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11 Sept 2003 : Column WA135

Written Answers

Thursday, 11th September 2003.

Juries

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any decision has been made regarding the recommendations of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee on the Criminal Justice Bill in respect of jury research.[HL4389]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): In its report on the Criminal Justice Bill, the Home Affairs Select Committee invited the Government "to consider the merits of repealing Section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 in order to permit meaningful research into how the jury system operates". This invitation followed from recommendations made by Lord Justice Auld in his review of the criminal courts.

To fully consider this issue, I intend to publish a consultation paper towards the end of autumn to look at whether or not we should allow jury research to be conducted. The consultation paper will also consider the issue of jury impropriety, as recommended by Lord Justice Auld in his review.

County Fermanagh: Government Employees

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to increase the number of government employees in County Fermanagh.[HL3791]

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Under the modernisation and welfare reforms programme, the Department for Social Development's (DSD) Social Security Office in Enniskillen, and the Department for Employment and Learning's (DEL) Job Centre, will convert to a new Jobs and Benefits Office from November 2003, bringing together the services of DSD and DEL for the people of working age. As a result of the enhanced service and the estimated increase in the customer base, it is currently estimated that the number of DEL staff will increase by in the region of 21 employees.

Northern Ireland: Sewerage Arrangement, Portrush, County Antrim

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 26 June (WA 31) concerning sewerage arrangements in Portrush, whether they will ensure that the new process to be installed next year is of the tertiary treatment type.[HL3830]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The chief executive of Water Service has written to the noble Lord in response to this Question. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library.

Belfast Education and Library Board: DVD Language Policy

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 8 July (WA 24) concerning a DVD entitled "Rhyming Round Belfast", whether a business case was presented to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for the DVD's funding; if so, for how much; and how long it took to process.[HL3958]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Belfast Education and Library Board was not required to submit a business case to the department for the funding of this project.

Questions for Written Answer: Email Replies

Lord Lucas asked the Leader of the House:

    How a Peer may register a permanent request to all government departments that answers to his Written Questions should be copied to his email address.[HL4046]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As there is no formal arrangement in place to enable Peers to make such permanent requests, any requirement of this nature should be made to my office, who will then inform all government departments.

Questions for Written Answer: Response Times

Lord Jopling asked the Leader of the House:

    What steps he is taking to reprimand the departments, including the Northern Ireland Office, which have failed to answer a total of 71 Written Questions on the first sitting day after the recess, bearing in mind that they have remained on the Order Paper for between seven weeks and 15 weeks, and that the target time for Answers is two weeks.[HL4362]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I regret that not all of the Questions for Written Answer tabled before the Summer Recess have been answered.

I have today reviewed the outstanding questions with my ministerial colleagues and reminded them of the importance of prompt and accurate answers.

Lord Jopling asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether he will convene a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and that Department's Permanent Secretary

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    to ensure that that Department's Answers to Written Questions are provided within the target period of two weeks, in view of the situation on 9 September when of the 71 Questions which had remained unanswered for more than seven weeks, 48 were for the Northern Ireland Office.[HL4411]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am pleased to inform the noble Lord that all of the 48 outstanding Questions have now been answered.

I would like to assure the noble Lord that the Northern Ireland Office recognises the importance of prompt and accurate Answers.

I have no intention of convening a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Permanent Secretary.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are areas of activity in which the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will not operate; and, if so, what those areas are.[HL4066]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's remit is set out in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. This sets the parameters for the commission's operation. Within that, it is for the commission to decide which activities it pursues.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any limitations to the scope of topics which the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission can advise on.[HL4201]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The commission's powers and remit are stated under Section 69 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Section 69(1) states, "The Commission shall keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness in Northern Ireland of law and practice relating to the protection of human rights".

Section 69(3) states, "The Commission shall advise the Secretary of State and the Executive Committee of the Assembly of legislative and other measures which ought to be taken to protect human rights—(a) as soon as reasonably practicable after receipt of a request for advice; and (b) on such other occasions as the Commission thinks appropriate".

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any legal advice which they have sought from the Attorney-General has been supplied to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission; if so, on what subject; and whether they will place a copy in the Library of the House.[HL4202]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government have not supplied to the commission any legal advice sought from the Attorney-General, nor are they required to.

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Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether three members of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission can veto any proposal put to the commission; when and why this rule was introduced; how many times it has been used, on what topics; and which members exercised the veto.[HL4248]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The Chief Commissioner has been asked to write to the noble Lord. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland: Equality Agenda

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 11 June (WA 41), whether the equality agenda is about equality of opportunity or equality of outcome.[HL4067]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Both the Belfast agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998 refer to equality of opportunity.

ISC Report: Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction—Intelligence and Assessments

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Government expect to lay the Intelligence and Security Committee's Report on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction—Intelligence and Assessments before Parliament.[HL4429]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prime Minister is grateful to the Intelligence and Security Committee for its report on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction—Intelligence and Assessments. The Prime Minister has today laid the report before the House. The Government will respond formally to the report in due course. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Committee on Standards in Public Life: Government Response to Ninth Report

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Government expect to publish their response to the ninth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.[HL4430]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prime Minister has today published the Government's response to the ninth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Defining the Boundaries within the Executive: Ministers, special advisers and the permanent Civil Service. The Government have considered the committee's report with great care, and the Prime

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Minister would like to place on record his thanks to the committee for its thorough consideration of these issues. The Prime Minister is pleased to be able to announce the Government accept the majority of the recommendations. Our response to the main recommendations is as follows:


    Independent Ethics Adviser—the Government agree to the appointment of an independent adviser to provide Ministers and Permanent Secretaries with an additional source of professional advice as required on the handling of complex financial issues.


    Civil Service Act—the Government commit themselves to publishing a draft Bill for consultation once the Public Administration Select Committee's proposals for a Civil Service Act have been published.


    Special Advisers—the Government propose a new section to the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers to clarify relationships between special advisers and permanent civil servants. An amendment to the code is annexed to the Government's response.


    First Civil Service Commissioner—the Government agree that, in future, the appointment of the First Civil Service Commissioner will be made following consultation with the Leaders of the main opposition parties.


    Appointments—the response makes clear that the Government are committed to maintaining a permanent and impartial Civil Service where selection is made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. It also acknowledges the important role of the Civil Service Commissioners in the recruitment processes and in upholding the core values of the Civil Service. The response commits the Government to discussions with the Civil Service Commissioners to consider whether the different approaches to Civil Service and public appointments continue to be justified.

Copies of the Government's response [Cm5964] have been placed in the Libraries of the House.


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