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4 May 2000 : Column WA187

Written Answers

Thursday, 4th May 2000.

UNHCR: Audit Certificates

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have received from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees on the proportion of the projects conducted through implementing partners for which audit reports were not received in 1997 and 1998 respectively; how many of the implementing partners whose projects were not audited were through non-governmental organisations whose formation the United Nations High Commission on Refugees had encouraged; and what proportion the unaudited projects represented of the total value of projects carried out through implementing partners.[HL2135]

Baroness Amos: UNHCR is independently audited each year. Its most recent audit report was issued in August 1999. According to this report, UNHCR did not receive audit certificates for 30 per cent of expenditure by implementing partners in 1997. In 1998 the percentage was roughly the same, at under 32 per cent. UNHCR's audit report does not state how many projects these figures represent.

As UNHCR does not keep data on how many non-government organisations (NGOs) it has encouraged to form, we cannot respond on how many such NGOs have carried out projects for which UNHCR has not received audit certificates.

Belfast-Larne Railway

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 19 April (WA 110) regarding the Belfast to Larne railway line, why there have been no applications for European Union funding for the line since its classification as a Euro-route in 1994; and whether they will list other benefits which have accrued to the line as a result of being so designated.[HL2217]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company has not submitted an application for EU funding.

Translink has advised that no other benefits have accrued to the line as a result of being part of atrans-European rail network, largely because other parts of the network have been accorded greater priority in terms of funding.

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Ulsterbus Fleet

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 19 April (WA 110) concerning their policy about the average age of bus fleets, why this safety policy applies only to England, Scotland and Wales and not to Northern Ireland.[HL2218]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The policy of a target average bus fleet age of eight years is not, primarily, a safety policy but one directed at improving the accessibility of the fleet to disabled persons and others, and does not apply to the devolved administrations. At the time of the Deputy Prime Minister's announcement, devolution in Northern Ireland was imminent. Such policies would therefore have fallen to the Assembly to consider.

Kenneth Noye

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What enquiries are being made into the allegations that Kenneth Noye was shielded by senior police officers because he was a member of a masonic lodge.[HL2220]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): Neither Kent Constabulary nor the Metropolitan Police have received any such allegation, and are not therefore currently conducting any enquiries.

Bestiality

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many men were convicted of bestiality in England and Wales in each of the last 10 years for which statistics are available; of these, how many were (a) imprisoned, (b) fined, and (c) put on probation or otherwise dealt with; and what was the longest sentence of imprisonment.[HL2229]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Available information from 1996 to 1998 is given in the table. Prior to 1996, data for buggery offences involving animals were included with buggery offences involving boys aged under 16 and female victims and therefore cannot be separately identified.

Number of males convicted at the Crown Court for offences of buggery or attempted buggery with an animal(1) by result, England and Wales, 1996-1998

YearTotal convictedFineProbation orderCom- munity service orderCombin- ation orderIm- mediate custodyAverage sentence length (yrs)Longest sentence given (yrs)
19964--22--------
19971--1----------
19986--1--233.15

(1) S12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 as amended by s143 & s144 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.


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State Schools and Freedom of Information Legislation

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all state schools will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act; and, if so, under which wording in the present Bill.[HL2253]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Maintained schools and other educational institutions are designated as public authorities in Part IV to Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Bill.

For England and Wales, the designation in paragraph 52 of the schedule: "a community, foundation or voluntary school or a community or foundation special school within the meaning of the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998" brings within the scope of the Bill institutions that are commonly referred to by the general public as "state schools" (although that term has no meaning in law).

These institutions are maintained schools, and they, along with other maintained schools in England and Wales, i.e. maintained nursery schools (as designated at paragraph 53 of the schedule), and pupil referral units as defined by Section 19(2) of the Education Act 1996 (designated at paragraph 54), are public authorities within the meaning of the Bill.

For Northern Ireland, paragraphs 61 and 62 of the schedule designate all categories of schools (except "independent" schools) as public authorities for the purposes of the Bill. The designation in paragraph 61 includes "controlled" schools within the meaning of Article 2(2) of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, and it brings within the scope of the Bill institutions thought of as "state" schools in Northern Ireland, although, as in England and Wales, the expression has no meaning in law.

Committee on Standards in Public Life and Freedom of Information Legislation

Lord Campbell of Alloway asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the Freedom of Information Bill will apply to the internal papers of the Committee on Standards in Public Life; and, if all evidence submitted to its study on standards of conduct in the House of Lords will be published.[HL2235]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Committee on Standards in Public Life will be covered by the Freedom of Information Bill. The right of access will apply to all information held by the committee, subject to the conditions and exemptions set out in the Bill.

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Exemptions that may be relevant to the work of the committee include:


    the exemption relating to personal information whose disclosure would contravene the data protection principles set out in the Data Protection Act 1998 (clause 38 of the Freedom of Information Bill); and


    the exemption relating to information provided in confidence (clause 39). All requests under the Freedom of Information Bill will, however, be assessed on a case by case basis.

The Freedom of Information Bill also requires authorities to adopt a scheme for publication which must be approved by the Information Commissioner (Clause 17). Such schemes detail the sort of information the body will publish proactively.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life, in accordance with its usual practice, will publish all evidence submitted to the committee in relation to its current enquiry into the House of Lords except information which has been supplied in confidence or which is considered to be defamatory. The evidence will be published at the same time as the committee's report on the House of Lords later this year.

Visa Correspondence Unit: Backlog

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in reducing the backlog of correspondence in the visa correspondence unit.[HL2264]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): I am pleased to inform the House that the Visa Correspondence Unit's backlog of correspondence with Members of Parliament has been reduced so that there are now only 45 letters from Members which have not been answered within the 15 working day target, compared to 851 on 27 January. Forty-five is, of course, still too many and we will continue to work to improve our performance.

Iraq: Demining Equipment Export Licence

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any goods on the United Kingdom military list have recently been approved for export to Iraq.[HL2265]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence to export demining equipment to Iraq for use by UN personnel in a humanitarian demining programme. The export of the equipment was approved by the UN Sanctions Committee under the Oil for Food programme.

4 May 2000 : Column WA191


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