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7 Jun 1999 : Column WA119

Written Answers

Monday, 7th June 1999.

Immigration and Asylum Appeals

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

    What has been the practical effect upon determination of immigration and asylum appeals of the computer problems currently experienced by the Immigration and Nationality Department, and what is the likely backlog in taking decisions and disposing of appeals anticipated to result from these difficulties.[HL2412]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Immigration and Nationality Department's computer problems have meant that fewer decisions have been taken and so there have been fewer appeals to the Immigration Appellate Authority (IAA). The IAA has therefore been able to dispose of substantially more cases than it has received and so reduce the number of outstanding appeals. Waiting times for pending and new appeals are now about six weeks from receipt at the IAA and any case can be heard within four weeks. The IAA has in place plans to expand as the number of appeals recovers so that waiting times do not deteriorate from the present levels. Senior officials from all the departments involved are co-operating to ensure that these plans work.

Confidential Agreements and Freedom of Expression: Sevso Case

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the Sevso case (Marquess of Northampton v. Allen & Overy and Peter Mimpriss) whether the policy of freedom of speech in the Human Rights Act 1998 is consonant with the enforcement of conditions of confidentiality arising from such compromise agreements.[HL2678]

The Lord Chancellor: Parties to court proceedings who settle their dispute are entitled to do so on terms of confidence. The exercise of the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights does not extend to a right to disclosure of information received in confidence (see Article 10(2)).

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the Sevso case (Marquess of Northampton v. Allen & Overy and Peter Mimpriss), whether their policy of encouraging settlement of disputes by way of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, the terms of which are necessarily confidential, acts adversely upon:

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    (a) the public debate of matters of concern to cultural integrity;

    (b) enforcement by law enforcement authorities;

    (c) ethical conduct by museums; and

    (d) effective enforcement of natural rights under the Recovery of Unlawfully Removed Objects Regulations.[HL2679]

The Lord Chancellor: This Government believe that alternative dispute resolution can provide effective ways of settling many disputes. Whatever the mode of reaching a settlement, parties to court proceedings who reach an agreement are entitled to do so on terms which are confidential. The Government do not consider this has an adverse effect on the matters to which the noble Lord refers.

Official Veterinary Surgeons: Pay

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the average hourly rate of the salaries paid to qualified veterinary surgeons who are (a) United Kingdom nationals and are employed directly by the Meat Hygiene Service; (b) United Kingdom nationals and are contracted to the Meat Hygiene Service; and (c) non-United Kingdom European Union nationals contracted to the Meat Hygiene Service. [HL2562]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs) directly employed by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) are paid on a salary rather than an hourly rate basis. The range of salaries for such OVSs is from £24,168 to £43,241, depending on experience.

The salaries of OVSs contracted to the MHS is a commercial matter for their employers, the various veterinary agencies/practices.

Flood and Coastal Defence: Review

Lord Bach asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the review of the funding arrangements for flood and coastal defence and development of high level targets for flood and coastal defence operating authorities.HL2698

Lord Donoughue: In response to last year's Agriculture Select Committee report on Flood and Coastal Defence, the Government agreed to review the funding mechanisms for flood and coastal defence. As a first step in the review process, a consultation letter was issued to interested parties on 7 May. A copy has been placed in the Libraries.

A consultation paper seeking comments on substantive high level targets for flood and coastal defence from March 2000 will be issued to a wide range of interested organisations later this week; a copy will be placed in the Libraries. The Environment Agency

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will be consulting separately on further elaboration of its flood defence supervisory duty, and will be reporting to my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the autumn.

Palace of Westminster Guided Tours

Lord Hoyle asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether consideration will be given allowing blue badge guides with Palace of Westminster endorsement access to the Line of Route during the Summer Recess.[HL2559]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The present arrangements for tours of the Palace of Westminster already allow accredited blue badge guides to guide tours sponsored by Members of the House. Members can arrange for such guides to be booked by contacting Black Rod's Office.

Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answers by Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 19 May (H.L. Deb., cols. 294-296), that members of expert scientific committees are chosen on merit only, why the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment is currently being reconstituted to reflect differences of scientific opinion; and whether this principle has wider application to other committees.[HL2624]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The reconstitution of the Advisory Committee on Releases into the Environment (ACRE) is fully in line with the Government's policy on appointing members to scientific committees. My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment announced in November 1998 that he was extending the remit of ACRE to allow it to advise on broader implications of genetically modified organisms on agronomic practice and biodiversity. Therefore, when the membership periods of 10 ACRE members expire in June 1999, the opportunity is being taken to ensure that the expertise of the new members reflects the wider remit. For more information, I refer my noble friend to the Minister for the Environment's statements to the House of Commons of 5 November 1998 (Official Report, col. 638) and 11 May 1999 (Official Report, col. 107).

Sickle Cell Disorder

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people suffer from oscar and sickle cell disorders in the United Kingdom; how many such sufferers are black people; and what action they have taken to raise awareness of these disorders.[HL2742]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): An estimated 6,000 people, predominantly from the African-Caribbean population, suffer from sickle cell disorder in the United Kingdom. The Department of Health has funded a number of organisations to help raise awareness of sickle cell and the other haemoglobinopathies among both health professionals and the populations directly affected. We are currently considering the need for a national health promotion programme for the haemoglobinopathies, in discussion with patient representative groups and others with an interest.

Medicines (Advertising) Regulations: Independent Review Panel

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 11 May (H.L. Deb., col. 1089), whether they or the Medicines Control Agency have consulted with (a) Consumers of Health Choice, (b) The National Association of Health Stores or (c) The Health Food Manufacturers' Association about membership of the proposed new Independent Advisory Panel; and, if not, why not.[HL2749 ]

Baroness Hayman: Officials at the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) sent a copy of the consultation letter to Consumers for Health Choice and the National Association of Health Stores on 12 May 1999, and to the Health Food Manufacturers' Association on 21 May 1999.

When consulting interested parties on matters relating to medicines, the MCA considers which organisations are most likely to be affected by the particular proposals under consultation. The Independent Review Panel currently subject to consultation will consider written representations from companies in relation to medicines advertising under the advertising regulations. The panel will not be responsible for the review of advertising of dietary supplements of unlicensed herbal remedies, as such products are not subject to the Medicines (Advertising) Regulations. I refer the noble Lord to the reply I gave to Baroness Wharton on 26 April 1999 at col. WA14.

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