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6 Mar 2003 : Column WA121

Written Answers

Thursday, 6th March 2003.

Dr Oscar Elias Biscet

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations to the Government of Cuba regarding Dr Oscar Elias Biscet, who was imprisoned by the Cuban authorities for three years following his condemnation of Cuba's high abortion rate. [HL1721]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We and EU partners regularly raise concerns about human rights with the Cuban Government. I discussed human rights with the Vice-Foreign Minister during my visit to Havana last June. We are following the case and will continue to draw attention to UK concerns with the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

Drugs Possession Cases: Analysis Times

Baroness Harris of Richmond asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the average waiting time for the analysis of suspicious substances in each police forensic laboratory in England and Wales. [HL1812]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): In answering the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, the analysis of supicious substances has been taken to mean the analysis of small amounts of all types of drugs, including controlled drugs, in drugs possession cases.

The average turnaround times for the analysis of all types of drugs in drugs possession cases are set out below for the period 1 November 2002 to 31 January 2003.

Complex cases, which require a more detailed level of analysis, may take longer to deliver.

Turnaround times for drugs possession cases:

    Birmingham—11.7 days

    Chepstow—9.3 days

    Chorley—10.5 days

    Huntingdon—9.5 days

    Wetherby—10.1 days

    London—12.2 days

The Forensic Science Service does not deal with the identification or analysis of supicious substances in potential terrorism cases.

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Wrongful Conviction: Compensation

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In how many cases in the past five years of people wrongly imprisoned and released from prison there are payments of compensation due which have not yet been paid; what the sums of money claimed or agreed are; and for how long the payments have been outstanding. [HL1823]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Ninety-one claims for compensation for wrongful conviction or charge authorised for payment by the Secretary of State for the Home Department since 1 March 1998 have yet to be finalised. Seventy-eight of these are waiting for information to be supplied by the claimants or their representatives. Of the 91 claims outstanding, 32 are less than a year old, 23 are one to two years old, 28 are two to three years old, seven are three to four years old and one is more than four years old.

It is not possible to provide any estimate of the total sums of money involved in these outstanding claims as this information is not available until the claimants or their representatives have submitted full details of their final claims. Once the assessor has calculated the quantum of an award and the claimant agrees to accept this, payment is normally made within two weeks.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions in the past five years compensation has been paid to people who have been wrongfully imprisoned; and what is the total value of the compensation that has been paid.[HL1824]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Payment of compensation for those wrongfully convicted or charged is as follows:

YearAmount £ millions

These figures include payment for interim and final awards. (The latter includes the claimants' legal fees).

Reliable statistics on the breakdown of payments are available only for the past two years. Since 1 March 2001, the Secretary of State for the Home Department has authorised the payment of compensation for wrongful conviction or charge to 76 applicants. In 24 of these cases the claims have been settled in full in the sum of £1.5 million (including legal fees). In a further 30 cases interim payments have been made to the claimants in the sum of £2 million. These, together with the remaining 22 cases, await the submission of their final claims.

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Sex Offenders: Travel Abroad

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to prevent convicted sex offenders from travelling overseas.[HL2021]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Government are committed to tackling the sexual exploitation of children wherever it occurs in the world. This includes where UK citizens go abroad with the intention of abusing children. We have already put in place a number of measures to deal with this problem, but the Sexual Offences Bill, currently before Parliament, provides us with an opportunity to ensure that we are doing everything we can to deal with those who commit sexual offences overseas.

Under the current legislation the courts do not have the power to stop an offender who has been convicted of sexual offences against children from travelling overseas. We believe this is wrong and that it should be addressed. We therefore intend to bring forward a government amendment to the Sexual Offences Bill that will introduce a new foreign travel banning order that will enable courts, in certain circumstances, to prohibit those convicted of a sexual offence against a child from travelling to specified countries. We hope to introduce this amendment by the end of March.

The new order would be a civil preventive order made following an application from a chief officer of police. It would apply to those convicted of a sexual offence against a child under 16 either in the UK or overseas. The order would be available where the court was satisfied that it was necessary to protect children overseas from serious sexual harm by the offender and that there are no other equally effective means to prevent such harm. The orders would last for up to six months, renewable on further application from the police.

In addition to introducing the proposed foreign travel banning order, we will be consulting with interested parties on the arrangements for the notification of foreign travel by registered sex offenders. We are aware that this issue has generated considerable interest. We will consult quickly on the issue with a view to making the Government's intentions clear by the end of March. This will enable our intentions to be considered and debated fully during the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill through Parliament.

A paper with further details on the Government's proposals has been placed in the Library.

Baby Bonus

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider a baby bonus direct payment scheme similar to that in Australia in order to counteract Britain's declining fertility rate.[HL1840]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have no plans to introduce such a scheme.

