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20 Jul 2000 : Column WA103

Written Answers

Thursday, 20th July 2000.

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council: Professional Disciplinary Cases

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

    What proportion of the working time of the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary is spent in detemining appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in professional disciplinary cases.[HL3157]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): About 10 per cent of the court time of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is taken up with health profession appeals but they take up less than that proportion of the time spent by the Law Lords in the Judicial Committee because:


    (a) whereas all other appeals are dealt with by a board of five members of the Judicial Committee, these appeals are heard by a board of three; and


    (b) boards for these appeals include one or two retired Law Lords or Lords Justices more frequently than they do for other appeals.

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

    What is the justification for retaining the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the final appellate jurisdiction in professional disciplinary cases.[HL3158]

The Lord Chancellor: There are strong arguments for dealing with these cases at a lower judicial level. I am considering the question with the other Ministers concerned. Primary legislation would be required in some cases.

Electronic Records Management

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish a policy document on electronic records management.[HL3487]

The Lord Chancellor: The Government's policy on electronic records management was published in April. It is called the Framework for Information Age Government: Electronic Records Management, an Annex to e-government, A strategic framework for public services in the Information Age. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report is also available on the Internet.

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Effective management of electronic records is essential to the information age government programme. The replacement of manual and paper-based processes with electronic processes requires the development of effective records management, covering existing as well as new electronic records. In government such records must be managed so as to retain their integrity, authenticity and accessibility through migrations as hardware and software change and to conform with the relevant data protection and freedom of information regulations.

Any electronic government record is potentially a public record and for this reason all such records will be subject to additional controls, including retention and disposal scheduling and prevention of content alteration.

The development of a common system of electronic records management will facilitate collaboration between government departments and agencies.

Records Management under Freedom of Information Act

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish a draft code of practice on the management of records under the Freedom of Information Act.[HL3491]

The Lord Chancellor: I am delighted to publish today a working draft of the code of practice on the management of records under the Freedom of Information Act. Copies of the draft have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report will also be available on the Internet.

The aims of the code are twofold. The first is to set out practices which bodies subject to the Freedom of Information Act should follow in relation to the creation, keeping, management and destruction of their records. The second is to provide guidance on the review and transfer of public records to the Public Record Office, to places of deposit for public records appointed under the Public Records Act 1958 and to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. The code covers records in all technical or physical formats.

Any freedom of information legislation is only as good as the quality of the records to which it provides access. Such rights are of little use if reliable records are not created in the first place, if they cannot be found when needed or if the arrangements for their eventual archiving or destruction are inadequate. Consequently, all public authorities are encouraged to pay heed to the guidance in the code. Authorities should note that if they fail to comply with the code they may be in breach of their statutory obligations.

The code would satisfy a duty proposed in the Freedom of Information Bill.

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Public Order Act: Incitement Prosecutions and Convictions

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prosecutions and convictions there have been under the incitement provisions of Part III of the Public Order Act 1986 in each of the last three years.[HL3239]

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Since 1997 there have been a total of 17 prosecutions under Part III of the Public Order Act 1986. Thirteen of the prosecutions have resulted in convictions. The detailed breakdown for each year is summarised below.

YearNo Consent Applications WithdrawnNot granted Prosecuted Convicted
1997122109
19982111
1999443
2000 (to date)22results awaited

SFO Annual Report

Lord Dixon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Director of the Serious Fraud Office intends to publish her annual report.[HL3494]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I can confirm that I have today placed copies of the annual report in the Library.

National Savings Ordinary Accounts: Administration Costs

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the cost of administering the ordinary accounts of National Savings as a percentage of average total balances in 1970-71; and whether they believe that the average administration cost of 4.2 per cent of balances in the 16 million accounts in 1999-2000 would be reduced if the £10,000 limit on the accounts set in July 1969 were to be increased to take account of inflation.[HL3242]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The cost of administering ordinary accounts in 1970-71 as a percentage of total balances was 1.6 per cent. In real terms the cost of administering ordinary accounts reduced significantly during the period 1970-71 to 1999-2000; however the total amounts invested during the same period have reduced at an even greater rate in real terms.

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National Savings does not believe that average administration costs of 4.2 per cent would reduce significantly if the £10,000 limit was increased to take account of inflation. Less than 0.01 per cent of ordinary account customers have £10,000 invested and even if all these customers increased their investments fully up to the inflation adjusted limit, the cost of administering the ordinary account would reduce to 3.9 per cent. However, it is unlikely that customers would invest up to the new limit in an ordinary account as there are a number of more appropriate accounts for such sums of money offering higher rates of interest from both National Savings and other financial institutions.

Sterling Exchange Rate

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out in tabular form the percentage by which the pound sterling has (a) strengthened or (b) weakened against each of the following currencies in the 18-month period from the close of business (London) on 4 January 1999 to the close of business on 4 July 2000:


    Euro


    Danish krone


    Swedish krona


    Norwegian krone


    Swiss franc


    United States dollar


    Canadian dollar


    Mexican new peso


    Japanese yen


    Australian dollar


    New Zealand dollar


    South African rand


    Israeli shekel


    Saudi riyal


    Hong Kong dollar


    Singapore dollar


    South Korean won


    Taiwan dollar


    Indian rupee


    Thai baht.[HL3255]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The requested sterling exchange rates for 4 January 1999 were published in the 5 January 1999 edition of the Financial Times, page 33. The sterling exchange rates for 4 July 2000 were summarised on page 33 of the Financial Times for 5 July 2000.

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Chemical Warfare Alerts during Gulf Conflict

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have regarding the general pattern of chemical warfare agent alerts during the Gulf conflict.[HL3512]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government's 1997 policy statement Gulf Veterans' Illnesses: A New Beginning set out a number of commitments to help address the health concerns of Gulf veterans. One of these commitments was to review specific incidents of suggested biological or chemcial warfare exposures. As part of this commitment, my honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces is today publishing the third paper looking at incidents where veterans have suggested they were exposed to chemical warfare agents. This paper is entitled A Review of UK Forces Chemical Warfare Agent Alerts during the 1990-1991 Gulf Conflict. We are placing a copy in the Library of the House.

This paper looks at the general pattern of chemical alarms during the conflict. The review has shown that there was usually a straightforward explanation given at the time for chemical warfare agent detection equipment alarming. There is no evidence to suggest Iraqi use of chemical weapons or the presence of chemical weapons in any of the UK alarms.

The paper reviews in detail two specific incidents: Dhahran on the night of the 20 January 1991 when a SCUD was destroyed by a Patriot missile close to the

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airfield there and Al Jubayl on the morning of 16 February 1991 when a SCUD landed in the water in the port area. On both occasions there is no evidence to suggest that the SCUDs carried anything other than a conventional warhead.


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