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East Timor: Emergency Appeal

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is for individual countries to decide whether they will contribute to the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for East Timor in the light of their own economic and political circumstances.

Diplomatic Missions: Rate Arrears

Baroness Crawley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Most missions and international organisations meet their obligations. However, at 31 March 1999 the following missions owed over £10,000 for national non-domestic rates.

CountryAmount outstanding up to 31 March 1999
Sierra Leone49,576.00

Sudan: Truck Export Licence

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government's

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Following consulta-

tions with this department and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently issued a licence for the export of one military rated, ex Mod Bedford truck to ACORD, a relief organisation in the Sudan. The truck will be used to distribute seed and other humanitarian aid to help alleviate the suffering in Sudan. This decision does not affect the Government's continued support for the EU Common Position on the export of arms, munitions and military equipment to Sudan.

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Westminster Underground Station

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are now able to give a date for the opening of Westminster Underground Station for the Jubilee Line Extension: and if not, when they expect to be able to do so.[HL72]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): London Transport aim to open the Jubilee Line station at Westminster shortly before Christmas. It is however a deep and complex station, being constructed on a constricted site. LT cannot therefore guarantee the opening date at present. We do not yet know when it will be possible to give a firm date.

Supplementary Fuel Tanks in Vehicles

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment has been made of (a) the loss of revenue and (b) the additional danger of fire resulting from the installation of supplementary fuel tanks in vehicles entering the United Kingdom, both during transit via ferry and in a road accident.[HL52]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Supplementary fuel tanks have to meet the same safety standards as a vehicle's main fuel tank. There has been no assessment made of the loss of revenue or increased fire risk due to the use of supplementary fuel tanks.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of any safety hazards involved, operators of trains or ferries bringing lorries into the United Kingdom have any obligation to carry vehicles with supplementary fuel tanks.[HL53]

Lord Whitty : Eurotunnel's policy is to carry any petrol or diesel-fuelled vehicle that is permitted on the roads in the UK and France. Similarly, the carriage of roadworthy vehicles on ferries does not breach Merchant Shipping legislation.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which agency is responsible for inspecting lorries entering the United Kingdom to see whether they are fitted with supplementary fuel tanks; and[HL54]

    How many checks have been carried out at ports of entry during 1999 to detect the use of supplementary fuel tanks by drivers; and how many lorries have been detained as a result.[HL55]

Lord Whitty : The Vehicle Inspectorate (VI) conduct roadside enforcement checks on vehicles at ports and

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other roadside locations. However, it is not an offence for a vehicle to be fitted with a supplementary fuel tank and VI enforcement officers would not take enforcement action unless such a vehicle exhibited roadworthiness defects.

House of Lords Website

Lord Norton of Louth asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Who has overall editorial control of the House of Lords website on the Internet; who is responsible for the design of the website; and what plans there are to render it more attractive to users of the Internet.[HL48]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The House of Lords website is an integral part of the United Kingdom Parliament website. Guidelines for the design and development of the Parliament website are set by officials of both Houses meeting as the group on Information Management and the Parliamentary Intranet (IMPI). Issues of principle and spending are referred to the relevant domestic committees of both Houses. The Clerk of the Journals in the House of Lords acts within the established guidelines as general editor of the Lords internet pages. Editorial control of the content of the pages is primarily the responsibility of the departments which place material on the Internet.

A proposal for a consultancy study of the design of the House of Lords website, to improve its accessibility and effectiveness, will be referred to the next meeting of the Library and Computers Sub-Committee.

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House of Lords Media and Information Service

Lord Norton of Louth asked the Chairman of Committees:

    How many members of staff of the House of Lords are employed to deal with media inquiries and to disseminate information about the work of the House; and how this figure compares with that for the number of staff employed for media and information purposes by the Scottish Parliament.[HL49]

The Chairman of Committees: Since October 1996, the House of Lords has had one member of staff, with a personal assistant, who, amongst other public information-related responsibilities, acts as a focus for inquiries from the media. Two other members of staff provide a telephone information service to the public, and to Members of the House, on the work, business and membership of the House.

While direct comparisons with the Scottish Parliament are not possible, I understand that the original complement of two staff responsible solely for media relations in the Scottish Parliament is to be increased to four. In terms of information activities which most nearly approximate to those of the House of Lords information services, such as the provision of briefing papers, other information material and an enquiry service, the Scottish Parliament has a staff of about 15 engaged in the provision of a public information service. This service also staffs a Visitor Centre and shop, both of which are open to the public, an education office and a switchboard facility for the 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament.

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