Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Northern Ireland Bureau, Washington

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The Director of the Northern Ireland Bureau in Washington was appointed by open competition, by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. It was conducted in accordance with the Civil Service Commissioners' Recruitment Code.

Candidates were required to demonstrate core competencies in the areas of communication, personal effectiveness and leadership, conceptual and strategic thinking, planning and managing relationships and partnerships. In addition a comprehensive knowledge of current key issues involving Northern Ireland and in particular its administration, and other Northern Ireland bodies, as appropriate, and how these should be represented in the United States.

Ulster Scots Culture

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The Natural Resource Rural Tourism Initiative (NRRTi), jointly developed by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department of the Environment, is aimed at developing tourism, including cultural tourism, in selected rural areas throughout Northern Ireland. NRRTi funding has been made available during the period 2002–06 to the Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens. This funding can be accessed by Larne Borough Council.

The Ulster Scots Agency, which receives core funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, provides some financial support for Ulster Scots events in Larne and North Down Council areas. The support of such community activity provides an impetus and focus for the development and marketing of cultural tourism.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

19 Nov 2003 : Column WA329

Baroness Amos: I would refer the noble Lord to the Answer given on 7 January 2003 (WA 171). In addition to this expert advice the department has received the advice of many people within the Ulster-Scots linguistic and cultural community, for example during the ongoing Future Search consultation process.

Northern Ireland: Religious Discrimination

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Northern Ireland Equality Commission is opposed to religious discrimination in all sectors of employment; and, if not, why not.[HL5308]

Baroness Amos: The Equality Commission has a range of functions and powers under the anti-discrimination and equality legislation including that dealing with religious belief or political opinion. These include general duties of promoting equality of opportunity and working towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is opposed to religious discrimination in all sectors of employment; and, if not, why not.[HL5309]

Baroness Amos: 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.

Cross-Border Implementation Bodies: Provision of Cars for Chief Executives

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 13 October (WA 93), whether the car provided to the first chief executive of the Special Programmes Body was part of his remuneration package; whether the current chief executive has received a car; and, if not, why.[HL5433]

Baroness Amos: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given on 10 September 2003 (WA 123).

The current acting chief executive is not provided with a car as this was not part of her temporary promotion arrangements.

Northern Ireland: Prisoners

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In terms of the handling of prisoners in Northern Ireland, what is the difference between separation and segregation.[HL5472]

Baroness Amos: The term "separation" is used to describe a regime in which prisoners connected to

19 Nov 2003 : Column WA330

loyalist and republican paramilitary groups are kept apart for safety reasons but the staff remain firmly in control.

The segregated regime that existed in the Maze Prison was heavily criticised for the lack of control that prison staff were able to exert.

It is the Government's clear objective that by developing "separated" conditions for certain prisoners, the prison service staff retain authority over the conduct of prisoners and the regime in which they live.

Law Officers' Advice: Disclosure

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

    Further to the Written Answers by the Attorney-General on 6 November (WA 128–129), what is the justification in terms of the public interest in publishing a summary of the Attorney-General's view of the legal basis for the use of force against Iraq while withholding from public disclosure the detailed consideration of the legal issues upon which that view was based.[HL5481]

Baroness Amos: By long-standing convention, observed by successive governments, the fact of and substance of the Law Officers' advice is not disclosed outside government. The 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. Consistent with this convention, the Attorney-General's advice relating to the proposed military action against Iraq has not been disclosed. However, in view of the high-level of public interest in the proposed military action, the Attorney-General, exceptionally, made a Written Statement in Parliament on 17 March 2003 setting out his view of the legal basis for the use of force against Iraq.

HIV and AIDS: Developing Countries and Generic Drugs

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which developing countries are expected to be able to manufacture their own generic drugs to treat HIV and AIDS; and whether they anticipate that this will have the effect of putting pressure on pharmaceutical companies to reduce their prices.[HL5500]

Baroness Amos: A number of developing countries have levels of capability in their pharmaceutical sector; a detailed list is attached. The developing countries whose generic drug manufacturing capacity is substantial enough to manufacture their own drugs to treat HIV and AIDS include Mexico, Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

All of the factors affecting access to medicines are inter-linked and one strategy alone will not have

19 Nov 2003 : Column WA331

sufficient impact on pricing or access to affordable drugs for the poor. However, the lowest world price for average annual triple therapy drugs has been reduced by approximately 95 per cent over the past three years. At the beginning of 2000 anti-retro viral (ARV) triple combination therapy typically cost over 10,000 US dollars. Since then a combination of price reductions by patent based pharmaceutical companies, schemes such as the Accelerated Access Initiative, increased demand through donor financing and the introduction of generic competition have brought prices down to almost 200 US dollars. It is important to note that these are supply side prices and not the price to the end user. Prices can be inflated through taxes, tariffs and other additional costs on their route to a medical centre or patient. It is also important to note that these prices are not available in all developing countries but represent the best world price available.

The factors recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that can improve poor peoples' access to medicines are: affordable pricing, sustainable financing, reliable health and supply systems, and the rational selection and use of existing drugs.

The UK Government are pursuing a number of different approaches to make essential drugs—including those for the treatment of HIV/AIDS—available in developing countries. These include working with other G8 countries, developing country governments, multi-lateral institutions, the pharmaceutical industry (generic and patent-based), investors and NGOs to encourage companies to reduce their prices in developing countries.

The Prime Minister's high level Working Group on Increasing Access to Essential Medicines in the Developing World recommended differential pricing of essential medicines for the developing world. The UK Government are working to secure greater international commitment to affordable pricing.

Russia: DfID Support for Harm Reduction Programmes

Viscount Craigavon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the general aims of the report by International Family Health, HIV/AIDS and drug misuse in Russia: harm reduction programmes and the Russian legal system.[HL5519]

Baroness Amos: Yes. The Department for International Development has provided technical assistance worth £480,000 for a project entitled Building Police Support for Harm Reduction managed by International Family Health, which runs from August 2001 to December 2003. The project aims to work in partnership with the Russian police as an integral part of strategies, including harm reduction, for combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia, and IFH's report is one of its outputs. The report seeks to analyse and raise questions about a range of issues on HIV/AIDS and drugs misuse, and harm reduction

19 Nov 2003 : Column WA332

programmes in Russia, from the standpoint of the Russian legal system. It seeks to contribute to the debate about the efficacy of harm reduction programmes in preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page