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Biodiversity Convention: Conference

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity was held in Bratislava from 4 to 15 May. The United Kingdom led active participation by the European Union, which helped to ensure that many of our objectives for this meeting, as agreed at the March Environment Council, were achieved.

A range of further work was agreed on measures to safeguard biodiversity in inland water, forest, agriculture, and coastal and marine ecosystems. Arrangements were agreed for the conclusion of the negotiation of a biosafety protocol to the convention by

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early next year, and to hold an intersessional working group to consider further the implementation of the convention's provisions on traditional knowledge. The meeting commissioned further work to analyse the first round of national reports from parties, and the preparation of guidance on the nature and timing of the next round. Attention will also be given intersessionally to access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing.

The UK laid particular emphasis on the need to improve the operations of the convention and the conference of the parties, and, while some progress was made on this in Bratislava, further consideration will take place at an intersessional meeting next year. The UK will continue to press for improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the convention's operations, in order to maximise delivery of the convention's objectives.

Medway Secure Training Centre

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on 27 April (H.L. Deb., cols. 9-11), how many boy and girl inmates there are at the Medway Secure Training Centre.[HL2177]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): As of Monday 15 June, there was a total of nine trainees at Medway Secure Training Centre, comprising seven boys and two girls.

Firearms Licensing: Home Office Circulars

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will:

    (a) list all Home Office circulars issued since 1968 concerning the administration of the current Firearms Acts to date, with an explanation why some of the circulars that are issued on different topics and dates in the same year are given the same reference number; and

    (b) list all such circulars that are issued with the same reference number, giving dates.[HL2184]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Home Office circulars to the police, including those on firearms matters, are numbered for reference sequentially within each year of issue. A list of all such circulars to chief officers of police on firearms licensing matters from 1968 to the present is set out below:

196812/68Criminal Justice Act 1967
21/68Amnesty and Appeal for Surrender
59/68Part V of the Criminal Justice Act 1967
155/68Firearms Act 1968
208/68The Transfer of Functions (Prohibited Weapons) Order 1968
258/68The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1968
196932/69The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) Rules 1969
181/69The Firearms Rules 1969
255/69Firearms Act 1968 Memorandum of Guidance (Revised)
1970288/69The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1970
1971-1974No circulars issued on firearms licensing
197581/75The Firearms (Removal to Northern Ireland) Order 1975
104/75The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1975
105/75The Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order 1975: Application under the Firearms Act 1968
1976148/75The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1976
202/76The Firearms (Variation of Fees) (No. 2) Order 1976
197784/77The Firearms (Removal to Northern Ireland) Order 1975
197840/78The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1978
197925/79The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1979
67/79Firearms Fees
198054/80The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1980
1981No circulars on firearms licensing issued
198211/82Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
86/82Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
198383/83I. Firearms (Certificates Granted in Great Britain and Air Weapons lawfully held in Great Britain) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1981
II. Firearms (Removal to Northern Ireland) Order 1975
91/83Firearms Act 1982
92/83Firearms Act 1982
198418/84Electric Shock Batons and Similar Devices
47/84Working Party to Review the Administration of the Firearms Act 1968
198529/85Working Party to Review the Administration of the Firearms Act 1968:
I. Territorial Condition
II. Provision of Zeroing Rifles
198659/86The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1986
198746/87I. The Crossbows Act 1987
II. Territorial Conditions on Firearm Certificates
198831/88Firearms Amnesty: Appeal for Surrender of Guns
19892/189The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988
45/89The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988
75/89The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988: Visitors Permit Scheme: Removal of Firearms to Northern Ireland
199025/90Approval of Rifle and Pistol Clubs under Section 15 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988: New Criteria
40/90The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1990
19916/91The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988: Removal of Firearms to Northern Ireland
94/91Administration of the Firearms Licensing System
199295/92The Firearms Acts (Amendment) Regulations 1992
199327/93The Firearms (Dangerous Air Weapons) (Amendment) Regulations Act 1993
199437/94The Firearms (Amendment) Regulations 1994
64/94The Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1994
The Firearms (Period of Certificates) Order 1994
The Firearms (Amendment) Rules 1994
1995-1996No circulars on firearms licensing issued
199732/97The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997
68/97The Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997
1998No circulars on firearms licensing issued to date.
Home Office records from 1968 onwards do not record any circular on firearms matters having the same number as any other circular for that year. Copies of Home Office circulars to the police are routinely placed in the Library.
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Criminal Cases Review Commission

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assets were transferred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission on 1 April.[HL2341]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Criminal Cases Review Commission has been notified that certain Crown assets have been transferred to it, effective from 1 April 1998. The transfer will be free of charge. The assets comprise:

AssetsEstimated Value
Furniture and miscellaneous items of office equipment£87,000
Information Technology and communications equipment£496,000

Sierra Leone: Asylum Seekers

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the situation regarding asylum seekers from Sierra Leone.[HL2342]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr. Mike O'Brien) announced on 1 July that he had made a declaration under the Social Security (Persons from Abroad) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 1996 that Sierra Leone had undergone such an upheaval that we would not seek to enforce the return of refused asylum seekers to that country for the time being.

Since that time, the situation in the country has been carefully monitored, together with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. More information has become available since the liberation of Freetown by ECOMOG troops in February this year. The democratically elected President returned to the country in March and announced his new broad-based government. Although there is fighting in the east, the rest of the country appears secure.

The information received about conditions in Sierra Leone enables us to make an informed assessment of the merits of asylum applications made prior to the upheaval, and subsequently, in accordance with our international obligations. If an applicant is able to demonstrate that his fear of persecution is well-founded then asylum will be granted. In other cases, if there are clear compelling humanitarian reasons not to require a person to return, exceptional leave to enter or remain

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will be granted. If asylum or exceptional treatment is not merited, the normal course will be to expect applicants to return to Sierra Leone. We will continue to monitor developments in the region.

Perjury and Perverting the Course of Justice: Prosecutions

Lord Rawlinson of Ewell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions in the past two years have (a) a party and (b) a witness in actions for defamation been prosecuted for perjury or obstructing the course of justice or similar offences arising from the giving of evidence or in a sworn statement; and [HL2181]

    On how many occasions in the past few years have:

    (a) a person convicted of an offence; and

    (b) a witness to an alibi which by their verdict the jury have rejected been prosecuted for an offence of perjury or obstructing the course of justice or similar offence arising from giving evidence or in a sworn statement.[HL2182]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The three separate court databases for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not identify cases to the detail required. However, limited information on the number of cases for offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice is given in the tables.

Table A: Number of defendants prosecuted for perjury and perverting the course of justice offences, England and Wales, 1995--1996

Offence description19951996
Perjury and false statements (also false declarations and representations made punishable by any statute)232247
Attempting to pervert the course of justice (attempting to pervert the course of public justice--fabrication of false evidence, cause person to be wrongly convicted, interference with witness)2,8862,924

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Table B: Persons proceeded against for perjury and subornation, or for general attempts to defeat/pervert the ends/course of justice, Scotland, 1995--1996

Offence description19951996
Perjury and subornation
False representation915
Subornation of perjury02
General attempts to defeat/pervert the ends/course of justice
Attempts to defeat the ends of justice142193
Attempts to pervert the course of justice1,1451,315
Defeat the ends of justice2310
Pervert the course of justice11418
Public mischief2936

Table C: Specific perjury offence prosecutions in
Northern Ireland, 1995--1997

Offence description199519961997
Perjury by a witness230
Perverting the course of justice131114

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