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7 May 2002 : Column WA157

Written Answers

Tuesday, 7th May 2002.

Freedom of Information Act Training

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

    What are the estimated costs of training Ministers and civil servants in preparation for the coming into force of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.[HL3940]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Officials from my department regularly give presentations or speak on training courses organised by other departments. I estimate that the direct cost to my department of this activity in financial year 2001-02 was £50,000. Departments would have incurred additional costs in organising and providing facilities for these events.

We have also completed a series of regional presentations to the wider public sector. The estimated cost of these events was £10,000.

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

    What are the current plans for the training of Ministers and civil servants in preparation for the coming into force of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.[HL3941]

The Lord Chancellor: Officials in my department intend to run a series of in-depth workshops in the autumn to follow up the regional seminars that have just been completed.

My officials will continue to speak at awareness-raising seminars in a wide range of departments, on the Civil Service College course on FOI and at courses and conferences arranged by other organisations.

As part of the FOI training programme throughout central government, my department is running a programme of awareness training. This will continue in the run-up to the access rights coming into force on 1 January 2005. We will also be putting systems in place for dealing with requests and training for staff on dealing with FOI requests in 2004. Janice

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

    What training has been completed by Ministers and civil servants in preparation for the coming into force of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.[HL3942]

The Lord Chancellor: A seminar for Ministers was held on 25 February 2002 and Michael Wills MP, Parliamentary Secretary in my department, has almost completed a series of regional seminars to raise awareness of the Act at a strategic level in public authorities.

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Officials from the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Division in my department continue to undertake awareness-raising seminars. These have been held in a wide range of departments, including the Cabinet Office, the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Northern Ireland Civil Service, as well as in my department. Officials also speak at the Civil Service College course on FOI and have spoken on courses and conferences arranged by other organisations.

As part of the awareness training programme throughout central government, my department has held nine seminars for Lord Chancellor's Department staff. So far, 375 staff have attended such a seminar.

Development Assistance

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many countries attending the Monterrey summit in Mexico have made firm commitments to an increase in their overall official development assistance towards the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income. [HL3478]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The EU and the US made firm commitments on aid volume at Monterrey. The EU undertook to increase its collective average from 0.33 per cent to 0.39 per cent by 2006, representing an additional 7 billion US dollars pa. The US undertook to provide an additional 10 billion US dollars in the period 2004–06 and an additional 5 billion US dollars pa thereafter, representing a 50 per cent increase in US aid. jenny

Victor Bout

Lord Mitchell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any recent developments concerning Victor Bout, following the allegations made in Air Cargo News of 15 April. [HL4156]

Baroness Amos: There have been two recent important developments. On 15 April 2002, the UK publication Air Cargo News published an article which alleges that Victor Bout had been involved in the supply of an aircraft for Osama bin Laden in 1995. Prior to 11 September, this aircraft had reportedly been frequently overflying Iran from Saudi Arabia to Kabul and Kandahar in Afghanistan. It is now reportedly parked at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. We shall be asking that the United Nations investigate this very serious allegation as a matter of great importance.

Following our past approaches to the UAE on the subject of Victor Bout, and the issuing of an international arrest warrant by the Belgian authorities, we are pleased to welcome a recent announcement by the Government of the United Arab Emirates. They have informed the United Nations Angola Monitoring

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Mechanism that Bout's companies, i.e. Air Cess and Trans Avia, have been prohibited from operating in the United Arab Emirates. He has also been banned from entering the United Arab Emirates personally.

We hope that this increased international pressure on Bout will finally result in the end of his sanctions-busting activities and that he will be brought to justice. The UK has played a leading role in drawing international attention to Bout's illegal activities, initially in Angola and Liberia and more recently relating to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Home Office: Assets of Cultural Significance

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Home Secretary on 8 November 2001 (HC Deb, 391), whether the antiques and paintings listed are included in the Home Office's entry in the National Asset Register; and, if not, whether they will explain why these objects have been omitted. [HL3855]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): Some of the stocks of antiques, paintings and fine wines listed in the reply of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary of 8 November 2001 are included in the Home Office's entry in the National Asset Register. In common with other departments' entries, they are not listed separately but grouped under a generic title. Most of the items, however, were omitted due to an administrative error. We shall ensure that the omission is corrected in the next compilation of the National Asset Register. jenny

Street Crime

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of those convicted of mugging and street robbery were at the time subject to sanctions on means-tested benefits; and what proportion of convicted offenders this figure represents. [HL3888]

Lord Rooker: The Home Office collects regular information on offences of robbery and theft from the person but does not routinely collect information on the financial circumstances of convicted persons prior to their committal of an offence.

The Government are determined to tackle the problem of street crime, irrespective of the circumstances of those who commit it. Sanctions on means-tested benefits are used to protect every national insurance contributor from those who through their own actions have lost employment or failed to comply with the entitlement conditions. If these people had acted properly initially they would not have had sanctions placed against them.

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Terrorist Offences

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many persons at the most recent date have been (a) arrested, (b) charged and (c) convicted under each of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. [HL4008]

Lord Rooker: On information currently available, 144 persons have been arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, of which 46 have been charged with offences. There have been no convictions for terrorist offences to date but 10 people are undergoing or awaiting trial for such offences.

There have been no exercises of the powers of arrest under the terms of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 but people have been detained under Part 4 of the Act. Eight were detained in December 2001, one in February 2002 and two in April 2002. Of the total detained, two have voluntarily left the United Kingdom; the other nine remain in detention. jenny

Army Training Exercises

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Medman exercises have been carried out at the Army's training area in BATUS, Canada, over the last 10 years; and what is the future programme; and[HL3850]

    What is the future of the BATUS Army training area in Canada.[HL3851]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Over the last 10 years we have conducted a total of 48 battlegroup level exercises (Exercise Medicine Man) and three formation level exercises (Exercise Hawk Iron Anvil) at BATUS in Canada. Under current plans we aim to carry out up to three Medicine Man exercises and one Iron Anvil exercise in future years.

The British Army operates its training areas at BATUS under the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Canadian Government. The current MOU will expire in August 2006 and negotiations have begun to renew it for a further 15-year period.


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