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6 Mar 2001 : Column WA17

Written Answers

Tuesday, 6th March 2001.

Southern Africa: Peacekeeping

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made to the level of support given by the United Kingdom to regional peacekeeping training in Southern Africa. [HL1067]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Foreign and Commonweath Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): In view of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, the British Military Advisory and Training Team (BMATT) for Southern Africa will relocate from Harare to the UK at the end of March 2001. The team has played an important role in enhancing the capacity of the countries of the Southern Africa Development Community to contribute to international peace support operations. We will continue to look for alternative locations from which the team can carry on its work with the countries of the region.

Foreign Secretary's Discussions USA

Lord Moynihan asked her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions the Foreign Secretary held with the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, during his recent visit to the United States, on (a) the European Defence and Security Policy and the European Rapid Reaction Force; and (b) the United States National Missile Defence. [HL897]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary briefed the US Secretary of State in detail on the European Defence Initiative, its emphasis on improved capabilities and the essential role of NATO in ESDP. The US Secretary of State noted in his subsequent public comments that the Administration had a good understanding of the goals of the European Defence Initiative and that he and the Foreign Secretary shared a common belief that ESDP would strengthen NATO.

In a constructive discussion on NMD, the US Secretary of State confirmed US commitment to a missile defence system, but made clear that no decisions on how and when to deploy had been taken, and stressed the Administration's intention to consult Allies, Russia and others. The Foreign Secretary and the US Secretary of State agreed on the importance of combatting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. They agreed that our two countries should work together to counter such proliferation.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Foreign Secretary received representations from any members of the United

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    States Administration on the subject of the security of Europe from missile attack during his recent visit to the United States.[HL899]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: No.

British Council, Quito, Ecuador

Baroness Hooper asked Her Majesty's Goverment:

    Whether the British Council has announced the closure of its centre in Quito, Ecuador: and if so, what representations they have made to the British Council to continue the work of the language training centre in Quito, the CRADLE project and the British School.[HL933]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The British Council operation in Quito, Ecuador, will close in July 2001. The announcement was made on 13 November 2000. Existing higher education links and teacher exchange programmes will continue to be managed by the Council in the region.

The CRADLE project, which was funded by the Department for International Development until 1996, and the British School are not part of the British Council's operation in Ecuador.

QCs and Judges: Appointments

The Earl of Courtown asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any person who attended the function at the Atlantic Bar and Grill on 7 February, hosted by the Lord Chancellor, has been appointed a Queen's Counsel or a judge since this Government came to power.[HL917]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The most recent records show that 217 Queen's Counsel and 1,555 judges in the ordinary Courts have been appointed in England and Wales since May 1997. I could not possibly say from my own knowledge how many, if any, attended any particular function, nor, given that such a fact is wholly irrelevant to the question of appointment, would it be appropriate for me to inquire.

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the guidelines on judicial and Queen's Counsel appointments that are applied to ensure that anyone who is aware of political donations made by candidates for appointment has no part in the appointment process and is excluded from seeing files on applicants.[HL920]

The Lord Chancellor: No such guidelines exist. Current guidance makes it clear that the assessment of candidates will be based solely on merit against the criteria for appointment. Neither I nor anyone else involved with the appointment process would

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normally know if a candidate for judicial appointment or Queen's Counsel has made a donation to any political party, nor would anyone take such an irrelevant fact into account. Candidates are not asked whether they have made political donations.

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Lord Chancellor's Special Adviser, Mr Garry Hart, has or has had, any access to files relating to the appointment of Queen's Counsel and judges.[HL921]

The Lord Chancellor: Mr Hart sees papers only to the extent necessary to advise on general policy issues relating to judicial appointments. He is not and has never been involved in any way in decisions about individual judicial appointments.

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is the practice of the Lord Chancellor to disqualify himself from involvement in any appointment concerning someone whom he knows is a donor to a political party; and[HL922]

    Whether the Lord Chancellor has appointed any judges or Queen's Counsel who he was aware at the time were members of the Labour Party or an affiliated organisation, or who had made donations to the Labour Party.[HL923]

The Lord Chancellor: I do not, in the ordinary course, know if a candidate for judicial appointment is a member of, or has made a donation to, any political party or affiliated organisation, nor, were I to come to know, would I ever take such a fact into account in considering the question of appointment. Judicial appointments are based solely on merit. The one exception is in relation to the lay magistracy, who are only appointed if they pass a merit threshold, but where Local Advisory Committees also consider political affiliation of candidates, as a proxy for social background, so as to try to achieve lay Benches which are representative of the communities they serve: that has been the longstanding position, under successive governments.

Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry Appointments

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Lord Chancellor, when consulted under Chapter 4, paragraph 50 of the Ministerial Code about the suitability of a judicial or legal appointment to a Royal Commission or independent committee of inquiry, or when undertaking an approach on behalf of a department, is expected to disclose if he is aware that the person he is recommending has contributed to the Labour Party.[HL924]

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The Lord Chancellor: No. I would not, in the ordinary course, know about donations to any political party, nor, were I to come to know, would I ever taken such a fact into account. My advice on such matters is based solely on the potential appointee's merits for the task proposed.

Perpetuities and Excessive Accumulations: Law Commission Report

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to make an announcement on Law Commission Report, No. 251 The Rule against Perpetuities and Excessive Accumulations.[HL1063]

The Lord Chancellor: The Government accept the Law Commission's recommendations in Report No. 251, The Rule against Perpetuities and Excessive Accumulations, and will legislate when parliamentary time allows.

Civil Court Judgment Enforcement: Review

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on Phase Two of the Review of Civil Enforcement.[HL1064]

The Lord Chancellor: We have been engaged in a comprehensive review of the enforcement of civil court judgments since 1998. I announced by way of a Written Answer on 26 July 2000, Official Report, col. WA 67 the completion of Phase One of the review. The rules of court arising from this phase are currently being drafted. I also announced on 26 July last year the terms of Phase Two of the review. These were:

    To implement costed recommendations, including the production of a unified set of rules of court for enforcement, and

    To identify, in the light of the amended procedures and revised powers of bailiffs, the type of agent or form of agency which should be responsible for carrying out those enforcement procedures, and to make costed recommendations.

I am pleased to announce that Phase Two of the review of enforcement procedures will now be broadened to include structures for, and the regulation of, civil enforcement agents generally, not just within the High Court and the county courts.

It would be a wasted opportunity not to attempt to go further and devise a single model encompassing not just civil court warrant enforcement agents, but other private sector civil enforcement agents collecting money for central or local government. This will involve my officials exploring systems across all areas of enforcement, and they will now examine various possible options, including issues surrounding a new

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class of enforcement agents who would be officers of, but not necessarily employees of, the court.

For this reason we will publish in late spring 2001 a Green Paper on the structure and regulation of enforcement, and a single piece of bailiff law, followed by a White Paper later in the year, setting out our proposals for legislation.

This approach offers the best prospect of ensuring that there are real gains from the Review. Continuing with the narrower focus would pass up the opportunity of achieving a fundamental improvement in our enforcement system.

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