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Written Answers

Monday, 28th October 1996.

Overseas Development Administration

Lord Pym asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are taken by the Overseas Development Administration to ensure that all aid projects are assessed for their environmental sustainability.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): All projects are subject to environmental assessment according to the guidelines and procedures set out in the Manual of Environmental Appraisal. ODA has recently revised and updated the manual. It is accompanied by guidance on the major international environmental agreements and their implications for both aid donors and recipients. Copies of both documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

Lord Pym asked Her Majesty's Government:

    If they will provide details of the departmental minute which the Overseas Development Administration laid before the house on 20th August 1996.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The departmental minute reported the assumption of contingent liabilities arising from tax indemnities given to the commercial banks which are making concessional loans to developing countries to finance the following projects:

Country Project Estimated Maximum Liability £
1 IndonesiaAdvancement of S1 Science and Technology 1,432,665
2ChinaGuangzhou Metro Ventilation Systems 416,051

It was necessary to give the indemnities urgently during the Parliamentary Recess to avoid delaying the start of these two projects.

The departmental minute also reported that the contingent liability for the China Guangzhou Metro Overhead Catenary System Project had been underestimated by £88,317 in the earlier departmental minute laid before the House on 16th April 1996. This project is already being implemented.

The financing agreement for this project will be increased. The contingent liability is now estimated to amount to a maximum of £916,354 instead of the £833,037 perviously notified.

These projects are being supported by the Overseas Development Administration under the Aid and Trade Provision soft loan financing arrangements which enable the banks to lend at concessional rates.

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The departmental minute was placed in the Libraries of both Houses on 20th August and copies were sent to the Public Accounts Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Croatia and the Council of Europe

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

    Whether they supported the admission of Croatia to the Council of Europe.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We favour closer relations with Croatia and want her to take her place in Europe. In this respect, we have always supported in principle Croatia's application to join the Council of Europe. The question was on timing. Croatia's desire to join had to be balanced by an acceptance of her responsibilities and obligations--on democracy, human rights, essential freedoms and support for the Dayton process. That is why we supported an unprecedented postponement of her accession in order to satisfy ourselves on these points. In view of the Croatian Government's welcome attitude to the Bosnian elections and changes to a number of its laws, Croatia's membership has been formally approved. We now expect Croatia to comply fully with all the commitments it has entered into on becoming a member of the Council of Europe. Her performance will be monitored under compliance procedures.

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

    Whether they consider that Croatia is able to comply with the human rights standards of the Council of Europe.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We expect the Croatian Government to meet fully its human rights obligations to the Council of Europe. Croatia is committed to addressing satisfactorily those areas of concern which delayed her membership. These include questions related to minorities, refugees and displaced persons, as well as media freedoms. Croatia has also undertaken to sign and ratify within certain time-limits key human rights conventions, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights. We shall monitor Croatia's performance to ensure that Council of Europe standards on human rights are maintained.

Challenger 2 Development Programme

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current status of the Army's Challenger 2 programme.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The Challenger 2 Development Programme was successfully completed, with all reliability targets achieved on development tanks. Following a series of trials on early production

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tanks, we identified a need to improve the reliability of some of the elements of production vehicles to meet the very high standards set. An agreed programme to achieve this is being undertaken by the contractor, Vickers plc, at no additional cost to my department. Central to the programme is a sequence of Production Reliability Growth Trials with agreed technical milestones.

The company has met the requirements set in the first of those trials, which was held in July. Challenger 2 has already demonstrated an impressive capability. We are confident that Challenger 2 will fully meet all of our technical and reliability requirements in 1997. In order to ensure that the comprehensive logistic support arrangements that we require are properly established, we have agreed that the In Service Date for Challenger 2 will be June 1998.

Reserve Forces Act 1996: Secondary Legislation

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made to complete the work under the secondary legislation for the Reserve Forces Act 1996.

Earl Howe: Work to develop the necessary secondary legislation to enable the Act's new powers to operate is proceeding well. Both new regulations and amendments to existing ones will be necessary, with some requiring formal public consultation before they are made.

That process of consultation has now begun. On 18th October we published a consultative document on schemes for exempting reservists from call-out and recall, and for financial assistance for reservists and their employers, provided under Part VIII of the Act. The document is available in the Library of the House. As required by the Act, copies have been sent to representatives of employers, employees, the self-employed, and to the Council of Territorial, Auxiliary and Volunteer Reserve Associations. Copies have also been sent to those who responded to the last consultation exercise on the draft Reserve Forces Bill, and to selected Reserve units. The consultation period finishes on 29th November and I would encourage all those whom the regulations affect or who have an interest in them to read the document carefully and to send in their comments.

We consider it most important to allow adequate time for interested parties to respond to our proposals, and for a measured assessment of those comments. It has therefore been decided that the regulations, and the Act as a whole, should take effect from 1st April 1997 rather than 1st January 1997, the original target date for implementation.

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Sex Offenders: Responses to Consultation Paper

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many responses they have received commenting on the proposals in the consultation paper Sentencing and Supervision of Sex Offenders.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): We have received 238 formal responses to the consultation paper. In general, there was strong support for all the proposals canvassed. Not all respondents commented on all five proposals outlined in the consultation paper. Of those who did, 94 per cent. were in favour of extended supervision for convicted sex offenders released from prison; 82 per cent. were in favour of DNA testing of convicted sex offenders still serving a prison sentence who have not already been DNA tested; 87 per cent. supported a requirement for convicted sex offenders to notify the police of their address and any subsequent change thereto; 87 per cent. also supported the proposal to make it an offence for convicted sex offenders to seek employment with children; and 91 per cent. supported the proposal for a supervised access regime for victim statements and photographs in sex cases.

We have considered all these responses carefully. The Crime (Sentences) Bill, published on 25th October 1996 contains provision for the extended supervision of sex offenders after their release from custody.

Our aim is to bring forward other proposals for legislation when suitable opportunities arrive.

"Protecting the Public": Responses to White Paper

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many responses they have received commenting on the sentencing proposals set out in the White Paper Protecting the Public.

Baroness Blatch: We have received responses from 189 members of the public and from 90 organisations and other individuals with a direct interest in the criminal justice system. The sentencing proposals were widely welcomed by the public. Overall, 139 responses from the public (74 per cent.) expressed full support and a further 13 (7 per cent.) qualified support. A range of views were expressed by those other individuals and organisations who commented on the proposals. There was support from police associations. There was criticism from the judiciary about the principle of mandatory sentences in particular, and a number of responses expressed concern about how the proposals would operate in practice.

We have considered the responses carefully in finalising the details of the proposals which are included in the Crime (Sentences) Bill, published on 25th October 1996.

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