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25 May 2000 : Column WA105

Written Answers

Thursday, 25th May 2000

The Queen Mother's 100th Birthday

Baroness Trumpington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there will be a national holiday to celebrate the 100th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and if not, why not.[HL2502]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): There will not be a national holiday to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's 100th birthday. It was decided that it would not be appropriate to proclaim a further bank holiday following so soon after the Millennium bank holiday and with proposals being considered for a bank holiday to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002.

Civil Justice Review, Northern Ireland: Publication

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

    When they intend to publish the review of civil justice in Northern Ireland.[HL2450]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The final report of the Civil Justice Reform Group will be published on 16th June with a consultation period until the end of September. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Joint Committee on Human Rights

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

    When it is intended to set up a parliamentary Select Committee on Human Rights in accordance with paragraphs 3.7-3.8 of the White Paper Rights Brought Home (Cm 3782, 1997).[HL2461]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): In its Second Report (8 May 2000, HL Paper 62) the Liaison Committee noted the Government's proposal to establish, before the Human Rights Act 1998 comes into force in October this year, a Joint Committee on Human Rights. Preliminary consultations on setting up a Joint Committee on Human Rights are now taking place within the usual channels. The House will, of course, have the opportunity to debate the proposed Standing Orders in due course, and I will ensure that adequate notice of any such debate is given on the Order Paper. The Government will propose very broad terms of reference for the Committee.

25 May 2000 : Column WA106

Committee on Standards in Public Life

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Leader of the House on 11 May (WA 236), what mechanisms exist within the Committee on Standards in Public Life for dealing with any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.[HL2510]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The mechanisms for dealing with potential and perceived conflicts of interest for members of the Committee on Standards in Public Life are set out in the Committee's code of practice. Copies of the code can be obtained from the Committee or downloaded from its website at www.public-standards.gov.uk. Copies have also been deposited in the Library of the House.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Leader of the House on 11 May (WA 237), whether they are considering placing the Committee on Standards in Public Life on a statutory basis in the future.[HL2511]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: I refer the noble Earl to the Answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, on 11 May 2000, col. WA 237.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Leader of the House on 11 May (WA 237), what options for the future work of the Committee on Standards in Public Life other than a review of standards of conduct in the House of Lords were discussed between the Prime Minister and the Lord Neill of Bladen on 10 January.[HL2512]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Information on internal deliberation, whose disclosure would harm the frankness and candour of discussion, is exempt from disclosure under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to ensure that the House of Lords can consider any report emanating from the Committee on Standards in Public Life's review of standards of conduct in the House in advance of it being disseminated more widely.[HL2513]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: It will be for the Committee to decide the arrangements for publishing their report.

25 May 2000 : Column WA107

Written Questions: Electronic Answers

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is yet possible for a Peer to request that copies of all replies to his Written Questions should be sent to him by e-mail; and, if so, how.[HL2415]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Central IT Unit of the Cabinet Office has investigated the feasibility of answering written parliamentary questions electronically and the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) has been developing a detailed operating system. CCTA is now working towards the implementation of the system and will be providing a report to the Library and Computers Sub-Committee of the House in June.

Free Television Licences Concession

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will pay those pensioners who do not have a television the equivalent of the cost of a television licence, which they have proposed should be free to pensioners.[HL2537]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government is aiming to introduce, from 1 November, free television licences for all people aged 75 or over. We decided to introduce free licences for older pensioners because, as a group, they are more likely to be reliant on television as their window on the world. People aged 75 or over, who do not have a television set, will not receive a cash payment since the purpose of the concession is to assist access to television and not to provide a cash benefit.

Millennium Dome: Funding

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Millennium Commission has any further plans to provide financial support to the Millennium Experience at Greenwich.[HL2636]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: On 22 May the Millennium Commission considered an application for additional grant totalling £38.6 million from the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC). Whilst the Commission had serious reservations about providing further grant, they concluded that it would be foolish to withdraw support when the best of the year for visitor attractions is yet to come. They also felt that the value of the Dome as the centrepiece of the nation's millennium celebrations should be recognised and continued. The potential costs to the public sector arising from immediate closure, along with the economic impact on employment and tourism, were other factors taken into account.

In light of this, the Commission announced that a further grant of £29 million, subject to stringent conditions, would be made available to NMEC. The Commission's decision was taken after an independent review of the NMEC's financial systems and business

25 May 2000 : Column WA108

plans. The conditions are that there should be: strengthening and restructuring of NMEC's management and governance; a revised business plan showing substantial additional cost savings and enhanced marketing plans; and an enhanced financial team at NMEC, to be joined by a dedicated member of the Millennium Commission's own financial staff.

All the Millennium Commissioners expressed confidence in NMEC's chief executive, P-Y Gerbeau and are appreciative of the changes he has made to the operation and running of the Millennium Experience.

Despite lower than predicted visitor numbers, the Dome is the most popular and highly rated paid visitor attraction in the UK, with a wide range of educational benefits. NMEC is also running a national programme of events and activities across the UK. In addition, the largest derelict site in southern England has been regenerated and the foundations have been laid for a lasting legacy providing jobs and homes for thousands of people.

In line with the commitment made by the previous administration that any additional Lottery funds required to support the Dome should not be at the expense of the Millennium Commission's wider programme of work, the Government confirmed that Lottery money would, if necessary, be made available to the Commission to ensure that its wider programme does not suffer.

Tobacco Smuggling

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the loss incurred (a) by British retailers and (b) by the Treasury as a result of (i) the smuggling of tobacco and (ii) the importation of duty paid tobacco between 1996 and 1999.[HL2548]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey:I refer my noble friend to the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling paper published on 22 March 2000 by HM Customs and Excise and HM Treasury.

A14 Road Bridges, Huntingdon

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all the bridges supporting the A14 near Huntingdon are rated for 44 tonnes; and, if not, what the limitations are; and[HL2562]

    Whether an operator running at 44 tonnes under the Construction and Use Regulations is required to notify any highway or bridge authority of his intention to use the A14 near Huntingdon.[HL2563]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): This is an operational matter for the Highways Agency and I have asked the chief executive of the Highways Agency, Mr Peter Nutt, to write to the noble Earl.

25 May 2000 : Column WA109

Letter from Ginny Clarke, Board Member, to Earl Attlee, dated 25 May 2000:

"The Minister for Transport has asked me to reply to your recent question about bridges supporting the A14 near Huntingdon, and about vehicles running

44 tonnes under the Construction and Use Regulations. You also wish to know whether operators of such vehicles are required to notify any highway or bridge authority of their intention to use the A14 near Huntingdon.

"All bridges on the A14 near Huntingdon are currently rated for 44 tonnes provided the vehicle is within the Construction and Use Regulations. Under these regulations, there are no notification requirements for vehicles running at 44 tonnes on the A14 near Huntingdon."


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