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6 Nov 1997 : Column WA299

Written Answers

Thursday, 6th November 1997.

Court of Appeal (Civil Division): Review

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the report of the Review of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) will be published and when the Lord Chancellor expects to respond to it.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The report of the Review of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) has been published today and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. I am very grateful to the members of the review, and in particular to Sir Jeffery Bowman for chairing it. I am at present considering their conclusions and recommendations and intend to publish a detailed response early in the New Year.

Mr. Reginald Buckland: Court Documents

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On whose and with what authority Joyce Stewart, of the Crown Service headquarters, wrote to Robert Gardener, Clerk to the Cambridge Crown Court (letter reference PQ 98/289), following publication of the judgment delivered at Cambridge Crown Court on 11 September 1997, instructing him not to release to Reginald Buckland (the appellant) in case A970014 any papers and documents lodged with the court by the Chief Constable of Cambridge, in respect of the case heard on 15 August 1997 against the refusal of the Chief Constable to vary the conditions of a firearms certificate; and whether they will place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

The Lord Chancellor: The question concerns a matter which has been assigned to the Court Service under the terms of its framework document. I have therefore asked the Chief Executive to respond.

Letter to Lord Burton from the Chief Executive of the Court Service, Mr. M. D. Huebner, dated 6 November 1997.

The Lord Chancellor has asked me to reply to your Question about the decision not to release papers and documents in this case.

Decisions on the release of court documents are a matter for the individual Crown Court and are based on guidance in the Crown Court manual, which emphasises that there is no entitlement to inspect Crown Court records.

In Mr. Buckland's case, the court sought advice from Court Service headquarters and this was contained in an internal communication from a member of my staff. It would therefore not be appropriate to place this in the Library.

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However, I have made further inquiries which reveal that the entire contents of the court file, with the exception of routine correspondence, have already been made available to Mr. Buckland, either in the Court Manager's letter to him of 21 October 1997 or previously to his solicitors.

Asylum Seekers: Detention Costs

Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn of 27 October (WA 229), whether they are seeking reimbursement for the cost of housing, processing and repatriating immigrants and asylum seekers entering the United Kingdom from the embassies of their countries of origin; and, if so, whether any revenue obtained will be applied to the restructuring of immigration controls.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): There are no powers to do so. Although many asylum seekers are found to be economic migrants, it would not be right and would be contrary to existing agreements to notify their national authorities that they had claimed asylum.

Polaris Submarines: Chevaline Warheads

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the number of nuclear warheads deployed on each of the Polaris submarines as they completed operational service, following their modernisation with the Chevaline system, and what are the implications of this for the number of warheads to be deployed on each of the Trident submarines taking into account commitments which were given not to deploy more warheads on Trident than on Polaris.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Information on the number of Chevaline warheads deployed on Polaris submarines has not previously been made public. This Government is, however, committed to being as open as possible in all areas of Government business and we are currently examining, as part of the strategic defence review, whether we can now release information relating to the Chevaline system.

Future warhead requirements for the Trident force remain under consideration in the strategic defence review. The review will take into account the withdrawal from service of the WE177 free-fall nuclear bombs which supplemented Polaris throughout its operational life and the different technical characteristics of the Polaris and Trident systems, including the larger yield of the Chevaline warhead.

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Gulf War: Iraqi SCUD Missiles

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there were any reports of Iraqi SCUD missiles which landed on Israeli territory during the Gulf War containing chemical or biological agents.

Lord Gilbert: We have no evidence that any of the SCUD missiles used by Iraq against Israel carried chemical or biological warfare agents.

US Defence Doctrine: Studies

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many officials (a) at the British Embassy in Washington and (b) in the Ministry of Defence are employed in studying the United States Defense doctrine.

Lord Gilbert: The Ministry of Defence does not employ staff exclusively dedicated to the study of US defence doctrine, but consideration of the development of relevant aspects of that doctrine forms part of the normal duties of a large number of staff both within the Ministry itself and with the British Defence Staff (Washington).

Nuclear Weapons: Policy

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the fact that a recent Gallup poll showed a majority of 63 per cent. for the view that it would be best for United Kingdom security not to have nuclear weapons, they will take public opinion into consideration in determining nuclear weapon policy.

Lord Gilbert: The Government were elected on a clear manifesto commitment to retain Trident and this is one of the policy principles on which the strategic defence review is fundamentally based. Our aim is to establish the widest possible shared vision about Britain's future security needs and the tasks of its Armed Forces. We continue to encourage input to the strategic defence review from anyone who wishes to contribute.

Late Payment of Debt

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on the late payment of debt; and whether they differentiate between late payment in industry, commerce and cases where compensation is due.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The Government are

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determined to promote a better payment culture in the UK and will bring forward a package of new measures, including the introduction of a Bill to provide a statutory right to interest on late payment of commercial debts. Commercial debts will include late payments by industry and commerce. In addition the Government have welcomed the announcement that the Federation of Small Businesses will be publishing league tables showing the average payment times of public companies and their large private subsidiaries.

It is important that the public sector lead by example in paying its invoices promptly. Government departments and agencies must pay all of their bills on time. In addition the Government intend to publish league tables of the payment performance of local authorities. The Government also recognise the importance of effective credit management procedures and are pleased that all the main small firms organisations have agreed to work with the Government to look at better payment practice.

Multilateral Agreement on Investment: Negotiations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which United Nations bodies have been consulted on, or are participating in, the negotiations on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.

Lord Clinton-Davis: The OECD Secretariat has reported to UNCTAD (the UN Conference on Trade and Development) on the progress of the negotiations on the MAI.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What public consultation there has been, and with whom, on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.

Lord Clinton-Davis: Her Majesty's Government have consulted extensively on the MAI, including with the CBI, ICC-UK (International Chambers of Commerce), the TUC, professional bodies, TUAC (Trade Union Advisory Committee) and BIAC (Business and Industry Advisory Committee) (the labour and business representatives at the OECD), and, more recently, non-governmental organisations (including the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, the Catholic Institute for International Relations, Consumers International, Oxfam, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth, the World Development Movement and the World Wide Fund for Nature).

Conferences with developing countries have been held in Latin America, Asia and Africa, as well as at the OECD in Paris.

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