Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


10 Feb 2003 : Column WA57

Written Answers

Monday, 10th February 2003.

National Heritage Assets

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any jewellery is included in the list of heritage assets belonging to the nation; and whether it would be possible to compile a list of any such jewellery, together with its value and where it is held.[HL1316]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This information is not held centrally. The National Asset Register does not specify jewellery as a separate asset category. Departments maintain their own asset registers, including heritage assets, and they will be able to advise on their content.

Financial Services Authority

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are being made to appoint a new chairman of the Financial Services Authority.[HL1580]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Treasury is advertising this week for a new chairman of the FSA to succeed Sir Howard Davies.

The chairman of the FSA is a critical appointment. The Treasury will be looking for an exceptional individual to lead the FSA in delivering its statutory objectives and a strong, fair and effective regulatory system in the UK.

As the single financial services regulator in the UK, the scope and responsibilities of the FSA are considerable. The work of the FSA will increase significantly when it takes on responsibility for mortgages and general insurance conduct of business regulation in 2004–05. In light of this, it has been decided that the chairman should be supported by a separate chief executive.

Wrongful Rape Charges

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have to compensate fully persons prosecuted and imprisoned for rape where the accused subsequently withdraws the allegation and the accused has been detained.[HL1487]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Her Majesty's Government have prepared under certain specified circumstances to pay compensation to those wrongfully convicted or charged with criminal offences such as rape. There are two schemes available. The statutory scheme (Section

10 Feb 2003 : Column WA58

133 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988) complies with our international obligations (Article 14(6) of the International Covenant on Civil and Public Rights). The terms of the ex-gratia scheme are as set out in the then Home Secretary's statement to the House of Common on 29 November 1985.

While my right honourable friend the Home Secretary takes the final decision as to whether an applicant qualifies for payment, an independent assessor determines the amount of the award in all cases. The assessor (currently Lord Brennan) in considering claims applies principles analogous to those on which claims for damages arising from civil wrongs are settled.

Fylingdales Early Warning Radar

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will reply to the United States request to upgrade the early warning radar at RAF Fylingdales.[HL1514]

Baroness Crawley: My right honourable friend the Defence Secretary (Mr Hoon) informed the House on 17 December 2002 (Official Report cols. 45–7WS) in another place of the receipt of a request from the United States Government to upgrade the early warning radar at Fylingdales for missile defence purposes.

The Government have encouraged parliamentary and public discussion of the issues involved. On 17 October, we informed the House of current work in the US on missile defence and on 9 December published a discussion paper inviting interested parties to contribute their views. We have received a large number of responses both from individuals and organisations, and we have considered all contributions carefully. My right honourable friend the Defence Secretary visited North Yorkshire to explain what the upgrade would involve and to hear at first hand the views of local people. We have engaged in initial discusions with the planning authorities. In a Statement on 15 January (Official Report, cols. 696–99) my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary informed the House in another place of the Government's preliminary conclusion that it was in the UK's interest to agree to the US request. He gave evidence to the Defence Select Committee on the same day and addressed points raised by honourable Members in the defence debate on 22 January in another place. We welcome the Select Committee's conclusion in its report published on 29 January that the UK should agree to the upgrade.

In the course of these discussions we have been able to clarify that the upgrade essentially comprises computer hardware and software modification and involves no new development or change to the external appearance or power output of the radar; the radar

10 Feb 2003 : Column WA59

will continue to fulfil its long-established ballistic missile early warning system (BMEWS) role; it will continue to be operated and staffed by the Royal Air Force, and we will continue to enjoy full access to its data; and the upgrade does not of itself commit the UK Government to any greater participation in the US missile defence programme. It does, however, keep open the prospect of acquiring missile defence capabilities for the UK should we desire such protection at some point in the future. We will continue discussions with the local planning authorities on the detail of the upgrade work.

We are now satisfied that we have been able to take fully into account the views of all interested parties in coming to a decision. We are therefore today replying to the United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, conveying the Government's agreement to the US request. We are separately negotiating a technical memorandum of understanding to give British industry the best possible opportunities to win work on the US programme.

