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Written Answers

Friday 5th June 1998.

EU Development Council Meeting, 18 May

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will detail the outcome of the European Union Development Council meeting on 18 May.[HL2127]

Lord Whitty: The Council discussed the development co-operation aspects of the EU's draft negotiating mandate for the renegotiation of the Lome Convention, which covers EC aid, trade and development relations with 71 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states and expires in the year 2000. The Council held a useful discussion, resolving most of the outstanding issues on the development aspects of the mandate. Trade aspects are still to be agreed, but we are aiming to have the mandate adopted at the General Affairs Council in June.

The Council agreed conclusions on follow-up to the 1993 Poverty Resolution and on follow-up to the 1995 Gender Resolution. The conclusions refer to experience in implementing the resolutions and set out what more needs to be done to improve effectiveness in these key areas. Procedural conclusions were also agreed on microfinance, indigenous peoples, evaluation and humanitarian aid.

Ministers also discussed Rwanda, Nigeria, the nuclear tests in India, Cuba's request to become an observer in the negotiations on the future of ACP-EU relations, aid untying, the DAC chairmanship, the successor to the current administrator of UNDP and a proposal to set up an expert group on migration. They also agreed conclusions on the situation in southern Sudan, noting with extreme concern the grave situation there and the plight of more than 350,000 people in Bahr el Ghazal.

The conclusions reflect the fact that the Council feels that the root of the problem there is the long-term conflict and commits the EU to continuing to provide flexible assistance, urging other donors to do the same.

Sixteenth Century Acts

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 6 May (HL Deb, cols. 609-11), why the Law Commission considers "some" of the contents of the statutes "as unsuitable for the Commission to look at", and what alternative methods there are for removing these obsolete laws from the statute book.[HL1862]

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The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Acts to which the noble Lord refers are (a) the Treason Act (Northern Ireland) 1537, (b) the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 and (c) the Act of Supremacy (Ireland) 1560. I understand that the Law Commission has not examined what remains in force of these Acts with a view to their being included, in their entirety, as candidates in a future statute law repeal measure.

By agreement with the authorities of both Houses, statute law repeal Bills, as opposed to more general law reform measures, must neither be controversial nor raise issues which might reasonably require debate. The three Acts in question deal with matters, for example acts of treason, which would be likely to provoke debate. Therefore they would not be suitable for the statute law repeal process.

Apart from that process, these Acts could be repealed by a Bill introduced by a Member of either House.

The noble Lord will be aware that Clause 33 of the Crime and Disorder Bill, under consideration in another place, replaces the death penalty in these and other Acts with life imprisonment. The Government have no other plans to repeal or further amend the remaining sections of these Acts.

Scotland: Percentage of UK Tax Revenue

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of taxes was paid from those resident in Scotland into the United Kingdom's Treasury:

    (a) as a percentage of British Isles total; and

    (b) as a percentage of the United Kingdom total for each year from 1979 to date.[HL1993]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information is not available in the form requested by the noble Lord. Many taxes are collected centrally and their distribution by region is often unavailable. In addition, there are significant theoretical and practical difficulties in determining an appropriate share to allocate to Scotland for some components of revenue such as corporation tax.

Community Hospital Closures

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In relation to how many community hospitals have proposals for closure been objected to by the community health council; which hospitals they are; what date the Secretary of State has to make known his decision; and how many of these hospitals contain a maternity unit.[HL1954]

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The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The following proposals for closure of community hospitals have been referred to Ministers. None of them contains a maternity unit. Decisions will be announced following full consideration by Ministers.

    St. Barnabas Community Hospital--Saltash, Cornwall

    Fowey Community Hospital--Fowey, Cornwall

    Edward Hain Community Hospital--St. Ives, Cornwall

    Poltair Community Hospital--Penzance, Cornwall.

Northern Ireland Referendum

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept any obligation to ensure impartiality in the conduct of the Northern Ireland referendum.[HL1891]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): I can comment only on the position of the Government. I made it clear on a number of occasions prior to the referendum that our approach was to treat all the parties involved in the referendum on an equal basis. We wanted to see, and were pleased that there was, a yes vote, but we took the position throughout the campaign that how people chose to vote on 22 May was entirely a matter for them.

Northern Ireland: Integrated Education

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they evaluate the importance and significance of integrated education in Northern Ireland in the light of current efforts to build a stable and peaceful society in the Province.[HL1972]

Lord Dubs: Integrated schools make a valuable and, in many ways unique, contribution to the improvement of community relations. The Government believe that all schools have an important part to play in developing better understanding between the two main traditions and we are actively doing so through programmes such as Education for Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage which are integral parts of the statutory curriculum.

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Northern Ireland Elections: Conduct of Government Business

Lord Orme asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will issue guidance on the conduct of government business during the election campaign for the Northern Ireland assembly.[HL2137]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): The business of government must, of course, continue during the election campaign period, including the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement now endorsed in the referendums. Nevertheless, it is important that the Government conduct business in a way which does not interfere with the electoral contest between the participating candidates and parties.

With that in mind, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has endorsed the issue of guidance to government Ministers and departments in Northern Ireland and he is arranging for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Common Land: Management Guide

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the Good Practice Guide on Managing the Use of Common Land.[HL2155]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We have today published the Good Practice Guide on Managing the Use of Common Land which has been produced for us by the Countryside and Community Research Unit of the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education. Copies of the guide have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The guide provides practical advice and solutions to problems experienced in the management of common land and highlights examples of good practice. It is designed for all involved in governing and managing common land. We are therefore distributing copies of the guide widely to interested organisations and individuals.

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