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14 Jan 2003 : Column WA25

Written Answers

Tuesday, 14th January 2003.

Home Office: Race Equality Employment Targets

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the Milestone Report (3rd Annual Report on progress) on the Home Secretary's race equality employment targets for minority ethnic staff in the Home Office and its service areas.[HL1048]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): Copies of a report entitled Race Equality–The Home Secretary's Employment Targets–Milestone 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.

MV "Prestige"

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to the European Union Commissioner for Transport, Loyola de Palacio, about her remarks in relation to MV "Prestige" and Gibraltar.[HL922]

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.

Iraq

Lord Varley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What continuing preparatory activities are currently under way with regard to Iraq.[HL1046]

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.

3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines will have an integral reconnaissance capability. This will be provided by a number of tracked vehicles. These will

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be moved by ship and loading will begin shortly. Dispatch of Royal Marines personnel and other equipment by air will also begin shortly.

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.

As soon as any decision to deploy additional British combat forces to the region is taken, we will inform the House at the earliest opportunity.

DTI: Consultancy Contracts

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total expenditure incurred by the Department of Trade and Industry on work carried out by consultants during the financial years 1997–98, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01 and 2001–02.[HL686]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Central records indicate that contracts for consultancy were as follows:


    Financial year 1999–2000: £21 million


    Financial year 2000–2001: £36 million


    Financial year 2001–2002: £64 million.

Data for the two previous years are not readily available and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Civil Partnerships

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

    When they intend to publish their consultation document on civil partnerships.[HL820]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government propose to issue a consultation document on civil partnership registration in the summer.

Pension Benefits: Unmarried Long-term Cohabiting Partners

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

    Why the Green Paper Working and Saving for Retirement (CM 5677, December 2002) contains no proposals to entitle unmarried long-term cohabiting partners (whether of the same sex or opposite sex) to state pensions benefits.[HL819]

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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 Government are currently looking into the policy and cost implications of a civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples, with an attached package of rights and responsibilities.

Northern Ireland Civil Service: Recruitment Policies

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Civil Service Commissioners' recruitment code is fully observed by all departments and agencies within the Northern Ireland Civil Service.[HL384]

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.

A summary of the findings of the most recent audits can be accessed in the commissioners' annual report 2001–02 or on their website at www.nicscommissioners.org

Armagh: Barrier at Tower Hill

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the security barrier has been retained across Tower Hill, Armagh City; which authority opposes the opening of this roadway; and what proposals there are to reduce the traffic delays from the junction of the Tower Hill and the Portadown Road towards Armagh City.[HL550]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The barrier at Tower Hill in Armagh belongs to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and has been retained to provide

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necessary protection against an attack on the nearby Gough Barracks complex. The road was closed subject to a Section 26/3 temporary road closure.

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.

Northern Ireland: Irish and Ulster Seats

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money, in sterling, has been paid since 1 December 1999 from the Republic of Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and the Cabinet Office (a) to groups promoting the Irish language; and (b) to groups promoting Ulster Scots culture, history and language in Northern Ireland.[HL556]

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.

The Cabinet Office has not provided funding for these groups.

Belfast Agreement

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 5 December (WA 126), whether the Belfast Agreement has been amended; and, if so, how this fits with the ethos of the agreement guaranteeing cross-community support for all decisions.[HL561]

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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