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PRIVY COUNCIL

Ministerial Representation

30. Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the President of the Council what plans he has to propose allowing the appearance in the House of Ministers that are not Members of the House (a) to answer questions and (b) to pilot legislation for which they are responsible. [101899]

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Mr. Robin Cook: I have no such plans and I have not previously been invited to bring forward such plans.

Privy Council

31. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council what reforms to the (a) working methods and (b) system of appointment of the Privy Council have been (i) initiated and (ii) carried through since 1997. [101900]

Mr. Robin Cook: Appointments to the Privy Council are made by Her Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. There has been no fundamental change to that practice since 1997.

Private Members' Bills

32. John Mann: To ask the President of the Council if he will bring forward proposals to the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons to move private Members' Bills to Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. [101901]

Mr. Robin Cook: The Procedure Committee is currently conducting an inquiry, which includes procedures for Private Members' Bills and the time for debate on them. I look forward to their report.

House of Lords Reform

33. Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the President of the Council what representations he has received arising from the recent votes on the reform of the House of Lords. [101902]

Mr. Robin Cook: I have received several letters from hon. and right hon. Members on behalf of their constituents, and a number more* from members of the public. In addition, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter) asked me about reform during last week's Business Statement. I said then that I had no plans to bring the issue back to this House until a fresh consensus has emerged.


Mr. Heath: To ask the President of the Council he will make a statement on progress towards House of Lords reform. [101903]

Mr. Robin Cook: Following the votes in both Houses last month, the Joint Committee is now considering options for the way forward. I understand they are to meet again on 25 March 2003. It will be for the Joint Committee to decide what, and when, they wish to report to both Houses. As I told the House on 6 March 2003, Official Report, column 969, I think that it would be premature to bring the matter back to the House until there is at least the makings of a majority in this Chamber for a particular way of reform.

Lord Chancellor (Pension Arrangements)

35. Gregory Barker: To ask the President of the Council when the Lord Chancellor's pension arrangements were last reviewed. [101904]

Mr. Robin Cook: The Review Body on Top Salaries reviewed the Lord Chancellor's pension arrangements in 1988; section 3 of the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991 formalised the salary lead over the

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Lord Chief Justice, which went through both Houses with all party agreement; and under the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Order 1996, the Lord Chancellor's salary is automatically set at £2,500 more than the salary of the Lord Chief Justice.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the President of the Council what the value is of the national pension funds that would be required to pay the Lord Chancellor's pension calculated on the basis of (a) the salary resulting from the recommendations of the report No. 54 of the Senior Salaries Review Body and (b) the reduced salary which the Lord Chancellor has indicated that he would accept. [97799]

Mr. Robin Cook [holding answer 13 February 2003]: The notional value of the Lord Chancellor's pension package (including dependants' benefits) which in fact is payable from the Consolidated Fund is estimated at around £2 million based on his current salary of £180,045. All other things being the same, this figure will vary on a pro-rata basis with his salary.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the President of the Council whether the Lord Chancellor's pension will be based on the full salary he has been awarded from 1 April. [97800]

Mr. Robin Cook [holding answer 13 February 2003]: The SSRB has been asked to look at the remuneration of the office of Lord Chancellor and make recommendations. Pending the outcome of this review, the Lord Chancellor's pension will be based on his salary at the time he leaves office.

Sitting Hours

36. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the President of the Council if he will make a statement on the sitting hours of the House. [101905]

Mr. Robin Cook: In October last year, a majority of Members voted to alter the sitting hours so that the House sat from 11.30 am on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I know that some Members are not comfortable with the change. I accept that adaptation will take time. It is for that reason that the Standing Orders were changed for the rest of this Parliament. This allows a sufficient period for colleagues to make a considered judgment on the effect of the changes. Members will then have the opportunity to decide whether they wish to revert to late-night sittings.

To review the changes after only a few months of the experiment would risk giving the public the impression that the most important decision-making body in the country could not take a clear decision even about its own working practices.

Peers (Convictions)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council what discussions he has had with the Lord Chancellor concerning the appropriateness of peers convicted of an offence resulting in imprisonment (a) retaining their title and (b) retaining their membership of the House of Lords; and if he will make a statement. [101814]

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Mr. Robin Cook: The Government made it clear in its November 2001 White Paper "The House of Lords: completing the reform" (Cm 5291) that it wished to consider the question of disqualification for membership of the House of Lords. Bringing the rules into line with those for the House of Commons, under which MPs convicted of an offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment exceeding 12 months lose their seats, was one of the options proposed. Such a change would require primary legislation, as would any change to deprive a convicted peer of his or her title.

Public Funding

Tony Wright: To ask the President of the Council how much public funding the Conservative Party has received since 1997. [101953]

Mr. Robin Cook: Since 1997, the Conservative Party has received the following under the arrangements for financial assistance to opposition parties:

Year£
1997–98986,763
1998–991,112,886
1999–20003,377,670
2000–013,465,132
2001–023,439,066
2002–033,459,537
Total15,841,054

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Accountancy Services

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total cost to his Department was for accountancy services in 2002. [101567]

Mr. Rammell: The total cost to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for accountancy services in 2002 was £1,796,000.

British Indian Ocean Territories

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the dates on which agreements have been reached with the United States authorities regarding the requirements for the construction of facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territories; and how many separate agreements have been made concerning (a) development of specific areas and (b) technical requirements. [100885]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The agreements that have been concluded with the US authorities relating to the construction of facilities in the British Indian Ocean Territory, including agreements concerning development of specific areas and technical requirements, are the following:




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In addition, at various times the UK and US Governments have recorded their understanding regarding the application of the above agreements.

In 2001, certain infrastructure upgrades to the existing US Navy Support Facility on Diego Garcia and its designation as a Bomber Forward Operating Location were agreed. Further infrastructure upgrades were also agreed in 2002.

Convention on the Future of Europe

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the UK Government tabled proposals to repatriate powers to the UK from the EU in the Convention on the Future of Europe. [102264]

Mr. MacShane: The UK Government have not tabled any proposals in the Convention to return powers from the EU to the UK. We are content with the existing division of powers. We have however tabled proposals to strengthen the subsidiarity and proportionality principles to ensure that the EU only acts where it adds value to national action.


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