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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 17 June 2002


Assembly Elections

Kevin Brennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what responsibility he has for amendments to electoral law in relation to elections to the National Assembly for Wales. [62545]

Mr. Paul Murphy: I am responsible for making provisions, under section 11 of the Government of Wales Act 1998, in relation to the arrangements for Assembly elections. These provisions are set out in the National Assembly for Wales (Representation of the People) Order 1999 (SI 1999 No. 450). Earlier this year, important amendments were made to these provisions.

I am currently considering further changes, with a view to bringing arrangements for the 2003 Assembly elections into line with those for elections to this House.


Refurbishment Projects

Ms Walley: To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee what refurbishment projects (a) are in progress and (b) will start within the next six months; and what action is being taken to ensure that these will procure certified timber. [59771]

Derek Conway: The major projects currently in progress are:

The major maintenance and refurbishment projects due to start within the next six months are:

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In addition, the following major projects are due to start within the next six months in the House of Lords:

In 2000 a clause was added to the General Specification used for parliamentary projects requiring certification that timber is supplied from sustainably managed sources. For contracts written before that, certification is nevertheless sought from the contractors.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

David Winnick: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, how many days a week the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is working; and if he will make a statement. [61324]

Mr. Kirkwood [holding answer 13 June 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) on 12 June 2002, Official Report, columns 1245–46W.


Members of Parliament

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Minister for Women what steps the Government have taken to remove the barriers to women's membership of Parliament. [59079]

Ms Hewitt: The Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill completed its parliamentary stages on 28 January, and received Royal Assent in February. The Act enables political parties to use positive measures in the selection of candidates with an aim to reduce inequality in the numbers of men and women elected to our democratic institutions.

Employment Law (Transsexuals)

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister for Women what assessment she has made about the applicability of employment law relating to a transsexual person who is now a woman. [57278]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 20 May 2002]: The Sex Discrimination Act (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 in the fields of employment and vocational training to give protection against discrimination to people intending to undergo, undergoing, or who have undergone gender reassignment. The regulations help individuals who undergo reassignment to either sex. The Equal Opportunities Commission's powers were extended by the regulations so it can help people experiencing discrimination on these grounds. The commission is taking this forward effectively, and about two thirds of the requests it receives relate to employment or vocational training. A few individuals have taken cases to employment tribunals under the normal process for sex discrimination claims.

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Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many letters were received by each Minister in his Department in each month since June 1997. [59313]

Mr. Straw: The Cabinet Office publishes an annual report to Parliament on the volume of Members' correspondence received by Departments. The report for 2001 was published on Friday 24 May. Copies of previous reports are available in the Library of the House.

Records of other correspondence received by my Department are not kept centrally and can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects to provide the first of the monthly updates for the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam concerning the case of his constituent Mr. Jason Clark's father. [62542]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Friday 21 June.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the public consultations undertaken by his Department since June 2001, stating in each case the (a) number of respondents and (b) percentage of those specifically consulted who responded. [60151]

Mr. Straw: My Department has undertaken two formal written public consultations since June 2001:

Middle East

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Palestinians from the Church of the Nativity resident in (a) the Irish Republic and (b) other parts of the EU will be free to travel to the United Kingdom; and what steps will be taken to monitor attempts to enter the United Kingdom. [60178]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 10 June 2002]: The Common Position of the Council of the European Union concerning the temporary reception by member states of the European Union of certain Palestinians provides that acceptance in a member state does not imply a right for the persons concerned to move freely within the territories of the member states and that the validity of the national permit shall be limited to the territory of the member state concerned.

Any Palestinian received in another member state who sought to travel to the UK would normally require a visa for that purpose which, if applied for, would be considered in the normal way. Entry to the UK from the Republic of Ireland is governed by the Immigration Act 1971 and the Immigration (Control of Entry through the

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Republic of Ireland) Order 1972 and any visa national who enters the UK without the requisite visa is an illegal entrant. The normal expectation is that such an illegal entrant would be returned to the Republic of Ireland.

Movements into and out of the United Kingdom will be monitored in the usual way.

Staff Training

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much the Department has spent on staff training and development in each of the last five years. [61066]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has spent the following on training and development for UK-based and local staff both in the UK and overseas.


Sustainable Development

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 23 May 2002, Official Report, column 528W, on the EU meeting at Brussels, if he will make a statement on the nature and aim of the substantive contribution by relevant council bodies on the EU's role in the World Summit on Sustainable Development process; and if he will list the bodies involved in making that contribution. [61403]

Peter Hain: The Seville European Council is the opportunity for the EU to finalise its preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). The European Council Conclusions should set out major EU priorities for Johannesburg, focusing on poverty eradication and key initiatives such as freshwater and sanitation, and sustainable energy.

The Development Council, General Affairs Council and Seville European Council are all involved in producing the Conclusions, incorporating contributions from ECOFIN, the Environment Council and Article 133 Committee on trade. The Development Council of 30 May has for example already agreed substantive Conclusions setting out key priorities for action that the EU would like to be taken up at WSSD and detailing the external dimension of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. Copies of these are available on the EU Council of Ministers website at http://ue.eu.int/pressData/en/dev/ 70867.pdf.

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