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Former President Yeltsin

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: As with any other individual, that would be a decision for the police based on their assessment of whether he had been guilty of any arrestable offence within the jurisdiction of the British courts.

Home Office Website

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Home Office website has a link to the site on its front page. The following words appear on the front page:

There is a hypertext link from the words CCTA Government Information Service which points to the address of the site and the words will be added.

The Tote and the Horserace Betting Levy Board

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish their conclusions on the sale of the Tote and the future of the Levy Board.[HL1184]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The futures of the Horserace Totalisator Board (the Tote) and the Horserace Betting Levy Board have, for different reasons, been under review. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is now able to set out the Government's conclusions.

My right honourable friend announced in another place (House of Commons, Official Report, cols. 159-60 on 12 May 1999) that the Government had decided to sell the Tote and that further work would be put in hand to determine the most appropriate method of sale. That work, which included the evaluation by independent financial advisers of a range of sale options, has now been completed. The options included flotation of the Tote on the stock market, its sale by open competitive auction and a sale to horseracing. Consideration of the best option was helped by the agreement of all relevant horseracing interests to support a single proposal to buy the Tote on behalf of racing in order to maintain the position under which all the Tote's profits are used for the benefit of racing.

Following careful consideration of all the available sale options, my right honourable friend has concluded that a sale to racing represents the best match, in principle, with the Government's objectives for the sale as a whole, as set out in my May 1999 statement. While the price to be paid by racing for the Tote will need to be the subject of commercial negotiation, it will be important to ensure that it is a fair one which strikes the right balance between the respective legitimate interests in the Tote of both racing and the taxpayer.

Racing's proposal to government aims to ensure that those who are responsible for managing and developing the Tote's business do so within a fully commercial operating environment. My right honourable friend believes that this represents the best options for the Tote and its staff, not forgetting, of course, all those who bet with it.

We, therefore, propose to bring forward legislation, at the appropriate time and when parliamentary time allows, which would enable the sale to proceed on this basis. However, a final decision will need to take account of circumstances at the time, including the outcome of commercial negotiations and relevant legal considerations.

My right honourable friend has also today published the report of the quinquennial review of the Horserace Betting Levy Board; copies have been placed in the Library.

The Levy Board was set up in 1961 to collect a levy on horserace bets from bookmakers and to disburse it for the benefit of racing.

The report concludes that the levy board is an efficient body which carries out its statutory functions well but that most of those functions no longer need to be carried out in the public sector. In particular, the arrangements under which racing receives income from bookmaking should become a matter for settlement between the parties on a commercial basis.

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The report recommends that the Government, in co-operation with the levy board and the industries involved, should take forward detailed consideration of all of the associated issues including the board's important role in the provision of integrity services and its regulatory functions.

The Government agree with these conclusions and propose to bring forward, once again at the appropriate time and when parliamentary time allows, legislative proposals for the abolition of the levy board. We shall now be discussing with the board, the British Horseracing Board and other representatives of the racing and bookmaking industries the steps needed to put alternative arrangements in place. As part of this process my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be asking the British Horseracing Board, as racing's governing body, to prepare a realistic plan which shows how racing will be run as a national sport without a statutory levy.

My right honourable friend should make it clear that the decision to abolish the levy system is no reflection on the performance of either the board or its staff. Both have made a significant contribution to the administration of racing over many years, which we gratefully acknowledge.

The sale of the Tote and the abolition of the levy system will together mark an important change in the relationship between the Government and horseracing. The Secretary of State is responsible for policy on the regulation of gambling, which requires consideration of its social impact and measures to ensure protection against crime and exploitation. For reasons of history this responsiblity has involved the Government in the administration and financing of British horseracing to an extent and in ways which are no longer needed.

My right honourable friend recently announced that the Government are to establish an independent review of gambling which offers racing and others an opportunity to put forward their ideas for the future control and regulation of betting on horseracing. Meanwhile the sale of the Tote and the abolition of the levy should enable racing to take more control of its own affairs and finances, as befits a mature sport. In preparing the legislation needed to give effect to these changes the Government are committed to working closely with racing, bookmaking and other relevant interests to ensure that the results which are delivered match up to our aspirations. Horseracing is an important and successful national sport which gives employment and pleasure to many people. We want it to prosper.

