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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 7 November 2000


CPS Documents

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will list the conditions to be met for material found in the archives of foreign intelligence agencies to be regarded by the Crown Prosecution Service as of evidential value in legal proceedings. [136231]

The Solicitor-General: Any statement in a document found in the archives of a foreign intelligence agency will be hearsay and inadmissible if the reason for tendering the evidence is to prove the truth of the content of the document, unless the document can be brought within one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule. The most important of these, as regards statements in documents, are found in a number of statutes, for instance the Criminal Justice Act 1988.


Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Solicitor-General what the Crown Prosecution Service's policy is on prosecution of cyclists for (a) riding on pavements, (b) failing to display lights at night, (c) riding without warning bells or horns and (d) ignoring red signals at traffic junctions. [136257]

The Solicitor-General: Pedestrians and road users should be able to travel safely. Cyclists must take responsibility to ensure the safety of others and where the facilities are available make use of designated cycle lanes and at other times use the roadways. When cyclists have failed to act in a safe way thereby causing or potentially causing danger to others, offences arising out of this behaviour (such as riding on a pavement, failing to display lights, and ignoring signals) will be considered for prosecution.

Where cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service pass the evidential and public interest tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecuters, a prosecution will be brought. There is no law stating that pedal cycles must be ridden with warning bells or horns and the Crown Prosecution Service cannot prosecute such cases.


Steele Report

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to publish the report of the review of the proposal for a new police fund to assist the widows and families of RUC officers murdered as a result of terrorist action; and if he will make a statement. [137114]

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Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 23 October 2000, Official Report, columns 20-21W, what the recommendations are of John Steele's report on implementation of recommendation 87 of the Patten report; how he plans to respond to each of the recommendations proposed; and what estimate he has made of the cost of implementing each recommendation. [135792]

Mr. Mandelson: I received the report from John Steele on 27 October. It is being published today, and copies are being placed in the Library of both Houses. Copies are also being sent to all those parties with whom Mr. Steele had meetings.

The Government are grateful to Mr. Steele for taking on this sensitive review of the recommendation (recommendation 87) by the Independent Commission on Policing and for concluding his review so promptly. We welcome his comprehensive and thorough report. The Government are undertaking a detailed assessment of each of the specific proposals and these will form the basis on which the Government take forward implementation of this very important Patten recommendation.

In particular, the Government agree that a new fund should be established covering in scope deaths and injuries caused directly by terrorist violence against members of the police in Northern Ireland. The fund would help seriously injured police officers, and retired officers and their families, as well as police widows.

The Government will establish a Trust to administer the fund, on the basis proposed, as soon as possible.

The Government also accept the key recommendation that widows of police officers who were killed as a result of terrorist activity prior to 25 November 1982 should receive lump sum payments. We will look to see how these payments, along the lines proposed in Mr. Steele's report, can be made without undue delay.

The Government have already implemented the related recommendation, recommendation 88, that the Widows' Association should be given premises and a regular source of finance to run their organisation. The Widows' Association moved into new premises, and funding began, in September.


Joint Exercise (Oman)

Mr. Rapson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for the armed forces to undertake a joint exercise in Oman in Autumn 2001. [137361]

Mr. Hoon: Exercise Saif Sareea 2 will take place in Oman in September and October 2001. This will be a major Joint and Combined exercise with the Sultan's Armed Forces. The exercise will demonstrate the Joint Rapid Reaction Force concept, which was a central pillar of our Strategic Defence Review by deploying, sustaining and recovering a Joint Task Force at medium scale to conduct an Out of Area Operation. It sends a very clear signal about our commitment to the Gulf region and will show Britain's ability to deploy rapidly a considerable force, with real punch, over large distances. The UK contribution will include a Naval Carrier Task Group, Armoured and

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Commando Brigades and around 50 combat aircraft. The exact number of personnel taking part has yet to be finalised, but our contribution will be in excess of 20,000.

Sponsored Reserves

Mr. Ian Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the use of Sponsored Reserves. [137548]

Mr. Spellar: The first agreement for the use of what are familiarly known as "Sponsored Reserves" was signed on 27 October 2000 on behalf of the Meteorological Office and the RAF's HQ Strike Command. Introduced by the Reserve Forces Act 1996, this new form of reserve service extends the ability of the private sector and Government agencies to provide specialist support on operations as well as in peacetime. More properly known as special members of a reserve force, sponsored reservists are employed as civilians in peacetime and as volunteer members of a reserve force when deployed to support operations.

The Mobile Meteorological Unit (MMU) provides meteorological support to the RAF in peacetime and to UK and Allied Forces when these forces are operating away from their fixed bases. Some 60 staff of the MMU form a unit of the RAF Reserve. Members will be routinely called out on a rotational basis under the terms and conditions of employment developed from the abroad consultation process with Industry that followed the Reserve Forces Act's coming into force in April 1997. This agreement represents the first use of the SR concept by my Department and builds on the established working pattern of the MMU which has supported operations since 1962 with great distinction.

Departmental Building Costs

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the answer of 26 October 2000, Official Report, column 160W, regarding his Department's headquarters in Whitehall, which companies or consortia other than Modus Services plc were (a) invited to apply for the public-private partnership contract and (b) applied for the public private-partnership contract; what independent assessment was made of his Department's office requirements prior to the contract being signed; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the contract between his Department and Modus Services plc. [136673]

Dr. Moonie [holding answer 6 November 2000]: As a result of advertisements requesting Expressions of Interest in December 1996, over 30 companies were issued a Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM) in February 1997. Eight consortia responded to the PIM and six consortia were invited in mid 1997 to submit outline proposals for the public-private partnership project for the redevelopment of the Ministry of Defence Main Building in Whitehall. These were:

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In late 1997, invitations to negotiate were issued to three consortia as follows:

The project represents a long-overdue modernisation and rationalisation of the MOD's Headquarters in Whitehall. The building dates from the 1950s, its infrastructure is inefficient, the offices fall well short of modern standards and are close to becoming a health hazard. The requirement was subject to the usual extensive scrutiny within Government and a number of alternatives were considered. I am withholding a copy of the contract under Exemption 7 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

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