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Royal Family (Private Law Rights)

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Attorney-General (1) on what basis he concluded that the proposed publication of the memoir of a former employee of the royal household at Buckingham palace constituted a deliberate attempt to interfere with the administration of justice; and if he will make a statement; [15853]

The Attorney-General: As Her Majesty's Attorney-General, I bring proceedings on behalf of Her Majesty in her private capacity to enforce her private law rights. This includes proceedings against employees or former employees of her household in respect of breach of confidence or breach of contract. I do not have the same function in respect of other members of the royal family or members of the public.

It is a contempt of court for a person who is not a party to proceedings to take steps which are intended to interfere with or impede the administration of justice by subverting the purpose of the proceedings. The contempt is criminal in nature. I can take proceedings for criminal contempt against that person. I take them not on behalf of the Government or the parties to the original proceedings but in my capacity as guardian of the public interest.

On 8 February it became apparent that The People intended to publish a story concerning a former employee of the royal household who was the subject of an injunction obtained from the High Court in 1983.

The next day, a letter was sent to the newspaper and its publisher enclosing a copy of the injunction and seeking an undertaking not to publish material of the kind referred to in it. Such publication would have been a criminal contempt of court.

21 Feb 1996 : Column: 166

Having considered the response of the editor I concluded that, on the information that she had provided as to the scope of the proposed story, it was not clear that it contravened the terms of the injunction, and it would not be in the public interest to take criminal contempt proceedings against the editor or the publisher. The newspaper was so informed on 15 February.

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Attorney-General on how many occasions he has taken action to restrain (a) newspaper publishers and (b) other publishers from publishing details of the private lives of (i) members of the royal family and (ii) other individuals in the last three years. [15856]

The Attorney-General: There is no record of any proceedings brought by me in the last three years for these purposes.


Probation Work

Mr. Robert McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is his assessment of the needs and circumstances in Northern Ireland that prevent his instructing the probation board from bringing policy into line with England and Wales by ending its rule of recruiting only those with a social work qualification for probation work. [12822]

Sir John Wheeler: I refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to my reply of 11 January to the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) Official Report, columns 298-99. Any change to the current Northern Ireland arrangements will be made in the light of experience in England and Wales, and after full consultation with all interested parties in Northern Ireland.


Mr. John D. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people in Northern Ireland have contracted meningitis in the past 10 years; how many people in Northern Ireland have died of meningitis in the past 10 years; what programme the Government have in place to inform residents of Northern Ireland about the programmes on meningitis and its prevention; what is the financial cost of the programme in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [15180]

Mr. Moss: The information on notifications of and deaths from meningitis is given in the table. Vaccination of pre-school children against Hib meningitis was introduced in Northern Ireland from October 1992 with a campaign to inform professionals and the public. The campaign cost £50,000 and the cost of the vaccination programme is in excess of £600,000 per annum. A further public awareness campaign about meningitis was mounted in February 1994 at a cost of £1,000.

YearNotifications (2), (3)Deaths(4)


(2) Returns submitted by Health and Social Services Board.

(3) Notifications since 1990 include meningococcal Septicaemia.

(4) General Register Office Northern Ireland.

n/a=Not yet available.

21 Feb 1996 : Column: 167

Nursery Voucher Scheme

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) how his nursery voucher scheme will address the needs of the most deprived children in the most deprived areas; [15455]

Mr. Ancram: Nursery vouchers will be introduced in Northern Ireland in 1997. The scheme will operate on similar lines to that in other UK regions, with all children being eligible for a voucher in the term after their fourth birthday. Details of the proposed arrangements in Northern Ireland will be made available for comment as soon as possible. New legislation will be required and this will be the subject of consultation later this year. The Government have provided an additional £8 million to meet the costs of the scheme in Northern Ireland, based on a voucher value of £1,100 for a full year.

School Travel

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the relative costs of school travel in Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. [15459]

Mr. Ancram: Comparative expenditure figures on school transport in Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom over the period 1989-90 to 1993-94 are provided in the table:


Northern Ireland20,60223,22927,44730,01532,199

21 Feb 1996 : Column: 168

Free School Transport

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the costs of free school transport in real and constant price terms in each year since 1979. [15461]

Mr. Ancram: The information is as follows:

Net expenditure £Constant prices £

(5) Estimate.

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many pupils have benefited from free school transport in each year since 1979; and if the pupils were in primary or secondary education. [15462]

Mr. Ancram: The information is set out in the table. Details by school sector are available only from 1984-85:

PrimaryPost primarySpecialTotal

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what limits there are on the financial assistance that is given to parents for free school transport for their children. [15460]

21 Feb 1996 : Column: 169

Mr. Ancram: Free home-to-home transport is currently provided where a pupil gains admission to a school outside statutory walking distance from home--defined as two miles for pupils under 11 and three miles for other pupils, measured by the nearest available route--and provided that a public or board transport service to or in the vicinity of the school is already available.

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