Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Handgun Surrender Compensation Schemes

The Earl of Denbigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Around 56,600 claims have been received under Options A and B of the statutory compensation scheme for large calibre handguns and the ex gratia surrender scheme for small calibre pistols, of which around 60 remain outstanding, pending the completion of enquiries. Around 25,900 claims have been received under Option C of these schemes, of which 18,900 remain outstanding. In 900 of these cases, offers of payment have been made and are awaiting acceptance by the claimant.

Around 9,700 claims have been received under Options A and B of the statutory surrender scheme for small calibre pistols, of which 4,300 remain outstanding, together with around 6,100 claims under Option C of this scheme.

The Firearms Compensation Section is currently concentrating mainly on the outstanding claims under Option C of the large calibre and ex gratia schemes, and the aim is to clear the bulk of these by the end of the year. Work is also proceeding on the Option A and B claims under the small calibre scheme, and these should be completed at around the same time. It is not possible to give a date for completion of the Option C claims under the small calibre scheme at this stage, but work will begin on these as soon as the overall work position permits.

The compensation schemes make no provision for interest if claims are not settled within a particular time. These are complicated and wide-ranging compensation schemes, involving substantial amounts of public money, and the claims are being dealt with as quickly as possible.

Human Rights Bill: Entry into Force

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

    Whether they intend to bring the Human Rights Bill into force in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before they bring it into force in England; and, if so, what are their reasons.[HL3427]

26 Oct 1998 : Column WA198

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We do not at present have any plans to bring the Human Rights Bill into force at different times in different parts of the United Kingdom.

Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill: Royal Assent

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Queen signed the Letters Patent signifying the Royal Assent to the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill before the completion of its passage through both Houses of Parliament.[HL3428]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Royal Assent is itself a process, of which the Queen's signature is a vital part but neither the start nor the end. The Queen signed the Letters Patent for the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill before the completion of its passage through Parliament. This has been normal procedure for many years. Royal Assent was subsequently given, after the completion of all the Bill's stages, on Friday 4 September.

Freedom of Information Legislation

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans are being put into place to prepare for the implementation of the proposed freedom of information Act.[HL3568]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We hope to do so in the second quarter of next year.

The Data Protection Act 1998 received Royal Assent on 16 July, but substantial subordinate legislation will also be needed. We issued two consultation papers about this in August. There were more than 100 responses, which we are currently considering. We will announce a firm target date for implementation as soon as we can.

Meanwhile, users of automated personal data must continue to comply with the present Data Protection Act 1984. This includes registering new processing operations and applying for renewals when existing registrations expire.

When the new Act comes into force, processing operations which were already under way by 23 October 1998 will become subject to the transitional regime, which for automated data will end on 23 October 2001.

New processing operations which had begun on or after 24 October this year will become subject to the new regime as soon as it is brought into force. The Data Protection Registrar has sent me a copy of the introductory guide to the Act which she had just issued and which covers these matters. I shall place a copy in the Library of the House.

26 Oct 1998 : Column WA199

Electronic Tagging and Asylum Seekers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that electronic tagging may be a suitable alternative to detention for Immigration Act detainees; and whether they will conduct a trial with some of the asylum seekers at present in detention.[HL3477]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We are following with interest the pilot schemes for the use of electronic tagging within the criminal justice system and will, in due course, consider whether a similar system would be beneficial to the Immigration Service.

Immigration Service Detention Centre Proposal

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider designating Aldington as an Immigration Act detention centre.[HL3479]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The possibility of using Aldington as an Immigration Service detention centre is one of a number of options being considered to expand the detention estate and reduce the use of prisons. Discussions are taking place between Immigration Service and Prison Service officials. We expect to be able to take a decision within the next few months.

General Pinochet

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have not detained General Augusto Pinochet, former dictator of Chile, now on a visit to Britain, using the powers in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which embody in our law the obligation under Article 6 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to take into custody and prosecute any person within our jurisdiction who is alleged to have committed torture or an act which constitutes complicity or participating in torture.[HL3399]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The offence of torture contained in Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides that a United Kingdom court has jurisdiction to prosecute for an offence of torture committed by a person of any nationality committed in any part of the world. The police may arrest or detain a suspect in connection with an offence under Section 134 only if they have sufficient evidence to do so. If the noble Lord believes he has evidence of an offence under Section 134, he should place it in the hands of the police.

26 Oct 1998 : Column WA200

Police Act 1997: Implementation of Parts III and V

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the reasons for the delay in bringing into effect Parts III and V of the Police Act 1997.[HL3452]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Detailed work is under way to implement Part III of the Police Act 1997 as quickly as possible. Sir Andrew Leggatt has been appointed as Chief Surveillance Commissioner and we are hoping to announce the appointment of six surveillance commissioners in the very near future. The draft code of practice has been the subject of a public consultation process and a revised code will be laid before Parliament shortly. We are also making good progress on the practical arrangements necessary to support the work of the commissioners. We are aiming to bring Part III into effect at the beginning of next year.

We have decided to implement Part V of the Act by establishing a criminal records agency. The agency will be responsible for issuing the three forms of criminal conviction/record certificates provided for by the Act and, when fully operational, it is estimated that over 10 million certificates will be likely to be issued on request each year. The agency will be self-financing through fees charged for each certificate.

There are substantial resource issues in terms of setting up the agency, police manpower and costs to employers and voluntary organisations. We are giving very careful consideration to the phasing in of certificates, with priority given to the protection of children and the arrangements for charging for certification. Account is also being taken of the emerging findings of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Preventing Unsuitable People from Working with Children and Abuse of Trust.

Firearm and Shotgun Certificates

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are able to state the number of persons holding a firearm or shotgun certificate on 31 December 1997 in respect of each police licensing authority in the United Kingdom, and the total number of such certificates; and, if not, when they expect to be able to give these figures.[HL3430]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The following table gives the available information, which relates to the numbers of firearm and shotgun certificates on issue on 31 December 1997. Figures for Scotland were published in a statistical bulletin in July, and those for Northern Ireland were published in the Chief Constable's annual report in September. Figures for England and Wales will be published within the next

26 Oct 1998 : Column WA201

month, and the figures given in the table are currently provisional.

Firearms and shotgun certificates on issue on 31 December 1997

Police forceFirearms certificatesShotgun certificates
Avon and Somerset5,06221,722
Devon and Cornwall8,63236,628
Greater Manchester2,1279,066
London, City of3333
North Yorkshire5,61519,071
South Yorkshire1,6278,324
Thames Valley6,42929,975
West Mercia5,41430,063
West Midlands1,94210,603
West Yorkshire3,00411,559
North Wales2,33913,741
South Wales1,99410,356
Total England and Wales133,596623,079(1)
Dumfries and Galloway2,2274,985
Lothian and Borders3,9769,183
Total Scotland31,09463,215
Northern Ireland83,753--(2)
Total United Kingdom248,443686,294

(1) All figures for England and Wales are provisional.

(2) All firearms, including shotguns, are held on firearms certificates in Northern Ireland.

26 Oct 1998 : Column WA202

26 Oct 1998 : Column WA201

   Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page