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Written Answers

Thursday, 12th October 2000.

Fruit and Vegetables: Intervention Board Distribution

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What quantity of British fruit and vegetables the Intervention Board redistributed in 1998 and 1999; and what is their target for this year.[HL3921]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The information requested is set out below:

YearTonnage Distributed
19984.5
1999720.6

This year over 120 tonnes has been distributed to date.

Since it is not possible to predict the timing or volumes of withdrawals it would be inappropriate to set targets in terms of the proportion or tonnage of withdrawn produce to be distributed.

The Intervention Board's aim is to facilitate free distribution of withdrawn produce so that all eligible recipients who wish to take advantage of the arrangements can do so.


Common Land: Registration Disputes

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the sites which were registered as common land under the Commons Registration Act 1965 where disputes over that registration remain to be settled, giving the acreages and reasons for dispute in each case.[HL3949]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Disputes over registrations made under the Commons Registration Act 1965 are dealt with either by the Commons Commissioners, in respect of registrations made up to 2 January 1970, or by a Commons Registration Authority (usually the county council or unitary authority) in respect of registrations made on or after that date.

No central register of disputes is held, and information held by the registration authorities could only be provided at disproportionate cost. I will, however, write to the noble Lord with information about disputes currently being dealt with by the Commissioners.

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Young Drivers: Penalty Points

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many drivers under 21 years of age have at least one current penalty point on their licence.[HL3995]

Lord Whitty: Figures on penalty points for drivers cannot readily be extracted from the computer record. The information requested could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

DVLA, together with the Transport Statistics Division of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, is planning to set up a separate database of anonymised driver information, extracted from the DVLA computer record. When this is done, the database will be able to provide the answer to specific questions about drivers quickly and cheaply.

Salaried Defence Service

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the reasons for deciding against the appointment of a senior lawyer, answerable to the board of the Legal Services Commission, to oversee the work in the initial six local offices employing salaried public defenders in a way that respects and protects their professional integrity.[HL3842]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Government remain of the view that salaried defenders employed in a fully-developed salaried defence service should report to a senior lawyer who would protect and promote their professional integrity. Six pilot offices will be used initially to assess the viability of the project. The first three of these will open in April 2001. The Government and the Legal Services Commission proposed in the consultation document on salaried defenders published in June that, during the period of assessment, a member of the commission, who is an experienced criminal practitioner of high standing, should act as the head of professional service for the six offices. The heads of each office will have direct access to him. The commission member who will undertake this role is Mr Tony Edwards, a distinguished defence lawyer of great experience. He is senior partner of a substantial criminal law firm and is a specialist in the professional conduct and management of criminal law work.

Immigration Adjudicators: Bail Guidance Notes

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish a list of the persons and organisations consulted on the bail guidance notes for adjudicators.[HL3925]

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The Lord Chancellor: Her Majesty's Government played no part in the drafting of the new guidance notes on bail for immigration adjudicators from the Chief Adjudicator.

The drafting of these guidance notes was instigated by the Chief Adjudicator and they were issued by him for the guidance of adjudicators when hearing applications for bail.

Those consulted during the preparation of these guidance notes were: Mr Justice Collins, President of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, Ms Hope Hanlon, Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the United Kingdom and all Regional Adjudicators.

Before these guidance notes were issued, a copy was sent to the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, who were invited to submit their comments.

Sudan

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assistance they are giving to the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development secretariat for the peace process in Sudan; and when they intend to review that assistance.[HL4051]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We have given financial and diplomatic assistance to the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development secretariat in order to try to encourage a sustained and accelerated negotiation.

Peace in the Sudan remains a priority. We are constantly looking at ways in which we might be able further to assist progress towards a comprehensive settlement.

Gibraltar and European Parliament Elections

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will arrange for the citizens of Gibraltar to take part in direct elections to the European Parliament in 2004.[HL4045]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government have regularly made clear that they are actively seeking enfranchisement in advance of the 2004 European Parliament elections. We remain committed to this goal.

Council of Europe Development Bank

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will initiate interdepartmental discussions between Ministers and officials to re-examine the role the United Kingdom might play to

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    provide support for the Council of Europe Development Bank, as well as in involvement in its work; and, if not, why not.[HL3998]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Although the UK decision not to join the Council of Europe Development Bank (CoEDB) was taken long ago, the Government have been prepared to reconsider. Last year, the FCO consulted the Department for International Development and the Treasury on the merits of joining at that stage. From the UK point of view, the CoEDB appears to fall between the two stools of aid agency for Central and Eastern Europe and source of loans to its members on highly favourable terms. Since the bulk of the fund's lending is to Western European countries, the UK could not justify charging the very large membership costs to our development aid programme, where we are confined to participating in programmes which benefit aid-recipient countries. Nor could we justify the costs in terms of commercial benefit, either on grounds that such loan facilities are not otherwise available or that the benefits warrant transferring the resources required from other activities.

Afghanistan: British UN Aid Workers

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they and the United Nations give to British nationals who are employees of the United Nations regarding humanitarian work in Afghanistan.[HL3959]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We strongly advise British nationals against any travel to Afghanistan. We believe there is an increased threat to British interests there from global terrorism. We have advised the UN against sending UK nationals working for them to Afghanistan for the same reason. Ultimately, however, we recognise that decisions on staffing and travel are for the UN to make in consultation with the individuals concerned. We also acknowledge that UN workers have a special role to play in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, and that the UN has enhanced security procedures in such areas. We therefore keep our advice to the UN under regular review.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the advice which they and the United Nations give to British United Nations employees for Afghanistan is consistent with advice given to those serving in other countries.[HL3960]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The travel advice which we give to British nationals is specific to each country. In the case of Afghanistan we have concerns arising from the increased threat to British interests there from global terrorism. I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave in response to his earlier Question.[HL3959]

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