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Written Answers

Monday, 24th February 2003.

Prohibition Against Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment

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

    Whether they consider the prohibition against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be protected by the Bill of Rights 1688–89 and the common law. [HL1560]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The prohibition on torture and inhuman and degrading treatment is set out in the Human Rights Act 1998. Similar prohibitions exist in the Bill of Rights 1688–89, the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the common law. The interpretation of these prohibitions is a matter for the courts.

The Lord Chancellor: Judicial Sittings

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

    On how many occasions during the past two years the Lord Chancellor has sat in a judicial capacity. [HL1595]

The Lord Chancellor: In 2001 I sat in the House of Lords for a total of three days to hear the appeals: Uratemp Ventures Limited (Respondents) v Collins (AP) (Appellant) [2001] UKHL 43 and AIB Group (UK) plc (formerly Allied Irish Banks plc and AIB Finance Limited) (Respondents) v Martin and another (Appellant) [2001] UKHL 63. I did not sit in the House of Lords in 2002 and have not sat in any other court in the past two years.

House of Lords: Progress of Business and February Break

Lord Patten asked the Leader of the House:

    Why the House of Lords does not have the same family-friendly half-term recess as the House of Commons. [HL1792]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government Chief Whip told the House on 18 November 2002, "I cannot make any promises about a February break but, if business were to move speedily, it may be possible to arrange for a day or two during the week beginning 17 February."

Unfortunately, business did not move with sufficient speed to make this possible.

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House Committee: Intranet Access to Papers

Viscount Tenby asked the Chairman of Committees:

    When papers relating to the work of the House Committee will be made available on the Intranet. [HL1815]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): House Committee papers can now be accessed on the Intranet, via the "House Administration" link on the Intranet homepage. Agendas are posted on the Intranet about one week before the Committee meets. Minutes are posted after meetings, and in most cases these include links to memoranda. Confidential items are marked "reserved", and memoranda are not made available. Hard copy of House Committee papers continues to be placed in the Library.

Wales: Policing

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any proposals for the reorganisation of the police service in Wales, in relation to (a) the number of forces; and (b) any role for the National Assembly for Wales in relation to the organisation of policing. [HL1627]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Her Majesty's Government have no plans to alter the boundaries of the four police areas in Wales. Neither have the Government any plans to extend a role in the organisation of policing to the National Assembly for Wales for reasons given to the noble Lord at Report Stage of the Police Reform Bill on 16 April 2002, Official Report, cols. 923–24.

Local Authorities: Comprehensive Performance Assessment

Lord Smith of Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to develop the new freedoms for "excellent" and "good" local authorities. [HL1395]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The Government announced in November the freedoms to be made available to authorities categorised as excellent and good under the comprehensive performance assessment (CPA). The freedoms we are providing to the very best authorities represent a radical package. Where possible, these will take effect for the coming financial year. Those authorities categorised as excellent are also being invited to participate in a new Innovations Forum to develop new ways of working to deliver better outcomes. All authorities will be able to negotiate freedoms through their local public service agreements, regardless of their CPA categorisation.

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Gypsies: Housing

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many affordable homes they intend to provide for gypsies, as part of the £7.4 billion investment in affordable housing conditions referred to in the White Paper Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future; where these homes will be; and whether they consider that the investment in accommodation for gypsies as part of this package will be sufficient to eliminate the necessity for gypsies to camp on roadsides by the end of the year 2005–06. [HL1556]

Lord Rooker: There was no funding for gypsies announced as part of the investment in affordable housing referred to in Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future. However, a separate budget was announced in July 2000 by my right honourable friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Construction, as part of the Spending Review 2000, that £17 million was to be made available over three years to local authorities for the refurbishment of authorised gypsy sites. The 2003–04 round has been extended to provide funding for local authorities to create new transit sites and stopping places.

This funding, combined with local investment, should begin to alleviate the problem of unauthorised camping for both the travelling and settled communities.

Elected Regional Assemblies

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are his proposals for involving stakeholders in the work of elected regional assemblies in England, and if he will make a statement. [HL1816]

Lord Rooker: In the White Paper Your Region, Your Choice: Revitalising the English Regions (Cm 5511) the Government invited views by the end of August 2002 on the question of how prescriptive we should be about the involvement of stakeholders in elected regional assemblies in England. In particular, the White Paper asked whether any requirements or principles should be specified and, if so, whether this should be done through legislation, guidance, or some other means.

By November 2002, 207 responses had been received on the involvement of stakeholders, of which most expressed views ranging more widely than these questions. The Government have today published an analysis of the responses received on my office's website at, and I am placing a copy of this document in the House Library.

As we stated in the White Paper (paragraph 7.8), the Government are very keen that key regional stakeholders and their representatives should be involved within the structure of an elected assembly. I am therefore pleased to be able to announce today our proposed policy framework for the involvement of

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stakeholders in the work of elected regional assemblies. This framework will form the basis of the statutory provisions on stakeholder involvement in the legislation we intend to bring forward to establish elected regional assemblies when parliamentary time allows and after at least one region has voted for an elected assembly in a referendum.

The Government want to strike a balance between safeguarding the meaningful involvement of stakeholders in all relevant aspects of an elected assembly's work and allowing for regional flexibility to reflect regional priorities and build on existing working relationships. We also want to ensure that a wide diversity of regional stakeholders can be engaged. We therefore intend to make the following requirements and restrictions clear in the legislation:

    each elected regional assembly will be required actively to engage stakeholders in the development and implementation of both the assembly's overall strategic vision for the region and the various specific regional strategies for which it is responsible;

    each assembly should publish and make accessible an annual 'state of the region' report in a way which facilitates scrutiny and debate in the region;

    only those elected may be full members of an assembly and thus eligible to sit on an assembly's executive.

In order to enable assemblies to fulfil these requirements, the Government intend to provide in the legislation for a non-prescriptive approach to additional forms of stakeholder involvement which assemblies may wish to adopt. This would give assemblies discretion to:

    involve all of the stakeholders they consider appropriate—with particular emphasis on ensuring that business, local government, the voluntary sector, and community groups are properly involved;

    co-opt stakeholders to serve on scrutiny committees, with the same rights and duties as elected members, including voting rights—although elected members should be in the majority and chair scrutiny committees;

    co-opt stakeholders to serve on policy development committees, appoint particular stakeholders to act as policy advisors in specific cases, or involve stakeholder groups in the preparation of specific strategies;

    establish a regional partnership forum to bring stakeholder organisations together;

    establish consultative groups with specific sectors or on specific issues to facilitate consultation and/or the provision of advice; and

    spend money to support the involvement of stakeholders in assemblies' work through these or any other reasonable means, and to develop stakeholders' capacity to participate.

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We envisage that this legislative framework would need to be supplemented by statutory guidance in order to safeguard the effective involvement of stakeholders while avoiding over-prescription. The Government will ensure that a draft of any such guidance is provided for consultation at the appropriate stage.

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