roadshow

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the total cost of the "Your Britain, Your Europe" roadshow was; and what proportion of that was covered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and what proportion was covered by the local authorities of the locations visited.[HL757]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : The overall budget was £60,000 plus travel and accommodation. This was financed entirely by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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British Council, Italy

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the percentage decline in real terms of the grant to the British Council in Italy since 1993.[HL812]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : Between 1993-94 and 1998-99 the grant-in-aid to the British Council declined by 13.62 per cent in real terms. However, in the current CSR period, starting this financial year, the council is receiving an uplift (in real terms) of some 2 per cent over the 1998-99 figure in line with the FCO settlement. The British Council determines how it spends the grant-in-aid allocated to it by the FCO. The allocation by the council for Italy over this period has declined by 55 per cent--a reduction resulting from the redirection of resources to other areas, mainly East Asia and Pacific, the expansion of various human rights and governance programmes and the development of IT infrastructure.

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