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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): We have received the report of the Community Fire Safety Task Force and have made arrangements for it to be published today. Copies of the report will be available in the Library.
The Task Force was asked last November to propose a five-year strategy to reduce the number of fires and fire casualties in dwellings. It has highly commended the enthusiasm with which fire safety and prevention work is already undertaken by some brigades. It wants to build on their success by putting community fire safety at the centre of both policy and action. It recommends a more integrated and businesslike approach to community fire safety, with the establishment of a national centre to co-ordinate activity and an increased role for Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate to support brigades in the delivery of imaginative, well targeted messages. It also recommends that community fire safety should be made a statutory duty of the fire service.
We are grateful to Task Force members, who came from both the public and private sectors, for delivering an imaginative report in less than a year. We share their high regard for the enthusiasm and expertise of the fire service. It is a high performing service with an excellent record to which we pay tribute.
We must however all be concerned at the rising trend in domestic fires, deaths and casualties, and the Task Force therefore makes a strong case for an increased and co-ordinated emphasis on community fire safety. Community safety is not solely about reducing crime. It is about our wider responsibilities to make our communities safe and confident. This report is an important contribution to that overall aim and we note that it strongly endorses the multi-agency approach.
Before we take any decisions on the details of the strategy, we want to hear the views of chief officers, fire authorities and unions, who have a crucial role to play in translating the strategy into action. We will therefore be consulting interested parties over the next few months before deciding how to respond to the report.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: No. Each application to enter the United Kingdom is considered on its merits, in the light of all the information available at the time. The Secretary of State will, however, exercise his power personally to direct the exclusion of individuals from the United Kingdom where he considers this would be conducive to the public good. That power is exercised on the basis of an individual's personal undesirability. Evidence of close involvement with a known terrorist organisation would certainly provide a basis for the exercise of the Secretary of State's exclusion power.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have recently approved three applications for repatriation to the Republic of Ireland submitted by prisoners convicted of terrorist offences. These were approved on the basis that the Republic will continue to enforce the sentences imposed by the courts here in accordance with the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. Remaining repatriation applications are at various stages of consideration either here or in the Republic and will be determined as soon as possible.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department is arranging for copies of the Key Objectives and Key Performance Indicators for the police service in 1998-99 to be placed in the Library at 11am tomorrow.
Lord Whitty: Part of our £5.925 million of humanitarian assistance to Liberia since 1 April 1995 supports post-election NGO programmes on primary health care, reintegration of war-affected children and water and environmental sanitation for displaced persons and must take priority over industrial reconstruction. A DFID mission is planned for early next year which will examine the situation in-country and deliver a future strategy on Liberia.
Lord Whitty: The Department of Trade and Industry leads on the negotiations in the OECD on the multilateral Agreement on Investment. The Department for International Development is working closely with the DTI and other departments to ensure that the MAI takes account of the Government's commitment to sustainable development, core labour standards and the proper regulation of business.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have no plans to call for a special session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, nor do we intend to propose that the Commission routinely meet twice a year. The Commission retains the option of meeting exceptionally between its regular sessions. Human rights issues are also addressed at the UN General Assembly.
Baroness Symons of Venham Dean: The UN Secretary-General and High Commissioner for Human Rights follow the events in Algeria closely. There are no current UN initiatives to resolve the conflict there. The Algerian Government have rejected any outside role in their internal problems.
The Government strongly condemn the terrorism in Algeria and have frequently made clear our desire for an improvement in the security of lives of the ordinary Algerians. The UK will continue to consider with our EU partners the best way to achieve progress in Algeria.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The latest figures available from the UNHCR suggest that 155,000 people remain unaccounted for throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Twenty-five thousand refugees are known to be residing in the country, but it is not known what proportion of those are Rwandans and Burundians. We and our EU partners continue to press President Kabila to allow the UN Secretary-General's human rights enquiry team to proceed without preconditions. We have made clear to President Kabila that our future relationship with his
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