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12 May 2000 : Column WA241

Written Answers

Friday, 12th May 2000.

UN Committee against Torture

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What issues they will be raising at the session of the United Nations Committee against Torture, starting on 19 May.[HL2288]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The committee is considering reports from nine states parties to the United Nations Convention against Torture during its 24th and current session, which ends on 19 May. The United Kingdom is not one of the nine and does not propose to raise any issues at this session.

Prison Service Projects

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the projects on which the Prison Service spent money without contractual backing in 1999-2000, giving in each case the name of the project and the amount spent.[HL2326]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The noble Lord's Question has been interpreted as referring to building projects undertaken by the Prison Service. No money was spent on projects valued at £50,000 or over without contractual backing in 1999-2000. Information on projects valued at less than £50,000 is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Pakistan: Debt Relief

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to relieve Pakistan's debts to Britain.[HL2309]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In January 1999, in view of Pakistan's economic difficulties, the UK together with other sovereign creditors, agreed to reschedule 3.3 billion dollars of Pakistan's debts falling due in 1999 and 2000.

Parliamentary Written Answers: Reference to Web-pages

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in giving replies to Questions for Written Answer, they believe it appropriate for Ministers to refer Lords to the content of web-pages

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    rather than giving substantive answers in the Official Report as a matter of record for the benefit of both the questioner and the general public.[HL2118]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Ministers are required under the terms of the Ministerial Code to be as open as possible with Parliament. Wherever possible, Parliamentary Questions will receive substantive answers. However, there are circumstances in which it can be both appropriate and helpful to refer to content on web-pages which elaborates on or gives further background which is relevant to the Question tabled.

Belfast City Airport

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 18 April (WA 87) regarding Belfast City Airport, and in view of the information that legal action for any non-compliance with limits of passengers and flights would be taken against the airport by the planning service, whether they consider that the voluntary agreement to submit information from the airport without independent monitoring is satisfactory.[HL2184]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 18 April (WA 87) regarding Belfast City Airport, whether they will list the number of air transport movements and scheduled seats for sale for 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999; and whether they are satisfied that in any 12 month period the limits imposed by agreements in 1994 and 1997 were not exceeded.[HL2185]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 18 April (WA 87) regarding Belfast City Airport, what was the reason for the second agreement of 22 January 1997 with the city airport; who was involved in the decision to increase air transport movements from 38,000 per year to 45,000; and what public consultation took place.[HL2186]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 18 April (WA 87) regarding Belfast City Airport, whether they will give an undertaking that any further increase in air transport movements at the airport will be considered only after a full public inquiry.[HL2214]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Planning Service under its chief executive, Mr H. S. McKay. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Belfast to Bangor Railway Line

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 18 April (WA 86)

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    regarding the Belfast to Bangor railway line, what was the date of application for the European grant for relaying the track; why the estimated cost has increased by over 50 per cent since that date; and why an application for European Union funding for the new estimate of costs has not been made.[HL2215]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: An application for European funding to upgrade the railway line between Belfast and Bangor was submitted to the Department of the Environment on 5 October 1998. Translink has advised that its original estimate of the cost was based on carrying out the work using their own resources. However, these resources are heavily committed elsewhere and in order to meet the deadline for receipt of European grant they would have to contract out the work. Translink has advised that the increase in the estimated cost is largely due to this change.

The Department of Regional Development was notified of the increased estimated cost of the project in June 1999. By that time there was insufficient European funding available to meet the shortfall in funding for the project.

Northern Ireland Railways

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that the proposed railway transport task force in Northern Ireland will take into account the draft regional framework document entitled Shaping our Future published in 1999 as well as a proposal for a light railway connection from Portadown to Armagh using the original track bed.[HL2216]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: In considering the future options for Northern Ireland railways, the railways task force will take relevant policy documentation into account, including the draft regional strategic framework for Northern Ireland.

The task force will also take account of the range of projections of possible need and demand for rail services within the wider strategic context of the future development of transportation in Northern Ireland. Specific options, such as a light railway connection from Portadown to Armagh using the original track bed, will be considered in the more detailed development of a regional transportation strategy.

Northern Ireland Act: Designated Public Bodies

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What persons have been designated as public bodies for the purposes of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.[HL2228]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The majority of public bodies to which Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 applies are identified in the legislation.

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It is intended to lay an order as soon as possible which will list a number of additional bodies designated by the Secretary of State to which Section 75 will apply.

Later this year and subsequent to further consultation a second designation order will be made listing bodies which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland considers should be designated.

Duchy of Lancaster: Visit by Minister

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, on 2 May (WA 157-58), why they state that during the visit of the Minister for the Cabinet Office to the Duchy of Lancaster on 25 February, she discussed topics including rural issues, whereas in the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 3 April (WA 108-09) it was stated that the Minister had made visits to the countryside in the Duchy of Lancaster; and what were the places in the countryside that were visited that day.[HL2332]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: When my right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office visited the Duchy on 25 February she attended four events, including discussions with tenant farmers and participation in a local rural forum.

Urban Design

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish good practice guidance on urban design in the planning system.[HL2459]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The good practice guidance we have prepared in partnership with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment will be published on Monday 15 May. Copies of By Design. Urban design in the Planning System: towards better practice will be placed in the Library of the House.

By Design will form a key part of the Government's strategy for promoting better urban design in the planning and development system. It provides sound, practical advice on how to implement the Government's commitment to good design as set out in planning policy guidance, in particular PPG1 General Policy and Principles and PPG3 Housing. It also reinforces the call in the Urban Task Force's report Towards an Urban Renaissance for earlier, greater and better-informed attention to urban design.


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