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A.303, Stonehenge

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: Since 1993 the Highways Agency has assessed and carried out consultation and a large

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number of possible options for the improvement of the A.303 trunk road at Stonehenge. This has involved consultation with local authorities and a large number of other bodies with an interest in the project as well as the affected local communities. A full assessment of the current proposal is being carried out as part of the ongoing work on the project.

Dangerous Wild Animal Licences: Fees

Lord Seaford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will seek to persuade district councils to adopt standard fees and conditions for Dangerous Wild Animal Licences, where species are used in farming.[HL4327]

Lord Whitty: Responsibility for issuing licences under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 rests with local authorities. In determining an application for a licence, it is the authority that stipulates the fee, which must be sufficient to cover the costs which it incurs in processing the application.

Likewise, any conditions attached to a licence must in the authority's opinion be necessary or desirable for the purpose of securing the objective of the Act.

Refugee Support: Consultation

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos asked Her Majesty's Government.

    What arrangements have been made to assist those refugees recognised by the United Kingdom as in need of international protection to settle successfully in this country and if they will make a statement. [HL4525]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Government recognise the immense contribution that refugees have made to our culture and society. We believe that once a decision is made to grant permission to stay, either permanently or on a long-term basis, refugees need assistance to build their lives in the United Kingdom to develop their own and their families' potential to the full and to contribute to their new host society. My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Home Department (Ms Roche) has today issued a consultation paper which sets out our proposals to help achieve these aims through partnerships between central and local government, the voluntary sector, local communities, including ethnic minority and refugee community organisations and the refugee communities themselves. Views are invited from interested parties on how best to take forward this important work. The consultation paper is

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available in the Library and will be sent to the main asylum and refugee interest groups and is also available on the Home Office internet site:

Responses to the consultation paper should be forwarded to the Home Office, Immigration and Nationality Directorate, Asylum Support Project Team, Quest House, 11 Cross Road, Croydon CR0 6ER by 6 December 1999.

Chinese President's Visit: Policing

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they advised or instructed the Metropolitan Police during the visit of President Jiang Zemin on how to deal with protests by campaigners objecting to China's human rights record. [HL4369]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The policing of state visits is an operational matter for the police. Routine meetings were held between the Metropolitan Police and officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss the programme for the visit and enable the police to make their operational decisions on security and other matters.

Schengen Acquis: UK Participation

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty relating to incorporating the Schengen Acquis into the European Union, on how many occasions and on what matters they have asked to take part in some of the provisions of the Schengen Acquis, as envisaged in Article 4 of the Protocol.[HL 4332]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary wrote to the German Minister of the Interior and Former President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20 May with the United Kingdom's formal application to participate in certain areas of the Schengen Acquis, as provided for by Article 4 of the Schengen Protocol. The text of the application was placed in the Library. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has since written to the Finnish Minister of the Interior and President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 9 July and 6 October requesting to take part in additional provisions of the Schengen Acquis in the areas covered by the United Kingdom's application, to which the earlier reply referred. Copies of all letters have been made available to the Parliamentary scrutiny committees. I am arranging for copies to be placed in the Library.

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Czech Airlines: Passengers' Ethnic Origins

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

    Whether the Immigration Service is given information by Czech Airlines as to which of their passengers travelling to the United Kingdom are of Roma ethnic origin.[HL 4461]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Immigration Service is not given such information.

Firearms National Register

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the statutory requirement under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 to establish a central register of persons who have applied for a firearm or shotgun certificate or to whom a firearm or shotgun certificate has been granted, which came into force on 1st October 1997, has not been complied with; whether they regard such non-compliance as acceptable; and, if not, what action they propose to comply with the law in this respect.[HL 4364]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: This register is being established as part of the PHOENIX database and has been included by the Police Information Technology Organisation in its 1999-2000 work plan for service and product development. The current police requirement is based on a central Police National Computer register with feeders from and pointers to local police systems. This approach will make maximum use of the information currently available and will avoid the need for expensive re-keying of data. As a next step a detailed impact assessment will be carried out. The Government remain fully committed to meeting their obligations under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and views the national register as a priority development.

Cluster Bombs

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the effectiveness of cluster bombs outweighs the damage that they do to civilian populations.[HL4268]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): During operations against the military forces in Kosovo engaged in ethnic cleansing, where targets were often spread out and where poor weather hampered the use of laser guided weapons, it was appropriate to use cluster bombs. The avoidance of both immediate and longer-term collateral damage is always a high priority. We seek to minimise collateral damage through careful consideration of the nature and

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location of the target, selection of appropriate tactics and weapons, the skill of aircrew and, where necessary, the post-conflict clearance of unexploded ordnance. We very much regret any accidents that might occur involving innocent civilian populations.

Army Manpower: Retention

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to improve retention of personnel in the Army.[HL4506]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government inherited a shortfall in Army manpower, and recognise that improved retention is key to realising the goal of full manning. In line with the targets set in the SDR, it is committed to achieving that improvement and a number of initiatives are under way.

In recognition of the increasingly expeditionary nature of our tasks, the operational welfare package has been improved and the Service Families Task Force is addressing a variety of issues which create domestic difficulties for our personnel. The Army's Human Resources Strategy includes a six-month review of the effectiveness of present Army retention policies. This work, which is being conducted by external consultants, will listen to a wide range of opinions and make recommendations for improvements in the Army's personnel management policies.

We are also keeping operational commitments under close review. Our determination to ease the burden on the Army is demonstrated by the significant reduction in force levels in Bosnia announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 26 October 1999.

In addition we have considered whether the minimum commitment for soldiers of only three years provides the best return for the Army and the best opportunities for the individual. We have concluded that it should be raised to four years. This will make a

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significant contribution to the Army's ability to fulfil its obligations and liabilities as set out in the SDR manning target. It will also allow more time for the individual to benefit from the excellent training and development opportunities in the Army, including the acquisition of new skills and recognised civilian and professional qualifications.

Anthrax and Pertussis Vaccine Injections

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which was the country of origin of anthrax vaccine batch number 1030A; and where it was combined with pertussis vaccine prior to its administration to members of HM Armed Forces in 1990-91.[HL4345]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Anthrax vaccine used to protect British Forces during the 1990-91 Gulf conflict was produced in the United Kingdom. MoD is not aware of an anthrax vaccine batch with a number of 1030A. However, a batch of plague vaccine was obtained from the United States which had a batch number of 10H03A.

While the anthrax and pertussis vaccines were not combined prior to administration, the planned anti-biological warfare immunisation programme comprised three anthrax intramuscular injections, each to be accompanied by an intramuscular pertussis injection into an adjacent site at the same time: that is, one injection immediately after the other.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what dates Dr John Reid MP and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen received their second and third anthrax vaccinations.[HL4347]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Lord Robertson and Dr Reid have given their permission for me to disclose that they received their second and third anthrax vaccinations on 24 March and 22 April 1998, and 26 March and 20 April 1998 respectively.

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