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17 Nov 1998 : Column WA141

Written Answers

Tuesday, 17th November 1998.

Hereditary Peers

Lord Northbourne asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether she was correctly reported in the New Statesman of 6 November to have said that "quite a few of the hereditary Peers are hopeless"; and, if so, which Peers does she consider fall into this category.[HL3823]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay): Your Lordships' House will understand that I am reluctant to comment on any incomplete statement attributed to me in the press. I have already made clear in the recent debate on reform of this House that the Government fully recognise the valuable contribution to the work of the House made by individual hereditary peers (Official Report), 14 October 1998, H.L. Deb., col. 922). However, it is self-evident that among the whole cohort of hereditary peers, as with any other randomly selected group of people, there are those whose ability to fulfil their role and responsibilities as members of the legislature is plainly less than that of others.

Kurdish Community, London: Response to Letter

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will reply to the letter from the Kurdish community in London to the Prime Minister, dated 21 October, concerning political solutions to internal conflict in Turkey and the jamming of international television broadcasts in Turkey; and whether they will place copies of their reply in the Libraries of the two Houses of Parliament.[HL3566]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: A reply was sent by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 11 November. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Parole Decision Making

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What responses they have received to the consultation document Improving Parole Decision Making and how they intend to proceed with determinate sentences of between four and 15 years.[HL3912]

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The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The consultation period ended on 4 November 1998. We received 38 responses to the paper:

    Thirty-three supported the proposals in the paper in their entirety; five others offered differing degrees of support. Of these:

    three respondents had no objections to the proposals but suggested that ministerial involvement in all parole and lifer cases should cease;

    one respondent favoured further delegation to the Parole Board but suggested a cut-off point of 10 years rather than 15 years;

    one respondent suggested that the number of previous parole reviews should determine which case should be decided by the Parole Board.

In the light of the positive responses to the paper, we have today laid before Parliament a draft order giving effect to the proposals.

Central America: Debt Remission

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the severe hurricane damage in Central America, they will attempt to secure reductions in the external debts of the countries affected.[HL3799]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The UK has already written off all of its aid loans to Honduras and Nicaragua.

On Tuesday 11 November the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for International Development called on the World Bank, IMF and IADB to look at possible mechanisms for lessening the debt service obligations of Honduras and Nicaragua, including temporary suspension of payments to the IFIs. They proposed the establishment of a trust fund to help these two countries meet their short-term debt service payments to the IMF and World Bank, and pledged a £10 million contribution to it. They also called for the HIPC initiative to be used flexibly to accommodate the particular debt problems now faced by Honduras and Nicaragua, and for a possible moratorium on their official bilateral debt service payments.

Unemployment Statistics

Lord McColl of Dulwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the quarterly unemployment figures since the beginning of 1992.[HL3834]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics, who has been asked to reply.

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Letter to Lord McColl of Dulwich from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Dr. T. Holt, dated 17 November 1998.

As Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary Question on unemployment.

The ONS measure of unemployment, derived from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), is defined on a consistent and internationally recognised basis set out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and

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counts as unemployed people who are: (a) without a paid job; (b) available to start work within the next two weeks; and (c) have either looked for work in the last four weeks; or are waiting to start a job already obtained. This series is available quarterly for Great Britain from spring 1992, and from winter 1994/95 for the United Kingdom. Before these dates, data are available for each spring back to 1984 when the ILO definition of unemployment was first used in the LFS. The attached table shows seasonally adjusted data for Great Britain and, where available, the United Kingdom.

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ILO Unemployed, thousands, seasonally adjusted

Total Males Females
Mar-May 19922,7452,8301,8351,896910934
Jun-Aug 19922,785--1,857--928--
Sep-Nov 19922,857--1,919--938--
Dec-Feb 19932,965--1,983--982--
Mar-May 19932,9092,9961,9552,018954978
Jun-Aug 19932,879--1,907--972--
Sep-Nov 19932,851--1,882--969--
Dec-Feb 19942,798--1,837--961--
Mar-May 19942,7162,7961,7971,857919938
Jun-Aug 19942,667--1,774--893--
Sep-Nov 19942,523--1,664--859--
Dec-Feb 19952,4562,5351,6141,671843864
Mar-May 19952,4352,5121,5791,636856876
Jun-Aug 19952,4022,4811,5621,618840863
Sep-Nov 19952,3852,4621,5431,599843863
Dec-Feb 19962,3342,4041,5421,594792810
Mar-May 19962,3192,3881,5191,570800817
Jun-Aug 19962,2442,3191,4651,515778803
Sep-Nov 19962,2232,2951,4311,480792815
Dec-Feb 19972,1122,1801,3311,380780800
Mar-May 19972,0292,0831,2851,324744760
Jun-Aug 19971,9792,0421,2231,267756774
Sep-Nov 19971,8461,9131,1431,188703725
Dec-Feb 19981,7991,8611,0991,141701720
Mar-May 19981,7541,8071,0671,105687702
Jun-Aug 19981,7551,8161,0661,105689711


ONS, Labour Force Survey.

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Health Council, 12 November

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the EC Health Council meeting on 12 November.[HL3916]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Public Health attended the meeting of the Health Council on 12 November in Brussels, on behalf of the United Kingdom.

The Council adopted its common position on the Commission's proposal for an injury prevention programme. The Council discussed the development of future public health policy and adopted conclusions which stressed the importance of better prioritisation and co-ordination of public health activities by the Community to complement action taken by the member states. The Commission reported on progress in combating smoking within the Community and announced that it intended to propose measures on the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes and labelling of packets; it also intended to bring forward measures on

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smuggling, additives, and the prohibition of "light" and "mild" markings on cigarettes. Conclusions which stressed the need for a more focused approach were adopted on the European Union-United States Task Force. The Council agreed to continue to consider TSEs (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies) at each meeting and asked the Commission to provide it with a detailed annual report on the issue. The Council noted a progress report on the draft recommendation on limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields. A response to the Commission's report on the revision of the homoeopathic medicines Directives was also agreed. The Council welcomed the recommendations of the conference held in Copenhagen on 9-10 September 1998 on "The Microbial Threat". It also discussed co-operation between the European Union and the World Health Organisation. The International Therapeutic Solidarity Fund--a French Government initiative to provide anti-retroviral therapies to people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries--was also discussed. A discussion on the outcome of the conference on "Quality in Health Care" held by the Austrian Presidency on 24 July 1998 was held over lunch.

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