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BBC: Audit Arrangements

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: The BBC's financial statements are audited annually by independent external auditors, currently KPMG, who assess whether the accounts have been properly prepared in accordance with the provisions of the BBC's Charter and Agreement. Although not mandatory, the BBC also complies with the provisions of the Companies Act 1985.

Following the licence fee settlement in February 2000, the BBC is required to appoint a separate audit firm for fair trading purposes, currently PricewaterhouseCoopers. This was part of a package on transparency and fair trading measures designed to open up the BBC to more external scrutiny. The independent fair trading and financial audit reports are published in the BBC's Annual Report. The Government have no plans to institute any further transparency measures.

Ancient Monuments

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: The committee that advises English Heritage on ancient monuments is the Historic Sites and Landscapes Committee, formerly the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee.

English Heritage has advised that there is evidence that ploughing in parts of the Verulamium scheduled monument is causing ongoing damage to the archaeology. It is, however, difficult to delineate the areas in which damage is being caused because of the topography of the site.

Before a final decision can be made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the correct way forward she must satisfy herself that all available options have

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been explored, that the necessary legal procedures have been followed and that any action is underpinned by appropriate evidence. DCMS is identifying those parties with a legal interest in the site so that consultation can take place. We all want to bring matters to as speedy a conclusion as possible—within the relevant legal and procedural constraints.

The term "deep ploughing" is not one that has an agreed definition and used in the context of this site, it conveys a misleading impression. Ploughing at scheduled monuments is only permitted within the terms of the Ancient Monuments Class Consents Order 1994 which gives consent to the following works (among others):

"Agricultural, horticultural and forestry works of the same kind as those previously carried out lawfully in the same location and on the same spot within that location within the period of six years immediately preceding the date on which the works commence; but excluding works falling into one or more of the following categories—(a) in the case of ploughed land, any works likely to disturb the soil of any part of that land below the depth at which ploughing of that part has previously been carried out lawfully."

Of course, ploughing and other means of cultivating the soil are potentially damaging to any ancient monument or archaeological site. The cultivation of previously undisturbed sites may disrupt and make archaeological areas indecipherable and the repeated disturbance of the soil can fragment and abrade artefacts that are contained within it. The deeper the ploughing the more likely it is to destroy previously undisturbed levels even in land that has previously been cultivated. The impact on any one ancient monument is, however, dependent on the land use history and the nature of the site itself.

Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000

Lord Blackwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which organisations have been designated as exempt from the provisions relating to political organisations under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.[HL5645]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg) : The following 32 political organisations have been specified in orders—The Registered Parties (Non-constituent and Non-affiliated Organisations) Order 2000 and The Registered Parties (Non-constituent and Non-affiliated Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2002—made under Section 26(8)(c) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 as organisations which are not to be taken as constituent or affiliated organisations in relation to political parties and are therefore exempt from the provisions of the Act.

    Association of Conservative Peers

    Association of Loyal Orange Women of Ireland

    Black and Asian Society

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    Christian Socialist Movement

    Conservative Animal Welfare Group

    Conservative Christian Fellowship

    Conservative Disability Group

    Conservative Foreign Affairs Forum

    Conservative Foreign and Commonwealth Council

    Conservative Friends of Israel

    Conservative Lawyers

    Conservative Medical Society

    Conservative National Education Society

    Conservative Transport Group

    Conservatives at Work

    County Grand Lodges of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland

    Fabian Society

    Hurst Park Residents Association

    Labour Housing Group

    Labour Irish Group

    National Union of Labour and Socialist Clubs

    Poale Zion

    Socialist Health Association

    Socialist Education Association

    Socialist Environment and Resources Association

    Society of Labour Lawyers

    The Association of Conservative Clubs

    The Conservative Councillors Association

    The Countryside Forum

    The 1992 Committee

    The Society of Conservative Accountants

    The Tory Green Initiative

National Archives

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the amalgamation of the Historical Manuscripts Commission and the Public Record Office, they will invite the newly-formed National Archives to accept the deposited records of the privatised railway industry.[HL5688]

The Lord Chancellor: The Public Record Office (PRO) and the Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) will combine to form the National Archives in April 2003. As the HMC's current role does not include the acquisition of records, it is not anticipated that the coming together of the two organisations will impact immediately on the acquisition policy currently operated by the PRO. This policy excludes the records of privatised industries operating outside Government.

The National Archives will continue the practice of the PRO and the HMC in working closely with the

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Railway Heritage Committee to ensure that historically significant railway records are safeguarded and deposited with appropriate institutions.

Money Laundering

Lord Hayhoe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the 31,251 reports of suspected money laundering referred to by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 9 July (HL Deb, col. 558) have been followed by subsequent court prosecutions.[HL5234]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) does not hold statistical information relating to the number of prosecutions which may have resulted from these reports of suspicions of money laundering. However, it does monitor whether the financial disclosures it receives and forwards to law enforcement agencies are of value to those agencies. From these 31,251 reports made in 2001, to date NCIS has received feedback in 11,047 cases, and in respect of 9,082 (82 per cent) of these replies from law enforcement agencies have indicated that the reports have assisted their efforts.

Asylum Seekers

Baroness Howe of Idlicote asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What role, if any, they envisage for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in dealing with asylum seekers who are:

    (a) trying to enter the United Kingdom from the European Union and other countries; or

    (b) already in the United Kingdom and are seeking asylum or resettlement in this country.[HL5287]

Lord Filkin: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has offered this service to the United Kingdom (UK) and French Governments to help find a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of Sangatte. Both governments welcome the offer and are considering their response. No other role within the European Union is under consideration. For countries outside the European Union, under the proposed Rufugee Quota Resettlement scheme the UNHCR will be consulted on the scheme's development and have a role in the selection of potential applicants for the scheme.

UNHCR is not routinely involved in the process for considering asylum claims although it may intervene in individual cases. It is also consulted as appropriate on certain asylum and country policy issues.

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