Defence Medical Services Officers: Pay Recommendations

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What pay increase the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body has recommended for all regular and reserve Defence Medical Services medical and dental officers.[HL2022]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): In line with the main Armed Forces' Pay Review Body (AFPRB) recommendations for Armed Forces pay announced on 7 February, the review body has recommended an interim pay increase of 3.2 per cent for all regular and reserve Defence Medical Services medical and dental officers. The review body also recommends an interim 3.2 per cent increase to the sustained quality payments, general medical and general dental practitioner trainer pay and to the value of distinction awards. The AFPRB will submit its final recommendations following the announcement of the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body report later this year and further written and oral evidence from the Ministry of Defence, the British Medical Association and the British Dental Association.

The additional cost to the defence budget will be some £5 million. This will be met within existing departmental expenditure limits.

The review body's interim recommendations are to be accepted in full, with implementation effective from 1 April 2003.

European Union: Forthcoming Council Business

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union for March; and what are the major European events for the period between 1 April and 30 September 2003.[HL1968]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union March—September 2003: March 1–2—Athens—Informal Education 3—Brussels—Competitiveness Council 4—Brussels—Environment Council 6—Brussels—Meeting of the Presidium 6—Luxembourg—Employment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs 6—Brussels—EUROGROUP (Evening) 7—Brussels—ECOFIN

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7—Luxembourg—Transport, Telecom & Energy Council 13—Brussels—Meeting of the Presidium 14–15—Athens—(Informal Defence Meeting) 17–18—Brussels—Convention Plenary 17–18—Luxembourg—Agriculture & Fisheries Council 18–19—Brussels—General Affairs & External Relations Council (GAERC) 21—Brussels—EUROPEAN COUNCIL 27—Brussels—Meeting of the Presidium 27–28—Luxembourg—Transport, Telecom & Energy Council 27–28—Brussels—EU-RIO Group, EU MERCOSUR 28–29—Veria—Informal Justice & Home Affairs 31—Brussels—Agriculture & Fisheries Council (to be confirmed)

2BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
3–4BrusselsConvention Plenary
4BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs
4–6Hania (Crete)Informal ECOFIN (Ministerial)
5LisbonEurope—Africa Summit
10BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
14–15LuxembourgGeneral Affairs & External Relations
14BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries
16AthensSignature of the Accession Treaty
17AthensEuropean Conference
23BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
24–25BrusselsConvention Plenary
2–4OlympiaGymnich (Informal Foreign Ministers)
3–4AthensInformal Environment (Ministerial Informal)
5–6BrusselsEducation, Youth & Culture Council (To be confirmed)
8BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
CorfuAgriculture (Ministerial Informal)
14BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
14BrusselsTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
15–16BrusselsConvention Plenary
16BrusselsEU—ACP Ministerial
16–17HalkidikiInformal Regional Policy (Ministerial)
16–18Cruise off GreeceInformal Transport & Merchant Marine (Ministerial)
17BrusselsEU—W. Balkans (Zagreb Process)
19BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (+ Defence)
20BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
22BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
24ThessalonikiInformal Culture (Ministerial)
26–27BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
26–27CreteEUROMED Conference (Mid Term Ministerial)
27BrusselsEnvironment Council
28BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
30–31BrusselsConvention Plenary
31St. PetersburgEU—Russia Summit June
12–13AlexandroupoliDevelopment Co-operation (Ministerial Informal)
2–3BrusselsTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
4BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
5–6BrusselsConvention Plenary
5–6BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs Council
5–6BrusselsEmployment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs Council
6RhodesPublic Administration (Ministerial Informal)
11BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
11–12BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
12–13BrusselsConvention Plenary
17–18LuxembourgGeneral Affairs & External Relations
21HalkidikiZagreb II Summit
22BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
24BrusselsEmployment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs Council
2–3RomeResearch (Ministerial Informal)
4–5NaplesTransport infrastructure (Ministerial Informal)
6BrusselsTrade (Ministerial Informal)
10VareseInformal Council/Troika
11–12VareseInformal Council of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs
17–18TrevisoEU Employment Committee (Informal)
18–20MontecatiniEnergy & Environment (Ministerial Informal)
22–23BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
22BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
24–25MilanEuropean Conference on Discrimination
25–26VeronaEducation (Ministerial Informal)
AugustNo Meetings Planned
3–5ViterboTelecommunications (Ministerial Informal)
12–14StresaECOFIN (Informal Council)
19–20RomeJustice & Internal Affairs (Informal Council)
22–23BrusselsCompetition (Internal Market, Industry & Research)
29–30BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
29–30BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council

6 Mar 2003 : Column WA127

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