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27 May 2002 : Column WA121

Written Answers

Monday, 27th May 2002.

Libra Program

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

    Whether they intend to abandon the Libra computer program for the transfer of information within the criminal justice system; if so, what are their reasons; and what will be the consequences both for public expenditure and for the criminal justice system.[HL4311]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Government have no intention of allowing the Libra program to fail. Delivery of a central part of the contract—the office infrastructure and network—is over 70 per cent complete and office services are being delivered to over 8,500 magistrates' court staff. This infrastructure will enable magistrates' courts to link up with other parts of the criminal justice system, as was always planned.

We remain determined to provide magistrates' courts with modern computer equipment and standardised IT software. There have been delays in delivering the software application but discussions are currently under way with Fujitsu Services (formerly ICL) on this aspect of the project. These will be concluded shortly, and an announcement will be made on the way forward. Huw

Northern Ireland: Drug Dealing Convictions

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many convictions for drug dealing there have been in Northern Ireland in each of the past 10 years.[HL4234]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The information provided in the following table reflects all offences linked to the supply of drugs. Figures for 2000 and 2001 are not yet available.

Persons convicted of drug dealing offences in Northern Ireland: 1993 to 1999

YearDrug dealing (including importing and exporting controlled drugs)


The offences reflected in the table above include supply, possession with intent to supply, permitting premises to be used for supply, offering to supply a controlled drug, being concerned in offer to supply a controlled drug and importing and exporting controlled drugs. The figures exclude drugs offences relating to possession, production, cultivation or regulatory offences.


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House of Lords: Sittings after 10 p.m.

Lord Monson asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What is the total number of hours the House of Lords has sat in each of the past three Sessions:

    (a) after 10 p.m.; and

    (b) after 11 p.m.[HL4514]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff): The figures are contained in the table below. The totals for hours sat after 10 p.m. include those for hours sat after 11 p.m.

SessionHours sat after 10 p.m. (number of sittings)Hours sat after 11 p.m. (number of sittings)
1999–2000160 hrs 20 minutes (91)80 hrs 4 minutes (61)
2000–0138 hrs 19 minutes (24) 17 hrs 26 minutes (14)
2001–02 (up to and including 23 May 2002)59 hrs 42 minutes (57)18 hrs 33 minutes (24)

Middle East

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans and prospects they have for achieving:

    (a) the release by Israel of 155 Palestinian children detained under Emergency Regulations;

    (b) the resumption of studies for those enrolled at Bir Zeit University and other disrupted institutions; and

    (c) full access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to all parts of the West Bank and Gaza.[HL4209]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): (a) There are over 2,300 Palestinians held in detention facilities, of whom 465 are in administrative detention. We do not have exact figures for the number of minors detained. We are gravely concerned about the detention of large numbers of Palestinian civilians. We have raised our concerns at the highest level about the recent Israeli action in Palestinian-controlled areas. We take particular interest where minors are detained and have raised, and will continue to raise, specific cases with the Israeli Government. (b) We are deeply concerned about the humanitarian and economic impact of closures, including the effect on educational institutions such as Beir Zeit University. These institutions are working hard to resume classes. We have expressed our serious concerns to the Israeli Government on political, legal and humanitarian grounds, and will continue to do so. (c) We have repeatedly raised our concerns with the Israeli Prime Minister's office on the denial of access for humanitarian and medical agencies to those in need. We are providing practical support through our contributions to UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency). This year we are providing £25 million to UNRWA.

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Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assistance they are giving to the Kingdom of Nepal in its fight against terrorism.[HL4219]

Baroness Amos: We are very concerned about the situation in Nepal. The brutal Maoist insurgency is undermining Nepal's young democracy and fragile economy, and adding to regional instability. The Nepalese Government will continue to have our full support in dealing with the political, military and developmental aspects of the crisis. We have already provided considerable assistance to the Nepalese Government in the form of logistical equipment, training and support for the RNA and substantial development aid. We are actively considering early additional assistance including the supply of radios to improve communication within the Royal Nepalese Army—a key shortcoming—and training programmes developed to increase their awareness of human rights issues. My right honourable Friends the Prime Minister, Clare Short the Secretary of State for International Development, and my honourable Friend Ben Bradshaw held meetings with the Nepalese Prime Minister during his 13–14 May visit, at which these matters were discussed. We are working with international partners and others to identify means of supporting the Nepalese Government in their conflict with the Maoist insurgency and identify ways to promote a sustainable peace. Britain is the second largest bilateral donor to Nepal. The bilateral aid programme for this year is around £22 million.


Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recent inter-communal violence and loss of life in India is under discussion by Commonwealth governments; and whether efforts will be made to plan future preventative measures, including enhanced inter-faith dialogue.[HL4319]

Baroness Amos: We have been in close and regular contact on this issue with the Government of India. The Government of India have strongly condemned the violence in Gujarat, and have given assurances, which we welcome, that they will take action to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attacks. In the current circumstances, we do not believe that the Commonwealth is the right forum to deal with this issue.

Afghanistan: Prisoners

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the views of Mr Peter Klaiber, the European Union envoy in Afghanistan, concerning the conditions of prisoners held by the Northern Alliance; and whether they will seek to have these prisoners released.[HL4352]

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Baroness Amos: We are concerned about the reported conditions in which prisoners are being held in certain parts of Afghanistan. Security considerations have so far prevented our embassy staff in Kabul visiting these prisons. But they are in frequent contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which closely monitors the situation and welfare of all prisoners in Afghanistan. Throughout the conflict last autumn, we urged the Northern Alliance to respect the tenets of the Geneva conventions and to treat humanely all those who surrendered and were taken prisoner. Since then, we have made clear to the Afghan Interim Administration that we expect them to respect their international obligations, including to treat their prisoners humanely.


Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the talks between Britain and Spain on the future of Gibraltar, whether the Government of Gibraltar will be involved along with the British Government in drawing up questions for the referendum.[HL4286]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): As I said in the House on 16 April in response to a question from the noble Lord, "it would be for the people of Gibraltar to decide in a referendum whether any proposals that emerged from the current Brussels Process talks should be implemented" (Official Report, col. WA 149). Because it could trigger primary legislation in the UK, HMG would expect to oversee the organisation and timing of any such referendum in consultation with the Government of Gibraltar.

Pupils: Offences

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is a correlation between children out of school and incidents of anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.[HL4231]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): A number of studies have found that pupils who truant or are excluded from school are significantly more likely to commit offences than other pupils. During a six-month study the Metropolitan Police found that 5 per cent of all offences were committed by children during school hours. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills recently announced a £66 million package of measures to tackle behaviour and truancy issues, targeted on a number of schools in local education authorities with high crime and high truancy figures. The package will ensure that all excluded pupils are engaged in full-time educational activity.

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