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26 Feb 1996 : Column WA87

Written Answers

Monday, 26th February 1996.

Al Haram Ash Sharif: Access by Muslims

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have about alleged restrictions placed by Israeli military authorities on access to the Al Haram Ash Sharif in Jerusalem by Muslims during the current Ramadan.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The current closure of the West Bank and Gaza means that many Palestinians are unable to travel to Jerusalem to visit Al Haram Ash Sharif. Some Palestinians over 30 years of age who live in the West Bank have been given special permission by the Israelis to visit Al Haram Ash Sharif.

Outer Space: Control of Weaponry

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, in answering a Question about the weaponisation of space (14 February 1996, WA 48), they quoted only Article IV of the 1967 Space Treaty, and not Article I, which states that "the exploration and use of outer space . . . shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic and scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind", and whether they do not consider that current and proposed United States uses severally and unambiguously breach this article.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The specific provisions relating to the military use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, are contained in Article IV of the Outer Space Treaty. We do not believe that the United States is in breach of its obligations under the treaty.

Sierra Leone: Elections and Security

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reports they have received about attacks on the home of Mr. James Jonah, the Chairman of the Interim National Election Commission in Sierra Leone, and threats made against other members of INEC; and whether they are satisfied that adequate measures are being taken to ensure the security of all officials and observers during the period of the elections.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: On 10th February grenades were thrown at Dr. Jonah's house and INEC offices. No-one was injured. We have been assured by the Sierra Leone government that they will do all in their power to ensure the security of the elections.

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THORP Reprocessing Plant: Safety

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the full judgment of stipendiary magistrate Gillespie (placed in the House of Lords Library by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie on 5 February in support of his Answer to an oral Question by Lord Jenkins of Putney on the same day) substantiates the Observer's report or Lord Fraser's Answer.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): I have nothing to add to my Answer given on 5 February 1996, Official Report, at cols. 1-3.

House of Lords: Fire Safety Improvements

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked the Chairman of the Committees:

    What change in the fire regulations necessitated the extension of the staircase around Lift 13 from the first to the second floor of the House of Lords; when that change to the regulations was made; and what was the original estimate of the cost of the work and the date of completion.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The improvements to this staircase were recommended by the fire safety authorities to provide improved safety exits in the south east area of the Palace. The scheme, approved by the Administration and Works Sub-Committee on 4th May 1993, has the additional benefit of permitting space in the narrow back stair to be used for storage. The estimate of cost of the work was £28,000 and the date of completion originally December 1996. The operation has been brought forward to form part of the major current contract and consequently will cost less.

Parliamentary Passes

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    How many persons other than Members of both Houses of Parliament, have passes allowing access to all parts of the Parliamentary Estate; and

    How many secretaries and researchers working for Lords and Members of the House of Commons have passes allowing access to all parts of the Parliamentary Estate.

The Chairman of Committees: No pass holder whether a Peer, Member, Officer or other, has unlimited access to all parts of the Parliamentary Estate. In general, a pass only allows access to those areas where the person is entitled to be at that specific time. Access is governed by where a passholder is located, by House Regulations or by Automatic Access Control.

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The number of Secretary and Research Assistant passes on issue at 11 am on 16th February 1996 was as follows:

Passes issued
Peers' Secretaries39
Peers' Research Assistants138
MPs' Secretaries785
MPs' Research Assistants490

The total number of persons with passes, excluding members of both Houses and their staff, was 9,918.

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What steps he will take to ensure that all persons working within the Parliamentary Estate wear their photo identity passes whilst on the premises.

The Chairman of Committees: The Docklands bomb exploded on Friday, 9th February. At about mid-day on Monday 12th February an instruction was issued to all members of the staff of the House of Lords to the effect that they should wear and display their passes with immediate effect. A copy of that instruction is attached. This regime is also applied within the House of Commons.

At the same time instructions were passed to all members of the police on duty in and around the House of Lords to ensure that these instructions were enforced.

Black Rod has also spoken to the Whips and the Convenor of the Cross Bench Peers asking them to encourage their Peers to wear their passes in order to assist the Security authorities.

ABM Treaty and UK Firms

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any British firms taking part in anti-ballistic missile work are working in fields in which United States firms are precluded from working by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The interpretation of the provisions of the ABM treaty is a matter for the parties involved. The UK is not a signatory.

Unemployment: Comparative Figures

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current rate of unemployment in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) Japan, and (c) the United States of America.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Comparable unemployment figures on the International Labour Organisation definition are published by the OECD. These show for the latest available periods that the rate of unemployment was 8.6 per cent. in the

UK (December 1995), 5.5 per cent. in the USA (December 1995) and 3.2 per cent. in Japan (November 1995).

Development Education: DFEE Spending

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much the Department for Education and Employment spent in 1995 on activities connected with development education (i.e. education which relates to developing countries) in schools; and whether the department has a continuing responsibility for ensuring the provision of such education.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): Education about developing countries is included in the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum, which all children in maintained schools must study. Support for the National Curriculum is provided through the Government's Grants for Education Support and Training programme.

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