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16 Dec 1999 : Column WA45

Written Answers

Thursday, 16th December 1999.

Consolidated Fund Bill: Human Rights Statement

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a statement has been made under the Human Rights Act 1998 in connection with the Consolidated Fund Bill.[HL420]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have made a statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

UK Productivity

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Pre-Budget Statement and to the statement by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 9 December (H.L., Deb., col. 1460) about low British investment and productivity, what are their present estimates of the time required to close the gap between United Kingdom productivity performance and that of our principal competitors, Germany, France and Italy, in the European Union.[HL416]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Britain's productivity gap with countries such as the US, France and Germany is substantial--up to a third. The Chancellor announced in his Pre-Budget Report that the Government's long-term economic ambition for the next decade is that Britain will have a faster rise in productivity than its main competitors as it closes the gap. The Government are putting in place the policies to achieve this aim, as set out in the Pre-Budget Report.

European-wide Withholding Tax

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What independent investigation has been undertaken to validate the financial and employment consequences of a European Union-wide withholding tax.[HL409]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Neither the Commission nor the Council has undertaken any investigation of which we are aware to quantify the level of tax evasion within the EU and the reasons for it or quantified any economic benefits of this directive. In short, the Commission has undertaken no cost-benefit analysis.

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Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will explain the proposals they intend to put forward during the new round of discussions on the European Union withholding tax following the Helsinki European Council on 10 to 11 December.[HL410]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government will set these out in due course.

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which individuals, trusts and companies they believe would be adversely affected by a European-wide withholding tax.[HL411]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have made it clear that in its present form the directive risks serious damage to EU and UK financial markets.

Legally Aided Criminal Cases: Green Form Assistance

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose to abolish green form assistance in legally aided cases, as recommended in the report of the Review of Delay in the Criminal Justice System, 1997.[HL250]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I have no current plans to abolish green forms assistance in legally aided criminal cases.

The Access to Justice Act 1999 has created provision for contracting, under which most publicly funded criminal defence services will be provided by lawyers in private practice under contracts.

Contracts with solicitors firms will cover the full range of criminal defence services including advice and assistance. Our intention is to contract for all criminal advice and assistance work from October 2000. The structure of these contracts will be informed by the pilot currently being carried out by the Legal Aid Board.

Public Law Work: New Legal Aid Contracts

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

    How many contracts have been concluded, and with which firms or agencies, to undertake public law work under the new legal aid contracts; and how many "starts" are allowed and for what period of time in each contract.[HL296]

The Lord Chancellor: The Legal Aid Board has only recently offered contracts in public law work to solicitors and other agencies and the exact number of contracted providers will not be known until the end of December 1999. Five organisations have been offered legal aid contracts for advice and assistance in public law, four of which are located in the London legal aid area and the other in the Birmingham legal aid area.

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Altogether, 56 new case "starts" have been allocated for the first contract period, 1 January 2000 to 31 March 2001, to the five specific contracts in public law. Organisations that do not have contracts specifically for public law will be able to give initial advice on public law cases within their contract "tolerance". The contracts will also cover representation in public law cases relating to immigration. There is no limit on case starts for representation and firms with a public law or immigration contract will be able to handle representation in these cases. The names and addresses of those solicitors firms and other agencies awarded contracts will be placed in the Library in January 2000 and will also be set out in the Community Legal Service Directory. The directory is expected to be published in April 2000.

General Pinochet

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much was paid by the Crown towards the costs of General Pinochet's appeal to the House of Lords, following the rehearing of the case necessitated by Lord Hoffmann's failure to declare his connection with Amnesty International.[HL279]

The Lord Chancellor: The costs to the Crown of Senator Pinochet's appeal to the House of Lords that were incurred following the House of Lords' ruling on the 25 November 1998 were as follows: the Crown's representation, £250,900; Senator Pinochet's representation, £151,361.

After the original decision of the House of Lords was set aside on 17 December 1998, the court ordered that any further costs be borne by each party. Therefore, the Crown paid no further costs towards Senator Pinochet's representation for the re-hearing which concluded on the 24 March 1999.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the leak enquiry into the second hearing on General Pinochet by the House of Lords has still not reported; and when it is expected to do so.[HL299]

The Lord Chancellor: The delay in concluding the inquiry was due to the original investigator suffering a serious illness. However, both he and his successor (both appointed by the Clerk of the Parliaments) have concluded that no person or persons were responsible for a leak of the Pinochet judgment. Their conclusion is that the press articles just before the publication of the judgment on 24 March, which were surprisingly accurate in some respects, were the result of skilful journalism.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Under what legislative provision central funds paid the legal costs of General Pinochet resulting from the second hearing in the House of Lords.[HL361]

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The Lord Chancellor: The costs incurred by Senator Pinochet in respect of both the order and adjudgment of the House of Lords of 25 November 1998 (the first hearing of the appeal) and the order of the House of Lords of the 17 December 1998 (petition to have the first judgment vacated) were paid out of central funds under an order of the House of Lords made in accordance with Section 16 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. No costs were ordered (or paid) in respect of the order and adjudgment of the House of 24 March 1999 (second hearing of the appeal).


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking bilaterally and multilaterally towards ensuring that the human rights operation in Angola is fully resourced and funded.[HL226]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): UN human rights work in Angola is indispensable to securing a lasting peace in that country. We voted in favour of UNSC Resolution 1268 establishing the United Nations office in Angola (UNOA). We strongly support the inclusion of human rights elements within that office. We will be providing funds for the common costs of UNOA in accordance with established UN scales of assessment.

Chinese Embassy Bombing in Belgrade

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept or reject the analysis in the Observer, including the material published on 25 November, of why the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was bombed in May; and what are the implications, if any, for bilateral relations with China, and for the integrated command structure of NATO.[HL263]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have made clear on a number of occasions our view that the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on 7 May was a tragic accident. That remains our view. The circumstances which led to the accidental bombing were considered in detail within NATO at the time. We apologised to the Chinese Government, with whom our bilateral relations have been restored.

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