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16 Jan 1996 : Column WA43

Written Answers

Tuesday, 16th January 1996.

Hanish Islands

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, during the period of British rule over Eritrea, the Hanish Islands were treated as part of the territory, and whether they will place in the Library of the House of Lords copies of any maps showing the extent of the territory at the time which are held in the archives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The status of the Hanish Islands has remained indeterminate since the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which provided that the future of the islands would be settled by the parties concerned. Maps of the region at that time are now with the Public Record Office.

NHS Ambulances

The Earl of Kimberley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many National Health Service ambulances are operational in the United Kingdom; and what percentage of them have four-wheel drive.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): It is for individual ambulance services to determine the number of ambulances which meet their requirements, and total numbers in England and Wales are not held centrally.

Scotland has 443 accident and emergency ambulances and 461 patient transport service vehicles, of which none is four-wheel drive.

Northern Ireland has 135 accident and emergency ambulances and 87 patient transport service vehicles, of which none is four-wheel drive.

Mental Incapacity: Law Commission Report

Lord Denham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response they intend to make to the Law Commission Report on Mental Incapacity (Law Com. No. 231).

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The Government have considered the Law Commission Report on Mental Incapacity very carefully and are grateful to the many individuals and organisations who have sent in their views on this subject. The Government appreciate that this is an important and sensitive subject,

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raising moral and ethical issues on which many people will have strong personal views.

The Government have decided not to legislate on the basis of the Law Commission's proposals in their current form and have also concluded that it would be inappropriate to make any proposals to Parliament in the absence of full public consultation. The Government propose to issue a consultation paper on mental incapacity in due course.

The Government wish to emphasise that they fully support the view of the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics that euthanasia is unacceptable and have no plans to change this policy. The Government's consultation will thus not include any proposals on this subject.

Domicile: Law Commission Report

Lord Denham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to bring forward legislation to give effect to the reforms of the law of domicile recommended by the Law Commissions in their report on this subject (Law Com. No. 168, Scot Law Com. No. 107).

The Lord Chancellor: The Government have decided not to take forward these reforms, on the basis that, although they are desirable in themselves, they do not contain sufficient practical benefits to outweigh the risks of proceeding with them and to justify disturbing the present long established body of case law on this subject.

Pensions after Divorce: Revenue Costs of Splitting

Baroness Hollis of Heigham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How (including the assumptions made) the figure given by the Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish during the Report Stage of the Pensions Bill of £300 million for increased tax relief if pensions could be split after divorce was calculated (H.L. Deb., 14 March 1995, col. 746); and how the cost is distributed on a yearly basis up to 2020; and

    (a) Whether they would expect there to be a loss in tax revenue if pensions could be split after divorce;

    (b) If so, what that loss would be on a yearly basis up to the year 2020; and

    (c) At what rate the pensions of divorced persons would require to be taxed to make the splitting of pensions after divorce cost-neutral in income tax terms.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The most recent estimate of the long-term revenue cost of allowing pensions to be split on divorce, which was in

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the reply given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Heald) to the honourable Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram), Official Report, 14 July 1995, col. 851, is around £200 million per year by 2037 at 1994 prices. The annual revenue cost is expected to be small in the early years, building up to some £80 million by 2020.

These estimates are based on data from the Survey of Personal Incomes, and the 1991 Government Actuary's Department survey of occupational pension schemes, and use the assumption that pensions will be split in up to three-quarters of divorces of first time marriages in which one spouse has substantial pension rights and the other has no non-state pension entitlement, and that the whole of the accrued pension is split. It is also assumed that two-thirds of those who are subject to a pension split on divorce will choose at least partially to rebuild their pension by making additional contributions.

It is not possible to say what rate of income tax would need to be applied to the pensions of divorced persons to make splitting of pensions on divorce cost-neutral as this will depend on the circumstances of each divorced couple when their pensions come into payment.

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Terrorism: Review of Legislation

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the Lord Lloyd of Berwick will gather evidence for his inquiry into the future requirement for legislation against terrorism.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Advertisements are being placed in the press inviting people to submit views to Lord Lloyd by

15 March. Lord Lloyd is writing, with the same invitation, to a wide range of interested parties throughout the United Kingdom. He will, in the course of his review, seek to elicit the widest possible range of fact and opinion.

Any person wishing to offer their views on the law against terrorism should write to Lord Lloyd at the following address:

    PO Box 9998


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