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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 10 January 2000



Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will issue guidance to the Crown Prosecution Service on improving communications with the victims of stalking; and if he will make a statement. [104040]

The Solicitor-General: The Victim's Charter commits the police to keep all victims informed of developments in the case regardless of the nature of the offence. Currently, the CPS provides to the police information about prosecution decisions for them to forward to victims, or their families, as appropriate.

The CPS has a specific role in stalking cases to assist victims when the court has made a restraining order under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and when subsequently there is a need to seek a variation of the order. The victim is informed of any application to vary the restraining order and asked to express views and, if necessary, to attend. Again, however, the guiding principle is that the CPS communicates with the victim through the police.

The Home Office will shortly be issuing national 'good practice' guidelines to the police and other agencies resulting from the final evaluation of the "One Stop Shop" initiative, which was established to see how the Victim's Charter commitment to keep victims informed might best be met.

Following recommendations in Sir Iain Glidewell's report into the CPS and Sir William Macpherson's report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, the CPS is committed to adopting a more proactive role in communicating with victims. The Service is currently piloting arrangements for taking on responsibility to communicate direct with victims rather than via the police. The pilots will be evaluated before an implementation plan is devised.


United Kingdom European Delegations

Mr. Terry Davis: To ask the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library the latest Information Bulletin on the activities of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of Western European Union covering the period May to October. [104032]

The Prime Minister: I have done so today.

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Defence Systems Exhibition

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action the Government are taking regarding reports in connection with the 1999 Defence Systems Equipment Exhibition that an official at the Pakistan High Commission in London offered to sell anti-personnel mines destined for Sudan. [104296]

Mr. Vaz: The allegation that an official at the Pakistan High Commission offered to sell anti-personnel mines has been referred to HM Customs and Excise as the appropriate law enforcement agency and I have protested strongly to the Pakistani High Commission.

Konrad Kalejs

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) on what occasions (a) he, (b) Ministers in his Department and (c) his officials have discussed the case of Konrad Kalejs with the Australian authorities; and what was the nature of the discussions and information received; [104389]

Mr. Vaz: Neither the Secretary of State nor FCO Ministers have had contact with their American, Australian, Canadian, or Latvian counterparts on the issue of Konrad Kalejs.

At the request of the Home Office, British officials in Riga and Canberra discussed Kalejs with host Governments. British officials passed a request for information from the American Embassy in London to the Home Office. Officials in Ottawa and Washington have been in contact with their host Governments.

The purpose of discussions with the Australian and Latvian authorities was to make them aware of developments in the Kalejs case, and to inform them of our readiness to pass on all relevant information, held by HMG.

The purpose of discussions with the Americans and Canadians was to ask that all relevant information they had on Kalejs be passed to authorities in Australia and Latvia.

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The Latvian authorities informed us on 3 January that they were reopening their investigation into Kalejs, indicated that they had first investigated him in 1992, and said that they had since maintained close links with US and Canadian authorities.

The Australians informed officials that they did not have an extradition treaty with Latvia, but would consider any extradition request made.

British Diplomatic Posts (Costs)

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the running costs of the British embassies in (a) Paris and (b) Washington. [104087]

Mr. Hain: The running costs for Paris include all Locally Engaged (LE) staff costs of subordinate Posts throughout France. Similarly Washington costs include LE staff throughout the USA. The total staff levels are 248 for Paris, of which 44 are UK based, and 535 for Washington, of which 55 are UK based. It is therefore not possible to draw proper comparisons between the running costs of the two Embassies. However, the ratio of 5:4 UK based staff between Washington and Paris is not considered unreasonable.

It is important to look at these figures in context: the FCO employs fewer staff and costs less to run than Birmingham City Council. The cost of running the FCO in London and at its 221 posts overseas amounts to less than one-third of one per cent. (0.3 per cent.) of all Government expenditure, and less than 0.15 per cent. of UK GDP. The total FCO budget costs each man, woman and child in Britain only 5p a day.

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the annual running costs were of UK embassies in (a) the European Union and (b) the USA, in the last year for which figures are available. [104130]

Mr. Hain: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 14 December 1999, Official Report, column 109W, specifically the answers to parts (a) and (b).

International Tribunal on War Crimes

Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the role of British forces in providing information to the International Tribunal on War Crimes in Kosovo. [102342]

Mr. Hoon: I have been asked to reply.

The British Government are strong supporters of the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in Kosovo (ICTY), as in other parts of the Former Yugoslavia. As part of KFOR, British forces have assisted the work of ICTY investigators, notably by providing a secure environment in which they can work. British service personnel were also involved, earlier this year, in debriefing Kosovar refugees, in Macedonia and elsewhere, and the information gained has been passed to the Tribunal.

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Planning Approvals (New Homes)

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it his policy to (a) limit and (b) reduce planning approvals for new homes in West Sussex. [104308]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The decision whether to grant planning permission for proposed new housing developments is, in the first instance, a matter for the local planning authority concerned. Applications shall be determined in accordance with the development plan for the area, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. In formulating their development plans local authorities must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. We expect to publish new national planning policy guidance on housing (PPG3), and final proposals for the new regional planning guidance for the South East (RPG9), soon.

Environmental Assessments

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many of the Bills published since the Queen's Speech were accompanied by a statement of their implications for the environment. [104271]

Ms Beverley Hughes: It is the Government's policy that environmental aspects should be considered fully alongside the economic and social considerations during the development or review of a policy. My Department stands ready to advise on appraisal and monitoring systems. But it is for individual Departments to set up their own systems to ensure that their policies take account of the environment and that, where necessary, environmental appraisals are carried out. The overall policy and its operation is monitored by the Green Ministers' Committee, which reports annually in July.

Since the Queen's Speech, the DETR has published two Bills, the Transport Bill and the Local Government Bill. The Transport Bill and a Regulatory, Environmental and Equal Treatment Appraisal were published on 1 December 1999.

The Local Government Bill provides a new discretionary power for local authorities to take steps which, in their view, promote the economic, social and environmental well-being of those who live, work in or visit their local area, in order to improve the quality of life locally. The remainder of the Bill addresses the way in which local authorities are organised and elected and carry out their business. In this case, no specific environmental impact statement has been published.

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