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Civil Partnerships

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

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The consultation paper on civil partnership asks the public to comment on a series of questions relating to specific areas of the Government's proposals, together with the more general question "Do you have any other comments?". Members of the public are entitled, in any event, to comment on whichever aspect of the proposed scheme they choose. The Government encourage them to do so.

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

    What is the justification for proposing to treat opposite-sex cohabitants less favourably than same-sex cohabitants as regards claims for financial loss under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and fatal injury applications under the criminal injuries compensation scheme.[HL3752]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government do not propose to treat opposite-sex cohabitants less favourably than same-sex cohabitants as regards either claims under the Fatal Accidents Act or applications under the criminal industries compensation scheme.

The Government's consultation paper Civil Partnership: a framework for the legal recognition of same-sex couples, would enable same-sex partners, for the first time, to gain legal recognition for their relationships. Opposite-sex couples already have this opportunity. Those same-sex couples who choose not to register will not gain the package of rights and responsibilities proposed, as is the case for those opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry.

The Government therefore propose that registered partners should be allowed to make a claim for financial loss under the Fatal Accidents Act, in the same way that spouses can.

In March 2001, the Government amended the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme to allow same-sex cohabitants the same rights as opposite-sex cohabitants to make a fatal injury application in the event of a partner's death. Under the Government's new proposals, same-sex registered partners, like opposite-sex married partners, will not have to demonstrate that they have been cohabitants for two years prior to the death.

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

    What solution they propose for opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry and are vulnerable in the way described in paragraph 2.8 of the White Paper on civil partnership.[HL3753]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As the Government make clear in their consultation paper, opposite-sex couples who become vulnerable in the way described already have the opportunity to secure legal

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recognition for their partnerships through the option of marriage. The Government do recognise, however, that many couples mistakenly believe that there is such a thing as "common-law marriage". The Department of Constitutional Affairs will be leading a cross-government working group to explore how best to raise public awareness about the rights and responsibilities of cohabitees and to dispel the myths around "common law marriage".

Homicide

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people have died since 1963 in England and Wales at the hands of persons previously convicted of homicide.[HL3755]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: During the period 1963 to date, a total of 105 persons in England and Wales are known to have been killed by persons who had been previously convicted of homicide in England and Wales.

As with previous answers, the figure excludes persons who have been killed by those who may have been convicted outside England and Wales (for whom there is incomplete information), and persons who have been killed by those not previously convicted of homicide by reason of their mental state.

Wildlife and Countryside Act 2000: Prosecutions under Section 14

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prosecutions there have been under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 2000 relating to the prohibition of release of non-native species of animals; and what were the animals to which the prosecutions referred.[HL3773]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Information reported to the Home Office shows that 10 persons have been proceeded against under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 14, by the end of 2001, and in each case the offence related to an animal. Records held centrally do not allow the identification of the animal(s).

Statistics for 2002 will be published in the autumn.

Figures for Scotland are a matter for the Scotland Office and those for Northern Ireland for the Northern Ireland Office.

Biometric Identification

Lord MacKenzie of Culkein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made towards the incorporation of biometric identification into British passports.[HL3818]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Specifications for the deployment of biometrics in passports were agreed and endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in May 2003. The UK Passport Service (UKPS) actively supported the development of these specifications.

The specifications call for a high resolution portrait image stored on a contactless chip embedded in passports and other travel documents. As optional additions, images of fingerprints or irises can be added. The ICAO specifications are designed to ensure interoperability of biometric information.

The UKPS is developing implementation plans compliant with ICAO specification for electronically stored portrait images in British passports. As indicated in its 2003–08 corporate and business plan published on 23 April, the UKPS is aiming to commence production of these passports in early 2005.

Lord MacKenzie of Culkein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have plans to introduce iris, fingerprint and facial recognition systems at British airports.[HL3819]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As part of the drive to modernise and improve the effectiveness of the United Kingdom's borders, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate is undertaking a project to implement an automated border entry system using iris recognition technology. A notice inviting expressions of interest from potential technology suppliers has been issued recently in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

Passengers in certain eligible categories, details of which have yet to be finalised, who volunteer to enrol in the system will be able to gain entry to the United Kingdom via an automated border entry system that can recognise their iris pattern. This will provide a fast, fraud-resistant way to pass through immigration controls and allow immigration control staff to concentrate on other priorities. The system will not be operational until 2004.

The permanent implementation of automated iris recognition barriers at United Kingdom ports of entry follows a successful trial with frequent travellers conducted at Heathrow last year.

Fingerprints have been taken routinely from asylum seekers at airports (as well as other places where they are encountered) since 1993. In 2001 the Immigration and Asylum Fingerprint System (IAFS) was introduced to ports of entry and provided a fast result service. In April 2002 the IAFS was expanded to allow, at Heathrow and Gatwick (in addition to other locations), the production of application registration cards (ARCs) for asylum applicants. These cards include fingerprint data, which are stored in an attached microchip.

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We are currently conducting a pilot concentrating on verifying passengers' identities before they embark on flights to the UK. Part of that pilot will examine the extent to which facial recognition might assist in confirming identity.

United States: Extradition Treaty

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

    Whether they consider that the judicial and administrative authorities of the United Kingdom will be entitled to refuse to sanction the extradition of individuals to the United States, under the new United States-United Kingdom Extradition Treaty, in the event that extradition would be incompatible with United Kingdom constitutional principles or with the rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, or the common law; and[HL3845]

    Whether they will ensure that no-one is extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States, or any place over which the United States exercises effective control, under the new bilateral and European Extradition Treaties with the United States, to face a trial before a special military commission or other court or tribunal that does not comply with the requirements of fairness contained in the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights.[HL3858]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Extradition to the United States will in future be governed by Part 2 of the Extradition Bill, if it is enacted.

The Extradition Bill sets out clearly the circumstances in which extradition cannot take place. One of the bars to extradition—contained in Clause 86 of the Bill—provides that extradition cannot take place where it would be incompatible with the ECHR rights of the person.


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