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23 Jun 1999 : Column WA87

Written Answers

Wednesday, 23rd June 1999.

Public Interest Cases

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

    Further to the statement by the Lord Chancellor of 5 February (H.L. Deb., col. 810), whether they have decided to give effect to Sir Peter Middleton's proposal that there should be a separate fund to provide assistance for public interest cases, including those involving convention rights under the Human Rights Act 1998.[HL2897]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The issue of funding for public interest cases was discussed in the consultation paper Access to Justice with Conditional Fees last year. I have concluded that a separate fund to provide assistance for public interest cases is neither necessary nor desirable. We can provide for these cases more effectively by building the concept of public interest into the fabric of the Community Legal Service Fund itself. This will ensure that the potential of every civil case to raise issues of wider public interest can be considered. Under the new Funding Code public interest cases will be a priority. Clause 9(2)(g) of the Bill obliges the Legal Services Commission to consider "the public interest" as a factor in framing the criteria in the code. Chapter 4 of the Consultation Paper on the code, published by the Legal Aid Board in January this year, discusses how this might be done. Cases that have a wider public interest are more likely to receive help under the code. They may not, for example, have to score as highly on other factors such as the prospects of success, although this is not, and cannot be, an open ended guarantee of funding.

Kosovo: Reconstruction

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they are making together with their allies to ensure effective and adequate educational facilities and vocational and professional training to provide the essential human resources for the future reconstruction, government and leadership of Kosovo and, as circumstances permit, of Serbian Yugoslavia.[HL2891]

Baroness Amos: Restoring educational facilities is an important element in returning normality to Kosovo. We are currently assessing needs in this and other sectors to identify what the international community should do in the short term to help the Kosovars re-establish their schools and colleges. Thereafter the longer term structure for education and the assistance that the

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international community should provide will need to be developed by the Kosovars with international advice and support. Donor conferences will undertake to ensure effective and co-ordinated support for Kosovo's reconstruction.

Europol: UK Police Officers

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take to simplify the system for the recruitment of United Kingdom police officers by Europol; whether these officers remain members of their own forces and what pension arrangements are made.[HL2979]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): At present, the status of United Kingdom police officers working for Europol differs from force to force. We are discussing with the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), which represents the United Kingdom on the Europol Management Board, and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) ways in which the status of United Kingdom officers and their pension arrangements might be simplified and made common throughout the United Kingdom.

Osman v. United Kingdom

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

    What steps have been taken to secure compliance in English Law with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of 28 October 1998 in the case of Osman v. United Kingdom that the automatic exclusionary common law rule protecting the police from negligence actions is disproportionate and in breach of Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.[HL2994]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The judgment has been widely publicised in the national and legal press and the Home Office has written to all chief officers of police drawing their attention to it. In the Government's view, no further action is necessary to ensure compliance.

Sub-critical Nuclear Tests

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they were informed about the series of underground "sub-critical" nuclear tests, not subject to the nuclear weapons test ban, conducted by the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy and the Ministry of Defence at Novaya Zemlya last autumn and to be conducted again this year; whether the United States is conducting similar weapon tests; and whether United Kingdom nuclear weapons are also being tested in this manner.[HL2850]

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Lord Burlison: Her Majesty's Government were not informed by the Russian authorities about sub-critical nuclear tests last autumn or tests to be conducted this year. Details did however become public in the course of briefings to Russian media representatives in December 1998 and January this year. US tests are matters for the US authorities. The UK's nuclear weapons are not being tested in this manner. However, we do not rule out the need to conduct at some future stage small-scale experiments to ensure the safety and reliability of our Trident warheads. Such experiments will of course be consistent with our international treaty obligations.

Kosovo: UK Forces and Landmines

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom's military contribution to the planned Kosovo force being assembled in Macedonia will have an adequate supply of landmines as necessary defensive weapons against tanks and other vehicles.[HL2807]

Lord Burlison: The UK has no anti-tank or anti-vehicle mines in-theatre, nor are there plans to deploy any.

Yugoslavia: UK Aircraft Sorties

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many operational sorties have been flown over Serbia, including Kosovo, by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy aircraft.[HL2834]

Lord Burlison: Up to 12 June, the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy had flown a total of some 1,620 sorties in support of Operation Allied Force.

Retired Officers: Salaries and Conditions of Service

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are reviewing the salaries and conditions of service of the retired officers (ROs) serving in the armed forces with a view to raising them from their current level.[HL2972]

Lord Burlison: Members of the Retired Officer Group are former military officers who have been re-employed as MoD civil servants in posts that require specific military experience. Their salaries are subject to annual negotiation between the department and the Retired Officers Association. The requirement for retired officers and their conditions of service generally are kept under regular review. One such periodic review is currently underway.

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Yugoslavia: Conditions for Resumption of Bombing

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Under what conditions, with the United Nations Security Council Resolution in place, might a resumption of bombing in Yugoslavia be authorised; and by whom.[HL2945]

Lord Burlison: No resumption of bombing is foreseen provided that the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia fully complies with UNSCR 1244 and the Military Technical Agreement, MTA.

Yugoslavia: NATO Bombing

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is in accordance with the conclusions of the G8 that bombing of Yugoslavia should be continued after the Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin terms had been accepted by the Yugoslav authorities.[HL2816]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Ahtisaari-Chernomyrdin agreement, which is included in the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) of 10 June, specified that suspension of military activity would occur inter alia after the beginning of verifiable withdrawals of FRY and Serbian forces from Kosovo. This agreement was accepted by the government of the FRY and incorporated in UNSCR 1244 as prepared by G8 Foreign Ministers.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the methodology used at NATO's combined air operation in Vicenza to determine the use of unconventional weapons and to select non-military targets; whether the full observance of the Geneva Conventions was required; if not, why not; and what professional advice did the Combined Air Operations Centre have concerning the probable health and environmental effects of these weapons and of the emissions from these targets.[HL2949]

Lord Burlison: NATO and its component states comply with customary and conventional international law and conduct their operations accordingly. Those principles require, inter alia, injury to civilians to be minimised and care to be taken to avoid damage to the environment.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps NATO is taking to establish precisely the results of:

    (a) the use of depleted uranium (including airborne particles), cluster bombs and other unconventional weapons;

    (b) targeting chemical, pharmaceutical and petrochemical works;

    (c) targeting the civil water supply; and

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    (d) the (classified) weapons that disrupted the civil electricity supply of Belgrade and other towns.[HL2948]

Lord Burlison: The military effectiveness of the air campaign will be assessed by NATO and the participant nations in the normal way.

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