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28 Feb 2001 : Column WA131

Written Answers

Wednesday, 28th February 2001.

Committee on Standards in Public Life

Lord Haskel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce new appointments to the Committee on Standards in Public Life.[HL994]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): I am pleased to announce that the Prime Minister has appointed Sir Nigel Wicks GCB CVO CBE as the new chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life in succession to Lord Neill of Bladen QC, with effect from 1 March 2001.

In addition, the Prime Minister has appointed two new members to the Committee: Rabbi Julia Neuberger and Rita Donaghy OBE. They are appointed in succession to Sir William Utting and Sir Clifford Boulton. All three appointments are for three years in the first instance, with the possibility of renewal. All three appointments were made fully in line with the Guidance of the Commissioner on Public Appointments.

The Government are very grateful to Lord Neill, Sir William and Sir Clifford for their work on the Committee and for the significant contribution they have made to standards in public life.

Hinduja Foundation and the Millennium Dome

Lord Northbrook asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has discussed with Mr Keith Vaz the financial contribution of the Hinduja brothers to the Millennium Dome; and[HL666]

    Whether the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has ever received representations on behalf of the Hinduja brothers from the Prime Minister's Special Envoy, Lord Levy; and[HL667]

    Whether any Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has discussed the financial contribution of the Hinduja brothers to the Millennium Dome with the sole shareholder of the New Millennium Experience Company.[HL671]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have not received representations from, nor had discussions with, Lord Levy, the sole shareholder or the Minister for Europe, about the Hinduja Foundation and its support for the Faith zone in the Millennium Dome.

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Digital Terrestrial TV: Subtitling

Baroness Seccombe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what basis the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in its January report on the review of the statutory requirements for the provision of subtitling, signing and audio-description stated that "there are doubts about the feasibility of 100 per cent provision" of subtitling on digital terrestrial television channels, given the BBC's commitment to subtitle 100 per cent of its own digital terrestrial television output by the 10th anniversary of the start of the service and the rapid development of voice recognition technology for subtitling.[HL816]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We need to strike the right balance between practicability and benefit. During the consultation exercise that preceded the Government's recent announcement of the review, concerns were expressed, including by the Independent Television Commission (ITC), that 100 per cent subtitling on digital terrestrial television (DTT) was not a feasible target. It would be extremely difficult and expensive to subtitle all live programmes, late-running programmes and late-delivered material, such as promotions between programmes. There is also a danger that the financial costs to the smaller channels might result in them leaving the DTT platform. The 80 per cent target is challenging but achievable and is in line with the analogue target for 2004. We will, however, keep the target under review, and if an increase beyond 80 per cent is deemed achievable in the future, we will consider raising the target.

Overseas Tourism to UK

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are concerned at the 6 per cent fall in the number of overseas tourism in Britain between November 1999 and November 2000; how far this reduction is attributable to the strength of the pound sterling; and what they will do to help the British Tourist Authority reverse this deficit.[HL828]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: By contrast with the November figures, overseas visits to the UK in December 2000 compared with December 1999 are estimated to have increased by 8 per cent. However, the Government do not accept that such year-on-year comparisons of one month's figures are sufficient to establish trends. Whole-year statistics are more significant, and these indicate that overseas visits to the UK in 2000 are virtually the same as for 1999, while earnings from overseas visitors to the UK over the same period are up by 2 per cent.

Ministers would like to congratulate the British Tourist Authority in particular for contributing to an increase of 5 per cent in visits to the UK from North America in 2000 over the previous year, and of 4 per cent from other long-haul destinations.

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Church Buildings: VAT on Repairs

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have yet been granted permission by European Union authorities to reduce VAT on repairs to churches.[HL882]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to Lord Geddes on 13 February (Hansard, col. 141).


The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they are doing through international channels and direct contacts with neighbouring African states to halt the Zimbabwe Government's latest attack on the judiciary.[HL763]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Brian Wilson, called in the Zimbabwe High Commissioner on 19 February to express serious concern about the Government of Zimbabwe's harassment of, and pressure on, the judiciary and the media, including the recent unacceptable treatment of the BBC correspondent in Harare. In addition, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary agreed with the Commonwealth Secretary-General on 21 February on the importance of sending a Commonwealth team to Zimbabwe, to report back to the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on 19-20 March.

Death Penalty: British Nationals Overseas

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    At what stage they consider it appropriate to make representations against the use of the death penalty in cases of British nationals being tried overseas.[HL949]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Our overriding objective is to avoid the execution of British nationals. We will now express our opposition to the death penalty and its use on a British national at whatever stage and level is judged appropriate from the moment when the imposition of a death sentence on a British national becomes a possibility. Our previous policy was to make these representations only when the judicial process had been exhausted.

We have already taken action under the new policy in the case of Krishna Maharaj. I have written to the Florida State Attorney setting out the UK's opposition to the death penalty and requesting that the death sentence not be pursued in his case.

