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Lord Elton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Suitable sites for the development of the three centres have been found at Gringley in Nottinghamshire, Onley in Northamptonshire and Medomsley in County Durham. A site is also being sought in the South West of England. All the centres are expected to be operational by the end of 1999.

Treaty of Amsterdam: Effect of Article K7(7)

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

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Article K7(7) of the draft Treaty of Amsterdam provides that the European Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction to rule on any dispute between member states regarding the interpretation or the application of acts adopted under the new Article K6(2) whenever such dispute cannot be settled by the European Council within six months of its being referred to the Council by one of its members. The Court will also have jurisdiction to rule on any dispute between member states and the European Commission regarding the interpretation or application of conventions established under the new Article K6(2)(d). Such rulings will be binding on the parties concerned.

These provisions do not apply to instruments, such as the Europol Convention, which were concluded under Article K3 of the Treaty on European Union.

Exceptional Risk Prisoners: Visits

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

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The policy of mandatory closed visits for exceptional risk prisoners will be kept under review to ensure that it remains the appropriate response to the threat posed by such prisoners.

Prison Service Resources

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the resources available to the Prison Service.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In order to ensure that the Prison Service can accommodate the projected numbers safely, the Prison Service will be able to spend up to an extra £43 million during this year and next. This will create 290 new places on top of the existing building programme, and provide additional staffing and funding for regime activities to support the placing of an additional 1,830 prisoners in existing accommodation, 630 of whom are already being detained.

We will tomorrow place in the Library a report of the findings of the audit of Prison Service resources which has been carried out in accordance with our manifesto.

Student Loans

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the definition of "Education, Net Lending to the private sector (GTGG)" in table 9.4 in United Kingdom National Accounts 1996; and why the figure rose from zero in 1988 to £639 million in 1995.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Office for National Statistics. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Peston from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Mr. T. Holt, dated 24 July 1997.

I have been asked to reply as Director of the Office for National Statistics to your recent question asking about the definition of "Education, Net Lending to the private sector (GTGG)".

Total net lending to the private sector comprises loans (less repayments of principal) to the personal sector and companies. Table 9.4 of the UK National Accounts (Blue Book) uses the Classification of the Functions of Government (COFOG), as laid down in UN Statistical Paper M70 (1980). Thus series GTGG is net lending to the private sector, for education affairs and services only.

Since 1988 this series comprises only lending associated with student loans and the increase follows the introduction of student loans in 1990.

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Sterling: Appreciation

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recent strength of sterling relative to other European currencies is a result of government policy

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Sterling is affected by a range of domestic and external factors which are not within the direct control of the Government or the Bank of England. The appreciation of sterling since last August against other European currencies largely reflects the strength of the UK economy relative to the German and French economies, and also speculation about EMU.

Pension Values

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have given consideration to compensation for people who were given false or misleading advice at the general election since when their prospective pensions have been devalued.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In our manifesto we promised to make economic stability a priority and promote greater long-term investment. The Budget and the monetary framework we have put in place start to fulfil those promises. Pension funds should benefit over the long term from the improved company performance resulting from a strong and stable economy.

Administrative Decisions: Publication of Reasons

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

    Whether they will introduce legislation to require all public authorities to give reasons for their administrative decisions.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The giving of reasons for administrative decisions is good practice and is a principle to which we are committed in the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The forthcoming White Paper on Freedom of Information will address the question of whether, and how, this principle might feature in the proposed Freedom of Information Act.

Crown Copyright

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

    Whether they will follow the example set by the New Zealand Parliament in promoting wide public access to public information at competitive, fair and reasonable prices by enacting an equivalent of Section 27 of the New Zealand Copyright Act 1994, which

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    provides that no copyright exists in: (a) Bills; (b) Acts; (c) regulations; (d) bylaws; (e) parliamentary debates; (f) reports of select committees; (g) judgments of any court or tribunal; and (h) reports of Royal Commissions, commissions of inquiry, ministerial inquiries or statutory inquiries; and, if not, whether they will introduce other effective measures to promote wide public access to such public information.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster announced in November 1996 that a formal review of Crown Copyright was to be undertaken. Consultations with other interested parties are taking place and it is anticipated that a Green Paper on the subject will be issued later this year.

Reports of the proceedings of Parliament, Bills of Parliament and select committee reports are subject to parliamentary copyright protection and are therefore a matter for the two Houses. Parliamentary copyright is administered on behalf of the two Houses by Her Majesty's Stationery Office with the object of securing the widest dissemination of parliamentary copyright material consistent with the good name and dignity of Parliament.

With a view to promoting public access, parliamentary copyright material, Acts, statutory instruments and other government papers are increasingly being made freely available on the Internet.

BSE and the Rendering Industry

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the information and evidence provided by the cattle feed industry upon which the regulatory authorities allowed new manufacturing processes and which (in the view of the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee) allowed BSE to emerge in cattle, give grounds for legal action against any part of the industry.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The changes which took place in the rendering industry, which are now believed to have led to the origin of the BSE epidemic, did not require explicit permission from the regulatory authorities. They were taken in good faith on the basis of scientific understanding at that time and we are not aware of any grounds for legal action in respect of action taken at that time.

Angling: Cruelty to Fish

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they believe that angling involves cruelty to fish.

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Lord Donoughue: We are aware of the findings of research into the experience of pain by fish. It is clear from these that great care must be taken in attributing to fish sensations similar to those experienced by humans or other mammals. Nevertheless, those involved in angling are aware of the need to avoid unnecessary harm and minimise any stress caused to fish.

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