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Law Officers' Advice: Disclosure

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

Lord Goldsmith: By long-standing convention, observed by successive governments, the fact of and substance of the Law Officers' advice is not disclosed outside government. This convention is referred to in paragraph 24 of the Ministerial Code. This enables the Government to obtain frank and full legal advice in confidence, as everyone else can. The exceptions to this are rare and are made where there is an overwhelming public interest in disclosure.

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

Lord Goldsmith: The extract from Erskine May, to which the noble Lord refers, paraphrases a statement by Lord Palmerston when Prime Minister in a debate in the House of Commons in 1865. However, the statement was addressing the question whether there was anything contrary to the rules of the House in reading or citing any opinion of the Law Officers and not the circumstances in which the convention on non-disclosure of the Law Officers' advice may be departed from.

Mr Hadi Soleimanpour: Order to Proceed

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The court's deadline for receipt of an Order to Proceed in Mr Soleimanpour's case was initially set as 23 October. Shortly before that date, the Home Office received a substantial amount of further material in support of the Argentinean extradition request. To enable that material to be carefully considered, the court acceded to an application under the Extradition Act 1989 for the Order to Proceed deadline to be extended to 13 November. It was decided on 11 November not to issue an order and to cancel the warrant for Mr Soleimanpour's provisional arrest.

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001: Detention of Foreign Nationals

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many foreign nationals have been detained under Part IV of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.[HL5573]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Sixteen foreign nationals have so far been detained using powers in Part IV of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security (ATCS) Act 2001. Eight were detained in December 2001, one in February 2002, two in April 2002, one in October 2002, one in November 2002, two in January 2003 and one in October 2003. One further individual has been certified under Part IV of the ATCS Act in August 2003 but is detained under other powers.

Of the total detained, two have voluntarily left the United Kingdom. The other 14 remain in detention.

The Home Secretary's decisions to detain these individuals were made on the basis of detailed and compelling evidence. That evidence is being examined by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission as the individuals' appeals are heard, as provided for under the ATCS Act. The commission is equivalent to the High Court. It has the power to overturn his decisions.

Where terrorism is concerned, our paramount responsibility is to ensure public safety and national security. So long as the public emergency subsists, where a person is suspected of terrorism but cannot currently be removed and for whom a criminal prosecution is not an option, we believe that it is necessary and proportionate to provide for extended detention, pending removal.

Armed Forces Pension Scheme

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What benefits will be payable when the planned changes to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme take effect in 2005 to war widows aged 70 or over who are:

    (a) pre-1973 war widows with their own state retirement pension;

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    (b) pre-1973 war widows without their own state retirement pension;

    (c) post-1973 war widows with their own state retirement pension; and

    (d) post-1973 war widows without their own state retirement pension.[HL5272]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Current widows will not be affected by the introduction of the new Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS) as it is not retrospective. Subject to legislative progress through both Houses, the new AFPS will have an effective date of 6 April 2005 for new entrants to the Armed Forces. Current members of the AFPS will have the opportunity to transfer to the new scheme as soon as possible in a two-year transition period. Members who have already retired and their dependants will remain with their current arrangements.

Gulf War 1990–91: Vaccines

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 6 November (WA 140) and given their disclosures on 9 October of shortcomings in medical record-keeping during and after the first Gulf conflict, how the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, defines a "valid 'worst case'" scenario in regard to the timing, environmental and other conditions pertaining when the 50,000 plus veterans of conflict received their vaccinations.[HL5476]

Lord Bach: The full valid "worse case" schedule followed in the Vaccines Interactions Research Programme at the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Porton Down was as follows:

Day 0First Anthrax First Pertussis Polio (oral) Yellow fever
Day 3Typhoid Tetanus Hep B
Day 6Meningococcal Meningitis Cholera
Day 15Pyridostigmine Bromide (NAPS) for 28 days (stopped day 44)
Day 23First Plague Second Anthrax Second Pertussis
Day 51Second Plague Third Anthrax

Dstl and the independent panel of experts overseeing this complex research programme recognise that it would have been impossible to devise a single schedule that would reflect the actual experience of all veterans of the 1990–91 Gulf conflict. The schedule used reflects a valid "worse case" in that 10 vaccines were administered over a short time period with booster doses of some vaccines given 23 and 51 days after the first vaccines. Pyridostigmine bromide, the active ingredient of Nerve Agent Pre-Treatment Set (NAPS) tablets, was administered continuously for 28 days during the 51 day schedule. As environmental and other conditions pertaining at the time individuals received their medical countermeasures are not part of the Vaccines Interactions Research Programme, they do not form part of the "worse case" scenario.

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Health and Safety Commission

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether additional funding is being sought by the Health and Safety Commission; and whether an increase in the numbers of inspectors and the amount of preventive work, and improvements in the commission's scientific capacity will assist the cost-effective safety regulation of the railways (taking into account the self-regulating role of the Railway Standards and Safety Board).[HL5371]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The Health and Safety Commission will put forward a submission under the 2004 Spending Review to the Department for Work and Pensions for inclusion in its bid to Treasury. HSC will apply the resources provided by government to deliver the targets set by government in the most efficient and effective way. HSC will develop plans for work in the rail industry that optimise the cost-effective safety regulation of the railways.

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the terms of reference of the Health and Safety Commission in respect of (a) road transport, (b) rail transport; and (c) other industry sectors; and what is the budget expenditure by the commission on each.[HL5372]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The current system of health and safety at work in Great Britain derives from the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (the 1974 Act). The main purposes of the 1974 Act and its relevant statutory provisions are to:

    secure the health, safety and welfare of people at work;

    protect the public against risks to health and safety arising from work activities; and

    control dangerous substances.

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The Health and Safety Commission's statutory duties include:

    submitting proposals for regulations to Ministers after consultation with appropriate government departments and other bodies;

    providing information and advice to Ministers (among others);

    arranging for the operation of an information and advisory service;

    arranging for research to be carried out and published and encouraging research by others;

    arranging for the provision of training and information and encouraging its provision by others; and

    paying to the executive sums considered appropriate for it to perform its functions.

The Department for Transport (HSE's then sponsoring department) and the commission made an agency agreement, which came into effect on 1 December 1990. Under this, HSC agreed to perform delegated railway safety functions, under the 1974 Act, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport.

Health and safety law is applicable to all work activities, including driving. Unlike railways, where HSE is the primary health and safety regulator, safety on the roads is subject to a variety of regulations enforced by other agencies.

It has been the policy of successive governments that HSE should not generally seek to enforce health and safety at work legislation where public and worker safety can adequately be protected by more specific and detailed law enforced by another authority. Road transport is regulated by road traffic law, which is enforced by the police and others, such as the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency.

A breakdown of budget expenditure by road transport, rail transport and other industry sectors is not available. HSC's gross budget expenditure for 2003–04 is £262 million, of which £12.9 million is allocated to the rail-related activity.

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