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26 Jan 1998 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 26th January 1998.

Legal Profession: Comments to Media

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

    Whether they intend to give effect to the advice of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct concerning lawyers' comments to the media.[HL38]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The recommendations in the Advisory Committee's report are addressed to the Law Society and the Bar Council rather than to the Government. It is for the professional bodies, which are independent and self-regulating, to amend or clarify their rules in accordance with the Advisory Committee's recommendations if they believe it is appropriate to do so.

Public Records Legislation: Review

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

    Whether they will publish the review of the Public Records Acts by the Keeper of the Public Records, and her suggestions for improvement, referred to in the Keeper's Annual Report 1996.[HL33]

The Lord Chancellor: The Public Record Office has addressed two aspects of the operation of the Public Records Acts. First, its contribution to the management of records in government was considered as part of a joint study with the Cabinet Office. The report, which was placed in the Libraries of both Houses in February 1997, called for administrative rather than legislative change. Implementation is now well under way. Subsequently, the Keeper of Public Records and her staff have been involved in the preparation of the Government's freedom of information proposals. These were published in December 1997 (Your Right to Know; CM 3818) and their implementation will involve some reform of the access provisions in the Public Records Act 1958. Apart from the work on records management and freedom of information, the Keeper has not put proposals for a new archives act to me since this is not in prospect in the immediate future. The adequacy of the current legislation will remain under review.

Public Record Office Services

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

    Whether service enhancement linked with increased revenue exceeds the 1996-97 target for the Public Record Office by 15 per cent.[HL37]

The Lord Chancellor: The Public Record Office expects to achieve its 1997-98 target to increase revenue by 13 per cent. (not 15 per cent.) against the 1996-97

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target. The outcome cannot be certain until after the end of the financial year.

The increased revenue is not being spent on a particular service enhancement but has been added to the funds available to the Office for a range of enhancements during 1997-98, notably extending its opening hours, opening a shop for users at its Family Records Centre and developing its image library for public use.

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

    Whether the reduction in staff numbers at the PRO between 1995-96 and 1996-97 has affected the ability of the Office to provide a speedy service for users who wait for electrostatic copies of documents to be made.[HL36]

The Lord Chancellor: It has not. In fact the "while you wait" copy service was introduced in September 1995 as an enhancement of the services available to the users of the Public Record Office.

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

    How many members of staff at the Public Record Office are employed in making electrostatic copies of documents while users wait.[HL34]

The Lord Chancellor: Up to four staff are available in the two reading rooms at any one time for photocopying while customers wait.

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

    Whether the targets for key performance indicators in the Business Plan set by the Lord Chancellor to measure the efficiency, quality of service and effectiveness of the PRO can be amended to ensure that the speed of the reprographic service is increased to enable staff to make more than 15 copies at a time for users who wait for the service.[HL35]

The Lord Chancellor: The speed of throughput of the copying service while readers wait depends upon the type of document, its size and condition, the preparation required and the availability of the appropriate copier at the time of order. Staff are handling irreplaceable documents and are required to apply the PRO's document handling standards.

A restriction of 15 copies per order is applied to minimise waiting times as far as possible and to provide a fair and equitable service to all readers. While key performance indicators can be amended, further improvements in service will be largely dependent on the acquisition of advanced copying technology. This will be introduced as and when resources become available.

Questions for Written Answer

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    In view of the recent changes to the publication in the Order Paper of Questions for Written Answer, whether

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    a list will be produced of all unanswered Questions for Written Answer similar to the Order Book of the House of Commons.[HL295]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): A list of all unanswered Questions for Written Answer is already produced daily and copies are placed in the Library of the House, the Minute Room, the Government Whips' Office and the Library of the House of Commons.

Recycled Paper

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether, in the light of the Government's encouragement of sustainable practices in all areas of government, crested recycled paper could be made available in the House of Lords.[HL209]

The Chairman of Committees: Recycled crested paper was made available in the House between 1990 and 1993. However, in 1993 the Administration and Works Sub-Committee recommended that it should no longer be used. The principal reasons for this decision were that, by using non-recycled writing paper, the House would save money; and that Lords had complained that the recycled paper used by the House was not suitable for use with fountain pens.

If I become aware that recycled paper of sufficient quality is available at competitive cost, I will draw this to the attention of the Administration and Works Sub-Committee.

Saunders Judgment: UK Response

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have formulated and delivered their response to the Committee of Ministers, under the Convention of Human Rights, in respect of the judgment in November 1996 in Saunders v United Kingdom (1197 23 EHRR 313); and whether they will place details of their response in the Library of the House.[HL43]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The costs of £75,000 awarded by the European Court of Human Rights to the applicant in Saunders v United Kingdom have been paid. Her Majesty's Government is considering the terms of its response but has not yet delivered to the Committee of Ministers which, under the Convention, is the body charged with supervising the execution of the Court's judgment, their proposals for measures to be taken in response to the judgment.

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they intend to take concerning the "unsatisfactory position" disclosed by the Lord Chief Justice in his judgment in the Court of Appeal in R v Morrisey and R v Staines in relation, specifically, to the judgment in the European Court of Human Rights in Saunders v United Kingdom.[HL44]

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Lord Clinton-Davis: The Human Rights Bill is currently before this House. Clause 1 specifies those articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (including Article 6--Right to a Fair Trial) ("the Convention rights") which are given further effect by the Bill. Clause 2 provides that a court or tribunal determining a question in connection with a Convention right must take account of relevant judgments of the Court of Human Rights. Clause 4 provides that specified courts (including the Court of Appeal) may make a "declaration of incompatibility" where they are satisfied that a provision of primary legislation is incompatible with the Convention rights.

Public Expenditure per Capita

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the latest available figures for public expenditure per head of the population in:

    (a) Wales;

    (b) Scotland; and

    (c) England.[HL129]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The latest breakdown of public expenditure per head of the population was published in table 7.6B of the Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 1997-98, Cm 3601.

South Korea

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What view the International Monetary Fund is taking of the dollar costs to the South Korean Government of the 35,000 United States forces operating in South Korea at South Korean expense.[HL159]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The International Monetary Fund takes no official position on the cost to the Government of Korea of US forces operating in Korea, and it would not be appropriate for the Government to comment on this.

The Government of Korea has agreed an overall target for the stance of fiscal policy in the context of its programme of adjustment with the IMF. This target included an estimate of the significant additional budgetary costs associated with reforming Korea's financial sector, with offsetting expenditure reductions in other areas to ensure an appropriate budgetary position. The decision on where spending adjustments should be made was considered a matter for the Government of Korea.

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