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Employment of Children

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Cumberlege: We see no need for such an enquiry. Local authorities are best placed to assess the extent of any local problems with children's employment, and to address them appropriately.

Agency Privatisations

Lord Wade of Chorlton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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    When the sales of HMSO, Chessington Computer Centre, Recruitment and Assessment Services and the Occupational Health and Safety Agency were completed.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): These sales have all now been completed. Chessington Computer Centre was sold on 31st July to a consortium made up of a management and employee buyout team, Integris UK (the outsourcing division of Bull Information Systems Ltd.) and financial backers, Close Brothers. The consideration was £12.5 million, of which £1.25 million is deferred until 31st December 1999.

The Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OHSA) was sold on 18th September to BMI Health Services, which is part of General Healthcare Group plc. The consideration was £350,000. In addition, BMI are acting as agents for the Government to collect trade debts owed to OHSA which were estimated to be about £1.4 million when the sale was completed.

HMSO was sold on 30th September to National Publishing Group (NPG), a consortium led by Electra Fleming, to trade under the name The Stationery Office. The consideration was £54 million. In addition, NPG has raised £71 million to fund investment, restructuring and working capital for The Stationery Office. In a separate transaction in September, the Government sold an HMSO site near Manchester for £1.4 million.

Recruitment and Assessment Services were sold on 30th September to The Capita Group plc. The consideration was £7.25 million.

MoD Contracts

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Earl Howe's Answer of 22nd July (H.L. Deb., col. WA 121) relating to contracts for major British defence procurements and to the implications for this country of the presence of former Ministry of Defence officials and former United Kingdom armed forces personnel who are still subject to the Official Secrets Acts in the United States firms now tendering for those contracts, that "decisions on defence procurements are taken only after all relevant factors have been taken into account", indicates that they are now examining this matter.

Earl Howe: Crown servants are required to apply for official permission to accept appointments with defence contractors, whether in the UK or foreign-based, within two years of leaving Crown service if they have had official dealings with the prospective employer. The presence of ex-Crown servants in the employ of defence contractors is not, of itself, considered relevant to procurement decisions.

Mr. John Beckwith

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

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    Whether Mr. John Beckwith, who has been reported in the press to run the "Premier Club" which raises funds for a political party by introducing businessmen to Ministers of the Crown, is on short-lists for tendering for the Ministry of Defence's Forces' homes estate and for other government departments' estates now to be sold, and, if so, what steps they are taking to remove him from these short-lists.

Earl Howe: Mr. Beckwith has himself disclosed the inclusion of the BHL consortium on the short-list for the sale of the married quarters estate. I can therefore confirm that this is the case.

The selection of the eventual purchaser of the married quarters estate, as with all departments' estates where they are being sold will be made on the basis of a careful evaluation of all the final bids received, taking into account all relevant considerations. We do not regard the political affiliations of individual members of bidding groups as relevant considerations; it would be quite improper for us to discriminate between bidders on such a basis.


Lord Merrivale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take to ensure that Gibraltar remains a NATO "sub-principal command"; and whether they consider it an essential military location.

Earl Howe: Decisions have yet to be taken on the overall size and shape of the future NATO military command structure, and on the place within it of the facilities at Gibraltar. The Government recognise the value of these facilities, and will ensure that they continue to be available for national and NATO benefit.

European Convention on Human Rights: Impact on Ministerial Proposals

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

    Whether they will amend Questions of Procedure for Ministers so as to place a duty on Ministers, in submitting proposals to the Cabinet or Ministerial Committees, to draw attention to any aspects of those proposals which may be inconsistent with the obligations imposed upon the United Kingdom by the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Earl Howe: The Government do not regard it as necessary to make an amendment to Questions of Procedure for Ministers for this purpose. Ministers putting proposals to Cabinet or a Ministerial Committee are already required by Questions of Procedure for Ministers to cover, where appropriate, the impact of the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, where a department is considering legislation, it is required to ensure that its plans are compatible with the

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international human rights obligations of the United Kingdom, including the European Convention on Human Rights in particular.

Human Rights: Duty of Compliance

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

    Whether they will amend the list of ministerial responsibilities published by the Cabinet Office in May 1996 so as to indicate where ministerial responsibility lies in home departments for securing compliance with the international human rights treaties to which the United Kingdom is a party.

Earl Howe: I refer the noble and learned Lord to the reply given to him on 9th January 1995, Official Report, WA 1. All Ministers have the duty to which the Civil Service Code refers to comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations.

Latin America: London Conference

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will be hosting a high level commercial conference on Latin America in the near future.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): Yes. The Government are planning to hold a conference in London during the last week of January 1997.

Burma: Mr. Michael Cohen's Visit

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the cost to public funds of the trip to Rangoon by Mr. Mike Cohen, head of export sales to Asia and the Pacific at the Department of Trade and Industry, in June; what was the purpose of this visit, and whether, in light of Amnesty International's report Myanmar: Renewed Repression, published on 10th July, they consider that trade links with Burma should be promoted with the aid of taxpayers' money.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Mr. Cohen visited Rangoon in conjunction with a visit he needed to make to Thailand. The total cost of the visit was £5,191.87; the additional costs incurred in visiting Rangoon amounted to £114.58. The purpose of the visit was to gather information about the current market situation in Burma and the activities of our international competitors. The DTI has a responsibility to provide interested British companies with accurate information about the political and economic considerations of trading with Burma.

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Copyright and Related Rights: European Convention

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to sign the 1994 European Convention relating to Questions on Copyright Law and Neighbouring Rights in the Framework of Transfrontier Broadcasting by Satellite, and if not, why not.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: The United Kingdom expects to sign the convention, subject to ratification, shortly, with ratification following when the corresponding EC Directive 93/83 has been implemented. Our signing will demonstrate the Government's continuing commitment to a high level of protection for holders of copyright and related rights.

Northern Ireland: Co-ordination of Departmental Initiatives

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to improve co-ordination between departments in Northern Ireland concerning unemployment, job creation, community development and the delivery of services to those most in need; and whether they will consult the voluntary sector on these matters.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield): All Northern Ireland departments work with each other and continually seek to improve co-ordination with both the public and voluntary sectors on a wide range of issues including unemployment, job creation, community development and targeting social need. Examples of such co-ordination include Making Belfast Work; the Londonderry Initiative; Voluntary Activity Unit; Rural Development Programme; Strategy & Policy Co-ordination Group (vocational education and training); Inter-Departmental Group dealing with social marginalisation among young people, and Tourism Taskforce.

There is also currently a Training & Employment review of long-term unemployment involving all six Northern Ireland Departments.

In the criminal justice field there is already machinery in place to ensure co-ordination between departments on a wide range of issues, which include crime prevention; tackling drugs; marginalised youth; and domestic violence. The views of the voluntary sector are sought frequently.

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