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IRA Cease-fire

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): It was following evidence of PIRA involvement in the murder of Charles Bennett that the previous Secretary of State announced her intention to review the state of the PIRA cease-fire. She concluded on balance that she did not believe they were not observing a complete and unequivocal cease-fire.

The situation with regard to the maintenance of the cease-fires is kept under continual and careful review.

RUC Victims of Terrorist Action: Compensation

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Dubs: Police officers and their families are eligible for compensation under the Northern Ireland Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme on the same basis as any individual who has been the victim of a violent offence. The recent report to the Government following the Review of Criminal Injuries Compensation acknowledges that, overall, the scheme may well be one of the most generous and comprehensive available in any country, including in the comparison other countries with experience of terrorism.

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However, in exchanges with victims from a police background, the review also learnt that progressive improvements over time in police pension and welfare arrangements have greatly reduced the extent to which these individuals and their families had to rely on criminal injuries compensation as a principal means of support.

In addition to the normal entitlements of the RUC Pensions Regulations, police officers injured through violent crime as a direct result of membership of the RUC may receive an injury pension based on the degree of disablement. Spouses of police officers killed under similar circumstances also receive special pension payments under the current regulations. A number of police welfare organisations provide support and help to injured officers and bereaved families through grants and other areas of assistance.

The report of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland recommends that a further substantial fund should be set up to help injured police officers, injured retired officers and their families, as well as police widows. In addition, the report recommends help and funding to the Widows Association to run their organisation.

A Government response to that report, and the report of the Review of Criminal Injuries Compensation, will be made as soon as possible after the end of the respective consultation periods.

Northern Ireland: Import of Illegal Drugs

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people in Northern Ireland for the period 1998-99 have been convicted of importing illegal drugs into the Province.[HL4437]

Lord Dubs: The information requested is not available for the period 1998-99. However during the calendar year 1997 there were a total of eight convictions for the offence of Importing Controlled Drugs (Offence Code = 4801001) under Section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Guardian Article

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

    Whether they will publish the study by FT Management Consultants dated August on the provision of information technology within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, as referred to in the Guardian of 1 November.[HL4534]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Guardian article referred to is based on a leaked report produced by Financial Times Management Consultants on behalf of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND). The consultants were commissioned to carry out a "pre-assessment audit" of IND's preparedeness

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for Investors in People. The consultants were not asked to report on the provision of information technology within IND. IND does not intend to publish this report.

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: Human Rights Legislation

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

    When it is intended to make the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights part of the laws of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and to provide for effective legal remedies for claims of breach of those rights.[HL4574]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: All three Crown Dependencies are in the process of preparing human rights legislation and are expected to complete the legislative process next year.

Special Constabulary

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the strength of the Special Constabulary during the last year for which figures are available compared with the two previous years.[HL4451]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The strength of the Special Constabulary in each of the last three years for which we have figures was as follows:

    19,864 as at 31 March 1997;

    18,256 as at 31 March 1998; and

    16,484 as at 31 March 1999.

Asylum Applications Outstanding

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many applications for asylum lodged (a) before 1 July 1993 and (b) between 1 July 1993 and 31 December 1995 remain to be decided.[HL4517]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: At the end of September 1999 a total of 975 asylum applications lodged prior to July 1993 awaited an initial decision. For asylum applications lodged between July 1993 and December 1995, a total of 13,405 asylum applications awaited an initial decision.

Prisons: Visiting Ministers of Religion

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what statutory authority the Prison Service designated "nominating authorities" for the appointment of visiting ministers of non-Christian faiths, then extinguished the nominating authorities and appointed "religious consultative services"

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    without defining their roles; and whether they will clarify the procedures for qualification of these ministers by appropriate organisations representing each of the faiths before they can be appointed by prison governors.[HL4519]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The arrangements for the nominating authorities and religious consultative services are non-statutory. The role of the nominating authorities is likely to change as a result of a review of the appointment procedures for visiting ministers being conducted in consultation with the nominating authorities. The Prison Service has been working with members of the nominating authorities to formalise and define their advisory role, and it has been agreed that the title "religious consultative services" more accurately reflects this role. The procedures for assessing the religious competence of visiting ministers before appointment will be considered as part of the review of appointment procedures.

WTO Agreement on Agriculture

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will support provisions in the proposed World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture which give legal security so that trade law evolves in an environment characterised by predictable and stable levels of export earnings. [HL4215]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture was agreed in 1994 as part of the Uruguay Round. Its provisions, are binding on all WTO members and, as with other WTO rules, any alleged breaches can be challenged under the terms of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Understanding.

IACS: Appeal Arrangements

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements exist in each member state of the European Union for farmers to appeal against Ministry of Agriculure rulings on the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS).[HL4487]

Baroness Hayman: My officials are currently in the process of gathering the information requested by the noble Lord. I will write to the noble Lord when that exercise has been completed.

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What remedial steps are available to a farmer who has his field areas measured in two successive years by the Ministry of Agriculture inspectors for the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS), with different results in each of the years, when there have been no changes in field boundaries.[HL4488]

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Baroness Hayman: A case involving the circumstances referred to by the noble Lord would need to be considered carefully by the appropriate MAFF Regional Service Centre (RSC). There would be no impact on a farmer's IACS claim as long as any discrepancy between two measurements of the same field fell within the margins of error for the type of measuring method employed.

The sanctions that can be applied to claims, which take the form either of reductions in payments or of administrative penalties, are laid down in the EU IACS legislation. If farmers wish to seek redress against sanctions, they may appeal directly to their RSC to senior officials or through their Member of Parliament to Ministers, or apply for a judicial review of the Ministry's decision. If they feel that their case has not been properly administered, they can ask their MP to raise it with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.

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