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British Detainees held at Guantanamo and Bagram

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The US has said that the detainees are enemy combatants captured in a continuing armed conflict and held in that capacity by the US military authorities. The question of the status of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay under international humanitarian law has to be considered in the light of the facts relating to each individual detainee.

We remain in regular contact with the United States, at both ministerial and official level, about the situation of the detainees. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has raised the issue several times with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, most recently on 23 January. We have been encouraging the US to move forward with the process of determining the future of the British detainees. We shall continue to do so.

The discussions between British officials and the detainees are confidential as they contain personal information about the detainees. I am withholding further details of the visits by British officials to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay under exemption 1a of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, (information whose disclosure would harm national security or defence).

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Iran: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will discuss with the Foreign Minister of Iran, when he visits London, human rights abuses, punishments, the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities and restrictions on free expressions of opinion in that country.[HL1528]

Baroness Amos: My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the human rights situation in Iran with Foreign Minister Kharrazi on 6 February. He raised in particular treatment of religious minorities.

Freedom of Information

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

    What is their current freedom of information policy and practice regarding the publication of legally privileged advice to government where such advice was given more than 30 years ago and concerns matters of legitimate public interest.[HL1274]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The current policy and criteria for extended closure or retention by a department of records more than 30 years old was set out in Chapter 9 and Annex C of the White Paper Open Government (CM 2290) in 1993. Records containing such advice are reviewed on their merits, and extended closure or retention is only sought where the information contained in the advice is, in itself, sensitive. In other cases the records are opened when they are 30 years old. This is in accordance with the provisions of the Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967.

When the right of access under Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act comes into force in January 2005, it will not be possible for information to be exempt from disclosure on grounds of legal professional privilege unless the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs that of disclosing the information. Furthermore, from then, information cannot be exempt from disclosure on grounds of legal professional privilege if it is contained in an historical record, (broadly speaking those which are more than 30 years old). However, other exemptions from the right of access may continue to apply depending on the content of the advice.

Legal Aid: Asylum Cases

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 28 May 2002 (WA 138), whether they will update the table to show the amount paid out for legal aid in each month, indicating for each month how much was paid out for legal aid in asylum cases. [HL1355]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The figures requested, to December 2002, are shown in the table below. The Legal Services Commission is unable to differentiate asylum from wider immigration cases but the majority of cases listed are thought to be asylum. All figures provided are provisional estimates and may be subject to year-end adjustments.

The reason for the increased legal aid expenditure is that the number of asylum cases processed has substantially increased. Bills are paid after asylum applications have been processed so we are only now paying for work done in previous years.

Month/YearImmigration and Asylum Legal Aid Expenditure (£ million) Total Legal Aid Expenditure (Civil and Criminal (£ million)
April 200213.1160
May 200212.4144
June 200212.6147
July 200214.0159
August 200214.1163
September 200211.8145
October 200216.3182
November 200213.9162
December 200214.2152

European Commission: Accounting Framework and Systems

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to help ensure that the accounts of the Commission of the European Union are kept in such a way that they can be successfully audited.[HL1473]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government agree with the European Court of Auditors that the Commission's accounting framework and systems are in need of reform. A major instrument to achieve this is the new Financial Regulation, which came into force in January 2003 and which the UK Government played a leading role in shaping. It requires general accounts and financial statements to comply with internationally accepted accounting principles. The Commission has now submitted a timetable for implementing the reform of its accounting framework and supporting IT systems: these are to be in place by 2005 as required by the Financial Regulation. When the reforms are complete, the accounts will be on an accruals basis and contain the information on assets and liabilities, including contingent assets and liabilities for which the European Court of Auditors

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has called. The Government will monitor this project closely and the Commission has promised to provide member states updates of progress every six months.


Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to agree to Chapter 10 (Taxation) of the Special Arrangement obtained by Malta for her accession to the European Union; and, if so, whether that would lead to the United Kingdom imposing VAT on food and medicines by 1 January 2010.[HL1513]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The terms of Malta's accession agreement will make no difference to the UK's right to retain its zero rates. This right is enshrined in the provisions of the EC VAT Sixth Directive, which can only be altered with the unanimous agreement of all member states.

Deer Carcasses

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Whitty on 23 January (HL Deb, col. 880), what are the technological and operational impediments to the tagging of deer carcasses.[HL1416]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): There are already requirements in place which provide for the identification of deer before they are moved on to or off any premises. Identification should be carried out using an eartag that contains the official herd mark or the British Deer Farmers' Association registered mark. No carcass of any deer, other than wild deer, shall be moved off any premises unless it is identified.

English Rural Development Programme

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 13 January (HC Deb 375 76W), why the totals of modulation receipts in England given in the columns in the table at the top of the page do not correspond to the totals given further down the page.[HL1508]

Lord Whitty: The first table shows the payments which have been made to eligible beneficiaries within the English Rural Development Programme, and

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which have been funded from the modulation receipts previously collected. The second table shows the total and projected amounts of modulation receipts collected.

By its nature, modulation generates receipts for the member state in advance of expenditure being made. Funds collected through modulation will, however, be spent before the deadline for their use, together with an equivalent sum in national match-funding, in order to deliver environmental benefits through the agri-environment schemes.

2001–022002–03 (April to November 2002)2002–03 (forecast total)
Scheme£ million£ million£ million
Countryside stewardship3.42.2 8.6
Environmentally sensitive areas1.33.5 7.6
Organic farming3.84.4 5.7
Energy crops0.10.030.1

£ million 2001–022002–03 12002–03 2

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Illegal Food Imports Forum

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there has been any interim report of the work of the Illegal Food Imports Forum, particularly relating to—

    (a) risk and the critical points for taking action;

    (b) identification of the necessary enforcement measures; and

    (c) the legal powers required to support the enforcement measures; and

    whether the forum has identified any weaknesses in the rules governing imports from the European Union and from third world countries.[HL1640]

Lord Whitty: The Illegal Imports Forum met once in March 2002 and was attended by representatives of the agricultural, tourism, travel, catering and retail sectors. It provided an opportunity for all those with an interest in the subject of illegal imports to discuss the issues, and its deliberations contributed to the preparation of the Government's action plan. It was not, however, tasked with any follow-up action, and has not therefore produced any reports.

Interim reports on the risk assessment undertaken by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency on behalf of Defra can be viewed on the Defra illegal imports website ( The final report on the first phase of the work—dealing with foot and mouth disease—is currently undergoing quality assurance and peer review, and will be published in the next few weeks.

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