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The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The gap in question was an unavoidable consequence of the work being taken forward to extend the height of the security fence at the Cluan Place/Clandeboye interface. It was always intended to plug this gap during the course of the construction works. However, given the relative calm in the period prior to the 16 November it was decided best to press ahead with the major works on the security fence and then seal any gaps with appropriate metal flashing
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The IRA issued a unilateral statement on 31 August 1994 announcing a complete cessation of its military operations from midnight. The ceasefire ended on 9 February 1996 with explosions at Canary Wharf, London. It was restored on 20 July 1997.
The Secretary of State continues to keep the status of all paramilitary ceasefires under review and continues to make judgments in the round, paying particular attention to the provisions set out in Section 3(9) of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The format of Bills and Acts of Parliament was changed during Session 200001, following the report of a working group on the format of the statute law. The group's report was endorsed by the Procedure Committee in its second report of Session 199899, which included samples of text in the new format. The purpose of the changes recommended by the group, taken as a whole, was to make the statute law easier to read and to understand, not only in paper form but also using modern technology, including the Internet, on which all Bills and Acts are now published.
Lord Willliams of Mostsyn: The Registered Homes (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 and the Nursing Homes Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993 govern the operation of the Northern Ireland Hospice. In addition, the Children (Northern Ireland ) Order 1995 also governs the operation of the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice. Under the legislation, the Eastern and Northern Health and Social Services Boards' Registration and Inspection Units have authority to inspect the adult and children's hospices to ensure that the boards' standards for good practice are being met.
Lord Williams of Mostyn : The team conducting the review will make it's report to the Minister with responsibility for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. It will be for the Minister to determine what action needs to be taken and how it should be implemented.
Why the consultants' meetings about setting up a visitor centre for the Houses of Parliament with 13 representatives of the House of Lords included only one peer; and what instructions the other 12 representatives of the House of Lords had previously been given by individual peers or groups of peers with regard to their evidence or views; and[HL643]
How much land within the parliamentary estate might be taken up by option five of the consultants' report on setting up a visitor centre for the Houses of Parliament and how much land in Victoria Tower Gardens; and whether he will resist access by visitors being granted to and from a building on that site across Black Rod's Garden and will insist that access be from outside the parliamentary estate; and[HL644]
Whether, in view of the House of Commons Commission's action in asking the consultants who prepared the feasibility study for a visitor centre for the Houses of Parliament to examine the possibility of putting the whole visitor centre facilities in Victoria Tower Gardens, he will suggest that such a facility be built underground together with an underground car park for the House of Lords.[HL645]
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The initial feasibility study for improved visitor facilities was commissioned by the House of Commons Board of Management, acting through the Group on Information for the Public (GIP). The study was conducted by the consultants Haley Sharpe, in conjunction with Purcell Miller Tritton and Partners (conservation architects).
GIP is a Commons body, but the House of Lords is represented on it by Mary Morgan, the Director of Public Information. The group is charged with increasing and improving the public understanding of Parliament, so fulfilling one of the strategic objectives adopted by the House of Commons Commission in October 2001 (see the commission's 24th annual report, 200102, p.10). It has been particularly concerned about the way in which visitors of all types (whether on business or simply to see the building) are received when they come to Parliament. Related concerns have been expressed by Members of this House in recent debates, including those initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots, on 4 July 2001 (HL Deb., cols. 821-34) and the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth on 13 March 2002 (HL Deb., cols. 827-65).
The decision to commission an initial feasibility study was therefore taken by the House of Commons administration. The object of the study was to assess what options were available for improving visitor facilities, not to agree a single way forward. No formal representations were made on behalf of the House of Lords, although the consultants did meet senior officials, including Black Rod, the agent of the Administration and Works Sub-Committee. The House has been kept informed throughout, and the Administration and Works Sub-Committee took note of developments on 2 July.
A general notice was issued to Members of both Houses in the all-party whip on 16 May, inviting them to make their views known to the consultants, who subsequently conducted a number of interviews. No instructions were given by individual Members or groups of Members to those from the House of Lords who spoke to the consultants.
The feasibility study covered a range of options and different levels of visitor facilities, from an improved welcome and access to more fully developed information provision. At this stage no decisions have been taken, and no options either ruled in or ruled out. Proposals to build underground car-parking facilities in Victoria Tower Gardens have been considered by the Administration and Works Sub-Committee in the past (notably in 1991), but have been rejected on the grounds of costs. However, with regard to option five of the present feasibility study, no detailed appraisals have been undertaken, and further examination of the Victoria Tower Gardens option could well include consideration of other facilities, which would have to be costed. No agreement will be given to any scheme until all relevant issues have been thoroughly explored, including that of access to the parliamentary estate.
The House of Commons Commission discussed the report on 18 November and has asked for further studies to be undertaken, while asking several Commons committees their views. The House Committee of this House discussed the report at its first meeting on 10 December and has remitted it to the Information Committee and the Administration and Works Committee for detailed consideration. The House Committee will consider the matter again in the light of recommendations from these committees. I urge the noble Lord, should he wish to make formal representations on this matter, to write either to me, as Chairman of the Administration and Works Committee, or to the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, as Chairman of the Information Committee.
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