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Civil Procedure Rules: Modernised Terminology

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

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The aim of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, in accordance with the Civil Procedure Act, was to provide unified rules "which are both simple and simply expressed" for all the civil courts. The committee has sought to modernise terminology, not dogmatically, but where it is useful to do so. "Writ" refers only to the High Court and has been replaced by "claim form" in the unified rules. "Affidavit" has not been abolished, but a guide to its meaning may be found in the glossary to the new rules. The terms "certiorari" and "mandamus" are contained in RSC Order 53, which the committee has not yet considered.

Defamation Act: Implementation

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

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The Lord Chancellor: Work on bringing these provisions into force was delayed by the pressure of other priorities. However, I am pleased to announce that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will be making a Joint Commencement Order in the next few days which brings Sections 14 and 15 of, and Schedule 1 to, the Defamation Act 1996 into force with effect from 1 April 1999. It also brings into force Sections 16 and 17 of, and Schedule 2 to, the Act in so far as they are relevant to Sections 14 and 15.

Extradition from Australia

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Serious Fraud Office has to clear any intended extradition proceedings in Australia through the office of the Attorney General or any other government office before commencing proceedings.[HL1276]

The Lord Chancellor: Extradition requests are sent in the name of and under the seal of the Secretary of State for Home Affairs on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. The consent of the Attorney General, save in cases where required by law, is not necessary before the papers are delivered to the requested state.

Mr. Peter Clarence Foster: Extradition Proceedings

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the cost to date of £434,696 of the extradition proceedings against Peter Clarence Foster is justified in view of the failure of their case against "another person" mentioned in the written answer of the Lord Chancellor on 22 February [WA 103] on similar charges where full costs were awarded against the Serious Fraud Office.[HL1277]

The Lord Chancellor: The figure of £434,696 reflects the costs of the investigation and prosecution as a whole, including those attributable to proceedings instituted against a third party which have since been terminated (and in which there was no order for costs made against the Serious Fraud Office). The factors which led to that decision in no way detract from the case against Peter Clarence Foster, which will continue.

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who in the Serious Fraud Office is accountable for the expenditure of applications such as that involved in the extradition of Peter Clarence Foster.[HL1278]

The Lord Chancellor: The Director of the Serious Fraud Office is the accounting officer in respect of expenditure from monies voted by Parliament to the Serious Fraud Office; that includes costs associated with the investigation of this case and the preparation of the request for extradition. The cost of the conduct of extradition proceedings in Australia is borne by the authorities there in accordance with reciprocal arrangements.

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Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the full details and the amount of money involved in each of the 16 charges for which Peter Clarence Foster is being extradited from Australia.[HL1279]

The Lord Chancellor: The evidence contained in the papers supporting the application to the Australian Government for the extradition of Peter Clarence Foster discloses the commission of 16 offences. Three of these offences were listed in the original extradition warrant and relate to offences of using a false instrument contrary to Section 3 of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981. No value is specified in relation to these offences. The Australian authorities have been informed that Her Majesty's Government will seek waiver of the speciality rule in relation to the remaining 13 charges, which comprise a further six charges contrary to Section 3 of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 (no value specified), six charges of furnishing false information contrary to Section 17 of the Theft Act 1968 (no value specified) and one charge of procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception in the sum of £29,484.80.

Kosovo: NATO Deployment Plans

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further preparations are being made for a NATO force in Kosovo.[HL1416]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Government announced on 22 February the deployment of some 2,225 personnel of 4 Armoured Brigade Headquarters and the Lead Armoured Battle Group to Greece and Macedonia, and enablers for the headquarters of Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps, HQ ARRC. On 26 February, the Government announced the deployment of the majority of the remaining equipment and personnel of 4 Armoured Brigade headquarters and the Lead Armoured Battle Group. Additional engineering and support assets are also being deployed to provide necessary engineering infrastructure support: their deployment was planned as part of the overall force, but has been brought forward to cover a longer than anticipated stay in Macedonia. NATO has now decided to deploy advance elements of the HQ ARRC to manage the build-up of NATO forces in Macedonia. The UK is framework nation for this headquarters.

Together with national support elements and the British contribution to HQ ARRC, we expect the total number of British personnel in Greece and Macedonia by mid-March to be some 4,800. This figure is consistent with our estimate of the overall British contribution of some 8,000 which we gave to the House on 11 February.

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Gypsy Sites: Funding

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they have given to extending the scope of permissible use of Housing Capital Receipts so that they could be used for the provision of traveller accommodation; and whether they will have particular regard to the problem which has arisen in the London Borough of Hackney, which wants to upgrade an existing temporary site but cannot fund the project.[HL1324]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Under the local government capital finance system, 75 per cent. of the receipts from the sale of council housing must be set aside as provision for debt redemption. It is for authorities to decide how to spend the balance of such receipts, which may be used for any kind of capital expenditure, including accommodation for travellers. We have no plans to change these rules at present.

In the London Borough of Hackney, exchequer grant funded the provision of a permanent gypsy site of 20 double pitches, which opened in 1993. It was open to the borough to apply for further grant funding for gypsy site provision until November 1994, when grant ceased to be generally available.

Genetically Modified Crops and Wildlife

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which species of British wildlife appear likely to be seriously affected by the commercial production of genetically modified crops if there are no regulations to prevent or significantly control such developments.[HL1193]

Lord Whitty: The release and marketing of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including crops, is subject to strict regulation in Great Britain. The Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations 1992, as amended in 1995 and 1997, implement Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms, which was adopted by member states in 1990.

Essentially, all releases and marketing of GMOs are prohibited in the EU unless granted prior explicit consent. Consent could be granted only after a rigorous assessment of an application which includes information on the GMO and its likely impact on the environment. Consent will be given only if the evidence suggests that the proposed release of the GMO is unlikely to result in adverse effects on human health and the environment, including wildlife species.

However, the use of GM crops could also result in changes to agricultural practice which may have indirect implications for wildlife. In order to ensure that our regulatory regime is fully capable of identifying any potential impacts on wildlife, the remit of the Advisory

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Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) has been expanded to consider wider biodiversity issues, and a sub-group of ACRE has been set up to examine these in more detail. With these regulations in force, British wildlife species should be protected against effects from the commercial use of genetically modified crops.

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