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Whether the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor's Department, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and further and higher education institutions have been designated for the purposes of Section 75(1) of the Northern Ireland Act; and if not, why not.[HL593]
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Northern Ireland Act clearly defines the vast majority of public bodies to which the Section 75 obligation will apply. However, the Secretary of State may designate additional bodies, including UK departments carrying out functions relating to Northern Ireland, to which the obligation should apply. George Howarth, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, met the Equality Commission on 20 December to discuss the contents of the proposed Designation Order. At this meeting the Equality Commission suggested a number of other bodies for inclusion in the order and these bodies are being reviewed as a matter of urgency.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Information on the religious affiliation of members of the Garda Siochana is a matter for the Government of the Republic of Ireland. At 31 December 1999, the percentage of Roman Catholics in the RUC Regular force was 8.39 per cent.
(B) What percentage of the population of the territory which now comprises the Republic of Ireland was Protestant in (i) 1918 and (ii) 1998.[HL610]
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton : Responsibility for the collection of figures relating to the population of Northern Ireland has been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly and is therefore no longer a matter for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. However I have asked for those figures which are available to be obtained and given to you. As regards figures relating to the population of the Republic of Ireland, that is a matter for the Government of the Republic of Ireland.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Peter Hain, strongly condemned the coup on 24 December, and called on all parties to work for a peaceful and rapid restoration of democratic constitutional rule.
Our Ambassador in Abidjan has made representations to General Guei, and to the Minister for Planning and Development, Seydou Diarra, the Minister of Finance, N'Golo Coulibaly, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Christophe M'Bou, urging respect for human rights and for a timetable for an early return to democracy. On 25 January, General Geui announced that general elections would be completed by 31 October, a move which we have welcomed.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Commonwealth Institute ceased to be a Non-Departmental Public Body, under the direction of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on 31 December 1999. This was a Commonwealth Institute initiative. Its new status is that of an independent charity, in the form of a company limited by guarantee. I am arranging for copies of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the new body to be placed in the Library of the House.
Under the terms of its agreement with the Commonwealth Institute, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is investing £8.055 million in a severance package in 1999-00 and 2000-01. The funding will restore and develop the building, support new programmes and provide the institute with financial stability while its plans take effect.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I can announce that I have today laid before Parliament the two schemes that will put into effect the compensation of the 14 former GCHQ employees for their loss of pension rights. Details of the two schemes will be placed in the Libraries of the House.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): This is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the noble Countess.
The Secretary of State has asked Peter Mathison to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about how many members of the Department of Social Security staff have been seconded from the Correspondence Section based at Quarry Bank, Leeds, to Scottish and Welsh administrations for training purposes; what is the length of their secondment; and what is the current backlog of correspondence from Members of Parliament and members of the public awaiting replies. As he is unavailable due to annual leave, I am replying.
However, the BA Parliamentary Correspondence Unit based in Leeds was responsible for helping to establish new units based respectively in Edinburgh and Cardiff to deal with correspondence originating from Scottish and Welsh administration.
Experienced staff from Quarry House have spent around four weeks in Edinburgh and Cardiff training staff in the new units. Both units are now fully operational and working closely with us to help clear the arrears.
Lord Burlison: According to the European Court of Human Rights website (www.echr.coe.int.), there are 37 cases listed under "military discipline/armed forces" where the Court found violations of one or more articles of the human rights convention. A check on whether those violations related specifically to a conflict with the law for maintaining discipline in one or all of the armed forces in the country concerned could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
Lord Burlison: Cockpit voice and flight data recorders will be fitted to the RAF Chinook Mark 2/2a fleet as part of the Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) programme. The trial installation of HUMS into a MK2a and subsequent flight trials have been completed successfully and work is now in progress to fit the system to all 40 aircraft of the Chinook MK2/2a fleet. This should be completed by August 2001.
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