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30 Jan 1996 : Column WA103

Written Answers

Tuesday, 30th January 1996.

Ministers: Public Statements

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the criteria upon which it is decided when Ministers may make public statements on matters of public policy which do not constitute Government policy.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): Ministers are not encouraged to do so.

Mr. Nicholas Soames

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Pursuant to their replies of 28 November (WA 42) and 18 December (WA 122) about the statements concerning the Royal Family made by Mr. Soames, the Minister of State for Defence, whether in making those statements he fulfilled the expectation that Ministers should act in accordance with the policies of the Government.

The Lord Privy Seal: I have nothing further to add to my Answers of 28 November and 18 December 1995.

UN War Crimes Tribunal: Assistance by IFOR

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to amend the terms of reference of IFOR (Implementation Force), so that commanders may comply, without reference to higher authority, with any requests made to them by Judge Richard Goldstone, the Chief Prosecutor, for help in investigating suspected mass graves in Bosnia.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): NATO and IFOR fully support the efforts of the United Nations tribunal which is responsible for investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and bringing to justice those individuals indicted by the tribunal. The Commander of IFOR, Admiral Leighton Smith, and the Chief Prosecutor of the tribunal, have agreed on procedures to co-ordinate their respective missions and on how best IFOR can provide assistance to the tribunal's investigations. Justice Goldstone has said he is satisfied with the level of support offered by Admiral Smith and agreed that IFOR support should be provided within the limits of its mandate and available resources.

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South Korea: Military Exercises

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What commitments, during his recent visit to South Korea, did the Secretary of State for Defence make, and why, about British support for United States and South Korean military exercises and nuclear-capable deployments in and around the Korean peninsula.

Earl Howe: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence made no commitments of support to United States and South Korean military exercises and nuclear-capable deployments around the Korean peninsula.

Criminal Legal Aid in the Magistrates' Courts

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the fifth successive qualification by the Comptroller and Auditor General of his opinion of the Legal Aid Appropriation Account, whether they have reconsidered removing responsibility for the grant of criminal legal aid from the magistrates' courts.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): This Question highlights a difficult problem to which I and my department have accorded high priority for a considerable time.

The Legal Aid Act 1988 vests in the magistrates' courts the function of deciding on the grant or refusal of legal aid in criminal cases. In the performance of their functions the courts act independently of any government department.

In December 1993 I explained to the House that the Comptroller and Auditor General had repeatedly qualified his opinion on my department's appropriation account because of material uncertainty as to whether the regulations governing the grant of criminal legal aid were being applied with sufficient rigour. I affirmed to the House that in no circumstances could any irregularity in dispensing public money be acceptable, and I recounted the measures I had taken to rectify matters.

Among them was an examination of the feasibility of transferring the function to the Legal Aid Board.

I explained to the House that the risks to the speed and efficiency of criminal procedures deterred me from taking that step at that time. However, I undertook to give further consideration to that and alternative measures if other continuing action failed to achieve an acceptable result.

During the last two years I have made numerous statutory and administrative changes, with the help and co-operation of the Legal Aid Board and the Justices' Clerks Society. The results have been closely audited both by my department and by the National Audit Office. I am pleased to report that significant improvements in the levels of compliance with the

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regulations have recently become apparent. The improvement is marked enough to give reason to think that satisfactorily high levels of compliance could be achieved under the present arrangements, although further marked improvements are needed to achieve that result.

I have now proposed more fundamental reforms of the legal aid scheme as a whole, as described last year in the Green Paper Legal Aid--Targeting Need. In these circumstances I do not propose any earlier change in the arrangements for the grant of criminal legal aid in the magistrates' courts, so long as the improvement in compliance with the regulations is maintained. I shall announce my intentions regarding the wider reforms when I have completed my consideration of the public responses to the Green Paper.

Common Land: Management

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will commission a management guide to identify and publicise best practice in managing common land, as mentioned on page 112 of the White Paper Rural England (Cm 3016); what will be the remit of this commission; and when they expect the management guide to be available for debate.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): After consulting the major interests, we expect to let the contract for a research project to produce a best practice guide for the management of common land about mid-year. The objective of the guide will be to assist managers of common land in practising environmentally friendly farming, conservation of the landscape and habitats and appropriate recreational use. The contract should take about 12 months to complete, so the guide should be available in autumn 1997.

Alnwick: Development Proposal

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of draft Planning Policy Guidance 6 of July 1995, they will consider calling in Planning Application No. 96/A/001-4 application by Safeway to build a superstore on the outskirts of Alnwick, Northumberland, in view of the potential impact which such a development could have on a small market town.

Earl Ferrers: Those applications have been sent to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment for information. He is aware of the considerable local concern at the potential impact of such a development on the vitality and viability of Alnwick town centre as a whole. He is also aware that in 1993, Alnwick District Council granted outline planning permission for retail and other development on this site. The Secretary of State is currently considering whether or not he should call in these applications.

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HIV and AIDS: Treatment and Care Funding

Baroness Jay of Paddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the total sums they have allocated in 1995-96 and 1996-97 towards the costs of HIV/AIDS work (a) undertaken by the NHS in England; (b) included in the initial cash limits of health authorities in England for treatment and care; and (c) to the following health authorities for treatment and care:

    (i) Camden and Islington;

    (ii) Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow;

    (iii) East London and the City;

    (iv) Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster;

    (v) Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham (South East London); and

    (vi) Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): A sum of £245 million was allocated to the National Health Service in 1995-96 towards the costs of HIV work. We plan to allocate £236.9 million for this work in 1996-97. Of these sums, a special allocation of £49.4 million was made in 1995-96 for HIV prevention. It is planned to make a special allocation of £50.8 million in 1996-97. Allocations of £195.1 million in 1995-96 and £185.6 million in 1996-97 have been included in planned initial cash limits of health authorities in England to provide financial assistance for treatment and care.

In addition, £13.4 million was made available to local authorities in 1995-96 for the community care costs of people with HIV and AIDS. This has been increased to £13.7 million for 1996-97.

£26.75 million has been allocated in 1995-96 to provide financial assistance for health authorities in England for drug misuse services and £27.5 million has been included in initial cash limit allocations for 1996-97.

The following table sets out treatment and care allocations to the following health authorities.

Health Authority1995-96(1) £ million1996-97 £ million
Camden and Islington23.49622.655
Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow13.44212.350
East London and the City19.00418.236
Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster47.39245.527
Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham14.12213.905
Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth5.3485.753

(1) Sums as notified by North Thames Regional Health Authority.

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