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

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Race Directive prohibits discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origins. Such prohibition would not appear to include all the possible forms of racism referred to in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. However, as I indicated in my response to the noble Lord of 17 July 2003 (WA 164), the Government are not able to speculate as to the reasons why the European Commission and Council adopted a narrower concept of racial discrimination than exists in the convention.

Racially and Religiously Aggravated Crime: Sentences

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am pleased to announce that we are today laying an order before Parliament which will extend the Attorney-General's powers in relation to unduly lenient sentences. This will enable certain racially and religiously aggravated offences to be referred to the Court of Appeal for review where it is felt that under-sentencing has occurred. The order will come into effect on 13 October 2003 and will apply to any sentence imposed after that date.

This order is being laid following a recommendation in the HM Crown Prosecution Service's Inspectorate Review of Casework Having a Minority Ethnic Dimension, that racially aggravated offences be included in the category of offences which can be referred under the unduly lenient sentencing provisions. The inclusion of religiously aggravated offences is necessary and logical, to prevent anomalies in the protection offered to different groups. The Government will keep under review whether any further extensions should be made in future.

Iraq: Rule of Law

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Law and order is a high priority for the coalition in Iraq. More than 30,000 police officers have returned to work across Iraq, and are better paid than police under Saddam's regime. Coalition programmes, such as police training and the establishment of the new Iraqi army, will assist in bringing stability and ensuring that the rule of law in Iraq is enforced. United Kingdom forces operate to the highest standards, and are governed by the Geneva Convention IV, and rules of engagement derived from UK law.

British Energy: Restructuring Plan

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they are making to the European Commission regarding the ruling that the rescue plan for British Energy is unlawful.[HL4300]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The European Commission has not ruled that the Government's aid to British Energy is unlawful. The Commission announced on 23 July that it was opening a formal investigation procedure into the restructuring aid, which is normal in major restructuring aid cases. It also set out a number of issues and questions on our notification of the company's restructuring plan on 7 March which the Government have addressed in their response to the Commission. The Commission's announcement was very much the beginning of a process and we look forward to working with it to complete the case as swiftly as possible. The Government do, of course, remain well prepared for administration should British Energy fail, for any reason, to implement its restructuring plan.

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What alternative proposals they have to assist British Energy and the electricity generating industry if the European Commission's ruling that the rescue plan for British Energy is unlawful stands.[HL4301]

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The European Commission has not ruled that the Government's aid to British Energy is unlawful. The Commission announced on 23 July that it was opening a formal investigation procedure into the restructuring aid, which is normal in major restructuring aid cases. It also set out a number of issues and questions on our notification of the company's restructuring plan on 7 March which the Government have addressed in its response to the Commission. The Commission's announcement was very much the beginning of a process and we look forward to working with it to complete the case as swiftly as possible. The Government do, of course remain well prepared for administration should British Energy fail, for any reason, to implement its restructuring plan.

Personal Remittances: Flow from UK 1997–2002

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total flow of personal remittances from the United Kingdom in the years 1997 to 2002, together with a breakdown showing the main recipient countries and the amounts concerned.[HL4274]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter on behalf of the National Statistician to Lord Lamont, dated 11 September 2003.

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent question on the flow of personal remittances from the United Kingdom. I am replying in his absence. (HL4274)

Personal remittances from the UK are included within the figures for Other Payments by Households, as in Table 5.1 (Debits) of 2002 Pink Book. These figures also include estimates for non-profit institutions serving households. The published figures are shown in the table below.

In £millions

Year19971998199920002001
Other Payments by Households (FKIQ)28092906297532363364

Figures for 2002 will be published in the 2003 Pink Book dataset on 30 September. A country breakdown is not available.


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Lord Chancellor's Department: Funding

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

    What was the size of the funding bid to HM Treasury last year for money to modernise the civil and family courts; and why the bid was turned down.[HL4285]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The 2002 spending review provided the Lord Chancellor's Department with an additional £207/418/498 million over the years 2003–04 to 2005–06. Fuller details are given in the 2002 Spending Review White Paper (Cm5570), Opportunity and Security for All: Investing in an Enterprising, Fairer, Britain.

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Ragwort

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that local authorities are meeting their statutory obligation to control ragwort; and what action they will take if authorities do not meet these obligations.[HL4266]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Primary responsibility for controlling the spread of ragwort lies with the occupier of the land. A local authority has clear responsibility as an occupier if the authority owns the land or has responsibility for it. Local authorities also have a positive role to play in the control of ragwort, for example, by active weed control alongside rural roads and upon any other land for which they may be responsible. They may also play a part in publicising the threat that the weed poses to livestock and in particular to horses.

Common ragwort is one of five injurious weeds specified in the Weeds Act 1959. The Act permits the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to serve notice on any occupier of land to take action to prevent injurious weeds from spreading. An occupier who unreasonably fails to comply with the

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notice will be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine on conviction.

The Ragwort Control Bill, which will shortly be presented to the House, provides for a code of practice to strengthen enforcement of the Act by making it clear what should be done to clear ragwort when that is necessary. The code will also be admissible in evidence in enforcement proceedings under the Weeds Act.

Defra has also revised its procedure for dealing with complaints about ragwort in order to co-operate effectively with complainants and to focus available resources for enforcement in a more targeted way.

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies have been carried out on the toxicity of honey produced in areas of heavy ragwort infestation.[HL4267]

Lord Whitty: A survey of UK honey produced by bees with access to ragwort found that the naturally occurring toxins known as pyrolizzidine alkaloids were only present at either undetectable or very low levels of the sort that the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment had advised were not a cause for concern.



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