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12 Mar 2003 : Column WA183

Written Answers

Wednesday, 12th March 2003.

Single Regional Housing Pot

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How small, local housing schemes will be funded following the creation of the single housing pot, particularly those schemes outside the areas earmarked for housing expansion or housing market renewal.[HL2095]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Local housing authorities and housing associations will continue to invest in improving existing stock or increasing the supply of affordable housing in accordance with priorities identified in local housing strategies. Under the new single regional housing pot, the resources provided by central government to support this housing investment will increasingly be directed to areas or types of expenditure identified as priorities in regional housing strategies.

Bind Overs

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to respond to the Law Commission Report Number 222 on Binding Over.[HL2127]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): I am pleased to publish today a consultation paper on bind overs, on which views are sought by 16 June 2003.

Rape

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Mr Jonathon Davies, a criminal barrister and Crown Court recorder, was consulted during the course of the joint Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary review of rape issues.[HL1452]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): Mr Jonathon Davies was not consulted during the joint inspection of the investigation and prosecution of cases involving allegations of rape conducted by Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. The members of the steering group for the project and the representatives of criminal justice agencies and special interest groups who assisted in the inspection, which included a number of members of the Bar and the judiciary, are listed in Annexes B

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and D to the inspectorates' report, published in April 2002. The methodology used for the inspection is described in the introductory chapter to the published report.

Capita: Defra Contracts

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contracts have been awarded to the Capita Group by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.[HL1809]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Contracts have been awarded to the Capita Group by the department for recruitment services; project management work; and for training seminars and courses covering security; records management; knowledge management; diversity and freedom of information. During the FMD outbreak, the Capita Group provided clerks of works to manage on-farm services in connection with cleansing and disinfection work.

Cotton Plants: Insect Control

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research findings already exist about any long-term effects of chemical insecticides used on cotton plants and about comparisons of such insecticides with the use of biological and organic methods to control harmful insects; and, if the subject has been little studied, whether they will ask the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and other relevant bodies to commission research and disseminate the results in the main cotton growing areas.[HL2005]

Lord Whitty: There is a substantial body of research cited in the scientific literature on this subject. In the last 10 years there have been some 3,000 publications covering long-term effects of pesticides/insecticides and the use of biological controls and natural enemies in cotton production. The FAO itself has a number of publications covering aspects of these issues and four years ago (1999) it announced a European Union-funded project costing 12 million euros specifically targeted at environmentally friendly cotton production in Asia. Given this existing body of work, the Government do not believe it is necessary to suggest further research in this area.

NVQ Level 4

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Over what period in weeks is a student expected, on average, to achieve an NVQ level 4 in (a) careers, (b) youth work and (c) social work.[HL1883]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): There are NVQ level 4 qualifications currently available in the areas of advice and guidance, community justice and community work. Although there is no fixed time period for achievement of an NVQ, level 4 NVQs are often embedded within a structured professional development programme. Candidates are therefore expected to complete NVQs in these areas within a reasonable period for a professional qualification; for example, two to three years.

Belfast Agreement: Parity of Esteem

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Belfast agreement of 1998 affects all those who live in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic; and, in particular, whether the Unionist, Protestant, Ulster Scots and British communities in the Irish Republic are included in parity of esteem status under the agreement.[HL1616]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The agreement clearly affects all those who live in Northern Ireland and the Republic. It speaks of parity of esteem as a general requirement.

Belfast Agreement: Rights Section

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 6 February (WA 42) concerning any requirement for Republic of Ireland civil servants working in Northern Ireland to take an oath of allegiance, whether, given paragraph 9 of the rights section of the Belfast agreement of 1998, this is also a matter for the United Kingdom; and[HL1630]

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 6 February (WA 42) concerning the site of the Battle of the Boyne, whether, given paragraph 9 of the rights section of the Belfast agreement of 1998, this is also a matter for the United Kingdom.[HL1631]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Both governments have an interest in the overall observance of the agreement. But individual matters of detail must generally be the day-to-day responsibility of the government concerned.

Northern Ireland Civil Service: Legal Advice

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service are qualified to supply legal opinions; and in which departments they are located.[HL1756]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: All lawyers are professionally qualified to supply legal opinions but not all lawyers who are members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service are employed in that capacity.

Within the Northern Ireland Office there are 101 NICS legal staff. A total of 96 are located in the Crown Solicitor's Office, the Department of Public Prosecutions, Compensation Agency and the Criminal Justice Directorate; three are seconded to the Police Service for Northern Ireland and one to the Northern Ireland Court Service.

Legal advice and services to the Northern Ireland government departments are normally provided by the Departmental Solicitor's Office, which is a directorate of the Department of Finance and Personnel. The Departmental Solicitor's Office comprises 50 lawyers, two of whom are out-posted to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

In addition, three other Northern Ireland government offices provide specialist legal services. The Office of the Legislative Counsel, located in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, which is responsible for drafting Northern Ireland legislation and advising on legislative and related constitutional matters, has a complement of seven lawyers, and the Office of Law Reform, located in the Department of Finance and Personnel, which provides advice to Ministers on the review and reform of the civil law, currently has a complement of four. Finally, the Land Registers of Northern Ireland, also located in the Department of Finance and Personnel, which administers three public registries in relation to legal interests in land, has a complement of five lawyers.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that legal advice from lawyers employed in the Northern Ireland Civil Service over the past two years is available to them at all times.[HL1871]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: No. Only legal advice given by NICS lawyers during suspension is available to the Government at all times. During devolution, advice given to the devolved administration is not available to the Government. During suspension, as indicated in the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 13 February 2003 (WA 144), the Government act in conformity with the convention that Ministers do not ask to see the advice given by a previous administration.

North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat (North)

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the budget each year for the North/South Ministerial Council Secretariat since its formation; and what is the projected budget for this year.[HL1759]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: Details of the budget allocation for the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat (North) are as set out below:

Financial year 1 April–31 March Budget allocation £ thousands
1999–200096(1)
2000–01805
2001–02820
2002–03735

(1) Figure represents actual spend in 1999–2000 as budget allocation was not made in advance.



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