Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

10 Jun 1997 : Column WA67

Written Answers

Tuesday, 10th June 1997.

Privacy Legislation: Proposals

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the proposed law incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights will protect individuals whose privacy has been infringed by non-state agencies, including the mass media.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): We are considering the form that incorporation will take and the extent of the protection it will provide in such cases. We expect to announce decisions on these issues later this year.

Dietary Supplements: EC Document

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the European Union to publish the forthcoming consultation document on dietary supplements; what is their policy on the availability of such supplements; and what steps they intend to take to promote the wider availability of such supplements throughout the European Union.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The European Commission's discussion document on dietary supplements and fortified foods has now been issued. We will be circulating this widely as part of the consultation exercise and will take account of comments received before formulating the UK's response. In the meantime we are reviewing the various policy options in the light of the views already expressed by interested parties.

Copyright Period

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

    Whether they will introduce a measure to remove the extension of copyright from 50 to 70 years after the death of the author, restoring the 50 year period.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The copyright term of the life of the author and 70 years after death now granted in the United Kingdom is that required by Directive 93/98/EEC harmonising the duration of copyright and related rights in the European Community, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 29 October 1993. It is not, therefore, possible to restore the previous term of life plus 50 years, since this would place the United Kingdom in breach of Community law.

10 Jun 1997 : Column WA68

NATO-Russia Meeting, Sintra, 29/30 May

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will detail the outcome of the meeting in Paris on 27 May between NATO Heads of State and Government and the Russian President; and of the North Atlantic Council meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers at Sintra on 29 and 30 May.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): In Paris my right honourable friend the Prime Minister signed, with his NATO colleagues, the President of Russia, and the NATO Secretary-General, the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Co-operation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation. This is an historic document designed to encourage greater trust and co-operation between Russia and NATO.

The main provisions of the Act are: a list of shared principles, including the right of states to choose the means to ensure their own security; arrangements for a permanent joint council which will meet monthly at the level of ambassadors, twice yearly at ministerial level, and on demand in a crisis; consultation and co-operation over security crises, crisis management and conflict resolution, joint operations, defence policy and military doctrine and arms control; and an agreed approach to the adaption of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe and provisions for more co-operation between military establishments;

The NATO Foreign Ministers in Sintra had a preliminary discussion on decisions to be taken at the NATO Summit meeting in Madrid on 8 July. In particular they discussed NATO enlargement but did not reach conclusions on which of the applicants for membership will be invited to join the Alliance at Madrid. That decision will be taken by allied governments in time for the Summit.

Foreign ministers also initialled a draft NATO/Ukraine charter which will provide a basis for enhanced co-operation symbolising NATO's recognition of the importance of Ukraine's sovereignty and independence.

On 30 May NATO Foreign Ministers and the 27 partner countries launched the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and an expansion of NATO's programme with partners, Partnership for Peace. The enhanced Partnership for Peace encourages partners to plan, train for and mount the full range of peacekeeping operations including the most demanding. The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council will also provide a political forum for discussing partnership activities, and wider issues of European security.

Copies of the NATO Russia Founding Act have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

10 Jun 1997 : Column WA69


Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have concerning the Private Finance Initiative in the National Health Service.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Government will undertake an urgent exercise to prioritise all the major Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes in the acute sector.

The need to prioritise the schemes currently battling for the limited private and public sector resources is now understood and accepted. Only if resources are concentrated on those schemes with the greatest need will real progress be made and schemes delivered.

The prioritisation exercise will cover all the major acute schemes on the current project list that have an approved outline business case. They will be given separate gradings regarding health service need, how well the scheme fits with the PFI process and hence its likelihood of delivering a successful outcome, and how far and well negotiations have progressed.

The health service need will consider the service's own assessment of the medical and estates reasons for completing the scheme.

The fit and deliverability (or PFI-ability) of the scheme will evaluate if the scheme is one that is likely to prove attractive to the private sector. Too many inherently unsuitable schemes were forced to test for PFI and we must not be seen to be unnecessarily prolonging that process.

The third criteria will be how well and far negotiations have progressed. If we are to concentrate resources on the leading schemes, it is clearly a nonsense to allow the system to become further clogged by new schemes entering the process. Equally, many schemes have become stalled because the system is overloaded and these cannot be left to stagnate.

Performance of each of the schemes against these criteria will form the basis for the selection of the schemes that will proceed. Final announcements regarding the fate of all the schemes will be made at the end of June.

There will be a separate exercise for London PFI schemes arising from our review of health services in the capital which will be announced in due course.

Those schemes that fail to make the list, for whatever reason, will be prioritised nationally alongside schemes that are competing for the limited public capital we have. We will only invite competition for the schemes that have a genuine health need and can be delivered.

In conjunction with this work on prioritisation, we will be looking over the coming months at improving the PFI product in terms of fostering innovation; resolving affordability and delivering PFI solutions in non-acute fields like primary care and mental health. In addition, we will also be looking, more fundamentally, at developing other possible models of structuring private finance schemes in the longer term.

10 Jun 1997 : Column WA70

Student Loans Scheme

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the statements relating to the students loan scheme in the Labour Party manifesto that "the current system is badly administered" and "we will provide efficient administration", by what measures they propose to judge the current and future efficiency of the system.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Government are looking forward to the publication of the report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education. In the light of that report, we will put in place a fair system of student loans which is simple to administer, which reduces non-payment and which does not deter people from taking up places in higher education.

Plastic Baton Rounds

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking in respect of plastic baton rounds.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): I understand that tests have shown that a significant proportion of a batch of plastic baton rounds, approved for use in public order situations by the Armed Forces, by police forces in England and Wales and by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, have muzzle velocities slightly in excess of the upper limit in the equipment specification. These rounds, which were on issue from early 1994, were withdrawn from all operational use in April this year. Replacement stocks, which do not exceed the specified velocity, have been issued.

Plastic baton rounds and the procedures governing their use will be kept under continuous review. In addition, procedures are being put in place to ensure that stocks in operational use are tested regularly to ensure that they continue to conform to specification. A programme has been put in hand to take advantage of emerging technologies, with the aim of developing improved baton round equipment to meet operational needs but with reduced injury potential. We will continue to look at other effective means for controlling public disorder and riot situations.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page