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29 Oct 2003 : Column WA39

Written Answers

Wednesday, 29th October 2003.

Northern Ireland: Nomenclature

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why invitations and supporting letters from the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat to board members of the Ulster-Scots Agency referred to Northern Ireland as "the North": what is their policy regarding the naming of Northern Ireland in this way; and whether the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat in Armagh is aware of that policy.[HL4628]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): By accepted usage, the two jurisdictions in which the North/South Ministerial Council exercises its functions are sometimes referred to by their legal titles, and at other times by reference to less formal nomenclature. On this occasion the use of less formal terminology was felt to be appropriate.

North/South Ministerial Council: Corporate Governance Seminars

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will arrange a corporate governance seminar for the staff of the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat.[HL4629]

Baroness Amos: Staff from the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat attended corporate governance seminars held on 1 April and 6 October 2003.

Northern Ireland: Knockmore to Belfast Railway Service

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the passenger service from Knockmore railway station to Belfast is to be reinstated.[HL4631]

Baroness Amos: Translink has advised that there are no plans to reinstate passenger services from Knockmore to Belfast.

Iran: Nuclear Programme

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the purpose of the Foreign Secretary's visit to Iran on 21 October.[HL5143]

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Together with his French and German colleagues, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary visited Tehran on 21 October for discussions on Iran's nuclear programme. They met President Khatami, Foreign Minister Kharrazi and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Committee Hassan Rouhani. The discussions were aimed at underlining to the Iranian authorities the concerns of the international community regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions, and the necessity for Iran to comply fully with the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors' resolution adopted on 12 September.

By the end of the visit, they were able to agree a joint statement which committed Iran to comply with the three key elements of the IAEA board resolution:


    to engage in full co-operation with the IAEA to address and resolve, through full transparency, all requirements and outstanding issues of the agency, and clarify and correct any possible failures and deficiencies within the IAEA;


    to sign the IAEA additional protocol, and commence ratification procedures. As a confirmation of their good intentions, the Iranian Government state that they will continue to co-operate with the agency in accordance with the protocol in advance of its ratification;


    to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, as defined by the IAEA.

The full text of the joint statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

This joint statement represents a good start to the process of resolving international concerns over Iran's nuclear programme and is welcomed as such. But it was also made clear to the Iranian interlocutors that the real test will be full and early implementation of the commitments they have offered. They know that the international community will be looking closely at the evidence in the next report of the IAEA director-general, which is due to be presented to the board of governors in early November.

The joint statement makes clear that, while implementation of the steps outlined should enable the IAEA board to resolve the immediate problem with Iran, there is also a longer-term issue. Britain, France and Germany remain ready to address that issue through dialogue with Iran on a basis for longer-term co-operation, which would provide all parties with satisfactory assurances about Iran's nuclear power generation programme. It was made clear that it is only once international concerns are fully resolved that Iran could expect easier access to modern technology and supplies.

The visit has demonstrated the value of a united approach between Britain, France and Germany, working to uphold the decisions of the IAEA and its board of governors, and consistent with the common approach to Iran agreed by several European Councils.

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Property Sales: First-time Buyers

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they consider the percentage of property sales accounted for by first-time buyers to be at its lowest level ever.[HL5011]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The average property price paid by first-time buyers has increased by 133.6 per cent, from an average of £46,489 in 1995 to £108,591 in the second quarter of 2003. Over the same period, average first-time buyer incomes have increased by only 70.3 per cent, from £18,697 in 1995 to £31,841 in Q2 203.

Average deposits needed to buy a first house have also risen, from 16.8 per cent of the property price (£7,810) in 1995 to 23.1 per cent (£25,084) in Q2 2003.

In response to these changes, we have set out a range of measures in the Sustainable Communities Plan and the 2003 Budget that will, over time, improve the affordability of housing.

Bae Systems: Sale of Hawk Jet Trainers

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any evidence that Bae Systems has used bribes to promote sales of Hawk jet trainers and attack aircraft at various times since 1996 to India, South Africa and Qatar; if so, what offences they consider may have been committed; and what action they intend to take.[HL4622]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Defence Export Services Organisation of the Ministry of Defence has responsibility for the promotion of defence export sales of jet trainers.

