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Written Answers

Monday, 7th April 2003.

Human Rights Obligations

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

    Whether they are considering the possibility of introducing legislation to limit the role of the judiciary in interpreting international human rights obligations by which the United Kingdom is bound. .[HL1867]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Government have no current plans to do so.

Northern Ireland: Queen's Counsel

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who is responsible for appointing Northern Ireland barristers to the office of Queen's Counsel. .[HL2271]

The Lord Chancellor: Her Majesty the Queen appoints Queen's Counsel in Northern Ireland on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. lynne

Northern Ireland: Barristers

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the rights of audience of barristers and advocates from the other member states of the European Community who wish to appear in the courts of Northern Ireland, and how many Northern Ireland junior barristers, who are Senior Counsel in the Republic of Ireland, are treated as Senior Counsel in Northern Ireland. [HL2272]

The Lord Chancellor: The rights of audience of barristers and advocates from the other member states of the European Union who wish to appear in the courts of Northern Ireland are governed by various European Directives. These include Council Directive 1977/249/EEC of 22 March 1977, to facilitate the effective exercise by lawyers of freedom to provide services; Council Directive 1989/48/EEC of 21 December 1988, on a general system for the recognition of higher-education diplomas awarded on completion of professional education and training of at least three years' duration; and Directive 1998/5/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 1998, to facilitate practice of the profession of lawyer on a permanent basis in a member state other than that in which the qualification was obtained. The directives apply equally to barristers from Northern Ireland seeking rights of audience in the courts of the other member states.

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I understand that there are two members of the junior bar in Northern Ireland who are Senior Counsel in the Republic of Ireland and are given the same status in court in Northern Ireland as Queen's Counsel.

Lord Chancellor's Pension

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the pension of the Lord Chancellor will be based on the salary to which he is entitled or that which he currently chooses to accept.[HL1920]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The SSRB has been asked to review the remuneration of the office of Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor's pension will be based on the salary to which he is entitled at the time he leaves office.

North/South Implementation Bodies

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who has been appointed to the North/South implementation bodies set up after the Belfast agreement; and for what period.[HL2098]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Details of the appointments to the North/South implementation bodies have been included in the list of decisions made under the exchange of notes of 19 November 2002, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland: Sexual Offences

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have received seeking a review of the law on sexual offences in Northern Ireland; and what representations they have received favouring the extension of the Sexual Offences Bill in its entirety to Northern Ireland.[HL2119]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government have received no requests, in recent months, for a review into the law on sexual offences in Northern Ireland. However, the Government are conscious of the pressing need to conduct such a review and are fully committed to doing so. The Government have received a number of requests for the full extension of the Bill to Northern Ireland in response to the campaign of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association. Part 2 of the Bill will extend to Northern Ireland in so far as the measures determining the notification requirements for sex offenders are concerned. The extension of this part of the Bill follows a Home Office lead review into the Sex Offenders Act which included Northern Ireland within its scope. However, while some aspects of Part 1 will extend to Northern Ireland, to ensure that registration

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requirements can operate on an equal basis with England and Wales, the greater majority of the provisions contained in Part 1 will not. Part 1 of the Bill was framed on the basis of a review of sex offences which did not include Northern Ireland. It is therefore right and proper that we proceed with a public consultation and review of this issue for Northern Ireland before similar reforms can be enacted there.

Northern Ireland Implementation Bodies: Business Plans

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the North/South Ministerial Council received copies of the business plans for the implementation bodies; when they were supplied to the appropriate departments; and which are these departments.[HL2137]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The 2003 trade and business development plan was received by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in November 2002.

The Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety received the food safety and promotion board 2003 business plan in January 2003.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure received the Ulster Scots Agency 2003 business plan in November 2002, and in March 2003 received the 2003 business plans for Foras Na Gaeilge and Waterways Ireland.

In November 2002 the Department of Finance and Personnel received the 2003 business plan for the Special European Union Programmes Body and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development received the Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission 2003 business plan.

With the exception of the trade and business plan, which was approved by the two Governments under the exchange of notes of 19 November 2002, on 28 February 2003, none of these plans have yet been received by the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat.

In addition to the sponsoring departments, finance departments North and South also receive copies of business plans for consideration. clean jenny

Questions for Written Answer: Northern Ireland Office

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will send expert advisers into the Northern Ireland Office to help with replies to Questions for Written Answer, since 11 out of 16 outstanding questions which have been down on the Order Paper for more than three weeks are to that department.[HL2408]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am pleased to inform the noble Lord that all of the outstanding Questions referred to have now been answered.

I can assure the noble Lord that the Northern Ireland Office, as with all other government departments, recognises the importance of ensuring that all Parliamentary Questions are answered accurately and promptly.

The recent rise in Questions tabled to the Northern Ireland Office and the suspension of devolved government in Northern Ireland has added a considerable burden of work. However, I do not believe it is necessary to send expert advisers into the department to help with replies to Questions for Written Answer.

Pensions: Local Authority Members

Baroness Pitkeathley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes they have made to provision for allowances and pensions for members of local authorities.[HL2458]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): As part of our agenda on modernising local democracy, the Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, has laid before Parliament regulations dealing with remuneration and pensions for members of local authorities. This is in line with our White Paper commitment to reduce the burden of red tape on local authorities and providing councils with flexibilities in managing their business, balanced by local accountability.

The Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003 (the "allowances regulations") replace six existing sets of regulations and put in place a consolidated and simplified regime for allowances.

The Local Government Pension Scheme and Discretionary Compensation (Local Authority Members in England) Regulations 2003 (the "pensions regulations") will allow councils to decide whether their councillors should have access to the local government pension scheme.

These two sets of regulations give effect to the broad policy announced on 28 November 2002 in our response to the Urban Affairs Select Committee Report on the Local Government Act 2000.

Both the allowances and pensions regulations, which we have introduced following extensive and detailed consultation, will provide a simple, fair system for remunerating local councillors. Local authorities will have discretion to come up with remuneration schemes reflecting local circumstances. The system also provides for clear and transparent local accountability since councils will have to have regard to the recommendations of local independent remuneration panels. This approach is in line with our commitments given in the White Paper, Strong Local Leadership, Quality Public Services, to remove

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unnecessary red tape and regulation from local government, and balancing this freedom with the responsibility to be clearly accountable to their communities.

The allowances regulations replace the six previous sets of regulations dealing with allowances for elected local authority members, dating back to 1991 1 , which we have now revoked. As before, councils will be able to decide for themselves the levels of allowances for elected members, and in doing so will have to have regard to the recommendations of a local independent remuneration panel.

The allowances regulations make a number of changes to the system of allowances, following from consultation we conducted in 2001 and further detailed discussions with key stakeholders, including the Local Government Association.

Local authorities will now determine their own travel and subsistence allowances, having regard to the recommendation of their independent remuneration panels. The Secretary of State will no longer be involved in setting maximum levels. Councils will have to set out the circumstances in which they will pay these allowances, so that these are open to public scrutiny. Local authorities and other bodies will be able to pay a cycling allowance to be determined in the same way as other travel allowances.

Parish councils will be able to make payments to their members, and in doing so will have to have regard to the recommendations of a local independent panel. This brings the allowances to parish councillors very much in line with the allowances for principal councils.

Combined fire authorities and the conservation boards of areas of outstanding natural beauty will be able to establish their own schemes of allowances, rather than members being paid by their constituent authorities. All secondary authorities which set up allowance schemes for their members will be required to have regard to the recommendations of the panels of those authorities which make nominations to the secondary authority.

Councils will be able to pay co-opted and appointed members of principal councils a "co-optees' allowance". This will be determined by the local authority, taking into account the recommendations of the independent remuneration panel.

Authorities will be able to make provision for the withdrawal of allowances where a member has been wholly or partially suspended because of a breach of the code of conduct. Authorities will be able to make provision for the repayment of any allowance which has been paid in respect of a period when a member was suspended, or had ceased to be a member.

The council's local independent remuneration panel will make binding recommendations on which councillors may be eligible for access to the local government pension scheme.

The Association of London Government may pay special responsibility allowance to those serving on it. The ALG must establish a scheme specifying for which

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responsibilities the allowance may be paid, and the levels of payments.

The allowances regulations clarify that authorities may backdate changes to their allowances to the beginning of the financial year. They similarly clarify that authorities may alter their allowance levels by reference to an index.

The allowances regulations finally provide a transitional period until 30 September 2003 to allow authorities to make any necessary changes to their schemes in line with the revised arrangements.

The Local Government Pension Scheme and Discretionary Compensation (Local Authority Members in England) Regulations 2003 modify the principal regulations, The Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 1997. They are intrinsically linked to the allowances regulations. In effect the amendments provide access to the local government pension scheme (LGPS) to those councillor members whose authorities, acting on the recommendations of the locally appointed independent review panel (IRP), decide should be eligible for membership.

The key changes to the LGPS as it applies to eligible councillor members are: they will be treated as if they are in local government employment for the purposes of the regulations; an eligible councillor will have positively to elect to become a member of the LGPS; a councillor member's pay in any year comprises (a) the basic allowance and (b) any special responsibility allowance payable under the allowances regulations; pension benefits will be calculated by reference to career average pay not final salary; the retirement age for a councillor will be age 70; and councillor membership will not count towards calculating any other period of local government employment/LGPS membership. An eligible councillor will be able to contribute to AVCs to enhance his pension benefits where appropriate.

Essential consequential changes have also been made to the injury allowances and gratuities provisions of the Local Government (Discretionary Payments) Regulations 1996 to exclude eligible councillors, the Mayor of London and members of the London Assembly in connection with their employment. The Local Government (Early Termination of Employment) (Discretionary Compensation) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 have also been amended so that the calculation of discretionary compensation for redundancy for a person does not include a period of membership as a councillor member, Mayor of London or member of the London Assembly that he may have in the LGPS.

The regulations reflect our commitment made during the passage of the Local Government Bill which gave rise to the Local Government Act 2000.

The provisions for pensions take into account the commitment of local councillors, and their contribution to public life. Many members of local authorities may have lower personal or occupational pension provision than they could otherwise have had, due to missing out on full time employment or forgoing promotions and other opportunities on

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account of their public duties. The pensions regulations address this disincentive from serving in local politics.


    1 the Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) Regulations 1991;


    the Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (Amendment) Regulations 1995;


    the Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (Amendment) Regulations 1996;


    the Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2000;


    the Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2000; and


    the Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (England) Regulations 2001.


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