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28 Jun 1995 : Column WA53

Written Answers

Wednesday, 28th June 1995.

Escape from Custody, 5 June

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What form of inquiry they propose to set up to establish the circumstances and causes of the escape from custody on 5 June 1995 of the Category A prisoner Mr. Wayne Black on his way from the Central Criminal Court to Belmarsh prison; whether the inquiry will consider whether there is any evidence of collusion, corruption, coercion, cowardice or incompetence; and whether the report will be published.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Marlesford from the Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Derek Lewis, dated 28 June 1995.

Lady Blatch has asked me to reply to your recent question about the escape from custody on 5 June 1995 of Mr. Wayne Black.

The Director of Security, Mr. Richard Tilt, has been instructed to carry out an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the escape from a secure Metropolitan Police vehicle of two high risk category A prisoners on 5 June. The inquiry will examine all aspects of the incident including the performance of their duties by the escorting staff. There are no plans to publish the report of the internal inquiry.

Southend Pier: Fire

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to set up an inquiry into the cause of the fire at Southend Pier.

Baroness Blatch: No. I understand that the fire was caused by an electrical fault in the bowling alley and spread rapidly through the roof timbers.

Law on Murder: Review

Lord Ackner asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken to implement the review of the law on murder announced on 24 January, and what, if any, conclusions have so far been reached.

Baroness Blatch: The review of the law on murder as it relates to the use of lethal force in self-defence or in the prevention of crime which was announced on 24 January is being conducted by Home Office officials in consultation with officials in other departments which have an interest. It will report to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary as soon as officials have been able to examine the issues.

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend that tritium should be included in the ban on the production of fissile material, and whether there are any other materials that in their view can be used in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices that could usefully be banned.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): The United Kingdom will participate fully in the negotiations which are likely to begin shortly on a convention to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive purposes. The coverage of the convention will be a matter for discussion between participating nations. Non-fissile materials such as tritium will not, however, be included.

Nuclear Test Ban: Negotiations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What tests they intend should be covered by the "comprehensive test ban treaty" which is referred to in the document by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament; whether they intend that the desk top tests be included in a ban; and whether they are contributing any views to the discussions now being carried on within the US administration about the US Department of Defense's wish that a Test Ban not be "comprehensive", but rather a "threshold test ban".

Lord Henley: Her Majesty's Government continue to work actively for the conclusion of the negotiations for a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by the end of 1996. We have made clear that our aim is to establish a comprehensive ban on nuclear-weapon test explosions in the atmosphere, underwater and underground. At the same time we consider that the treaty should not prohibit the UK, in common with the other nuclear-weapon states, from fulfilling its responsibilities to maintain the safety and reliability of its nuclear weapons. The question of the scope of the treaty is yet to be resolved. We are in touch with the US and other member states of the conference on disarmament on a wide range of issues relevant to the CTBT negotiations.

Territorial Army: Senior Appointments

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on senior appointments in the Territorial Army.

Lord Henley: Territorial Army (TA) officers regularly command TA units at lieutenant colonel level, and there are at present 39 TA officers at colonel level in staff appointments. At brigadier level, there is one dedicated TA post at Headquarters Land Command. Following consultation with senior military advisers, we intend that in future suitably qualified TA officers should have the opportunity to be considered for a range of staff and certain command appointments at brigadier level. Specifically, and subject to the availability of candidates

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of the appropriate calibre, we shall be establishing a post of Brigadier (TA) Development and Doctrine within the Army's Directorate of Development and Doctrine from 1996, to be filled by a TA officer. We also intend, probably from 1997, and subject again to the availability of suitable candidates, that the post of Director Reserve Forces and Cadets in the Central Staff of the Ministry of Defence, which is at present filled by a regular officer, should be filled by a one-star officer from the volunteer reserves of one of the three Services. I know that this will be welcomed by all reservists as further evidence of our commitment to the Reserve Forces.

