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Overseas Travel: Young People

Lord Radice asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: Research shows that 16 to 30 year-olds are the least prepared of all British travellers. Today, therefore, the Government is launching a special campaign aimed at younger travellers. It will offer vital information to help young Britons avoid getting into difficulties overseas by making them aware of some simple precautions they can take before heading off. The campaign will offer advice to those taking a range of trips, from weekend breaks, gap years, or summer package holidays to those going off on adventure sports trips or on honeymoon.

Overseas travel is an important opportunity for young people, but we need to ensure that the experience is not spoilt by unnecessary problems or accidents. Time spent on research and preparation in advance of a trip can save a great deal of trouble and heartache later. Every year people have distressing experiences. Most think that it could never happen to them. Sadly, it can and it does. That is why the Government are launching this campaign.

This "youth" mini-campaign forms part of the FCO's ongoing Know Before You Go campaign which, working with over 160 travel industry partners, encourages travellers to be better prepared before travelling overseas. The FCO website www.fco.gov. uk/knowbeforeyougo provides tips for travel overseas including guidance on taking out travel insurance, travel advice and checklists for specific groups such as backpackers and independent travellers, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travellers, women travellers and those visiting friends and relatives overseas.

Drug Offenders: Court Review Process

Lord Adebowale asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Government recognise the important role that courts can play in the rehabilitation of drug misusing offenders, particularly where sentencers play an active part in the review and monitoring of an offender's progress and there is continuity through the stages of the court process.

We are currently looking to build on best court practice in the management of the court review process for the drug treatment and testing order (DTTO), the nearest comparable arrangement we have in England and Wales to drug courts in other jurisdictions. Preparation work is under way in three court areas in England to pilot and evaluate good practice approaches, including the use of selected magistrates trained in drug misuse issues. We will give further consideration to the role the courts have to play in the

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rehabilitation of drug misusing offenders in the light of the outcome of these pilots and other initiatives.

Lord Adebowale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further plans they have to increase the "pilots" of drug courts in England and Wales.[HL2524]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: There are no dedicated drug courts, as such, being piloted in England and Wales but we are currently looking to build on best court practice in the management of the court review process for the drug treatment and testing order, the nearest comparable arrangement we have in England and Wales to drug courts in other jurisdictions. Preparation work is under way in three court areas in England to pilot and evaluate good practice approaches, including the use of selected magistrates trained in drug misuse issues. But we shall evaluate the lessons learned from them with a view to promoting best practice throughout England and Wales.

Lord Adebowale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment has been made of the effectiveness of drug courts.[HL2525]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: There are no established drug courts operating in England and Wales. The nearest comparable arrangement is the court review process for the drug treatment and testing order (DTTO).

The assessment of Probation Service supervising officers is that the statutory court review of an offender's progress on a DTTO is helpful in maintaining the individual's motivation to complete the order and is welcomed by both offenders and sentencers.

Pilots are to be introduced in three court areas in England to examine good practice approaches in the management of the court review process for the DTTO. The pilots will be monitored and evaluated.

Lord Adebowale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What recent discussions they have had with the Council of Europe on the effectiveness of drug courts.[HL2526]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: UK representatives attended a Council of Europe Pompidou Group conference: "European Perspectives on Drug Courts" from 27 to 28 March 2003. My officials will consider the conference report and conclusions.

Iraq: UK Treatment of Prisoners

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they have had with the United States Government about the treatment of prisoners captured by British and United States forces in Iraq; and whether they have agreed common criteria for treating any prisoners as not being entitled to the protection of the Geneva convention.[HL2451]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Treatment of those captured during a period of hostilities are matters for those who capture them (the detaining power). Prisoners captured by United Kingdom forces in Iraq will be treated according to our obligations under the Geneva conventions. Those who are not entitled to prisoner of war status will, nevertheless, be treated humanely and decently. We are confident that the United States will do likewise.

Defence Bills Agency

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the key targets are for financial year 2003–04 for the Defence Bills Agency.[HL2616]

Lord Bach: Key targets have been set for the chief executive of the Defence Bills Agency (DBA) for the financial year 2003–04. The targets, which build on the already high standards of service provided by the agency since its formation in 1996, are as follows:


    to pay 99.9 per cent of correctly presented bills within 11 calendar days of receipt as part of the department's 30-day payment target;


    to raise 98 per cent of invoices accurately within four days of receipt of a correctly authorised claimable document;


    to ensure that the average percentage of overdue collectable debt due to the department does not exceed 35 per cent of total collectable debt;


    to deliver 99 per cent of the required accounting and financial information feed to the departmental financial management system portal within one working day, 100 per cent within two days;


    to make a progressive improvement of at least 1 per cent in the overall level of customer satisfaction over a baseline of 76 per cent achieved in 2002–03;


    to demonstrate at least a 1 per cent improvement in year-on-year operating efficiency by 31 March 2004, as part of a longer-term continuous improvement programme.

Defence Vetting

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to carry out a review of the defence vetting process.[HL2617]

Lord Bach: A business review of the defence vetting process is to be carried out by the Ministry of Defence.

Preliminary work has defined the scope of the study. The second phase will begin shortly and should be completed by the autumn. The aim of the review is to examine the function, role, operation, funding and organisation of the Defence Vetting Agency, to seek to identify key objectives and performance and to determine whether its current status is most appropriate for future needs.

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The review team will consult with a range of stakeholders during the course of the review including MoD and single service sponsors, TUs, other government departments and other relevant bodies. The Ministry of Defence is interested also to hear the views of other organisations or individuals who would like to make a contribution to the review. Those wishing to do so should send their contributions by 31 May 2003 to: The Defence Vetting Process Business Review Team Ministry of Defence 2nd Floor St Giles Court 1-13 St Giles High Street London WC2H 8LD Or by email to: [email protected]

Chemical Protection Programme

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have provided to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons about the United Kingdom's chemical protection programme for 2002.[HL2618]

Lord Bach: The United Kingdom's chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the UK is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In accordance with the Government's commitment to openness, we are placing in the Library of the House a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK's chemical protection programme for 2002. To increase transparency, the format of this year's summary has been revised and for the first time information on civil protection is included.


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