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m-o-o-t Operating System

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: It would not be appropriate to comment on the proposed m-o-o-t operating system.

Council of Europe Draft Cybercrime Convention

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government have taken due regard of the requirements of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights throughout the negotiations on the draft Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention. The preamble to the Convention makes it clear that the Contracting Parties to the Convention must ensure a proper balance between the interests of law enforcement and respect for fundamental human rights, as enshrined in both the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the 1966 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Government believe that this balance has been achieved.

Communications Data: Mandatory Retention

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are considering the arguments of the National Criminal Intelligence Service about the mandatory retention of communications data. We have no plans to introduce legislation in the near future. The issue needs to be examined in the context of detailed consultation with all relevant interests and a consideration of current European practice.

Abnormal Loads: Mobile Phones

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Motor Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) General Order 1979 makes no provision for either (a) or (b).

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 22 November (WA 74), whether the Association of Chief Police Officers has issued guidelines recommending the use of either two-way radios or mobile phones as the normal means of communication between the police and the abnormal load's Xsecond man"; and if so, when.[HL127]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: No such guidelines have been issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Statutory Notifications: Police Powers

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the police have legal right to make charges or to take profit in relation to the receipt of statutory notifications.[HL149]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am not aware of any such police powers. If the noble Earl is able to provide further details about his particular concerns, I would be happy to consider them.

Armenian Massacre 1915-16: Commemoration

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will include the Armenian massacre of 1915-16 in the commemorations proposed for the Holocaust Memorial day to be observed on 27 January 2001; and if not, why not.[HL114]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mike O'Brien) set out the Government's position in reply to a question in another place on 30 November.

Holocaust Memorial Day is focused on learning the lessons of the Holocaust and other more recent atrocities that raise similar issues. We took a conscious decision to focus on events around the Holocaust and thereafter, although we did examine requests to consider the atrocities and other events that preceded the Holocaust. Examples include the Crusades, slavery, colonialism, the victims of Stalin and the Boer War. It is always difficult to draw a line and wherever it is drawn it runs the risk of being misinterpreted.

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A particular focus on events around the period 1939-45 and thereafter should not be seen as failing to acknowledge, sympathise and respect the concerns about prior events.

The massacres of Armenians in 1915-16 were an appalling tragedy condemned by the government of the day and now. We understand the strength of feeling about this terrible period and extend our sympathies to the descendants of the victims.

The Government's decision to give a particular focus to Holocaust Memorial Day does not prevent recollection by the Armenian community of these appalling events. Others may also seek to highlight other atrocities.

Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report progress on the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review.[HL229]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): In April 1998 the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales formed a small independent group to review existing policies and legislation in England and Wales concerning the management and conservation of salmon, trout, eels and freshwater fish. The Review Group submitted its report in February 2000, and the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Review was published in March. Interested individuals and organisations were then invited to comment on the review.

Over 700 individuals and organisations sent in comments, and these have been taken into account in deciding the Government's response to the review. The great majority strongly supported the review's recommendations and conclusions, although concern was expressed about some individual recommendations--in particular, one relating to the coarse fish close season on rivers.

The Government intend to respond to all the 195 recommendations in the review in relation to England, and this detailed response will be placed in the Library of the House and sent to all honourable Members who have expressed an interest in the review, after the recess. The National Assembly for Wales will be responding separately. In the meantime, I would like to outline the key elements of our response.

The Government welcome the review, which they consider to be a major contribution to the development of modern policies on salmon and freshwater fisheries. They endorse the review's recommendations on the rationale for government involvement in the conservation and management of salmon and freshwater fish and accept the great majority of the review's recommendations relating to salmon and freshwater fisheries legislation. When parliamentary time permits the Government intend to

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introduce proposals for new salmon and freshwater fisheries legislation to implement the agreed changes.

The review recommends a substantial increase in grant-in-aid to fund the Environment Agency's fisheries function. The Government have considered this recommendation with particular care. They note that pressures on the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food budget made it necessary to reduce grant-in-aid in England by £1.5 million in 2001-02; grant-in-aid paid to the agency by the Ministry next year will therefore fall to £3.2 million.

