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3G Mobile Communications

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry have had several meetings in different fora with telecommunications companies this year in the normal course of business. Issues discussed have been wide-ranging and have on occasion included regulatory issues related to 3G mobile communications.

Mental Health Act Commission Report

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have formally responded to the Mental Health Act Commission's eighth biennial report. [HL1593]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Yes, copies have been placed in the Library.

Health Professions: Regulation

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish their proposals for the regulation of the health professions. [HL1594]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We have published draft orders under the Health Act 1999 containing provisions to set up a new Nursing and Midwifery Council and a new Health Professions Council. These will replace the existing United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, the four national boards and the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine. The orders will be published for three months before debate in Parliament. A period of consultation will last until 1 June 2001. Copies of both draft orders have been placed in the Library.

Appointments to the shadow Nursing and Midwifery Council and Health Professions Council are under way. These appointments should be made in early April for the shadow councils to start work as soon as possible afterwards. The shadow councils will have the status of advisory groups until the new councils are statutorily established in April 2002.

State Retirement Pension Uprating for Recipients Living Abroad

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 29 March (WA 58), whether the principal reason why the retirement pensions for

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    United Kingdom pensioners living in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are not uprated is that the United Kingdom has no reciprocal agreements which allow for upratings; and, if so, what initiatives they have taken, or plan to take, to negotiate such reciprocal agreements. [HL1537]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): I refer the noble Lord to the reply I gave him on 18 January 2001 (Official Report, col. WA 141).

A12 Trunk Road: Litter

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the present level of litter on the A12 trunk road between the M11 and the A14 is acceptable and to what firm the Highways Agency has given the contract for collection of litter from this stretch of road.[HL1524]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): No amount of litter is acceptable on any road, but the problem is exacerbated by disposal of rubbish by the general public.

However, the responsibility of litter collection on the A12 trunk road lies solely with the respective district council through which the road passes. This was defined in law under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and standards of cleanliness that should be maintained are set out in a code of practice.

The relevant district councils are: Brentwood District Council (Essex), Chelmsford District Council (Essex), Malden District Council (Essex), Braintree District Council (Essex), Colchester District Council (Essex) and Babergh District Council (Suffolk).

While the Highways Agency has no direct responsibility for litter collection, it has taken a proactive role in ensuring that it is carried out. The agency has aimed to achieve this by allowing the district councils access when traffic management is in place for other reasons, such as when roadworks are carried out, so that they can work safely and minimise their costs. Additionally, the agency has been meeting with the relevant district councils to discuss how they fulfil their duty, which is to keep the area clean.

As a result of their discussions, the Highways Agency offered the district councils the opportunity to work with our maintaining agents while scavenging patrols were carried out. Scavenging patrols are carried out to remove any items which are causing a safety hazard or are arguably not typical litter, i.e. lorry tyres, fridges, gas bottles etc. Since such patrols in themselves require traffic management to ensure the safety of the workforce and the travelling public, the district councils were offered the opportunity to work within the traffic management to remove the litter which it is their duty to remove.

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In addition, through the discussions with the district councils, the Highways Agency has been able to obtain assurances from them that they would work together to maximise the amount of work that can be done during their litter patrols.

The district councils have now proposed a programme for carrying out their works, and the Highways Agency will discuss this with them to make sure that the greatest use is made of everyone's resources.

Bus Services

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of rising costs and the desirability of using rural bus service grant marginally to augment existing bus services, they will raise the current de minimis levels relating to subsidised services.[HL1548]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): As I said in my reply to the noble Lord on 12 February (Official Report, col. WA 1), while we have no immediate plans to change the de minimis limits, we will keep this matter under review in the light of any representations from local authorities and others.

We announced in January that up to 20 per cent of each local authority's rural bus subsidy grant may be used to support existing rural bus services.

BBC Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will invite the BBC in Northern Ireland to reflect an across-community balance in its cultural activities.[HL1311]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As my right honourable friend will be aware, it is the Government's policy that broadcasters are independent of government and, therefore, we do not seek to intervene in detailed matters of programming content. This is a matter for the BBC Board of Governors, who must ensure that the obligations set out in the Royal Charter and agreement are met. BBC Northern Ireland remains committed to ensuring that its output on radio, television and online services provides a variety of cultural activity which reflects the diversity and vibrancy of all traditions in the community.

Football World Cup: Television Rights

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on the validity of recent reports that, for the first time, the Football World Cup will not be available in the United Kingdom free to view but that the German Kirch Group will be conducting an auction for the television rights; and, if so, what action they are taking.[HL1409]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We understand that the Kirch Group intends to hold an open auction for the live rights but it intends to comply with the UK listed event legislation. Through correspondence and a meeting of officials, we have made the Kirch Group fully aware of the extent of this legislation: that the whole of the World Cup Finals tournament (all 64 matches) is a listed event and that any broadcaster purchasing live rights from Kirch would have to comply with the provisions of the 1996 Broadcasting Act. We expect that the Independent Television Commission, the regulator responsible for ensuring compliance with the legislation, will take all proper steps to ensure that the law works in the way that it is intended, so that UK viewers have the opportunity of seeing the whole of the finals tournament on "free to air" television.

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