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7 Nov 2000 : Column WA141

Written Answers

Tuesday, 7th November 2000.

Criminal Justice System

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they have made to improve the co-ordination and effectiveness of the criminal justice system in England and Wales.[HL4533]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Government are committed to improving the performance of the criminal justice system in England and Wales (CJS) and have set out clear aims, objectives and targets for the CJS as a whole. A strategic plan for the CJS was published in March 1999 covering 1999 to 2002 and a business plan for the CJS in 2000-01 in May 2000 (copies have been placed in the Library). An updated CJS business plan for 2001-02 will be published early in 2001

The strategy for the CJS is overseen by the Ministerial Group on the Criminal Justice System, chaired by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, of which I am a member together with my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General, my right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and other ministerial colleagues and senior officials from the main CJS departments. As part of the 2000 spending review, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in July 2000 a new reserve of £525 million over the three years 2001-02 to 2003-04 to be used to help deliver the objectives and targets set out in the latest CJS public service agreement. Initial decisions on use of the reserve will be made in the next few months.

Alongside these new resources the Government are working with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, courts and probation and prison services on an on-going programme of modernisation and reform and are engaged in a number of important reviews of the criminal justice process. These include Sir Robin Auld's review of the criminal courts and a review of the present sentencing framework, led by John Halliday, formerly Director of Criminal Justice Policy at the Home Office.

The Home Office, my department, the Law Officers' Department and Her Majesty's Treasury are now pursuing work to draw together the experience of the last three-and-a-half years, and taking account of the current reviews, to identify the way forward for the longer term. Any firm conclusions which emerge from this work will be reported to the House.

Tobacco Smuggling

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much revenue they estimate they lose annually through smuggling of tobacco products.[HL4465]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This information is contained in the Tackling Tobacco Smuggling paper published on 22nd March 2000 by HM Customs and Excise and HM Treasury for estimates of revenue lost (excise duty and VAT) to the Exchequer for 1996 to 1999 through tobacco smuggling.

Nottingham: Police Firearms

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the patrolling of high crime areas in Nottingham by police officers carrying firearms conforms with Home Office guidance to chief officers of police.[HL4409]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): I understand from the Chief Constable that the patrolling of high crime areas in Nottingham by police officers who may overtly carry firearms is part of a targeted policing operation dealing with drug related crime in the area. This would conform with guidance provided by the Association of Chief Police Officers, which does not permit routine patrolling with firearms.

Telecommunications Masts

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure that whenever possible satellites are used for telecommunications purposes instead of masts.[HL4372]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): It would not be appropriate for the Government to impose obligations on operators mandating the use of particular technology to provide their services. Whether operators choose to use satellite technology rather than masts is entirely a commercial decision for them.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure that all companies installing telecommunications masts will have a statutory obligation to remove them and to rehabilitate the land on which they are sited as soon as they become technologically unnecessary.[HL4373]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: There are provisions under Part 24 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 which require operators to remove disused masts and to rehabilitate the land on which they are sited. Developments which do not fall under these provisions fall within the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Under Section 72(1) of that Act conditions may be imposed on the grant of planning permission requiring the removal of any building or works mast authorised by the permission or the discontinuance of any use of land so authorised at the end of a specified

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period and the carrying out of any works required for the reinstatement of land at the end of that period.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure that the Public Safety Radio Communications Project will respect the statutory purposes of the national parks, especially with regard to the siting of masts and equipment.[HL4374]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1985 National Parks are designated as Article 1(5) land. As such, the installation of telecommunications apparatus in a national park, including that for the Public Safety Radio Communications Project, would be subject to full planning control. Any decision on a planning application would in the first instance be a matter for the relevant local planning authority.

ABRO Workshop, Sennybridge

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people are employed by the Army Base Repair Organisation's workshop at Sennybridge in (a) productive work; and (b) administrative functions.[HL4283]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The ABRO site at Sennybridge employs 20 staff in all. All staff make a contribution to the productive output in their own particular roles. In the workshop 10 employees are involved directly on production work. Six staff are employed either in a supporting role (such as storekeeping, labouring and administration) or in a supervisory/managerial role. Three staff are employed in the Contract Repair Office, which places work with nominated local contractors, and one member of staff is employed in the Equipment Collection Centre, which collects equipment from units throughout South Wales for repair in other ABRO facilities.

Oman: Exercise Saif Sareea 2

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the Armed Forces to undertake a joint exercise on Oman in autumn 2001.[HL4537]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Exercise Saif Sareea 2 will take place in Oman in September and October 2001. This will be a major joint and combined exercise with the Sultan's armed forces. The exercise will demonstrate the joint rapid reaction force concept which was a central pillar of our Strategic Defence Review by deploying, sustaining and recovering a joint task force at medium scale to conduct an out of area operation. It sends a very clear signal about our commitment to the Gulf region and will show Britain's

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ability to deploy rapidly a considerable force, with real punch, over large distances. The UK contribution will include a naval carrier task group, armoured and commando brigades and around 50 combat aircraft. The exact number of personnel taking part has yet to be finalised but our contribution will be in excess of 20,000.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill

Baroness Rendell of Babergh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill will be introducted to Parliament.[HL4532]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Government are committed to securing comprehensive civil rights for disabled people. That commitment will be underpinned by a significant investment over the next three years until 2003-04. Over the period 2001-02 to 2003-04 the Government will be investing £220 million through the schools access initiative in England to help improve the accessibility of the school building stock. The spending will be £50 million in 2001-02, rising to £70 million in 2002-03 and £100 million in 2003-04.

In addition, over the period 2002-03 to 2003-04, £172 million will be made available to the post-16 sector (further education, higher education, adult education and the Youth Service) to improve accessibility for disabled students and adult learners in England. Provision in Wales and Scotland is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Executive respectively.

I can confirm that the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill will be introduced in Parliament early in the next Session, although it has not proved possible to publish a draft Bill this Session.

The new legislation will be a significant step forward for disabled pupils, students and adult learners alike.


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