Burglary: Mandatory Sentences

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contribution they expect mandatory sentences to make to the targets for reducing burglary which were announced recently; and[HL1203]

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    What proportion of the expected reduction in burglary they attribute to the mandatory sentence's deterrent effect; what proportion they attribute to the incapacitating effect on offenders who would otherwise have served shorter or non-custodial sentences; and on what empirical evidence they have based those calculations.[HL1204]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: We expect the mandatory minimum sentence for a third offence of burglary to reduce recorded crimes by 3,000 a year and possibly up to 17,000 a year in the longer term. These expected reductions are based principally on the incapacitating effect of the sentence. The empirical evidence comes from a number of research studies, including the publication Analysing Offending by Roger Tarling (Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1993). We are also conducting a survey of recently sentenced prisoners that may enable us to provide better estimates of the likely reduction of burglaries through incapacitation.

Stansted Hijacking: Political Asylum Claims

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce their findings on the claims for political asylum made by some passengers on the aeroplane recently hijacked to Stansted airport.[HL1312]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Of the total 170 people on the aircraft, 73 returned voluntarily to Afghanistan on 14 February. Four members of the flight crew are due to return with the aircraft when necessary clearances have been given. Two passengers have also asked to return to Afghanistan. Arrangements are being made for them to do so. Fourteen individuals are the subject of criminal charges in relation to the hijacking. This leaves 44 passengers who have made a claim for asylum under the 1951 Geneva Convention, together with some 33 dependants.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has postponed a decision in six claims made by the relatives of those charged because he has been advised that the effect of considering their claims could prejudice the trials of the hijackers. He has postponed a decision in two cases in which he is expecting further information from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and a further six cases in which further inquiries need to be made.

My right honourable friend has personally considered each of the remaining claims, including the representations made by the legal advisers representing each applicant. He has also taken into account advice he has received from counsel and the Home Office Afghanistan country assessment. He has now reached his decisions. He has decided to grant refugee status in two cases because he is satified that their applications disclose a well-founded fear of persecution on a ground set out in the 1951 convention. In both cases, as it happens, the applicants' case for asylum arose before they had

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boarded the flight and it was a matter of chance for them that it was hijacked. Indefinite leave to enter will be granted to the wife of one of these applicants as his dependant, although she had claimed asylum in her own right. The claimants in these cases have five children who will also be given indefinite leave to enter. He has rejected the claims in the remaining 27 cases on the grounds that he is not satisfied they have a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of their race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

In considering each of these claims, my right honourable friend has taken proper account of the United Kingdom's obligations under the 1951 convention. He has taken account of all necessary legal requirements. These requirements are such that it would have been improper in the cases he has considered for him to take into account at that stage other factors, such as the need to deter future hijackers, and he has not done so. However, in determining the future status of those whose claims he has rejected, he has a different duty: to take into account all relevant information including public interest points in deterring future hijackings.

In these cases, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has decided that the public interest in deterring future hijacks for the purposes of claiming asylum is a very strong one and, therefore, he has decided that they should not be given permission to stay in this country. Accordingly, he has given instructions that they should not be granted exceptional leave to enter, which would give them this permission. We are ready to make arrangements for them to return to Afghanistan voluntarily. Given the current situation in Afghanistan, it is not proposed immediately to set directions for their enforced removal to Afghanistan. Instead, we are continuing to explore the possibility of removing these individuals to other countries. In the meantime they will be offered bail conditions to be set by the Chief Immigration Officer involving a recognisance, restrictions on their address and conditions for regular reporting to the Immigration Service. Arrangements for accommodation will be made centrally and the cost will not be borne by local authorities. For the time being we will continue to detain those on whom no decision has been made.

The events surrounding this terrorist act of hijacking have shown serious weaknesses in the way in which international conventions relating to refugees, terrorism and human rights operate. We shall be raising our concerns with like-minded countries and with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

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