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24 Jun 1997 : Column WA157

Written Answers

Tuesday, 24th June 1997.

St. Helena: Aid Budget

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the £8 million in budgetary aid to St. Helena mentioned by Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 11 June (H.L. Deb., col. 922) includes the subsidy to the Royal Mail Ship, and is not additional to it as appears to be suggested.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The total estimated figure for the UK's bilateral aid programme to St. Helena in 1997-98 is £8.7 million. This includes both budgetary aid and the Royal Mail Ship subsidy.

Baltic States: English Language Textbooks

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make available, at no cost, to the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, English language textbooks for use in primary and secondary schools in those countries.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have no plans to provide English language textbooks to schools in the Baltic States in addition to the work which is already being sponsored by the British Government in the education field. The British programme of technical assistance to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Know How Fund, subsidises the Low Priced Books Scheme, which provides books to a number of countries in the region, including the Baltic States at around 30 per cent. of their UK price. The British Council also provides English language training in the Baltics.

Religious Discrimination

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

    Whether they intend to introduce a measure to make it unlawful to discriminate on religious grounds in employment, housing, education and the provision of goods, services and facilities to the public.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government are aware of the concern about religious discrimination and are giving the matter consideration. The Government have no immediate plans to introduce new legislation.

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Firearms: Penalties for Illegal Possession

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will undertake a review of the penalties for the illegal possession of firearms of all types.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The penalties for the illegal possession of firearms were last increased in 1994. The maximum penalty for the illegal possession of a prohibited weapon (including, from 1 July, large-calibre handguns) is 10 years' imprisonment; seven years for the illegal possession of a sawn-off shot gun or a firearm converted from a replica; and five years for the illegal possession of a firearm or shot gun.

However, we shall be looking again at these penalties when we come to review all the firearms controls once the Firearms Bill has been passed.

Passport Agency: Performance against Targets

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the United Kingdom Passport Agency performed against its targets in 1996-97 and what performance targets have been set for the agency in 1997-98.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr. O'Brien) is pleased to say that the United Kingdom Passport Agency achieved all its targets in 1996-97. The targets for processing properly completed straightforward applications were met with demand for passport services at its highest recorded level. The average turnround time for the whole year was 6.3 working days. The Passport Agency's financial target was to reduce its unit cost by 3 per cent. in real terms. The latest indications are that the agency has achieved an 8.5 per cent. real terms reduction in its unit cost. Customer satisfaction levels remain very high.

During 1997-98 my honourable friend expects the Passport Agency to continue to improve its standard of service to the public and manage a predicated reduction in demand as efficiently as possible.

He has set the agency the following key targets:

    1. to process properly completed straightforward applications within a maximum of 10 working days;

    2. to secure real terms efficiency savings of 11.1 per cent. in the three-year period 1995-96 to 1997-98.

The Chief Executive will remain directly accountable to my honourable friend for the performance of the Passport Agency. An Advisory Board, including two private sector members with experience of delivering services to the public, will continue to provide him with an independent assessment of the agency's performance.

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Child Benefit for Over-16s

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to continue to pay Child Benefit for 16-18 year-olds.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Child Benefit is only payable for those over 16 who stay in certain types of education. The Government are reviewing educational finance and maintenance for those older than 16 to ensure higher staying on rates at school and college, and that resources are used to support those most in need.

British Citizens from Sierra Leone: Habitual Residence Test

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will exempt British subjects evacuated from Sierra Leone from the operation of the Habitual Residence Test.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: We have no plans to exempt British citizens who have returned from Sierra Leone from the habitual residence test. However, we are committed to a wide ranging review of social security. The habitual residence test will form a part of this work.

Chemical Manufacture and Export Information

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For what purposes propane phosphonic dichloride, diethyl propane phosphoryl dichloride, propyl phosphonic dichloride, ethyl succinyl chloride and thionyl chloride are manufactured, which companies manufactured these chemicals in the United Kingdom between 1988 and 1991; where was their ultimate destination; and whether they are currently being manufactured by any UK companies.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): I am advised that propane phosphonic dichloride and propyl phosphonic dichloride are the same chemical. It is a chemical intermediate manufactured in the UK by two companies in research quantities. Diethyl propane phosphoryl dichloride is not known to my department. Thionyl chloride is manufactured in the UK by three companies for use as a general purpose chemical reagent. Ethyl succinyl chloride is an intermediate in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and is manufactured by one company for research purposes. Thionyl chloride required an export licence for the period 1988-1991. However, to provide the detailed information required for that period would require extensive research and

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agreement of commercial parties and would incur disproportionate costs. Apart from this export licence, there was no requirement over that period to keep official information on either the manufacture or the export of these specific chemicals.

Legal Aid: R. v. Kevin Maxwell and Others

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answers given by the Lord Chancellor on 30 January 1995 (WA 101) and on 18 December 1996 (WA 131), whether it is now possible for them to give the full details concerning legal aid paid to barristers and each solicitor in R. v. Maxwell Brothers, including how much was paid to each barrister and each solicitor.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I am not in a position to provide full details of the amounts paid to individual barristers and solicitors firms in the proceedings against K and I Maxwell, L Trachtenberg, R Bunn, A Fuller and M Stoney because not all the claims have been settled. I can confirm, however, that £13.36 million had been paid as of 17 June 1997 from the legal aid fund to lawyers who acted in this case. That sum includes £1.95 million paid on account in respect of Crown Court proceedings and £0.83 million paid in respect of the magistrates' costs.

It is estimated that the final costs of the case will not be known before early 1998, when all outstanding claims, including redeterminations, have been dealt with.

Dr. Jawad Hashim: Payments to Counsel

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the sums paid to date out of the legal aid fund to each of the counsel involved in the proceedings involving Dr. Jaward Hashim and the Arab Monetary Fund.

The Lord Chancellor: The total paid to each counsel is as follows:

Mr. Colin W G Ross-Munro QC, £767,200.

Mr. Ian Brownlie QC, £69,178.

Mr. Hugo A M Page, £531,734.

Mr. Adam V S Lewis, £194,205. The above figures represent the total amounts paid to date on account. Final costs will not be known until final bills have been submitted and the bills have been taxed. The figures include the main actions between Dr. Hashim and the Arab Monetary Fund and related proceedings.

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