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9 Mar 1999 : Column WA15

Written Answers

Tuesday, 9th March 1999.

Army Issue Tow Ropes

The Earl of Denbigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many vehicle tow ropes, NATO stock number 6MT11 2540 99 881 2893 or equivalent, have been issued to Army units in each of the last five years; and what is their unit cost.[HL1094]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The numbers and unit cost of vehicle tow ropes issued to the Army was:

    (a) FY 1995-96: 605 issued Unit cost £47.50 (£48.35 from 17 January 1996)

    (b) FY 1996-97: 121 issued Unit cost £48.35 (£49.76 from 26 February 1997)

    (c) FY 1997-98: 465 issued Unit cost £49.76 (£44.00 from 7 January 1998)

    (d) FY 1998-99: 846 issued Unit cost £44.00 (£45.25 from 17 August 1998).

RAF Menwith Hill

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When a Minister last went to Menwith Hill, the United States military base in the United Kingdom; how long he was there; and whether he was able to see and understand all the activities carried on there by the United States personnel.[HL1292]

Lord Gilbert: Since 1 May 1997, no Minister of the present Administration has visited RAF Menwith Hill. Relevant Ministers are, however, kept informed of all its activities.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they monitor the activities which they permit the United States to carry on at Menwith Hill, including policing carried out by the United States personnel, to ensure that they do not compromise the rights and interests, commercial, social or other, of United Kingdom or other European Union citizens or firms.[HL1294]

Lord Gilbert: Her Majesty's Government are aware of the activities carried out by US personnel at RAF Menwith Hill. The policing at RAF Menwith Hill is carried out by Ministry of Defence Police.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United States authorities at Menwith Hill enjoy, either directly or indirectly, any form of "Crown Immunity" from planning or any other law; and if so, by what authority.[HL1295]

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Lord Gilbert: Planning and other laws apply to RAF Menwith Hill in the same terms as to other defence establishments.

Arms Export Enterprises: Diversification

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research they are sponsoring into alternative goods and technologies which could be supplied by British firms now exporting arms and military equipment to the rest of the world.[HL1236]

Lord Gilbert: MoD has established a Defence Diversification Agency to enable all sectors of UK industry to exploit defence technology for civil purposes.

Naval Officers: Fixed Wing Flying Opportunities

Lord Mottistone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of a recent Ministry of Defence statement that, on the introduction of a multi-role aircraft for the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force in 2012, it would be logical to draw aircrew from the same service, they can give an assurance that there will always continue to be opportunities for naval warfare officers to specialise in fixed wing flying from aircraft carriers.[HL1326]

Lord Gilbert: The aircraft in JF2000 will be operated in both the land and maritime environments and will be staffed by personnel from the RN and RAF. There will be continued opportunities for naval officers to specialise in fixed wing aircraft operating from aircraft carriers.

Catterick: Firearms Storage

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are changing, or what plans they have to change, the facilities at the Ministry of Defence estate centred on Catterick for the storage or handling of weapons (in particular rifles and shotguns) not originally designed for military use.[HL1271]

Lord Gilbert: Service personnel throughout the UK may store legally held and properly licensed firearms or shotguns in their unit armoury at the discretion of the commanding officer and when authorised by the licensing authority. There are no plans at present to change these arrangements, or to alter the unit armoury.

US Bases in UK

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the United States maintains bases in the United Kingdom other than NATO bases.[HL1296]

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Lord Gilbert: All US bases in the United Kingdom are available to undertake tasks in support of NATO objectives and in furtherance of mutual defence interests.

Local Authority Archaeological Services

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to encourage local education authorities to support educational services to schools provided by local public organisations in view of the threatened closure of the Northamptonshire Heritage Education Service and the Worcestershire Archaeological Service in response to government-imposed restrictions on public spending; and [HL973]

    Whether they intend to provide statutory protection for local authority archaeology services in order to ensure that the requirements of Planning Policy Guidance 15 and Planning Policy Guidance 16 can be effectively discharged in view of the threat to cut such services in Worcestershire due to government-imposed restrictions on public spending.[HL974]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is for local authorities to determine their priorities within a settlement which is the most generous for years. English Heritage has emphasised to Worcestershire County Council the importance of retaining archaeological services and I am now pleased to hear that archaeological, museum and library services in Worcestershire will not be cut back. The provision of archaeological services is in any case kept under review by the Department and English Heritage, and, where necessary, English Heritage will continue its policy of funding archaeological posts in local authorities. In 1998-99 it is funding 11 posts at a total cost of £107,000; in 1999-2000 this will rise to 14 posts, costing £150,000. We have no present plans to provide statutory protection for local authority archaeological services.


Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) What progress is being made in negotiations to rescue Musicworks from bankruptcy; (b) who is taking part in those negotiations; and (c) whether the 170 students who should have started their Musicworks courses on 18 January have been offered alternative courses.[HL1306]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Negotiations continue between the Musicworks Board and the Arts Council of England, the London Arts Board and the London Borough of Lambeth, who are Musicworks' core funders. I understand that they are focusing particularly on the potential for another arts organisation with

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similar charitable objectives to acquire Musicworks' facilities. I understand also that courses have been reallocated as follows: children's workshops for keyboard and guitar are now being conducted at a local school; in-service training will take place in schools as planned; the Youth Music Theatre has moved to Oval House in Kennington; and the young offenders project for 16-25 year olds, together with sound engineering courses, have relocated to Community Music in Southwark. Only the drum and general band workshops have not been able to relocate, because of the specialist facilities required.

Hyde Park Concerts: Temporary Auditorium

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Royal Parks have complied with Environmental Guidance 18/84 in their proposal to erect an auditorium for 17,500 people for a series of pop concerts in Hyde Park this summer.[HL1297]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Responsibility for the subject of this Question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Head of Policy of the Royal Parks Agency, Ms Viviane Robertson, dated 9 March 1999.

I have been asked by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to reply to your Parliamentary Question about whether the Agency has made an application under Department of Environment Circular 18/84 to erect an auditorium for a series of concerts in Hyde Park. This is an operational matter, which is the responsibility of the Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch, and I have been asked to reply in his absence.

Since the site will not be used for long enough to constitute a change of use under the Town and Country Planning Act, no formal application is required under the Circular 18/84 procedures. However, the agency works closely with both Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police over arrangements for all but small-scale events planned for Hyde Park.

Northern Ireland: Prisoner Releases

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will describe the considerations of "sensitivity" and "safety" which in their view justify their refusal to disclose the names of prisoners they have released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.[HL1246]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): Sensitivity and safety have been the key considerations in Government's refusal to publish names of prisoners released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

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The Government recognise that some victims wish to know about the release of a prisoner or prisoners involved in the crime committed against them. Arrangements have been put in place through the Early Release Information Scheme for such requests to be validated and for victims to be kept informed.

However, in a great many cases, victims of crimes have no wish to be reminded of the circumstances of their tragedy. Victims groups have also expressed deep concern at the publicity given to releases by the media.

The safety of prisoners and their families has also been a key consideration. The publication of individual prisoner names could create opportunities for reprisals. Identification could also compromise their ability to live their lives beyond the shadow of past misdeeds.

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