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Traffic Reduction Targets

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Whitty: We are making good progress in implementing the package of measures set out in last year's Integrated Transport White Paper needed to tackle traffic growth. We intend to publish our first report on the issue of whether to set a national traffic reduction target, under the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act 1998, by the end of this year. As regards London, it must be for the Mayor to take a view on the part that traffic reduction measures should play in an integrated transport strategy for the capital.

Filwood, Bristol: New Bus Depot

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Traffic Commissioner in the Western area who recently attended the opening of the new bus depot at Filwood, Bristol was able to satisfy himself that there would be no increase in the incidence of respiratory disease, especially in young children, in the residential area around the new bus depot; what inquiries the Traffic Commissioner made about the monitoring of air quality; and what assurances he was given by the FirstGroup Company on this matter.[HL3694]

Lord Whitty: Traffic Commissioners have no powers over the siting of new bus depots. Consideration of any such developments which require planning permission would be a matter for the local planning authority. Local authorities are able to take account of air quality considerations in undertaking their land use planning responsibilities.

Kurdistan: Talks under Washington Accord

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the talks to discuss implementation of the Washington Accord held in Washington between the Kurdish parties of northern Iraq, attended by representatives of the United Kingdom Government; and what they will do to promote the establishment of an interim assembly, joint administration and revenue pooling in the area controlled by the two groups.[HL3410]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Senior delegations of the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan met in Washington 16-25 June to discuss implementation of the September 1998 Washington Agreement. Representatives of the UK and Turkey attended four plenary sessions. The talks focused on: ending negative press statements; efforts against the PKK; opening reciprocal party offices; the return of internally displaced persons; revenue sharing; setting up an interim assembly and preparing voter lists for regional elections. We will continue to work with both

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parties, and the US and Turkey, to promote progress on these and other matters within the framework of the Ankara Peace Process, while remaining fully committed to the territorial integrity of Iraq.

Imported Vehicles for Disabled Users: Tax

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is any difference in the taxes levied upon a passenger vehicle modified for the use of disabled persons before being imported and those levied upon similar vehicles first imported and then modified in the United Kingdom.[HL3630]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Motor vehicles which have been designed, or substantially and permanently adapted, to carry a disabled person in a wheelchair or on a stretcher may be imported without customs duty and import VAT by a disabled person for his or her personal or domestic use. Charities which make such vehicles available to disabled people may also import them free of customs duty and import VAT, subject to Department of Trade and Industry approval.

Unadapted imported motor vehicles are liable to customs duty and import VAT at the standard rate. Subsequent adaptations to suit the condition of a disabled person may be zero rated for VAT purposes.

There is more information in Customs Notice 371, Goods for disabled people free of duty and VAT, and VAT Notice 701/7, VAT reliefs for people with disabilities.

General Pinochet: sub judice Matters

Lord Monson asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether Parliament need not be inhibited by the sub judice rule when debating the case of General Pinochet from referring to events in Chile before a certain date, as claimed by Lord Thomas of Gresford (H.L. Deb., 6 July, col., 806); and if so, what is the approximate date of the most recent event in Chile that can be cited without infringing the sub judice rule.[HL3559]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): As was made clear in the reply given by the Home Secretary on 15 April to a question in another place (col. 314), in coming to the decision required of him by the Extradition Act and the European Convention on Extradition, my right honourable friend had regard to what was alleged in the request for Senator Pinochet's extradition to have happened before 8 December 1988, when the Senator lost immunity, but only in so far as it was relevant to the criminality of what was alleged to have happened after that date. He had regard to the question whether acts of torture after that date were done in the course of a conspiracy begun before, such as to amount to an accusation of a conspiracy to torture continuing after that date for the purposes of section 7(5) of the Act. Accordingly, Parliament is inhibited

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by the sub judice rule when debating the case of Senator Pinochet from referring to events in Chile relevant to the extradition proceedings both before and after that date.

Pen Park and Merrywood Schools, Bristol

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether in the light of the recently received Rogers Report, Toward a Modern Renaissance, the Government will invite Bristol County Council to reconsider the decision to close both Pen Park and Merrywood schools.[HL3695]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): A local education authority that wishes to close a school must first publish proposals, following local consultation. The proposals provide for a period of two months during which objections may be made to them. If there are objections, the proposals fall to the Secretary of State to decide. I cannot make any comment on the proposals for Merrywood and Pen Park Schools as it might be seen as prejudging any decision which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is called upon to make on these schools. He will of course consider each case carefully on its merits taking account of any objections, the comments of Bristol local education authority and all other factors that appear to him to be relevant.

Biological and Chemical Weapons

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to announce their strategy to combat the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons.[HL3809]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): I have today placed in the Library of the House a paper setting out the conclusions of our review into the necessary defence response to the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons. The paper, entitled Defending Against the Threat from Biological and Chemical Weapons, explains our policy and the ways in which we plan to develop our capabilities further.

We will continue to pursue, through international agreement, the verifiable elimination of biological and chemical weapons. Valuable progress has been made in recent years as a result of this country's efforts, but there is a long way to go before our objectives are met in full. In the meantime, we recognise that the use, or threatened use, of these weapons remains one of the challenges we must face.

We place a high priority on ensuring that our Armed Forces are protected, with the training and equipment they need to deal with the risks such weapons continue to pose. We are enhancing our capabilities with a range of equipment programmes--for example, by bringing into service additional Prototype Biological Detection

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Systems. We are also establishing the Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical, NBC, Regiment, and an NBC Defence Headquarters.

We have also set up a new Directorate in the Ministry of Defence to co-ordinate and take forward work on NBC defence issues. The Directorate will maintain a rolling plan of action and report progress to the Secretary of State on a regular basis. In total we plan to spend over £270 million in this area over the next three years.

No one should believe that the use, or threatened use, of biological or chemical weapons would determine the outcome of a conflict involving this country or deter this Government from taking action it believes is right.

Organophosphate Exposure: Comparative Data

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have compared the results of research into the causes of illness suffered by farm workers who have come into contact with organophosphate sheep dips with the results of research into the causes of undiagnosed Gulf War illnesses; and, if so, what conclusions they have drawn.[HL3625]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The independent scientific Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) advises Ministers on veterinary medicines, including organophosphorus (OP) sheep dips. A sub-committee of the VPC, the Medical and Scientific Panel (MSP), considers and advises on the results of research into the effects on humans of OPs. Information on OPs research is exchanged between the departments concerned through a liaison group of which the Ministry of Defence is a member.

I am advised the Ministry of Defence has noted the publication of the Institute of Occupational Medicine report into the effects of exposure to organophosphate sheep dips and is studying the report carefully to assess whether its findings have any bearing on the MOD's own considerations of organophosphates in the context of Gulf veterans' illnesses

Kairos-APAC Trust

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of all contracts entered into by the Prison Service with Kairos; how much they have paid to Kairos since the inception of its operations; and whether they consider that the trustees have conformed with the Charities Acts.[HL3639]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I refer the noble Lord to the reply I gave him on 16 June (WA 33-34). The Prison Service has no formal contracts with the Kairos-APAC Trust but

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there were some "Partnership Agreements". Copies of these were placed in the Library on 7 June. Payments for services provided by the Kairos-APAC Trust as at 15 July amount to £87,643 and further payments of approximately £13,000 are anticipated. No further payments will be made either to Kairos or its successor body for services provided after 30 June. Whether the

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trustees have conformed with the Charities Act is a matter for the Charity Commission. However, I understand that the Commission has undertaken an investigation into the management of the Kairos-APAC Trust and has decided, particularly as the trust is now being dissolved, that no further action on its part is required.

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