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Written Answers

Wednesday, 23rd February 2000.

General Pinochet

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the medical report on General Pinochet's fitness to stand trial, what steps the Home Secretary is taking to monitor the health of General Pinochet.[HL1061]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary ensured that he was fully informed about the state of Senator Pinochet's health in general and his fitness to stand trial in particular by commissioning a medical report on him. Any further relevant representations to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on this matter will be taken into account as appropriate before he reaches a decision on the implications of Senator Pinochet's health for the current extradition process.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it would in any circumstances be open to the Home Secretary to allow General Pinochet to return to Chile, even before the legal processes are completed.[HL1062]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Senator Pinochet was committed by the Magistrate on 8 October 1999 to await my right honourable friend the Home Secretary's decision as to his extradition to Spain. In those circumstances, although my right honourable friend the Home Secretary could not make an order for Senator Pinochet's extradition to Spain, it would be open to him in appropriate circumstances to decide that he will not make such an order.

Global Cultural Diversity Congress

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give details about requests for additional funding for the Global Cultural Diversity Congress.[HL1183]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: On 11 January 2000, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) asked the Home Office for authority to provide funding to enable the Global Cultural Diversity Congress, to be held in Cardiff on 20-23 March, to go ahead as planned and subsequently asked for additional funding from the Home Office Vote. This international conference was being organised under the auspices of the CRE following decisions they made in 1998 but by a separate company limited by guarantee, Global Cultural Diversity Congress

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(GCDC) 2000 Ltd. At the time when they first decided to proceed in 1998, it was made clear that the Government could not offer substantial financial support for the conference.

The Government have supported the aims of the congress, which was a potentially important forum for serious debate about issues of race and diversity, and was widely welcomed by many with an interest in these issues both in this country and worldwide.

In the light of the CRE request in January this year for government funding, the Government thought it right to seek advice from independent consultants on the viability of the conference at this late stage, including from forensic accountants, who examined the affairs of GCDC 2000 Ltd.

The conclusions of the accountants' report raised serious questions about the quality of the management and financial controls in GCDC 2000 Ltd as well as confirming that very significant additional funds, in the order of £1.5 million, would be required to enable the congress to go ahead, not least because fewer than 500 tickets had been sold for a congress initially planned to attract 2,000.

Given the report's findings, it would not be justifiable to use substantial public funds to support this event. Yesterday, the directors of the company were advised of the report's findings and our decision. My honourable friend the Minister of State of the Home Office (Mr O'Brien) understands that the directors of GCDC 2000 Ltd decided late on Monday 21 February to put the company into liquidation.

The decision to set up GCDC 2000 Ltd was a collective one of the Commissioners for Racial Equality, taken in September 1998. My honourable friend the Minister of State of the Home Office (Mr O'Brien) has asked the incoming chair of the CRE, Gurbux Singh, to consider urgently the lessons to be learnt from all of this and to provide us with a report.

House of Lords Reform: Human Rights Role

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

    Whether they agree with the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the reform of the House of Lords that the House of Lords should establish a committee with a wide-ranging remit in relation to human rights.[HL991]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Government have welcomed the report of the Royal Commission and have made it clear that they wish to give proper consideration to its recommendations. As the noble Lord is aware, prior to Lord Wakeham's report, the House had agreed to set up a Joint Committee on Human Rights.

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We hope to proceed by consensus with other political parties on the next stage of reform and we aim to have an early opportunity to debate the issues.

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

    Whether they agree with the Royal Commission on the reform of the House of Lords that there should be a mechanism in the House of Lords for looking behind ministerial statements of compatibility under Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and checking that all the provisions of a Bill are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.[HL990]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government have welcomed the report of the Royal Commission and have made it clear that they wish to give proper consideration to its recommendations. As the noble Lord is aware, prior to Lord Wakeham's report, the House had agreed to set up a Joint Committee on Human Rights.

We hope to proceed by consensus with other political parties on the next stage of reform and we aim to have an early opportunity to debate the issues.

Lord Chancellor's Dual Role

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the decision by the European Court of Human Rights on 8 February that Mr Richard McGonnell was denied a fair trial in Guernsey because the judge presiding over his case was a member of both the legislature and the executive, they will now ensure that the Lord Chancellor steps down as head of the judiciary.[HL1043]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): No. The position of the Lord Chancellor is unaffected by this case. The decision in McGonnell is confined to the special position of the Bailiff of Guernsey and his role in the particular case. The European Court of Human Rights emphasised (paragraph 51): "The question is always whether, in a given case, the requirements of the Convention are met". On the facts of this case it held that they were not because of the judge's direct involvement in the passage of the legislation.

The Court accepted the Government's submission that neither Article 6 nor any other provision of the Convention required "States to comply with any theoretical constitutional concepts as such". This is precisely what I have always said.

The Lord Chancellor would never sit in any case concerning legislation in the passage of which he had been directly involved nor in any case where the interests of the executive were directly engaged.

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Immigration Appeal Tribunal:Mrs Annie Anderson

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Mrs Annie Anderson, while a member of the interviewing panel for the posts of Vice-Presidents of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal during November 1999, was herself a candidate for appointment as a non-legal member of the same tribunal; and, if she was, whether this was appropriate and ethical.[HL1001]

The Lord Chancellor: Mrs Anderson was a member of the panel interviewing candidates for the posts of Vice-Presidents of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal on 1 November 1999. She was herself interviewed on 17 November for the post of lay member of the same tribunal. Although it was on the same tribunal, the post for which Mrs Anderson applied was different from that for which she had been a member of the interviewing panel. As with all appointments for which I am responsible, Mrs Anderson's application was considered on merit against the criteria for the post concerned. No other factors applied. The general question of whether lay interviewers should apply for or hold judicial posts is a matter currently being considered by my department.

Millennium Dome: Free Admission

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many tickets granting free admission to the Millennium Dome have been allocated during the year 2000 for use by (a) sponsors and (b) VIPs; and[HL1015]

    How many tickets granting free admission to the Millennium Dome have been used between 31 December 1999 and 31 January 2000 by (a) sponsors and (b) VIPs.[HL1016]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): No free tickets are provided to sponsors. Tickets available to sponsors are part of the sponsorship contractual terms and are an integral part of the benefits sponsors receive in recognition of their financial support for the project. These arrangements are standard for sponsorships of major events. The number of tickets available to sponsors under these arrangements vary according to the level of contribution made by each sponsor. Since they are part and parcel of the sponsorship contract, details are commercially confidential under the confidentiality clauses applicable to both parties.

No VIPs automatically gain free entry to the Dome. The policy of the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) is that, where there is a benefit to the business or a relevance to NMEC's public accountability remit, guests (whether VIPs or not) invited to the Dome can attend on a non-paying basis. Additionally, because the Dome has such a high profile as the centrepiece of the UK's Millennium

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celebrations, many VIPs on official or State visits, often request that the Dome be included on their itinerary. In most cases, the host body of the group visiting reimburses NMEC.


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