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28 Jan 2003 : Column WA141

Written Answers

Tuesday, 28th January 2003.

Connswater River: Pollution Management

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to deal with the unsightly nature of, and any health risk posed by, the section of the Connswater River between the Newtownards Road and Belfast Lough in East Belfast.[HL949]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The removal of large items of litter such as shopping trolleys is the responsibility of the owner of the property through which the river flows. If the debris were restricting the flow, it would be a matter for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's Rivers Agency, as the body responsible for maintenance of the Connswater River as a drainage channel.

With regard to sewage-related litter from sewage overflows into the river, the Department of the Environment's Environment & Heritage Service (EHS) is at present in discussion with the Water Service of the Department for Regional Development to undertake a detailed pollution management study for the area associated with the Connswater River, based on the previously completed Drainage Area Plan. This work will examine the sewage collections system in the Connswater area, as well as how sewage is treated, and will identify potential solutions to control discharges of storm sewage and problems with sewage related litter in the Connswater River.

Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure: Linguistic Diversity Branch

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Linguistic Diversity Branch of the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, has given advice to local authorities on the use of minority languages; and if so whether the advice treated Irish and Ulster-Scots equally.[HL954]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Linguistic Diversity Branch is an administrative unit of the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL). The remit of DCAL includes advising the Northern Ireland departments on their obligations in respect of minority languages, in the context of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Belfast Agreement. The department has also responded to relevant requests for information from other interested parties, including representatives from individual district councils. The principal source of advice for district councils is however the Department of the Environment. The advice has regard to the provisions of the charter in relation to Irish and Ulster-Scots.

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The Lord Chancellor: Pension Package

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What total sum would be required, if the Lord Chancellor were to retire today, to provide the tax-free lump sum and purchase on the open market the index-linked pension to which he is entitled.[HL958]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: To secure an inflation-linked pension annuity of around £90,000 for a man of the Lord Chancellor's age would cost at least £1.7 million at present. To secure all the elements of the Lord Chancellor's pension package, including widow's pension and lump sum on retirement would cost around £2 million.

Downpatrick and Newtownards

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what is the population of Downpatrick and of Newtownards;

    (b) at which location in each of these towns the new Down/Ards Area Plan is on display; and

    (c) whether the display complies with the requirement of equal opportunity for the residents of both towns to be consulted and comment upon this area plan.[HL961]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The population of Newtownards at the 1991 census was 24,300; that of Downpatrick was 10,260. The figures from the 2001 census are not yet available for the towns.

The planning service mounted manned displays for seven days following the launch of the draft plan in both Newtownards and Downpatrick as follows:

Ards Arts Centre/Town Hall, Conway Square, Newtownards


    Tuesday 10 December 2002 2.00 pm–8.00 pm


    Wednesday 11 December 2002 10.00 am–8.00 pm


    Thursday 12 December 2002 2.00 pm–8.00 pm

St. Patricks Centre, Lower Market Street, Downpatrick


    Tuesday 10 December 2002 2.00 pm–8.00 pm


    Wednesday 11 December 2002 10.00 am–8.00 pm


    Thursday 12 December 2002 2.00 pm–8.00 pm

The draft plan is currently on display at the Ards Borough Council Offices, 2 Church Street, Newtownards and at the Divisional Planning Office, Rathkeltair House, Market Street, Downpatrick.

The Department is satisfied that the manned display which took place immediately following the publication of the draft plan (as detailed above) and the ongoing (unmanned display) as detailed above comply with the requirements of providing equal opportunities for the residents of both towns to view and comment on the draft plan.

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Ulster-Scots Agency

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 7 January (WA 172) on what date the job description for the Chief Executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency was forwarded to the appropriate departments.[HL990]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The job description prepared by the Business Development Service of the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel as part of the exercise to evaluate grading and salary levels of the chief executive posts of all North/South bodies was forwarded to the appropriate departments on 23 August 2000.

Language Implementation Body

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the role of the Language Implementation Body, set up under the Belfast Agreement of 1998, in the appointment of the chief executives of the Irish Language Agency and the Ulster-Scots Agency; how it exercises this role; whether legal opinion has been sought on these issues; if not, why; and whether it will now do so.[HL1011]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I refer the noble Lord to my previous Answer on 28 November 2002 (WA 66). The present Government have not sought legal opinion on this matter, and do not consider it necessary to do so.

Waterways Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 9 January (WA 237-38) concerning Waterways Ireland, why the annual report for 1999–2000 indicated that it was set up by legislation on 2 December 1999 when that is incorrect.[HL1068]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As the six North/South Implementation Bodies were in fact established by an agreement made on 8 March 1999 between the British and Irish governments, Waterways Ireland's statement in its annual report for 1999–2000 is incorrect. Waterways Ireland has been made aware of this inaccuracy and has undertaken to make an appropriate correction in its next annual report for 2001.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 9 January (WA 237–38) concerning Waterways Ireland, how many of the 70 employees at the headquarters in Enniskillen are from the Northern Ireland Civil Service and how many from that of the Irish Republic; and how many required Irish language to obtain employment. [HL1069]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: There are currently 51 employees at the Waterways Ireland headquarters in Enniskillen: 48 of these employees were recruited through open competition. Two employees are currently on secondment from the Northern Ireland Civil Service and one employee was transferred from the Irish Civil Service. None of the employees required Irish language to obtain employment.

Foyle Valley Railway Museum

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to move the railway artefacts currently sited at the Foyle Valley Railway Museum to a secure vandal-proof location. [HL1117]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The artefacts held in Foyle Valley Railway Museum are owned by Derry City Council and North West of Ireland Railway Society (NWIRS). The building is council property.

Although the museum remains closed, I understand that the council considers that adequate precautions have been taken to secure the building and its contents.

Kerr Street, Portrush, County Antrim

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to redesign manhole covers in Kerr Street in Portrush, County Antrim, in such a way that noise can be reduced for residents and provide a smoother passage for motorists; and whether any new arrangements can be extended to all of Northern Ireland. [HL1185]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I have asked the chief executive of Water Service to write to the noble Lord in response to this Question. A copy of the letter will be placed in the Library.

Asylum Seekers

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received evidence that the new Rules under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 are leading some new arrivals into rough sleeping and destitution, although they had claimed asylum as quickly as practically possible; and what remedial measures they have in mind.[HL1104]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): Under Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, those who make their asylum claim as soon as reasonably practicable after arrival in the United Kingdom continue to be supported. We have not received any such evidence in respect of asylum seekers who have been judged by the Home Office to have made their asylum claim as soon as reasonably practicable. The operation of Section 55 is being kept under review.

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