Missile Defences: Israeli-Arab Relations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have discussed with any of the Arab governments in the Middle East their views on the missile defences funded and provided by western countries to Israel, and whether they consider these new defences are likely to improve relations between the European countries and the Arab states of North Africa and the Middle East.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): We have not discussed this matter with other governments.

Bosnia-Croatia: Military Support

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether either the Bosnian Government or the Croatian Government has been receiving military aid, training intelligence or any other official or unofficial military support either with the assistance or the knowledge of the US Administration; and if so, whether this is in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are not aware of any military support by the US Government to either the Bosnian or Croatian Government military efforts inconsistent with UN Security Council resolutions.

China: Care of Orphans and Abandoned Children

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assistance, if any, has been given by: (a) the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, (b) the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and (c) any recognised bodies in the United Kingdom for the care of orphans and abandoned children in China.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Neither the United Nations Population Fund nor the International Planned Parenthood Federation provide assistance for the care of orphans and abandoned children in China. We are not aware of any United Kingdom based organisations providing such assistance. The United Nations system's involvement in the care of children comes under the remit of the United Nations Children Fund.

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Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House such information as they have on (a) the standards of medical care for abandoned children in Chinese state orphanages, (b) what qualified persons care for abandoned babies in Chinese state orphanages, and (c) the number and sex of such children.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have no reliable information on the matters raised in this question.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that the condition of abandoned children in Chinese state orphanages is raised at the forthcoming UN Conference on Women in Beijing.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No. The Government are deeply concerned about reports of ill-treatment and neglect of children in Chinese orphanages, but the UN Conference on Women has not been called to address specific issues of this kind in individual countries.

Child Support: Reduced Benefit Directions

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish's remarks on 5th June at H.L. Deb., col. 1215, what information they hold on the 18,000 lone parents who have suffered a benefit penalty under the Child Support Act 1991; how many have since named the father; how many are still on benefit; how many are in employment; and how many have been imprisoned for criminal offences.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): From the launch of the agency in April 1993 to the end of April this year, the agency has recorded over 18,000 reduced benefit directions (RBD) as being issued to the Benefits Agency for them to consider implementing a reduction in benefit. Information on the number of RBDs implemented by the Benefits Agency has been collected since the beginning of last April. This shows that 2,361 RBDs were implemented during that month.

The more specific information requested is not available. However, since launch to the end of April this year, the Child Support Agency considered whether there was good cause not to co-operate with the agency in almost 162,000 cases. The parent with care (PWC) named the absent parent in over 25,800 of those cases. Good cause not to co-operate with the agency was accepted in 73,400 cases and was rejected in 60,500 cases. (These figures do not quite sum to the total as they have been drawn from a variety of sources.)

Although figures are not collected, the majority of PWCs subject to a RBD will not be in employment, but a small number of Family Credit and Disability Working Allowance claimants may be affected.

No information is held on the number of PWCs still receiving benefit or the number imprisoned for criminal offences following the imposition of a RBD.

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Dounreay Explosion in 1977: Effects

Viscount Hanworth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the beaches near Dounreay were closed immediately after the explosion from the nuclear waste pit; and to what extent the public and young children are likely to have been affected.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): The beaches near Dounreay were not closed to the public immediately after the explosion in the intermediate level waste disposal shaft in 1977. In their joint report of May 1995 (a copy of which has been placed in the Library) the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) and the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee (RWMAC) indicate that the 1977 explosion was the probable source of radioactive metallic particles

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found in the vicinity of the Dounreay Nuclear Establishment, though investigations by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and Her Majesty's Industrial Pollution Inspectorate (HMIPI) are continuing. Since 1977, as a result of monitoring, only one radioactive metallic particle has been found on the public beach at Sandside Bay in 1984 and a number of radioactive metallic particles on the Dounreay site and the Dounreay foreshore, to which the public does not have ready access. COMARE concluded in the recent joint report that the chance of an individual member of the public encountering the particles was extremely small. Because of the very low probability of encountering such particles, COMARE was of the opinion, based on the evidence currently available, that while the most active particles could cause acute effects, the metallic particles are most unlikely to explain the observed excess of childhood leukaemia in the Dounreay area.

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