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Written Answers

Thursday, 8th July 1999.

Centenarians and the Millennium

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to provide a certificate or other award to persons born in the 19th century, who are still surviving upon the arrival of the new millennium; and, if so, what proposals they are considering to provide a form of notification to advise appropriate organisations.[HL3416]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government have no such plans.

Data Protection and Government Departments

Lord Richard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made by government departments in using BS7799 in order to implement the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998; and what machinery exists to monitor the activities of individual government departments in this respect.[HL3366]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Although the Data Protection Act 1998 has not yet been brought into force, the Data Protection Act 1984, as well as the new Act, requires appropriate security measures to be taken to protect personal data held by data users or controllers. It is for each government department to decide, in the light of its own circumstances and personal data processing needs, what use to make of BS7799 in helping it to comply with its obligations under data protection legislation; and no central monitoring currently takes place.

Mr. Marwan Al Banna

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who authorised the transfer from prison to a special hospital in December 1992 of the Arab terrorist Marwan Al Banna; whether the Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary or Arab governments were consulted prior to his transfer; whether the Israeli government was informed; whether representations had been made on his behalf; and, if so, by whom.[HL3361]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Mr. Al Banna's transfer from prison to special hospital was authorised by Home Office Ministers in December 1992, in accordance with the terms of the Mental Health Act 1983 and following assessment of his condition by suitably qualified

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psychiatrists approved under the Act. There was no consultation with the Foreign Secretary or with the government of any other country, and no representations were made on Mr. Al Banna's behalf.

Mr. Shlomo Argov: Newspaper Allegations

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the allegations contained in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz of 11 June that MI5 had prior knowledge of the attempted assassination on 3 June 1982 of the then Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mr. Shlomo Argov, are correct.[HL3363]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: It has been the policy of successive governments not to comment on the operations of the security and intelligence agencies. In line with that policy, I do not propose to comment on the newspaper's allegations.

Offenders Serving More Than Two and a Half Years

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the number of individuals who have been sentenced on at least one occasion to more than two and a half years' custody during the last 25 years.[HL3347]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Estimates from criminal histories of samples of offenders born in 1953, 1958, 1963, 1968, 1973 and 1978 indicate that around 70,000 individuals aged 40 and under in the general population of England and Wales have been sentenced to more than two and a half years custody.

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total number of offenders sentenced to custody in 1997 and 1998 respectively; and what was the estimated number in each year who were sentenced to more than two and a half years' custody.[HL3348]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The information is given in the table.

Number of offenders sentenced to immediate custody at all courts by type of offence and length of sentence, England and Wales, 1997 and 1998 (p)

Type of offence YearTotal immediate custodySentenced to over 2.5 years
Indictable1997 1998 (p)71,860 77,50010,480 10,082
Summary1997 1998 (p)21,981 23,566*-- *--
All offences1997 1998 (p)93,841 101,06610,480 10,082

(p) Provisional.

* Not applicable.

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Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current sentenced prison population; and what is the estimated number of prisoners currently serving sentences of more than two and a half years.[HL3349]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The latest available provisional information is for 31 May 1999. On that date the total sentenced prison population (including fine defaulters) in England and Wales was 51,409, of which 32,590 persons were serving sentences of over two and a half years. Information for Scotland and Northern Ireland is available from the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

Demonstration, London, 29 June

The Marquess of Ailesbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether on 29 June traffic in London was disrupted by an allegedly very small number of demonstrators; and, if so, whether the extent of the disruption was commensurate with the size of demonstration. [HL3420]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police tells me that on 29 June there was an impromptu demonstration by about 250 people following the trial of Abdulla Ocalan in Turkey. The demonstrators gathered outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, and then walked along Oxford Street and staged a sit-down demonstration which resulted in some traffic congestion. The demonstration was soon cleared by additional officers on stand-by for such an eventuality.

Privy Council Judicial Committee: Costs and Fees

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

    Whether they will publish detailed income and expenditure accounts in relation to the performance by the Law Lords of their judicial functions in the Privy Council, covering all categories of expenditure other than the salaries of the Law Lords themselves.[HL3357]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The income of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council consists of Council Office fees paid in respect of legal proceedings. In the financial year 1998-99 the fee receipts amounted to £70,209.10.

In the same year the running costs were as follows:

    (a) staff costs: £213,590;

    (b) overheads and general expenditure: £258,657;

    (c) total: £472,247.

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The figures at (b) and (c) include daily sitting fees paid to members of the Judicial Committee who are not in receipt of judicial salaries, but do not include any element in respect of the salaries of those who are.

Turkey: Ilisu Dam Project

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have sought and received respectively, in considering whether to grant export credit in relation to the Ilisu Dam in the south east of Turkey, on the environmental impact of the project, the resettlement of local communities, including the consultation process and the issue of compensation, the riparian rights of neighbouring states, and the impact on the local cultural heritage; and whether they will place copies of any documentation in the Library of the House; and[HL2976]

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of the environmental impact statement, the resettlement plan, and any other documents they have received in connection with applications for credit cover in respect of contracts for work on the Ilisu Dam project in Turkey; and what representations they have received from downstream co-riparian states such as Syria and Iraq on the possible impact of this project on water users in their jurisdictions.[HL3067]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Ministers will consider all aspects of this project before deciding whether ECGD support should be made available. The relevant documentation, such as the Environmental Impact Appraisal Report and resettlement plan, is either being reviewed, or is still being drawn up. Much of this documentation is the property of other parties--either the consortium or the other governmental authorities, and has been provided to us on the understanding that it is not to be made available at this stage. The intention, which has been internationally agreed, is that the Environmental Impact Appraisal Report, when finalised, should be made publicly available following contract award, and a copy would then be placed in the Library of the House.

The State Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic raised the project with our Ambassador in Damascus on 4 March. On 25 May the League of Arab States wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Higher Education Pay and Conditions

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for reviewing higher education pay and conditions in response to the Bett Report.[HL3507]

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The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The independent review of higher education pay and conditions was established by the higher education employers: it is for them and the relevant trade unions to respond to the recommendations.

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