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EU Courts: Interpreter Facilities

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The United Kingdom, during its Presidency of the European Union, initiated a questionnaire on the provision of interpretation in criminal proceedings in the European Union. The purpose of the questionnaire was to seek information about the availability of necessary interpretation facilities in member states following the arrest of a person and in any subsequent criminal proceedings. A summary of the responses to the questionnaire from each member state is being prepared by the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. When the summary has been compiled it will be for the Council to decide whether it should be published.

The Government will form their view on the adequacy of interpretation facilities in courts in the European Union in light of the results of the questionnaire and of the research in this area, which is being funded by the European Commission's Grotius programme.

Firearms Database: Working Group Membership

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Details of the working group set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers to finalise the detailed user requirement for this database are as set out in my earlier Written Answer (WA 15, 3 September 1998). It met on 14 October and is expected to meet again in December. We shall certainly consider placing a copy of the detailed user requirement in the Library once it has been drawn up.

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Firearms Database: Establishment

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have fulfilled their statutory obligation to establish a central register of persons who have applied for a firearm or a shotgun certificate or to whom a firearm or shot gun certificate has been granted, as required under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which came into force on 1 October 1997.[HL3769]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: No central register as required under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 has yet been established. This project is being taken forward as part of the development of PHOENIX, the Police and Home Office Extended Name Index, part of the Police National Computer. There are many competing modules for this system of which the firearms database is but one. It is important to ensure that the overall operational needs of the police service and any potential overlap between different applications are taken fully into account.

Public Authorities: Discrimination

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

    Whether they will introduce measures to make it unlawful for public authorities to discriminate on grounds of sex, colour, race, ethnic or national origins, disability or sexual orientation in the discharge of their public functions.[HL3767]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government are committed to securing equality of opportunities for all their citizens. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA), the Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA) and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 support this principle. All these Acts are under review. The Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality, in their recent reviews of the SDA and the RRA, have made recommendations about the role of public bodies in opposing discrimination on a range of grounds. The Government have established the Disability Task Force to make recommendations by July 1999 on how to secure comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people.

City of London: Government Promotion

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to assist in the promotion of the activities of the City of London.[HL3731]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government work with the Corporation of London and the Office of the Lord Mayor, the Bank of England and, where appropriate, the Financial Services Authority, as well as with British Invisibles and other promotional bodies, in promoting the activities of the City of London. The Government add value by supporting those activities,

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for example through ministerial speaking engagements and visiting programmes promoting UK-based financial services. Developments in the City, such as the preparations for the introduction of the euro, are presented as illustrations of London's competitiveness in international financial services business. The Government have also announced plans to legislate to amend the UK's financial services regulatory regime to ensure that it is fit for the new millennium and that London's reputation as a clean place to do business will be maintained and enhanced.

With the aim of developing government support further, Treasury officials have been liaising with the City and with other government departments, notably the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to draw up a list of important markets in which promotional activity should be concentrated to identify achievable objectives in those markets and to ensure that there is better co-ordination among the various bodies involved. This will enable future visits by Ministers to those markets to concentrate on the issues of importance to the financial services industry, will streamline the activities of accompanying business people from the City and will complement the overseas programmes of other parties, such as the Lord Mayor.

Single European Currency: Supply of Money by Banks which Charge Interest

Lord Sudeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the introduction of the single European currency, the supply of money could be removed from banks which charge interest and be reassumed by elected governments, which could issue currency on a debt-free basis.[HL3807]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government will not be removing the supply of money from banks which charge interest.

Ali Qassim Rabia and Sheikh Essa Abdulla al-Jawder

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the recommendation by the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Fatchett) that the authorities in Bahrain should open a dialogue with the Committee for Popular Petition, what action they will take over the summons for questioning of former MP, Ali Qassim Rabia, and Sheikh Essa Abdulla al-Jawder, members of the CPP, for writing to the Amir about the proposed dialogue.[HL3669]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): When we receive confirmation that Ali Qassim Rabia and Sheikh Essa Abdulla al-Jawder have been summoned for questioning we shall consider what, if any, action should be taken.

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Bahrain: Human Rights

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to persuade the authorities in Bahrain to give serious consideration to the recommendation made in the report The Crisis of Human Rights in Bahrain: The Rule of Law under threat, published by the Parliamentary Human Rights Group and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales on 28 October.[HL3670]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The recommendations are consistent with our human rights concerns which we raise regularly with the Bahraini authorities.

Burma: Human Rights Violations

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to incorporate a reference to displacement and exile of large numbers of the Karen people in the Resolution on Burma (Myanmar) which is to be tabled at the United Nations General Assembly in November.[HL3671]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government, together with our EU Partners, are working for a resolution on Burma at the UN General Assembly in New York. We will press for strong condemnation of all human rights violations in Burma, including forced relocation of ethnic minorities, which has led to a number of displaced persons and refugees.

Overseas Territories: White Paper

The Earl of Iveagh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the White Paper on overseas territories has not yet been published; and whether they will now indicate when they expect it to be published.[HL3679]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Preparation of the White Paper on the overseas territories has involved wide-ranging consultation on a broad group of subjects. It has been a complex process. It is now drawing to a close. Our expectation is that the paper will be published early in the next Session of Parliament.

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