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20 Jul 1995 : Column WA39

Written Answers

Thursday, 20th July 1995.

Emma Humphries: Court Transcripts

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House the transcripts of the judge's summing up and of the Appeal Court's judgment in the recent case of Emma Humphries.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Court Service under its Chief Executive, Mr. Michael Huebner. I understand the agency has responded to the question.

Letter to Lord Braine from the Chief Executive of the Court Service Mr. Michael Huebner, dated 19/7/95.

Domestic Violence–Transcript of Judge's Summing up

The Lord Chancellor has asked me to reply to the above Question about the transcript of the appeal judge's summing up in the case of Emma Humphries.

I can confirm that a copy of the trial judge's summing up was placed in the Library at the House of Lords on 10 July. As you are aware, the Appeal Court's judgment was given on 7 July 1995. In normal circumstances the shorthandwriters are required to provide the judge with the draft transcript within one month from the date the judgment was given. The judge is then required to agree the transcript and return it to the shorthandwriters for any amendments. In some cases there may be reasons why this deadline cannot be met. However, I can confirm that a copy of the judgment will be placed in the Library at the House as soon as it becomes available.

Resolution (77)31

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the United Kingdom has given effect to Resolution (77)31 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, adopted on 28 September 1977, on the protection of the individual in relation to the acts of administrative authorities so that the United Kingdom is guided in law and administrative practice by the principles annexed to the resolution.

The Lord Chancellor: The United Kingdom has over a very long time developed a careful network of arrangements for ensuring fairness and good government which is wider and more flexible than the principles by which governments of member states are invited to be guided by the resolution, and which is continuing to develop.

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Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps have been taken to give effect in the United Kingdom to Resolution (77)31 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, adopted on 28 September 1977, on the protection of the individual in relation to the acts of administrative authorities recommending that, where an administrative act is of such a nature as adversely to affect his rights, liberties or interests, the person concerned should be informed of the reasons on which the decision is based.

The Lord Chancellor: The code of practice on access to government information commits departments to give reasons for administrative decisions to those affected, in accordance with well-established practice in Government, the Citizen's Charter principles of increased openness and a developing line of decisions by the courts.

Recommendation R(80)2

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the United Kingdom has given effect to Recommendation No. R(80)2 concerning the exercise of discretionary powers by administrative authorities (adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 11 March 1980), recommending that the following basic principles should apply to the protection of the rights, liberties or interests of persons with regard to administrative acts taken in the exercise of discretionary powers, namely, that an administrative authority, when exercising a discretionary power should: (a) not pursue a purpose other than that for which the power has been conferred; (b) observe objectivity and impartiality, taking into account only the factors relevant to the particular case; (c) observe the principle of equality before the law by avoiding unfair discrimination; (d) maintain a proper balance between any adverse effects which its decision may have on the rights, liberties or interests of persons and the purpose which it pursues; (e) take its decision within a time which is reasonable having regard to the matter at stake; and (f) apply any general administrative guidelines in a consistent manner while at the same time taking account of the particular circumstances of each case.

The Lord Chancellor: The principles by which the recommendation invites governments of member states to be guided are, in the view of the Government, encompassed by the principles applied by the courts in deciding the lawfulness of administrative decisions or acts undertaken in the exercise of discretion.

HB 876 Anti-personnel Mine

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What quantity and what value of the HB 876 anti-personnel mine (or "sub-munition") were exported from the United Kingdom in the last 10 years; and to which countries; what part Ferranti Ltd,

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    Hunting Engineering and Royal Ordnance played in such exports; when the last export occurred; and whether overseas sales of existing stocks of HB 876 are still being permitted.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): It has been the policy of successive administrations not to disclose particulars of defence trade with other countries or details of export licences or applications for export licences unless the requirements of confidentiality are outweighed by the public interest.

Lead in Drinking Water: Leaflet

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Drinking Water Inspectorate will give advice to consumers about lead in drinking water.

Lord Lucas: The Drinking Water Inspectorate today published "Lead in Drinking Water". This leaflet gives consumers advice on how to find out if they have lead pipes in their home, whether the amount of lead in their drinking water exceeds the standard and how to minimise the level of lead in their drinking water. Copies of the leaflet has been placed in the libraries of both Houses.

