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11 Nov 1998 : Column WA93

Written Answers

Wednesday, 11th November 1998.

World Trade Organisation and Developing Countries

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking together with their partners in the European Union to ensure that developing countries are enabled to pursue and enjoy their full rights within the World Trade Organisation.[HL3678]

Baroness Amos: As we set out in the White Paper, the Government support an open, fair and sustainable multilateral trading system for the benefit of all countries, including developing countries. The UK is currently working with multilateral agencies to enhance the capacity of developing countries to implement their commitments under existing Uruguay Round Agreements, and to negotiate their trade interests. Dispute settlement is a central part of the WTO system. The UK has helped to develop working proposals, currently being looked at by the WTO membership, designed to help developing countries make effective use of dispute settlement procedures. The EU is considering a possible alternative European proposal.

The UK is also actively working within Whitehall and Brussels to ensure that the preparatory process for a prospective trade round takes due account of development concerns.

Central America: Humanitarian Aid

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are planning any relief assistance following the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in Central America; and, if so, what form this will take.[HL3753]

Baroness Amos: We are responding to the immediate relief needs of the region as part of the international relief effort. This includes a contribution of £200,000 to the Red Cross Regional Appeal, approximately £60,000 to the Pan American Health Organisation for basic health care needs and £94,525 to the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD) for food and household items for Honduras. In Nicaragua, we have channelled £32,585 through the non-governmental organisation CARE for the provision of safe water, food and clothes. We are also sending medical supplies to El Salvador to meet the needs of 20,000 people for three months. In addition, HMS "Sheffield" provided immediate disaster assistance to Honduras and RFA "Sir Tristram" and HMS "Ocean" are providing further support. We have also provided a UK expert to the United Nations assessment and co-ordination teams working in the region.

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We continue to monitor the situation closely through our embassies and the United Nations, and we are in close contact with British non-governmental organisations with established long-term programmes in the region, about support to their relief activities.

We are reviewing our proposed development programme so that we are in a position to assist with the rehabilitation effort.

Education Act 1996: Political Indoctrination

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken to enforce the implementation of Section 406 (political indoctrination) of the Education Act 1996.[HL3740]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): What I said in reply to the oral Question from the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, on 26 October (Column 1689) about Section 407 of the Act applies equally to Section 406. It is the subject of guidance issued by the Department for Education and Employment to local education authorities and schools, in particular School Governors: a Guide to the Law. Arrangements for making formal complaints also apply.

Government Relations with Voluntaryand Community Sector

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out their proposals for relations between government and the voluntary and community sector in England.[HL3827]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): A compact setting out a framework for relations between government and the voluntary and community sector in England will be published on Thursday 12 November. Copies of the document will be placed in the Library. Separate compacts have been developed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Medway Secure Training Centre

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 27 July (WA 151), when they expect to receive and publish the report by the Social Services Inspectors on Medway Secure Training Centre.[HL3676]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: An inspection of Medway Secure Training Centre, by a team led by the Social Services Inspectorate, was completed on 2 October. The Social Services Inspectorate will report its findings to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I understand that the report is still being drafted and that publication of the report is likely to take place early next year.

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Human Rights Act

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

    Whether they will publish the timetable for bringing into force the various provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998.[HL3684]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary hopes to make an announcement shortly about implementing Section 19 of the Act. When we have decided on a date for the implementation of the remaining provisions of the Act, we will announce it.

Gift Aid

Lord Skidelsky asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what is the amount paid over to charities by the Inland Revenue under the Gift Aid scheme in each of the past five years; and

    (b) what is the amount currently allowed in higher rate tax relief for charitable donations.[HL3690]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Basic rate income tax repayments to charities in respect of Gift Aid donations for the last five years for which information is available are shown in the table.

Tax repayments to charities on Gift Aid donations 1

£ million

(1) Repayments are shown in the year in which the claim was made.

(2) Provisional.

Additional relief claimed by higher rate taxpayers is provisionally estimated for 1997-98 at around £50 million for donations under deed of covenant and £40 million for donations under the Gift Aid scheme. These figures are based on the latest Survey of Personal Incomes.

Standing Committee on EMU Preparations

Lord Gordon of Strathblane asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the most recent meeting of the Standing Committee on preparations for EMU.[HL3816]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Standing Committee on preparations for EMU met for the third time on 27 October. A copy of the minutes of the meeting has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The committee was informed of the success of the Government's national information campaign and

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received reports on public and private sector preparations.

Agricultural Charities: Lottery Funding

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reconsider the response of Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 27 October to the question whether agricultural charities could benefit from lottery funding (H.L. Deb., col. 1815) in view of the growing demands on various agricultural charities and other societies helping farmers.[HL3631]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have no plans to make agriculture a Lottery good cause. However, agricultural charities and other groups helping farmers can apply to the Lottery distributors for funding where their projects are appropriate to these good causes. All Lottery distributors have funded projects that benefit farmers indirectly, for example, by providing or improving facilities serving rural communities.

Railway Lines: Responsibility for Trees

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether responsibility for ensuring that trees do not fall on railway lines rests with the railway companies, Railtrack, the owners of the land on which the trees are growing or any combination of them.[HL3711]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Where the land is owned by Railtrack, they are responsible for ensuring that all trees are in a safe condition. Owners or occupiers of adjacent land have a responsibility to ensure that trees do not overhang or cause damage to railway land. In addition, Railtrack have common law powers to trim any overhanging trees and statutory powers to remove, or require the removal of, any trees which endanger the line.

Driving Licence Renewal Fees at Age 70

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will review the £6 charge for driving licence renewal at age 70, and every three years thereafter, in view of the introduction of an £11 fee for photographs required every 10 years.[HL3708]

Lord Whitty: Driving licence fees are reviewed regularly to ensure that overall they cover the total costs of the operations. A consultation exercise to consider the fees which will apply in 1999 has concluded recently. Responses to the consultation are being considered and no decisions have yet been taken.

Photocard driving licence holders will not be required to renew their photographs after age 70 although they will remain subject to three-yearly renewal of their driving entitlement.

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