The Government have, however, now decided, in the light of the review's recommendation, to increase grant-in-aid in England by £3 million a year for the years 2002-03 and 2003-04; this will mean that grant-in-aid for each of these years will be set at £6.2 million--an increase of 30 per cent on the level of grant-in-aid in the current year. It will be for the Environment Agency to decide how these additional funds should be spent, but the Government have identified two priority areas: conserving and restoring salmon stocks and improving controls over unauthorised transfers of coarse and non-native fish.

Salmon stocks in England are currently at historic low levels and the agency will use the extra funds to further the implementation of the Salmon Action Plans on all 47 main salmon rivers in England, with the aim of increasing the number of rivers in which salmon stocks meet the conservation limit.

Coarse fish imported illegally from outside the UK and unauthorised fish transfers can spread fish diseases to wild stocks; unauthorised introduction into waters in England of non-native fish species also poses a threat to native species and to biodiversity. The agency will aim to secure a significant reduction in the number of unauthorised transfers of fish.

In allocating additional grant-in-aid to the Environment Agency, the Government accept the review's conclusion that the Environment Agency's fisheries functions continue to be funded from both grant-in-aid and rod and net licence income. They also endorse the Review Group's view that the agency's work on coarse fish and on trout should benefit from grant-in-aid, in particular when new work is being undertaken; it expects the agency to devote around one third of the £3 million increase in grant-in-aid to work on coarse fish.

As the Review Group points out, government spending on salmon and freshwater fisheries is not restricted to Environment Agency grant-in-aid; these fisheries also benefit substantially from other forms of government expenditure. Projects for habitat improvement and to develop salmon and freshwater fisheries are, for example, eligible for assistance under agri-environment schemes and the England Rural Development Programme. The Environment Agency and Sport England are continuing to liaise closely to identify any specific projects where two organisations can collaborate together.

The review recommends that the existing phase-out of mixed stock salmon net fisheries should be accelerated by offering compensation to netsmen to

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encourage them to leave these fisheries on a voluntary basis as soon as possible. It also recommends that the Government should provide substantial pump-priming funds to launch the necessary compensation arrangements.

The Government welcome the review's endorsement of their policy on mixed stock fisheries. They agree that it would be desirable to speed up the current phase-out, on a voluntary basis, and have decided to contribute to the cost involved. They will contribute a maximum of £750,000 for this purpose, payable in the years 2002-03 and 2003-04. However, the Government share the Review Group's view that those who benefit from the phasing-out of mixed stock fisheries, particularly riparian owners and anglers in both England and Scotland, should contribute a major share of the cost. The Government's contribution to the costs of a compensation scheme will, therefore, be conditional on private interests raising a matching sum.

The Government will discuss the details of the proposed compensation scheme with interested parties. They propose that the scheme should initially focus on the largest mixed stock fishery, the North East salmon drift net fishery.

The review contains a number of recommendations on angling close seasons; these attracted more comments than any other changes proposed by the Review Group. A substantial majority of these expressed opposition to the recommendation that the coarse fish close season should be abolished on rivers. The Government endorse the general approach on close seasons proposed by the Review Group, and have already, in line with the group's recommendations, confirmed by-laws lifting the close season in most canals. As to the coarse fish close season on rivers, the Government agree with the Environment Agency's view that any change to the coarse fish close season on rivers should be based on science, that at present there is inadequate information on rivers and that no decision on lifting the close season should be considered until further evidence is available.

The review makes recommendations on a variety of other matters that can affect the conservation of fish in freshwater, including agriculture, forestry, water abstraction, land drainage and flood defence, and predation, most of which the Government have accepted.

A number of the recommendations in the review relate to the duties of the Environment Agency. The Government note that the agency is currently subject to a Financial, Management and Policy Review. This will be a comprehensive review that will ask fundamental questions on the purpose, functions and organisation of the agency. In these circumstances, the Government have not yet reached a decision on the recommendations in question; they will determine their response to them in the light of the outcome of the FMPR.

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