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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): Copies of a report entitled Race EqualityThe Home Secretary's Employment TargetsMilestone Report have today been placed in the Library. The targets cover recruitment, retention and career progression for minority ethnic staff in the Home Office, the prison, the police and probation services.
The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): As my noble friend Lady Amos told the House on 10 December (Official Report, col. 214), neither the UK nor Gibraltar bore any responsibility for the "Prestige". The UK's Permanent Representative to the EU wrote to the Commission in this sense on 19 November. A copy of that letter has been placed in the Libraries of the House. My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Mr MacShane) also wrote to Commissioner de Palacio on 16 November.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): In the oral Statement made by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary (Mr Hoon) to the House on 7 January (Official Report, col. 23) in another place we announced the deployment of naval and amphibious forces, including 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines with all supporting elements. They will conduct training in the Mediterranean with a view to proceeding to the Gulf region if and as required.
In parallel, preparatory activity continues to ensure the availability and readiness of a range of military options, should they be required. This includes continuing planning activity, exploratory visits and liaison with other military staffs in the region. It also includes the preparation, movement and deployment of enabling equipment that might be required in the event of operations, including logistics, engineering, signals and command vehicles and equipment. This will involve major road movements in the United Kingdom and Germany and the loading of ships, which will sail in the next few days.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Married couples may be entitled to state pension benefits based on their spouse's contributions. The Government have no proposals to entitle unmarried long-term cohabiting partners to state pensions benefits based on their partner's contributions.
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I understand from the Office of the Civil Service Commissioners for Northern Ireland that the Northern Ireland Civil Service Commissioners are satisfied that the recruitment policies and practices of departments and agencies within the Northern Ireland Civil Service are generally in accordance with the requirements of the recruitment code.
The commissioners are responsible for upholding the principle that selection for appointment to posts in the NICS should be on the basis of merit, through fair and open competition. They discharge this responsibility by publishing and maintaining a recruitment code which sets out the essential principles and procedures on which recruitment to the Northern Ireland Civil Service must be based. The commissioners satisfy themselves that these requirements are met through a robust cycle of audits of departmental and agency recruitment policies and practices. Issues arising are followed up with the NICS through regular exchanges between the commissioners and NICS officials, including Permanent Secretaries.
The delays for traffic emerging from Tower Hill are not considered to be too onerous and there are no proposals to carry out any road-related measures at this time. PSNI is re-assessing the need to retain the barrier in a closed position.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Details of payments made to the various bodies mentioned above since 1 December 1999 from the Republic of Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs are available on the department's website at www.irlgov.ie/iveagh.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Belfast Agreement has not been amended. The agreement between the two governments contained in the exchange of notes of 19 November 2002 made provision for the making of decisions during suspension on "policies and actions relating to the Implementation Bodies, Tourism Ireland Limited or their respective functions". As the joint statement of the two governments of 18 December made clear, each government will consult as appropriate in the exercise of their powers under the agreement of 19 November. The British Government will consult on a cross-community basis, in keeping with the ethos of the Belfast Agreement.
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