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30 Nov 1999 : Column WA33

Written Answers

Tuesday, 30th November 1999.

Stipendiary and Lay Magistrates

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who has been awarded the contract to conduct the research into stipendiary and lay magistrates.[HL146]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): A contract was signed on 22 November 1999 on behalf of Professor Rod Morgan of the University of Bristol, who will lead a team consisting of colleagues in the Faculty of Law at the University of Bristol and researchers from Taylor Nelson Sofres (covering the fieldwork) and CRG Consultants (for the cost-benefit analysis).

The team will undertake research, commissioned jointly by the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Home Office, to assess the relative costs, effectiveness and other benefits or disadvantages of stipendiary and lay magistrates, taking into account all related costs including those of other agencies. It will be used to assess whether the current balance between the use of lay magistrates and stipendiaries is satisfactory; whether each set of magistrates is deployed in the most effective way; and the weight of arguments that are heard for and against the use of lay and stipendiary magistrates in particular circumstances.

The research is due to be completed in September 2000. The report will be published.

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: Civil Rights

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

    Whether they are aware of any discrimination on the basis of gender or disability in the laws or practice obtaining in the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.[HL15]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Chief Pleas of Sark voted on 24 November to amend their inheritance laws so as to abolish male preference. There are a few other minor examples of Channel Island laws that discriminate on the basis of gender, but these are under review. Apart from these, I am not aware of any discrimination on the basis of gender or disability in the laws or practice obtaining in the Crown Dependencies.

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

    Whether the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs and the right of access to public service, guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is secured for the people of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.[HL16]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Yes.

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

    Whether the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights may be invoked before the domestic courts of Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.[HL17]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) may not be invoked before the domestic courts of Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man but may be utilised in the same fashion as any other international agreement extending to the Crown Dependencies which has not been incorporated into domestic law. The status of the ICCPR in the Crown Dependencies is the same as it is in the United Kingdom.

European Parliamentary Elections

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to Article 190(4) of the European Union treaty on elections to the European Parliament and to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 15 July (WA 55), whether, now that the Treaty of Amsterdam is in force, the European Parliament has submitted a formal proposal to the Council of Ministers concerning the adoption of common principles for European parliamentary elections; whether decisions on these proposals are to be made in the Council by qualified majority vote or by unanimity; and what are the Government's intentions with regard to debating these matters in Parliament before any decision is taken.[HL38]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The European Parliament adopted a proposal on common principles for European parliamentary elections on 15 July 1998 in anticipation of the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Parliament and the Council will in due course agree a joint text in accordance with Article 190(4) of the treaty. Any decision on the Parliament's proposal will require the unanimous approval of the Council. The Government will be depositing an explanatory memorandum with the European Communities Committee and with the European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons in accordance with the requirements for parliamentary scrutiny.

Tampere European Council: Presidency Paper

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 8 November (WA 117), whether they will arrange for a copy of the presidency paper, prepared jointly with the European Union Commission and the Council Secretariat, on the results of the Tampere European Council to be placed in the Library of the House.[HL37]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: Arrangements have been made for a copy of the paper to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Investors in People Standard

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 9 November (WA 142), what were the conclusions of the "pre-assessment audit" of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's preparedness for Investors in People.[HL14]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Financial Times Management Services Ltd carried out the pre-assessment review in July and concluded that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) does not yet meet the Investors in People standard. In accordance with the consultant's recommendations, IND is now taking action to strengthen the training and development of its staff. The aim is for IND to seek accreditation as an Investor in People next year.

Retained Fire Service

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the strength of the Retained Fire Service during the last year for which figures are available compared with the two previous years.[HL20]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The strength of the Retained Fire Service in England and Wales in each of the last three years as at 1 January in 1997 and 1998 and 31 March 1999 was:


    1999: 14,665


    2000: 14,602


    2001: 14,787

Information on the number of firefighters in each brigade for England and Wales is published annually in the reports of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services, copies of which are held in the Library.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate Staff

Baroness Lockwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out the achievements of staff in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate over the past year.[HL147]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Staff in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), both in the ports and at headquarters, have faced greatly increased workloads during 1999 as a result of the large increase in the number of asylum applicants. Much has been achieved but much more remains to be done and staff will face continuing challenge next year. In addition,

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staff are now taking on new responsibilities to make asylum procedures operate more effectively.

I have, therefore, authorised a special payment of £150 for all staff, except members of the IND Board. This recognises the extra duties and responsibilities of IND staff in this period of change.

Water Fluoridation

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the terms of reference given to the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York for conducting the systematic scientific review of the efficacy and safety or water fluoridation; and whether these have since been varied; and[HL58]

    Whether it remains their policy to await the findings of the systematic scientific review of water fluoridation currently being carried out before deciding whether to bring in further legislation in this area.[HL59]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The review began in June and its aim is to assess the evidence on the efficacy and safety of population-wide drinking water fluoridation strategies to prevent caries. To achieve this aim four objectives have been identified:


    (a) Assessment of the effectiveness of fluoridation of public water supplies in preventing caries.


    (b) If fluoridation is effective, what is the effect over and above that offered by the use of alternative interventions and strategies.


    (c) Assessment of the safety of fluoridation.


    (d) Determination of whether fluoridation results in reduction of caries across social groups and between geographical locations.

In addition, information on cost-effectiveness will be collected where it is available and if possible a cost-effective analysis will be constructed.

There have been no changes to the review's terms of reference. No decisions will be taken in advance of the findings of the scientific review.


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