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5 Jun 2000 : Column WA115

Written Answers

Monday, 5th June 2000.

Appointment of Governors by the FCO

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, prior to the appointment of governors by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the posts are advertised; what criteria are used in the filling of these posts; and who short lists the candidates and interviews them.[HL2413]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The appointment of a new governor to any British Overseas Territory is a decision made by Her Majesty the Queen on the basis of advice from the Secretary of State and with the approval of the Prime Minister. The appointments are not normally advertised. The criteria used depend on the circumstances of the post to be filled and the responsibilities involved.

Detailed information on individual appointments is exempt from disclosure under Part II, Section 8 (a and b) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which covers public employment and public appointments. The disclosure of personal data of appointments to governorships would also be restricted by the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998.

UNAMSIL Mandate

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose to the United Nations Security Council, as suggested by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Executive Secretary Lansana Konyate, that the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone's mandate should be amended to allow it to take offensive action against armed opposition in Sierra Leone.[HL2530]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The United Nations Secretary General, in his fourth report on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, dated 19 May, assesses that the current UNAMSIL mandate, under UN Secretary Council Resolution 1289, remains sufficient for the time being. But we are keeping the situation under careful review.

Liberia: Transportation of Released Detainees

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they offered to provide a helicopter to assist in the evacuation of United Nations peacekeepers from the border town of Foya to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.[HL2531]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No. We understand that the Government of Liberia have made their own arrangements for the transportation of released detainees and that they remain in close contact with the United Nations on the matter.

Burma: EU Sanctions

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made to EU sanctions in place against Burma.[HL2637]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: On 26 April the Council of the European Union adopted a Common Position (2000/346/CFSP) which enhanced EU sanctions against Burma by strengthening the existing visa ban, improving a freeze on the funds of those individuals subject to the visa ban and imposing a ban on the supply of equipment which might be used for internal repression or terrorism.

Following from this Common Position, the Council adopted Regulation 1081/2000 on 22 May. The regulation prohibits the sale, supply, export or shipment of goods listed in an annex to the regulation, directly or indirectly, whether or not originating in the Community, to any person or body in Burma or to any person or body for the purposes of any business carried on in, or operated from, the territory of Burma.

The regulation also provides that all funds belonging to individuals listed in an annex to the regulation shall be frozen and that no funds shall be made available, directly or indirectly, to or for the benefit of those persons.

The regulation applies within the territory of the Community including its air space and on board any aircraft or any vessel under the jurisdiction of a member state, and to any person elsewhere who is a national of a member state and any body which is incorporated or constituted under the law of a member state.

The regulation entered into force on 24 May and is directly applicable in the UK. Legislation to provide for enforcement, including penalties, will shortly be in effect.

Zimbabwe: Elections

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have seen the report from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs on the prospects for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.[HL2638]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I understand that a distinguished, international delegation organised by the National Democratic Institute visited Zimbabwe from 15 to 22 May. After over 30 meetings with representatives of government, political parties and civil society the delegation called for "heightened

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observation" of the elections by the international community. Their findings reflect an atmosphere of anxiety and fear, a news bias in favour of the ruling party and that the Registrar General has so far failed to establish an open and transparent electoral process. We hope that the delegation's observations are closely heeded in Zimbabwe.

All-Party Parliamentary Groups

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all-party parliamentary groups and associate parliamentary groups will come within the definition of political activity for the purposes of the Political Parties, Election and Referendums Bill.[HL2551]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): As the Bill stands, the requirements in Part IX and Schedule 18 (shareholder consent etc) would apply in respect of donations by companies to registered parties or to any other organisation which carries on activities of any political nature. The Government intend to bring forward amendments to clarify the scope of these requirements. Their effect on donations to all-party parliamentary groups is one of the matters under consideration.

Prison Overcrowding

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What actions they are taking that will reduce overcrowding in prisons in England and Wales during the current year.[HL2522]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: It is for the courts to determine how many offenders are sent to prison. By a combination of providing additional accommodation and the introduction of new legislation (for example, home detention curfew), the Government are ensuring that overcrowding is contained within the maximum safe operational capacity of establishments.

Over the current calendar year the Prison Service has increased new prison capacity. On 20 January, Forest Bank Prison, Greater Manchester was opened to provide 800 remand and sentenced places for adult and 18 to 20 year-old males. Two further prisons are currently under construction which will provide 1,400 additional places. Rye Hill, Rugby will provide 600 male places and is scheduled to open on 21 January 2001 and Dovegate, Staffordshire will provide 800 male places and is scheduled to open on 9 July 2001. To ensure sufficient female capacity next year, we have plans to provide four 40-place ready-to-use units at existing female establishments.

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Prisoners: Purposeful Activity Statistics

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners in England and Wales have access to (a) work, (b) education and (c) training; for how many hours per week on average; how many have no such access; and whether their figures include remand prisoners.[HL2523]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: For all prisoners, including those on remand, the provisional figure for the average number of hours per week spent on purposeful activity in 1999-2000 was 23.2, of which 6.4 hours were in education and training and 10.1 in work. Information on the number of prisoners who do not have access to work, education and training is not available.

In 1999-2000, 8,571 prisoners were employed in prison workshops, while 1,988 were employed in prison farms and gardens. In addition, 8,591 prisoners were employed in other activities such as prison kitchens, maintenance and cleaning. Information on the number of prisoners employed on pre-release schemes outside prison is not held centrally.

In 1999-2000, 23,230 prisoners took part in education, 14,067 took part in physical education and 2,697 undertook vocational training. Two hundred and seventy thousand, eight hundred and thirty-three teaching hours per week were delivered to prisons in 1999-2000.

Mechanically Powered Vehicles: Off-road Use

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide for the confiscation of mechanically powered vehicles used to abuse the rights of access under the terms of Schedule 8 to the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill or in contravention of this measure.[HL2547]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The effect of Schedule 8 to the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill, if enacted, will be to amend Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to make it an offence to drive a mechanically powered vehicle other than on roads. The Government will shortly be issuing a consultation paper as part of their review of the penalties for road traffic offences (including all those contained in the Road Traffic Act 1988). Any changes to the disposals available for offences in that Act would be made in the light of the outcome of that consultation.


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