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27 Feb 1996 : Column WA91

Written Answers

Tuesday, 27th February 1996.

UN Electoral Assistance Division: UK Staff

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the names and qualifications of the five United Kingdom personnel appointed to the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division; the places from which they will operate, and the dates they will be present in the country.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): There are no British citizens at present appointed to the permanent staff of the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division in New York. We understand one British citizen is employed there temporarily. The Electoral Assistance Division has also employed a British citizen as a consultant to monitor the elections in Sierra Leone on 26th February.

European Commission: Members' Allegiance

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the reply given by Lord Inglewood on 19th February (HL Deb., col. 857), whether European Commissioners are expected to put the interests of the European Communities before those of the nation which nominated them, or vice versa.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Pursuant to Article 157(2) of the treaty establishing the European Community, members of the Commission make a solemn declaration that they will perform their duties in complete independence, in the general interest of the Communities.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the reply given by Lord Inglewood on 19th February (HL Deb., col. 857), whether European Commissioners swear an oath of office, and if so what are its terms, and whether it has precedence over the oath of a Privy Counsellor.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: European Commissioners make a solemn declaration before the European Court of Justice. They undertake:

to perform their duties in complete independence, in the general interest of the Communities;

in carrying out their duties, neither to seek nor to take instructions from any government or body;

to refrain from any action incompatible with their duties;

to respect, both during and after their term of office, the obligations arising therefrom, and in

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particular the duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after they have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits.

The declaration is compatible with the oath of a Privy Counsellor.

Turkey: Incidents in Sivas Province

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek information about military operations in Sivas province, Turkey, in which some 300 villages mainly inhabited by Alevi Turks are alleged to have been blockaded and 500 persons detained.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Yes. Our Embassy in Ankara will call on members of the Turkish parliamentary commission set up to investigate these incidents. It will also seek additional information from the delegation of MPs which recently visited the region.

Turkey: Mr. Abdulmelik Firat

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the Government of Turkey to release to hospital Mr. Abdulmelik Firat, formerly MP for Erzurum, currently imprisoned in Bayrampasha prison, Istanbul, in view of his need for constant medical attention.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are aware of the case of Mr. Abdulmelik Firat. We understand he is receiving medical attention in prison while his case proceeds.

Gambling: Consultation Paper

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will be issuing the consultation paper on relaxation of the restrictions on casinos, bingo clubs and advertising of commercial gambling.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has published today a consultation paper which constitutes a comprehensive review of the law on casinos, licensed bingo clubs and the advertising of commercial gambling, and which restates principles for the regulation of gambling. It proposes a number of relaxations in the law.

Subject to this consultation, my right honourable friend proposes to bring forward orders under Section 1 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 to implement the changes. The paper constitutes formal consultation on some of the proposals for the purpose

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of Section 3(1) of the 1994 Act. Other proposals will need to be the subject of further detailed consultation before implementation. Comments on the proposals are requested by the end of May 1996.

The main proposals on casinos are as follows:

Secondary legislation to allow casinos in 13 new locations. The additional areas proposed are:














A reduction in the 48-hour waiting time for membership of a casino to 24-hours, together with provision for postal applications and group membership.

A new regime for gaming machines, with increased numbers and higher stakes and payouts.

An extension to liquor licensing hours.

Advertising of the location of casinos in directories and guides.

Payment by debit card.

The proposals on bingo are:

An end to the requirement that bingo establishments operate as members' clubs with a 24-hour waiting period for membership.

Abolition of the demand criterion for the granting of licenses.

Removal of restrictions on added prize money and on frequency and prizes in multiple bingo (the National Game).

Payment by debit card.

Extension of bingo licences from one year to three years.

Removal of the remaining restrictions on print advertising.

The Government are minded to allow broadcast advertising of bingo subject to the response to the consultation document.

The document also proposes the removal of the ban on the on-site print advertising of gaming machines and the print advertising (but not broadcast advertising) of betting offices.

These measures represent a balanced package of reform which aims to provide new opportunities for the industry and the consumer while maintaining the effective regulation of gaming.

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The timetable for the implementation of changes arising from this document will depend on a number of factors, including the response to the consultation and the availability of additional resources for the Gaming Board of Great Britain and the courts.

Pet Animals: European Convention

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the policy of the United Kingdom in respect of accession to the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals.

Baroness Blatch: The Government remain firmly committed to adopting reasonable measures to improve the treatment of animals, but they are not at present convinced that accession to the Pet Animals Convention would add significantly to the protection which domestic animals already enjoy under existing United Kingdom law. The Government will review the position again at the end of the decade.

Personal Data: Protection

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

    Whether, in the light of the decision of the House of Lords in R v Brown, 9th February 1996, they intend to introduce an amendment to Section 5 (2) (b) of the Data Protection Act 1984 so as to make it an offence to recall personal data from a database on to a computer screen and to read the information so displayed; and

    Whether they consider that the decision of the House of Lords in R v Brown, 9th February 1996, will make it necessary to amend the Data Protection Act 1984 to comply with the obligations imposed by the European Community Directive on Data Protection, in accordance with the directive's stated purpose of protecting an individual's right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data.

Baroness Blatch: The judgment in R v Brown was narrow in scope. Although it makes clear that an individual employee cannot be prosecuted under the Data Protection Act for browsing computerised personal data, it does not deal with the Act's controls over subsequent improper use of such data.

The Government will consider the implications of the judgment in developing proposals for implementing the EC Data Protection Directive--on which they hope shortly to issue a consultation document.

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Sickle Cell Anaemia: Ante-natal Testing

Viscount Mersey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what extent they are publicising the need for pre-natal testing for sickle cell anaemia.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The Department of Health published the report of the Standing Medical Advisory Committee working party on sickle cell, thalassaemia and other haemoglobinopathies in February 1994 and has distributed it widely both within and outside the National Health Service. The report made a number of recommendations about screening for haemoglobinopathies, including antenatal screening. Individual health authorities are responsible for assessing the needs of their resident populations and for purchasing services, including haemoglobinopathy screening, to provide for those needs.

Copies of the report are available in the Library.

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