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Race Relations Forum

Baroness Lockwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We are pleased to announce that the first meeting of the Race Relations Forum will be held on 23 June. The following have confirmed that they are willing to serve as members of the Forum:

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    Campbell; Mr. Thomas Chan; Ms Gobnait Ni Chrualaoi; Mr. Lincoln Crawford QC; Mr. Mohammed Dhalech; Lord Navnit Dholakia OBE JP; Mrs. Zerbanoo Gifford; Mr. Bernie Grant MP; Ms Ros Howells OBE; Mr. Lee Jasper; Mr. Makbool Javaid; Dr. Gus John; Ms Mukami McCrum; Mr. Norman McLean; Dr. Dwain Neil; Sir Herman Ouseley; Mr. Adam Hafejee Patel; Ms Shushila Patel; Mr. Trevor Phillips; Ms Rachel Pickavance; Mr. Iqbal A. K. M. Sacranie; Mr. Gurbux Singh; Mr. Ranjit Sondhi; Dr. Richard Stone; The Rt. Revd. Wilfred Wood.

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Montserratian Evacuees in the UK

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the future status of Montserratian evacuees in the United Kingdom.[HL2042]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have decided that Montserratian evacuees in the United Kingdom should be allowed to remain here indefinitely if they wish. This offer will also apply to Montserratians still on the island and those who moved elsewhere in the Caribbean because of volcanic activity, should they wish to come to the United Kingdom.

Forensic Science Registration Council

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support proposals from the forensic science community for the creation of a Registration Council for Forensic Practitioners.[HL2043]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We are pleased to announce the Government's support for the creation of a forensic science registration council, in line with the central recommendations made by the industry's own working group in December 1997. The working group, which was chaired by Lord Lewis, was established following an initiative by the Forensic Science Service.

The council's aim will be to promote and maintain high standards of competence, practice, discipline and ethics among forensic science practitioners. It will be non statutory, self-financing, self-regulating and independent, with input from users. The council will operate on a three tier basis, comprising:

    a council, to include legal, lay and expert members, and incorporating a disciplinary panel;

    an executive/registration board which would set the criteria for registration and operate the register; and

    assessment panels which would assess qualifications and competence for each specialism within the forensic science community. The council will build on and incorporate existing expertise and infrastructure using the experience of a wide range of professional bodies which already operate in this field.

While considering the working group's recommendations on this issue, the Government also looked at the other outstanding proposals for the oversight of forensic science put forward by the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (which reported in 1993) and by Professor Caddy in his report of December 1996 into the contamination incident at the Forensic Explosives Laboratory. The Royal Commission and Professor Caddy recommended the establishment of a forensic science advisory board and an inspectorate of forensic science services respectively.

The Government considered all three sets of proposals very carefully. In light of the progress made in recent years by the forensic science industry to

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promote quality and standards, including the external accreditation of laboratories by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service and the British Standards Institute, we believe that the registration council offers the most practical way forward. The registration council would undertake a number of the tasks proposed for the advisory board and inspectorate, but would do so in a way which complemented existing structures for maintaining standards in the industry. We share the view of the previous administration, as set out in their final response to the Royal Commission (published in June 1996), that there is no need for the far wider remit envisaged for the two alternative oversight bodies. Many of the functions identified for the advisory board and inspectorate could only be fulfilled effectively with some form of statutory regulation, which the Royal Commission itself did not see as justified. The Government concur with this view.

It is important that any new arrangements for oversight command the support not only of forensic practitioners but also the end users of their services. We are pleased that the proposals to establish the registration council for forensic practitioners have received the overwhelming support of the forensic science community, as well as considerable backing from those in the wider criminal justice system.

Once fully established, the aim would be for registration with the council to become expected of those presenting expert forensic evidence in court. This would not preclude those who are unregistered from giving such evidence, although we believe such instances will become rare. It will also remain open to the courts to hear evidence from non-registered persons whose expertise is in a field outside the normal range of forensic science. As now, such decisions will remain a matter for the court to determine.

Although it is the intention that, once fully established, the registration council will be self-funded, the Government have agreed that they will provide financial support to help with the start-up costs. Such funding will be for an initial period of two years.

The setting up of the registration council will be a significant step forward in further raising quality and standards in the forensic science industry. Taken together with the other measures already taken by the industry, the council will do much to enhance the standing of forensic science in the criminal justice process.

Asylum Control: Designated Countries

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

    What are their current criteria for deciding whether a country should be classified as "designated" for the purpose of immigration and asylum control; and [HL1900]

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    What are their reasons for continuing to classify Pakistan as a "designated" country for the purposes of immigration and asylum control.[HL1901]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 (as substituted by Section 1 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996) provides that a country or territory in which it appears to the Secretary of State there is, in general, no serious risk of persecution may be designated by order. The Government are reviewing all aspects of asylum law and procedure, but are for the present maintaining the designation of those countries currently designated under paragraph 5 of Schedule 2 to the 1993 Act, subject to our continuing assessment of conditions in countries to which applicants for asylum are liable to return.

Successful Asylum Applications

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish in the Official Report a table showing the number of persons granted asylum in the United Kingdom in each month during 1996, 1997 and 1998 to date, together with the moving annual total for each 12-month period.[HL1918]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The information requested is given in the table:

Persons recognised as refugees and granted asylum(1), excluding dependants, with totals for each 12-month period, January 1996 to March 1998
Number of principal applicants

Month of decisionNumber of decisions in each monthTotal decisions in preceding 12 months

(1) Figures rounded to the nearest 5.

-- = Not applicable.

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Turkish Nurses: NHS Employment

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What restrictions, if any, limit the eligibility of Turkish nurses to seek employment in the NHS.[HL1895]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Turkish nationals are subject to immigration control and would normally require work permits to work in the National Health Service.

Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish a revised framework document for the Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency.[HL2037]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We have today arranged for copies of the Planning Inspectorate's revised framework document to be published and for copies to be placed in the Library.

It is part of the usual arrangements for Next Steps Agencies to review their operation and revise their framework document every three to five years. The revised framework document will set out the relationship between the Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency and its parent departments (the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Welsh Office).

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