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23 Jan 2001 : Column WA7

Written Answers

Tuesday, 23rd January 2001.

Civil Society Challenge Fund

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which non-governmental organisations in the United Kingdom received support for international development projects under the pound-for-pound scheme in the last financial year; at what cost; and whether that scheme has now been concluded.[HL188]

Baroness Amos: In the fiscal year 1999/2000 a total of £35.2 million was provided to UK NGOs through the Joint Funding Scheme. A list of these organisations can be found in Statistics on International Development: 1995/1996-1999/2000, which is available in the Library of the House.

The Civil Society Challenge Fund (CSCF) was launched in October 1999 to replace the Joint Funding Scheme, which will be phased out by 2004 when current commitments cease. The CSCF is open to any non-profitmaking organisation or network, which shares DFID's focus on poverty reductions and is designed to help build a stronger civil society in developing countries that enables the voices of the poor to be heard. As with the Joint Funding Scheme, the CSCF is based on matched funding.

River Danube: Clearance

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the European Union-funded programme for clearing obstructions in the River Danube has yet let its main contracts; and, if not, when it is expected to do so.[HL360]

Baroness Amos: A Project Director was appointed by the Danube Commission on 16 October 2000. He is currently finalising the terms of reference for the architect. Awarding of contracts will occur during the first quarter of 2001. A tender for a bathymetric survey will be published this month. It is expected that work will begin during March.

Blundeston Prison and Hollesley Bay YCC: Possible Evacuation

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether staff at Blundeston Prison or Hollesley Bay Youth Correction Centre received any instructions to prepare for a possible evacuation at some time between 25 and 30 December 1980; and if so, why these instructions were issued.[HL319]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): We can find no record of any such instructions.

Lawfully Held Firearms and Public Safety

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide details of all cases since the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 came into effect in which the possession of lawfully authorised Section 1 firearms of a type usually called long-barrelled revolvers has resulted in any identifiable danger to public safety.[HL293]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: This information is not recorded centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. The number of lawfully authorised weapons of this kind is comparatively small at present and the Government are not aware of any cases involving the misuse of such weapons after 1997. However, the Government understand that in the 1980s there were cases in which long barrelled smooth-bore revolvers were sawn off and used in serious crime.

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide details of all cases arising in the past five years in which rifles of .50 calibre or greater which are held on firearm certificates have been a cause for any concern about public safety.[HL294]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: This information is not recorded centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost. The number of lawfully authorised weapons of this kind in current use is small at present and the Government are not aware of any cases involving the misuse of any such weapons which are lawfully held. However, we are aware of concerns about the misuse of weapons of this type by terrorists in Northern Ireland.

Dogs Kept in High Rise Tower Blocks

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they think that the keeping of dogs in high rise tower blocks of flats is cruel; and if so, whether they have plans to prevent it.[HL398]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The law places the responsibility for taking care of animals on their owners or keepers, who may not cause them harm, intentionally or through neglect. Under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animal.

Since the mistreatment of animals can take many forms, the 1911 Act has been widely drawn to apply to any situation of unnecessary suffering. Any person or organisation may initiate criminal proceedings under

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these Acts where there is reason to believe that unnecessary suffering has been caused, or may report the matter to the police, who will decide whether or not to institute a prosecution.

There are no plans to amend the 1911 Act to make it an offence to keep a dog in a high rise tower block of flats.

National Air Traffic Services Ltd:Regulatory Regime

Lord Brett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received advice from the Economic Regulation Group of the Civil Aviation Authority on the economic regulatory regime for the public/private partnership for National Air Traffic Services Ltd.[HL456]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The monopoly services provided by the National Air Traffic Services Ltd public/private partnership will be subject to price regulation by the RPI-X method, which is the standard model for monopoly regulation in the United Kingdom. The charge cap, or "X" factor, will be set for a period of five years and will, for the first five-year period only, be set by the Government.

We received advice from the CAA in August which set out how it proposed to approach the economic regulation of NATS and recommended that the "X" factor for NATS' UK monopoly services be set at 5 per cent per year for each of the first five years. We have considered this advice carefully, alongside representations from NATS and the projections of bidders as the sale process developed, and have decided to set charge capping at 2.2 per cent for 2001, 3.0 per cent for 2002, 4.0 per cent for 2003, and 5.0 per cent for each of 2004 and 2005. There will thus be a progressive tightening across the initial years following the introduction of the PPP.

Furthermore, since delays are a major concern to airlines, we have decided that the charge cap should include a delay term, so that the "X" factor will automatically tighten, thereby reducing NATS' revenues, if delays increase beyond their present level. We are setting the maximum delay term at £2 million per year for 2001-02, and £5.7 million per year for 2003-05.

The CAA's advice on the charge cap was based on a well-considered and comprehensive analysis of NATS' operational and investment plans and the potential for efficiency savings. And we are satisfied that the advice fully reflected the Government's, and the CAA's, commitment to giving the highest priority to safety.

In reaching our decision, we have been concerned to achieve a smooth transition to the PPP, which we believe will be encouraged by such price control in its first few years. This will better enable NATS' management to focus on getting the change and investment programmes right during the early years of

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the PPP, including the commissioning of the Swanwick Centre, the development of the new Scottish Centre, and further investment in the capacity wanted by airlines.

NATS' management accept that efficiency gains of the level required to meet the charge cap we are setting, whilst challenging, are achievable without detriment to NATS operations.

House of Lords Smoking Policy

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Why staff smoking policy in the House of Lords is distinct from the rules on smoking applicable to members of the House.[HL364]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): As employees of the Clerk of the Parliaments, the staff of the House are subject to various terms and conditions set out in their contracts of employment, and the Staff Handbook, which provides a smoking policy agreed by the House of Lords Whitley Committee. Smoking policy for Members of the House, who are not employees, is a matter for the House itself on the recommendation of the Offices Committee and its Sub-Committees.

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether the Library and Computers Sub-Committee has undertaken a study of the effects of smoking on books stored in the Library; and, if not, whether it will do so.[HL365]

The Chairman of Committees: The Library and Computers Sub-Committee has not undertaken such a study; the Sub-Committee will consider the question of smoking in the Library at its next meeting.

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Further to his Written Answer on 21 December (WA 77), whether the Library and Computers Sub-Committee will apply to members the same restrictions on smoking that apply to staff of the House; and, if not, why not.[HL366]

The Chairman of Committees: The Library and Computers Sub-Committee will consider this proposal at its next meeting.


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