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Northern Ireland: Target Revolvers and Terrorist Incidents

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): The information sought is not available and to obtain it would incur disproportionate cost. I would, however, refer to my previous reply which I gave on 27 March 1998 (Official Report, col. 262).

Northern Ireland Agreement: Accelerated Release of Prisoners

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Dubs: Under the Belfast Agreement, the Government undertook to put in place mechanisms to provide for an accelerated programme for the release of prisoners, including transferred prisoners, convicted of scheduled offences in Northern Ireland or, in the case of those sentenced outside Northern Ireland, similar offences. Existing powers of release are inadequate to give effect to what is proposed to be done. Determinate sentence prisoners are normally released as a

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consequence of remission. The maximum remission permitted under the Prison Rules is one half of sentence, whereas prisoners covered by the agreement are to be released when they have served one-third of their sentence. It would not be possible to amend the rules to increase the rate of remission partly because remission under the rules can only be based on a prisoner's good conduct in prison, a factor which will not be relevant to whether he is a qualifying prisoner for purposes of the agreement. Nor can rules on remission be made which make provision for qualifying prisoners which is different from that for other prisoners. It is also intended to apply licence conditions to determinate sentence prisoners released as a consequence of the agreement and, for their recall, arrangements which will satisfy the ECHR, and this would not at present be possible if the prisoners were released on remission, at which point their sentences expire. These arrangements will be applied to life sentence prisoners. For prisoners who are transferred from England and Wales or Scotland as restricted prisoners, the new provisions will mean that they can be released earlier than would otherwise be the case. Release of prisoners who satisfy the qualifying criteria would not be possible in exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to pardon or remit sentence because no licence or condition could be imposed and no recall would be possible, even if it would otherwise be proper to use this Prerogative power for any or all of these categories of prisoners.

Northern Ireland Agreement: Parliamentary Ratification

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In what manner Parliament was consulted on the terms of the recent Northern Ireland Agreement before it was signed on behalf of the Government.[HL1642]

Lord Dubs: The all party negotiations, in which Her Majesty's Government was a participant, were conducted on a confidential basis until an outcome which gained sufficient consensus was reached on 10 April. Under paragraph 26 of the Ground Rules for Substantive All Party Negotiations published on 16 April 1996, both Governments respectively reaffirmed their intention that any agreed outcome from the negotiations would be submitted for public approval by referendums in Ireland--North and South--before being submitted to their respective Parliaments for ratification and the earliest possible implementation. On 22 April both Houses of Parliament approved the Northern Ireland Negotiations (Referendum) Order 1998 to permit such a referendum to take place on 22 May.

Pesticides Approvals: Review

Lord Davies of Oldham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to review approvals of pesticides.[HL1879]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): As part of the national arrangements for the running review of past approvals of pesticides, my honourable friend the Minister of State (Mr. Rooker) has agreed with colleagues in the other regulatory departments that there should be a review of those organophosphate pesticides approved for agricultural use under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986. The review will not extend to sheep dips and other veterinary medicines which are authorised and subject to scrutiny under separate legislation. On the advice of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) the review will also cover carbamate pesticides, as these have similar modes of action.

We welcome the ACP's intention that the review should be informed by all relevant sources of information.

Fishing Vessel Licensing and Economic Link with UK

Baroness Lockwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to implement measures to ensure that an economic link exists between United Kingdom flagged vessels and the fishing communities in the United Kingdom.[HL1912]

Lord Donoughue: There has been extensive consultation with the various interests affected and we have also been having detailed discussions with the European Commission on the basis of the guidance contained in the exchange of letters between the Prime Minister and the President of the Commission which took place at the Amsterdam meeting of the European Council last year.

Specific proposals by the UK are currently under consideration by the Commission and we expect to receive their advice on them shortly so that we can make early progress with implementation

A copy of the UK proposals under current consideration by the Commission has been placed in the Library of the House.

Immigration Advisers

Lord Aberdare asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What conclusions they have reached as a result of their consultation on control of unscrupulous immigration advisers; whether they are intending to introduce legislation; and, if so, when.[HL1837]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): We are considering the comments received in response to the consultation document on the control of unscrupulous immigration advisers. We will announce our conclusions as soon as possible.

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Women Prisoners

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on 6 May (WA 73), in which years this century the number of women in prison in England and Wales exceeded:

    (a) the figure for 24 April 1998 of 3,086; and

    (b) the projected figure for 2005 of 5,200.[HL1828]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The average female prison population exceeded 3,086 in the years 1901-1905 inclusive. The female prison population has never exceeded the projected figure for 2005 of 5,200.

Chief Constable of Gwent: Suspension

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what date and why the Chief Constable of Gwent was suspended from duty, giving the reasons; what allegations have been made against the chief constable; what stage has been reached in the investigation; when the investigation will be concluded; when the police authority is expected to make a statement; how long the police authority is to remain without an operational chief constable; and whether these investigations involve allegations against other chief officers of the Gwent Constabulary.[HL1813]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Chief Constable of Gwent was suspended from duty on 24 October 1997 as a result of allegations made against him. The police authority appointed Dr. Butler, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, to investigate the allegations, none of which involved other chief officers of the Gwent Constabulary. He has completed his investigations, under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority, and he reported his findings and recommendations to the police authority on 13 May. Having considered the investigating officer's report, the police authority expects to decide within a few days what action to take. I understand it is likely that the police authority will make a statement shortly.

In accordance with the provisions of Section 12 of the Police Act 1996, the designated assistant chief constable is exercising all the powers and duties of the chief constable. The designated chief constable acts as chief constable with the agreement of the police authority and the consent of the Home Secretary.

Firearms Rules: English and Welsh Language Licensing Forms

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish on the same date, in both Welsh and English languages, the various firearms

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    and shotgun application forms and certificates that are currently under revision.[HL1819]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government's priority in revising the Firearms Rules is to implement the changes to firearms licensing provided for in the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and as recommended by Lord Cullen in his report on the Dunblane tragedy. Because of the pressing need to introduce the new rules, the prescribed firearms licensing forms will be published in English only. It is our intention to publish Welsh language versions of the forms as soon as practicable.

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