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Iraq: Export of Controlled Goods

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any goods subject to strategic export controls have recently been approved for export to Iraq.[HL950]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence to export computer equipment, including 10 Fujitsu Siemens Scenic ED-1170A computers and 2 Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook C-6545 Notebook computers, controlled under the Dual Use Items (Export Control) Regulations 2000, to Iraq for use by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in its humanitarian activities. The export of these goods to Iraq has been approved by the UN Sanctions Committee.

European Union: Forthcoming Council Business

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union for March; and what are the major European Union events for the period between 31 March and August 2001.[HL952]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Please see the following list.

To date we have received the detailed agendas for the following Council meetings in March: March 8, Brussels, Environment Council

1. Directive on type-approval of 2 and 3-wheeled motor vehicles (common position)

2. 6th Environment Action Programme (policy debate, public)

3. Integration of environmental aspects into other policy areas, strategy for sustainable development (information from Presidency and Commission)

4. World summit on sustainable development, 2002 (presentation by Commission, information by Presidency)

5. White Paper on chemicals strategy (policy debate)

6. Climate change (council conclusions, preparation for COP6)

7. Commission Communication on bathing water policy (exchange of views)

8. Commission Green Paper on integrated product policy (presentation)

9. Presidency reports on state of play on:

    --Directive on public access to information

    --Directive on public participation

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    --Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment, and draft directive on restriction of use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment

    --Decision on the list of priority substances for water policy

    --Directive on recreational craft

    --Directive on non-road mobile machinery (auto-oils)

    --Recommendation on integrated coastal zone management

10. (possibly) Commission proposals on labelling and traceability of GMOs (Commission presentation)

11. AOB, including a request from the Netherlands for information on measures to reduce emissions of VOCs, in line with the Council minutes statements in June 2000. March 12, Brussels, Internal Market/Consumer Affairs/Tourism Council

1. The Cardiff economic reform process--Internal Market aspects

    --Council conclusions

2. The European Council in Stockholm, 23-24 March--Internal Market aspects

    --Policy debate

3. Commission strategy for removing barriers to trade in services

    --Orientation debate

4. Commission strategy for better lawmaking--simplification of legislation

    --Presentation by the Commission

5. Strategy for integration of environmental protection and sustainable development into Internal Market policy

    --Information by the Presidency

6. (poss.) Parallel imports/Exhaustion of trademark rights

    --Orientation debate

7. Community patent

    --Orientation debate/Progress report

8. (poss.) Community design


9. (poss.) European company statute


10. (poss.) Strategy for customs union


11. Public procurement

    --Orientation debate

12. eEurope action plan

    --Progress report

    --Exchange of views

13. (poss.) White Paper on chemicals strategy--internal market and consumer aspects

    --Presentation by the Commission

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14. Food law and establishing the European food authority

    --Orientation debate

15. Proposal on food supplements

    --Political agreement/Common position

16. Distance marketing of consumer financial services

    --Political agreement

Other business March 1-3, Uppsala, Informal Research and Education Council March 6, Brussels, Employment and Social Affairs Council March 12, Brussels, ECOFIN Council March 15-16, Brussels, Justice and Home Affairs Council March 19, Brussels, Agriculture Council March 19-20, Brussels, General Affairs Council March 21, Brussels--Fisheries Council March 23-24, Stockholm, European council March 31-April 1, Brussels, Informal Meeting of Ministers of the Environment

No agendas for the above are available at present.

The following are the principal events in the EU between 1 April and August 2001 (certain relevant events are also included: the list is based on the information available at the date of issue.)

5-6BrusselsTransport/Telecommunications Council
8-10BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
8-10BrusselsAgriculture Council (Informal)
24-25BrusselsAgriculture Council
7BrusselsECOFIN Council
7BrusselsEmployment and Social Council (possible)
14-15BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
14-15BrusselsIndustry and Energy Council
22-23BrusselsAgriculture Council
28-29BrusselsJustice and Home Affairs Council
28BrusselsEducation and Youth Council
31BrusselsDevelopment Council
31BrusselsHealth Council
5BrusselsECOFIN Council
5BrusselsInternal market/Consumer Council
7-8BrusselsEnvironment Council
11-12BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
11-12BrusselsAccession Ministerial Conference
11BrusselsEmployment/Social Affairs Council
15-16GothenburgEuropean Council
18BrusselsFisheries Council (possible)
19-20BrusselsAgriculture Council
19BrusselsECOFIN Council (possible)
21BrusselsCulture Council
25-26BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
26BrusselsResearch Council
27-28BrusselsTransport/Telecommunications Council
6-7BrusselsInformal Employment and Social Affairs Council
10BrusselsECOFIN Council
13-14BrusselsRegional Territories Council (Informal)?
16-17BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
20BrusselsBudget Council
23-24BrusselsAgriculture Council
AugustThere are no European Councils scheduled for August

28 Feb 2001 : Column WA137

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