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16 Oct 2003 : Column WA125

Written Answers

Thursday, 16th October 2003.

House of Lords Reform: UnelectedSecond Chambers

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

    Whether any European or Commonwealth states have legislative chambers that are wholly unelected.[HL4620]

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Canada's second Chamber is appointed, as are the second Chambers in a number of other Commonwealth countries. The Government are committed to putting the appointed House of Lords on a stable footing for the medium term, in the absence of any consensus for further reform. A new independent statutory appointments commission was announced in the consultation paper Next steps for the House of Lords, published on 18 September.

Death Penalty

Baroness Billingham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom has ratified Protocol 13 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms banning the death penalty in all circumstances.[HL4869]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes. The UK ratified Protocol 13 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms banning the death penalty in all circumstances on 10 October 2003.

The ratification will apply at present only to the metropolitan area of the United Kingdom. Ratification will be extended to the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories at a later date.

We shall in due couse seek parliamentary approval pursuant to Section 1(4) of the Human Rights Act 1998 to add Protocol 13 to the list of scheduled convention rights.

Court Service: Annual Report andAccounts 2002–03

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Court Service annual report and accounts for 2002–03 will be laid before parliament.[HL4868]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): The Court Service annual report and accounts for 2002–03 has been laid before Parliament today. This

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document gives full details of the agency's performance and expenditure for that year. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Northern Ireland: MoT Test Centres

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why major updating work to MoT facilities in Northern Ireland involving the reduction in capacity was undertaken at the same time as the department initiated a campaign to encourage the taxation of cars, thus increasing demand for MoT facilities.[HL4384]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The refurbishment of test centres was undertaken over a two-year period following the award of a major contract to a private sector consortium in March 2001. However, the project, which was necessary to ensure that the Driver and Vehicle Testing Agency could continue to deliver a high quality testing service, was in the planning stage for a considerable period before that.

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland has had an ongoing campaign to tackle vehicle excise duty evasion (VED) for some time. The introduction of wheel clamping in January 1998 and camera detection in January 2002 were a direct response to the relatively high evasion rate in Northern Ireland.

VED campaigns do not increase the number of vehicles requiring an MoT, but they help to persuade those who need to get their vehicles tested to do so. Both are important elements in the department's road safety strategy. However, both involve lengthy lead times, and despite extensive planning it is impossible to keep them entirely separate or to predict the precise impact of a particular campaign.

North/South Implementation Bodies

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 8 September (WA 6) concerning cross border bodies, what is the "normal budget process each year"; whether it includes consultation with all concerned; and on what date proportionality of funding was discussed with the Ulster Scots Agency.[HL4410]

Baroness Amos: The normal budget process for the Ulster Scots Agency is set out in the North/South Language Body's financial memorandum and involves consultation and discussion between the agency and sponsor and Finance Departments North and South. The budgets of the North/South implementation bodies, following the suspension of devolution, are agreed and approved under the agreement contained

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in the exchange of notes between the two governments dated 19 November 2002. Proportionality has not been discussed with the Ulster Scots Agency.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the internal staff costs of each of the North/South implementation bodies for each year since their creation. [HL4595]

Baroness Amos: Details of the staff costs for each of the North/South implementation bodies for each year since their creation are provided in the table below:

Body2000(1) £2001 £2002 £
Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission776,772868,930864,062
Waterways Ireland 3,600,000 5,600,000 5,600,000 (estimate)
The Trade and Business Development Body479,134906,0281,123,446
Special EU Programmes Body433,409587,574942,418
The North/South Language Body(2) 1,158,516(2) 1,232,190(2) 1,325,374
The Food Safety Promotion Board139,000319,000471,000

(1) Costs relating to 2000 cover the period 3 December 1999 to 31 December 2000.

(2) Euro exchange rate as at 6 March 2003. E = 0.6854 has been used to convert expenditure incurred by Foras na Gaelige.


North/South Language Body

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer from the Lord President on 9 September (WA 106) concerning Cross Border Bodies, whether the decision of the North/South Ministerial Council of 19 May concerning staff remuneration of the Language Implementation Body was taken in line with the procedures issued on 5 December 2002 entitled, Ministerial Decision Making Interim Procedures.[HL4454]

Baroness Amos: The decision of 19 May was taken in line with the agreement made by the exchange of notes between the two governments dated 19 November 2002. However, as the noble Lord is aware, the decision, which was incorrectly titled, was intended to apply only to the Irish Language Agency and not to the whole language body.

To rectify the situation another paper was prepared entitled, General Round Pay Increases for Foras na Gaeilge (other than the Chief Executive) and this was approved on 1 September 2003 in line with the agreement made by the exchange of notes between the two governments.

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Northern Ireland: Tourism in County Antrim

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to increase Ulster Scots cultural tourism in County Antrim. [HL4534]

Baroness Amos: The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) has already mainstreamed cultural tourism as a key development and marketing priority and will continue to do so in coming years. The board, in conjunction with Tourism Ireland and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, is keen to exploit opportunities that are unique to Northern Ireland and to develop a visitor experience that is based on the region's cultural and natural attributes. The NITB recognises the Ulster Scots heritage as an integral element of future tourism growth to Northern Ireland from several key markets. This is particularly true for County Antrim where the Ulster Scots tradition is especially strong.

Northern Ireland Government Offices: Smoking

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which organisation has the contract for the removal of cigarette ends from the entrance to government offices in Northern Ireland; and how much it costs each year.[HL4493]

Baroness Amos: Where cigarette ends are placed in receptacles at the entrance to government offices in Northern Ireland they are removed by contracted cleaning firms as part of the cleaning contract for those offices.

Cigarette ends discarded otherwise at the entrance to government offices are removed by maintenance staff employed to maintain the government estate or by staff employed by local authorities to remove street litter. The actual cost of removing cigarette ends is not available but the estimated cost of cleaning government offices in Northern Ireland is £2.7 million per annum.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many smoking rooms are maintained by the Northern Ireland Civil Service; how frequently staff are permitted to visit such rooms and for what length of time; what are the annual staffing and office space costs involved; and when these arrangements will be terminated in line with their policy on smoking.[HL4536]

Baroness Amos: There are some 144 smoking rooms currently in operation in Northern Ireland Civil Service premises.

Although no central guidance has been issued on the frequency or length of absences permitted in order to use smoking rooms, line managers are required to ensure that any individual cases of abuse of the facility are identified and dealt with quickly.

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The cost of providing and maintaining the smoking rooms is not available and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

The NICS has been trying to encourage staff to give up smoking through its workplace health improvement programme. This programme is designed to raise awareness of a range of health issues, including smoking, and offers practical advice to encourage staff to adopt/maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The NICS smoking policy is currently being reviewed and it is anticipated that this review will have a significant impact on the current position.


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