Fish Stocks: Exploitation

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Whitty on 20 January (WA 75), with respect to the outcome of the December meeting of the Fisheries Council of the European Union, what consideration was given to methods of conservation adopted in fishing areas worldwide which are comparable to the North Sea; to what extent such methods were adopted or rejected; and, if rejected, for what reasons.[HL1347]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): On the basis of internationally agreed scientific principles, the same toolbox of methods is used worldwide to manage the level of exploitation of fish stocks. For example, limiting the catch, or the number and size of vessels and their fishing days, or mesh sizes, minimum sizes and various other gear restrictions. Closed seasons and areas may also help, but this depends on the biology of the fish. The EU management and stock recovery proposals for the North Sea all belong to this family of measures and are similar in concept to those that are applied in many other parts of the world. Successfully managing the international fisheries of the North Sea is particularly difficult, however, because of the numerous fishing nations and methods and the common occcurrence of migratory species of different sizes on the same grounds. Also, some key North Sea stocks have declined to such a low level that despite experiences elsewhere, there is no scientific precedent for reliably predicting how quickly and effectively they can recover, hence the harsh nature of the current scientific advice.

10 Feb 2003 : Column WA60

Game Licences

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Whitty on 23 January (HL Deb. col. 879) regarding game licences, how licences for taking and dealing in game:


    (a) discourage poaching;


    (b) encourage compliance with close seasons for the conservation of quarry species; and


    (c) protect food safety.[HL1371]

Lord Whitty: The legislation governing game licensing:


    (a) discourages poaching by, among other things, providing for the appointment of gamekeepers and making it an offence to trespass on land in search or pursuit of game;


    (b) encourages compliance with close seasons by making it unlawful to kill or take game bids and animals outside certain dates;


    (c) protects food safety by providing that no one may lawfully sell or buy game unless they are licensed to do so; and prohibiting the sale of game birds at certain times outside the season when they may be killed.

SSSIs

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affair's autumn performance report 2002, what steps are being taken to improve the number of sites of special scientific interest in English Nature's control that are failing the public service agreement target; what steps are being taken to improve the areas of sites of special scientific interest under the control of the Ministry of Defence that are failing the public service agreement target; and how soon the hitherto unassessed areas of Crown land will be assessed.[HL1403]

Lord Whitty: The Government are committed to their public service agreement target of bringing 95 per cent of sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) in England into favourable condition by 2010. Some public bodies, as major landowners of SSSIs, are important partners in achieving this target. Public bodies have a duty under Section 28G of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. This requires them to "take reasonable steps, consistent with the proper exercise of the authority's functions, to further the conservation and enhancement of the features by reason of which the site is of special scientific interest". By the end of March 2003, the condition of all SSSI land in England, including that owned by the Crown, will have been assessed by English Nature.

10 Feb 2003 : Column WA61

English Nature is directly responsible for 62,000 ha of SSSIs, as owners and managers of a large proportion of national nature reserves (NNRs). Seventy per cent of this area is currently on target. By March 2004, English Nature is committed to increasing this percentage to 80 per cent, and 90 per cent by 2006. Within the NNR management budget, money is specifically targeted at recovery projects to achieve improved condition in NNRs currently failing the PSA target. Through this, for example, fen restoration work has been funded this financial year at Bure Marshes NNR in Norfolk, and next year peat bog restoration work will be funded at Roudsea Woods and Mosses NNR in Cumbria. In 2003–04 over £- million will be spent on recovery projects in NNRs.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is committed to protecting and enhancing SSSIs under its control and is currently working closely with English Nature to review factors affecting MoD SSSIs and to develop an action plan for consideration by the Minister's Environment and Conservation Advisory Group (MECAG) to meet the PSA target. This approach is supported by the joint declaration of intent between the MoD and English Nature signed in July 2002. Action has already taken place to address unfavourable condition on many sites. In the last year, for example, the MoD has been a proactive partner in the EU Life partnership on Salisbury Plain, improving the condition of chalk grasslands, and the Heritage Lottery's Fund Tomorrow's Heathland Heritage, which has enabled improvements to be made to many heathland MoD SSSIs in Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire. Locally, the MoD has over 120 conservation groups covering the defence estate where statutory bodies such as English Nature, and non governmental organisations such as the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts are standing members. Many projects to improve the condition of SSSIs are carried out under the direction of these groups with funding from the establishment budgets or from the rural elements of the estate strategy (REES) project.

Defra and English Nature will continue to work closely with the wide range of organisations that can contribute to achieving the PSA target over the period from now to 2010 and beyond.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page