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Written Answers

Wednesday, 15th March 2000.

Welsh National Assembly: "The Point" Viewing Figures

The Earl of Courtown asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recently-released viewing figures for the BBC Wales programme, "The Point", represent an endorsement of their devolutionary settlement for Wales.[HL1438]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: In general, programmes covering National Assembly business have good audiences. I assume that the low viewing figures for "The Point" on 17 February were a comment on the content and possibly the timing of that particular programme rather than on the devolution settlement in Wales.

Bute House, Edinburgh

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is considered necessary or desirable to seek variation of the terms of the Trust for Bute House, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, now that it is being used exclusively as the residence for the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament.[HL1336]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: All rights, liabilities and interests in Bute House which belonged to a Minister of the Crown were transferred to Scottish Ministers on 1 July 1999 by virtue of paragraph 3 of the Transfer of Property etc (Scottish Ministers) Order 1999 (SI 1999 1104). All matters relating to the terms under which Bute House is held and contact with the Bute House Trustees and the National Trust for Scotland are, therefore, for Scottish Ministers.

Mergers: Disclosure of Advice

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish Civil Service advice to Ministers on mergers in the same way that they propose that there should be full disclosure of the main points of Office of Fair Trading advice on whether cases should be referred for a full investigation by the Competition Commission.[HL1349]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government are fully committed to a policy of openness. In pursuing this, the Competition Commission has been looking at ways of increasing transparency. In addition, the Director-General of Fair Trading is considering ways of publishing his advice to the Secretary of State for

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Trade and Industry on key mergers. In many cases Ministers already make public the reasons for their decisions on merger cases.

However, the Government do not anticipate publishing advice from officials to Ministers on mergers. Disclosure might prejudice the free and frank provision of advice, as well as the free and frank discussion of it within government. Such advice is exempt from disclosure under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, and the Freedom of Information Bill proposes similar protection.

Territorial Employment Pacts and Ethnic Minority Targets

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the outcome measures for the success of the 10 United Kingdom Territorial Employment Pacts agreed at the Dublin European Council are in relation to ethnic minority targets; and how far they have been achieved.[HL1346]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government are not involved in Territorial Employment Pacts (TEPs). The areas concerned deal directly with the European Commission. The Commission publishes regular progress reports on the pacts. The most recent report was SEC (1999) 1932, dated 26 November 1999, a copy of which has been placed in the Library. However, it does not appear to contain the information requested. Further information on this matter can be obtained directly from the Commission.

Hinkley Point "A" Nuclear Power Station

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    After the closure of the two reactors in April 1999, what advice they have received from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the Environment Agency with regard to the long-term future of Hinkley "A" Nuclear Power Station.[HL1427]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government have been briefed on a number of occasions in relation to the circumstances surrounding the shut-down of reactors of Hinkley Point "A" in April and December 1999. As long as Hinkley Point "A" continues to meet essential safety and environmental standards, its future operation is a matter for the operator. However, the Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate will not allow either reactor to start up unless it is satisfied that an adequate safety case has been provided by Magnox Electric, the licensee of the site.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the stockpiles of intermediate level waste and splitter fin residues accumulating at Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station are stored according to safety guidelines.[HL1428]

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Yes. In 1999, the Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate published its review of intermediate level radioactive waste (ILW) storage in the UK. This review concluded that there were no immediate safety problems for the storage of ILW at Hinkley Point "A" power station.

Nuclear Waste Storage

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How long a temporary store for nuclear waste can exist before its operator is required to apply for a permanent consent.[HL1429]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: There is no defined time limit for storage of nuclear waste at a licensed nuclear installation. All waste stored on a licensed site is regulated and controlled by the Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate under the conditions which attach to the nuclear site licence. The conditions require the preparation of an adequate safety case by the licensee for all operations which may affect nuclear safety. These operations include the storage of radioactive waste.

EC Treaties: Breaches by Member States

Lord Selsdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any treaty provisions have been broken by any of the other member states of the European Union which sought to impose sanctions against Austria; if so, which treaty provisions were broken; and by whom.[HL1208]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The European Court of Justice has from time to time found that member states have breached the EC Treaties. Details are contained in the European Commisson's 16th Annual Report on monitoring the application of Community law 1998. A copy of the report, which was submitted to Parliament on 20 September 1999, is available in the Library of the House.

Kosovo: Mobile Telephone Contract

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the contract for a mobile telephone network in Kosovo was properly awarded; and whether the network will be compatible with those in neighbouring countries.[HL1324]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The award of the mobile telephone contract was a decision for UNMIK and was taken following extensive consideration of the various offers. The new GSM mobile telephone

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network will provide Kosovo with links to the outside world which are both cheaper and more efficient than those presently available through the BK group in Belgrade.

Mitrovica: Disturbances

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have evidence that Serbian State security forces have been fomenting disorder and intransigence in Kosovska Mitrovica; and, if so, what is their response and that of UNMIK and KFOR.[HL1327]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Extremist elements on both sides have been involved in the recent disturbances in Mitrovica. Part of the strategy agreed by UNMIK and KFOR has been to tighten control on the boundary between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia to prevent Serb extremists entering northern Kosovo.

Chechnya: Human Rights Abuses

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will raise issues concerning the reported killing of non-combatants, torture and rape, by Russian armed forces and police in and near Chechnya at the session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights starting on 20th March.[HL1328]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Her Majesty's Government will raise its concern about reports of human rights abuses in Chechnya at the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Kosovo: Destruction of Religious Buildings

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken to identify and arrest those responsible for (a) the destruction or severe damaging of 209 mosques in Kosovo; (b) the burning on 24 March 1999 of the library of Hadum Suleiman Aga in Dakovica; (c) the destruction of the Bektashi tekke of Axhize Baba in Dakovica and its library in May 1999; (d) the destruction of Atik Medrese and its library in Pec/Peja; and (e) the destruction of Atik Medrese in Urosevac/Ferizay.[HL1326]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The UN international police (UNIP) have responsibility for criminal investigations. Given their limited resources, they have to prioritise, which means concentrating on investigations relating to current criminal activity. The protection of religious and patrimonial sites in Kosovo is seen as important by KFOR and UNMIK. KFOR provide armed guards to protect churches and monasteries.

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