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Political Parties: Funding

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government are committed to reforming the system of party funding. On 12 November 1997, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Lord Neill, to review issues in relation to the funding of political parties and recommend any changes in present arrangements. At that time, it was the Government's intention to legislate in this session to deliver our manifesto commitment to ban foreign funding of political parties and to demand disclosure of donations above £5,000.

Since then, Lord Neill and the members of his Committee have reached the view that it would be preferable for the Government not to proceed with the funding aspects of proposed legislation at the same time. In a letter to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, dated 26 January Lord Neill explained why he is particularly concerned about simultaneous consideration of these issues by Parliament and the Committee.

In response, my right honourable friend has therefore decided not to introduce legislation on the funding of political parties in this session of Parliament. He has placed in the Library a copy of Lord Neill's letter, together with a copy of his reply.

Lord Neill has made clear that the Committee is not considering whether the Government's two specific manifesto commitments should be fulfilled, but how best to do so. The Government remain firmly committed to legislate in this area and will bring forward proposals in the light of the recommendations of the Neill Committee. This will enable us to bring forward a comprehensive and effective package of measures.

The registration of political parties is necessary to enable the electoral systems proposed for the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly to function effectively and to deal with misleading descriptions on ballot papers. My right honourable friend intends to introduce the Bill on this subject later in this session.

Firearms Certificates: Appeals Procedure

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements exist for individuals to appeal against the refusal or withdrawal of a shotgun or a firearm certificate.[HL242]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Section 26(4) of the Firearms Act 1968 provides that a person aggrieved by the decision of a chief officer of police not to grant or renew a firearm or shotgun certificate may appeal against the refusal. Section 30(3) of the Act makes similar provision in respect of the revocation of certificates. Section 44 of the Act (as amended by Section 41 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997) provides that the appeal should be to the Crown Court in England and Wales, or to the Sheriff's Court in Scotland. Section 44 provides that the appeal shall be determined on its merits (and not by way of review),

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and that the court or sheriff may consider any evidence or other matter, whether or not it was available when the decision of the chief officer was taken. Schedule 2 of the 1968 Act (as amended by the 1997 Act) sets out the mechanism through which the appeal may be conducted.

Firearms: Certificates

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give the number of persons currently holding a firearm or shot gun certificate in respect of each police licensing authority in the United Kingdom.[HL238]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Figures for the number of firearm and shotgun certificates on issue in the United Kingdom are contained in the annual bulletins published by the Home Department, copies of which are placed in the Library. The most recent figures available relate to the number of certificates on issue at 31 December 1996. The information requested is set out below by police force area:

Police Force AreaNumber of Firearm CertificatesNumber of Shotgun Certificates
Avon and Somerset5,29322,354
Devon and Cornwall8,52937,240
Greater Manchester2,6759,518
London, City of4033
Metropolitan Police9,12333,867
North Yorkshire5,67919,213
South Yorkshire1,7778,419
Thames Valley6,85430,975
West Mercia5,51430,706
West Midlands2,59311,033
West Yorkshire3,20911,855
North Wales2,42114,088
South Wales2,25910,866
Central Scotland1,1833,283
Dumfries and Galloway2,3045,094
Lothian & Borders4,1239,592

(1) (In Northern Ireland, both shotguns and other firearms are held on a Firearm Certificate).

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Prisoners: Religious Visits

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether prisoners in England and Wales are not being allowed to see visiting ministers of a religion other than the one of their registration, contrary to the Instruction to governors of 20 January 1992, reference DIA 1 1709204 NTE; and what additional measures they will take to ensure that the rights of prisoners to see a minister of another faith are honoured.[HL178]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Prisoners are allowed to consult a chaplain or visiting minister of a religious denomination other than their own. To do so they make application to the governor who will approve the application if he is satisfied that the request is not frivolous.

OECD: Multilateral Agreement on Investment

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a social and environmental audit of the OECD's multilateral agreement on investment will be carried out prior to the treaty being signed.[HL204]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The UK--proposed environmental review of the MAI by the OECD is making good progress. The first part consisted of an overview of recent literature on this topic. It provides a thorough analysis which will help all parties interested in the MAI understand better how international investment interacts with the environment. This report is available on the Internet. A further note by the OECD secretariat on the relationship between the MAI and selected multilateral environmental agreements has recently been completed and is under discussion by MAI negotiators. The Department for International Development is commissioning a study to look at any implications the MAI may have for developing countries, and has agreed to make to make the results available to our negotiating partners.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many casualties have been suffered due to military action by SFOR and IFOR; and what losses in terms of killed and wounded have been suffered by each contributing state.[HL52]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Casualty figures for other nations contributing to IFOR/SFOR are not held centrally by MoD. However, we are not aware of any IFOR or SFOR soldiers having been killed as a result of military action. One Bosnian national has been killed and one injured as a result of action by SFOR troops to detain individuals indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. A British soldier was injured by a shot fired by the indictee in the first of these incidents.

Common Fisheries Policy

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Sewel on 17 December 1997 (WA 93-94), what evidence they have, if any, that the European Union would impose tariffs on British fish exports if the United Kingdom withdrew from the common fisheries policy.[HL156]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): It is not Government policy to seek to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy, nor is it feasible to do so. The question is therefore hypothetical.

Scottish Police and Social Work Services

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the requirements placed upon Scottish police forces and social work departments to communicate in operational matters where both have a direct responsibility and involvement.

Lord Sewel: The sharing of information between the police and social work services is a matter for local discretion and is considered on a case by case basis. The guidance issued by the Scottish Office on the implementation of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 encouraged police forces and social work services to agree arrangements about how and when information should be passed on. The provisions on sex offender orders currently before Parliament would require the police to consult the relevant local authority before applying for an order.

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