The Department of Trade and Industry has no evidence that Bae Systems has used bribes to promote the sale of Hawk jet trainers and attack aircraft to overseas markets.

Mobile Telephone Numbers: Comprehensive Directory

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect a "comprehensive directory" of all mobile telephone numbers to be available as specified in paragraph 2 of the Electronic Communications (Universal Service) Order 2003 (S.I. 2003/1904).[HL4692]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: This is a matter for the Director General of Telecommunications at Oftel. I have asked him to write to the noble Lord.

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European Union: Draft Directive on Articles of Precious Metal

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they are making in persuading other European Union member states to share their view that any harmonised trade in articles of precious metal should have a high level of consumer protection secured by reliable independent third-party verification; and[HL4889]

    What importance they attach, during the current European Union presidency working party discussions on the draft Directive on Articles of Precious Metal, to the need for harmonised trade in such articles to have a high level of consumer protection secured by reliable third-party verification; and whether this objective is shared by other member states.[HL4890]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Her Majesty's Government attach great importance to high consumer protection in this area, which we believe can best be achieved through a system of independent third-party checks. We have been liaising closely with a number of other member states who share our concerns in order to oppose this measure.

Price Marking (Food and Drink Services) Order 2003

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will take steps to clarify the table in paragraph 5(1) of the Price Marking (Food and Drink Services) Order 2003 (S.I. 2003/2253) for the benefit, in particular, of small businesses.[HL4937]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The tabular format was adopted in order to bring together in a simpler and clearer form the existing rules about the number of prices required to be displayed for food and wine with the new ones about soft drinks.

We shall be publishing general guidance on the order before it enters into force.

Wireless Telegraphy (Limitation of Number of Licences) Order 2003

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why no criteria are given in Schedules 2, 9 and 10 to the Wireless Telegraphy (Limitation of Number of Licences) Order 2030 (S.I. 2003/1902).[HL4938]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Wireless Telegraphy (Limitation of Number of Licences) Order 2003 was made under powers conferred by Section 164 of the Communications Act 2003. The order and the Act came into force on 25 July.

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Section 164 of the Act permits the order to specify the frequencies and uses for which Ofcom will grant or make only a limited number of licences. The order must set out the criteria which Ofcom will apply in determining the limit and the persons to whom licences will be granted. (The order was made by the Secretary of State rather than Ofcom for the reasons given in the Explanatory Note to the order.)

The order does not set out a maximum number of licences available for frequencies and uses. This was not a requirement of Section 164. Further, the Secretary of State does not limit the availability of licences in that way. What happens is that factors such as technical frequency assignment criteria and criteria relating to persons who may be awarded licences operate to determine the limit on the number of licences granted and the persons to whom they are granted.

Schedule 2 to the order concerns the class of licences for broadband fixed wireless access at 28 GHz. Licences are only awarded to persons by a competition (as indicated in part 2 of the schedule). The fact that licences are awarded in this way is a factor which inevitably limits the number of licences which are available at any given time and the persons to whom they are awarded. The ability of applicants to meet the terms of licences will also be a factor limiting the numbers of licences (as described in Article 4(c) of the order). There are no further specific criteria limiting numbers so "none" was inserted in part 3 of the Schedule.

Schedule 9 concerns the class of licence for amateur radio at a range of frequencies. Part 2 of the schedule sets out the criteria relating to persons to whom licences are awarded. Those criteria, together with the ability of applicants to meet the terms of licences, are the only factors limiting the numbers of licences. Amateurs who fulfil the criteria specified in part 2 of the schedule may all share use of the same spectrum. There were no further specific criteria limiting numbers so "none" was inserted in part 3 of the schedule.

Schedule 10 concerns the class of technology development radio licences, which may be at any frequency approved case by case where no undue interference results to other authorised services. Criteria for this class were in fact specified in both parts 2 and 3 of schedule 10. bjc


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