Latent Defects Liability and "Build" Insurance

Lord Clark of Kempston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What responses they have received to the Department of the Environment's consultation document on latent defects liability and "BUILD" insurance.

Lord Lucas: The Department of the Environment has received a total of 109 responses to the consultation paper on latent defects liability and "BUILD" insurance which it published on 12 April. The paper put forward proposals for legislation resulting from recommendations in the report by Sir Michael Latham Constructing the Team. The responses will be taken into account in making decisions on any future legislation.

A list of the 99 non-confidential responses received has been placed in the Library of the House, together with a summary. Copies of individual responses and a report on the response may be obtained through the Library.

An analysis of responses to a second consultation document on fair construction contracts is now being prepared. One hundred and thirty five responses have been received. A list of non-confidential responses received together with a summary will be available from the Library shortly.

Countryside Commission Chairman

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce the appointment of a new chairman of the Countryside Commission.

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Lord Lucas: Selection of a new chairman of the Countryside Commission has been made by following a new process, involving advertisement of the post in the national press and the employment of executive search consultants. Over 120 candidates were produced by these methods, from whom we were able, with the advice and assistance of the consultants, to identify a shortlist of names of a high standard meriting serious consideration. Mr. Richard Simmonds clearly emerged from that shortlist as the best candidate and we are pleased to announce his appointment as the new chairman of the countryside Commission to take effect from 1 October.

Richard Simmonds has all the qualities which are needed for this post: in particular, he has wide and relevant experience, a considerable knowledge of countryside matters, leadership skills and the clear vision and sense of purpose required. He will make an excellent chairman.

PPG6: Revised Draft

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they proposes to issue for consultation his revision of Planning Policy Guidance Note 6 on Town Centres and Retail Developments.

Lord Lucas: Following the strong support given by the Environment Committee for the Government's policy on town centres and retail developments, we undertook to revise our planning policy guidance, PPG6, to clarify various issues. We have today issued for consultation revised guidance on this subject. Comments on the revised draft PPG6 are invited by 2 October 1995. We have arranged for copies of the draft revised PPG6 to be placed in the Library of the House.

The Government is strongly committed to urban regeneration and many of its policies are directed to this end. As part of this, the guidance reflects the Government's determination to revitalise our town centres by encouraging developers to invest in town centres. This applies not only to shopping developments, but also to other uses such as offices and other businesses, entertainment, leisure, and higher education. We are determined that town centres should be attractive and competitive locations for investment.

The draft guidance encourages local planning authorities, consulting business interests and the wider community, to draw up strategies for retail developments in their local development plans. This should provide greater certainty for investors. The draft advocates the sequential approach, whereby retail developments should look first to town centres, next edge-of-centre sites and only then out-of-centre sites, if no suitable sites are available. It advises local planning authorities to plan positively and identify suitable sites in their local plans. This does not mean a complete ban on out-of-town centre shopping developments, but such proposals will continue to need to be assessed against the tests of impact on existing centres, accessibility by a choice of means of transport and impact on overall car travel.

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The main changes to this guidance are:

i. on planning for town centres and retailing:

—emphasis on a plan-led approach to promoting development in town centres, both through policies and the identification of locations and sites for development;

—emphasis on the sequential approach to selecting sites for development, whether for food or comparison shopping; and

—support for local and neighbourhood centres.

ii. on town centres:

—promotion of mixed-use development and retention of key town centre uses, including cinemas;

—emphasis on the importance of a coherent town centre parking strategy in maintaining urban vitality, through a combination of location, management and pricing of parking for different user groups—it clarifies the relationship between PPG6 and PPG13;

—promotion of town centre management to develop clear standards of service and improve quality for town centre users; and

—promotion of good urban design, including attractive and secure car parks.

iii. on assessment of retail proposals:

—clarifying the three key tests for assessing retail developments: impact on vitality and viability of town centres; accessibility by a choice of means of transport; and impact on overall travel and car use;

—how to assess out-of-centre developments; and, finally

—how certain new types of retail developments should be assessed.

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