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Foot and Mouth Disease: Cost

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As my right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said on 22 March (Official Report, col. 358W) and 5 April (Official Report, col. 239W), it is not possible at this stage to make a robust assessment of the economic impact. The Treasury, MAFF and other interested departments are keeping a range of possible outcomes under review. My right honourable friend the Minister for Agriculture reported in his statement to the House on 9 April that, "we have committed more than £500 million to farmers so far" (Official Report, col. 706). At present it is not possible to estimate the final cost of the outbreak with any reliability.

Judicial Appointments

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Paragraph 56 of the Ministerial Code refers to the Civil Service. However, the appointment of judges and Queen's Counsel is purely on the basis of merit, and there are many safeguards built into the system, not least the recent appointment of the First Judicial Appointments Commissioner, who has access to every interview, every piece of paper and every meeting in the appointments process.

Government TV Advertising: Close Caption Subtitles

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Advertising is the responsibility of individual departments. However, the Central Office of Information, which handles the majority of government advertising, has a policy that any government commercials that are commissioned through it provide closed caption subtitles for the deaf.

The only exceptions are recruitment commercials for the Armed Forces.

Written Answers: Reference to Published Documents

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 8 February concerning the practice of referring to services in the public domain when providing factual information in Written Answers in the Official Report (WA 115), whether they will reconsider their position in the light of their concern and disquiet expressed around the House about the treatment of Written Answers during the discussion on the Lord Renton's starred Question on the subject (H.L. Deb., 12 February, cols. 6-9). [HL749]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Government are committed both to fully answering all questions put to them and to the better use of electronic communication, and have noted the concerns of the House. The Government recognises that when referring to other published material in Written Answers it may well be appropriate to include the more significant elements of the material with appropriate brevity in the Written Answer. This will depend on the merits of each individual case.

Public Sector Appointments: Register of Volunteers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will require counties and unitary authorities to compile and maintain a register of volunteers for public sector appointments and to advertise the register in libraries, town halls, doctors' surgeries, citizens advice bureaux and websites. [HL843]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: There are currently no plans for counties and unitary authorities to compile and maintain a register of volunteers for public sector appointments.

However, the Public Appointments Unit (PAU) in the Cabinet Office maintains a computerised register of people who wish to be considered for appointments to the boards of public bodies. It provides names from the register in response to specific requests from government departments. Anyone can nominate themselves or others for inclusion on the register. Self-nomination is encouraged, and in recent years has become the most common form of nomination.

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Information about the PAU is sent to a range of organisations on a regular basis, and is also available on the Internet at www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/quango. Individuals with specific interests are also advised to register their names with the relevant government departments.

Millennium Dome: Preferred Bidder Correspondence

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Government will publish a copy of the letter sent to Legacy plc when it was made the preferred bidder for the Millennium Dome; and [HL872]

    Whether they will publish the letter sent to Legacy plc terminating the preferred bidder status in relation to the Millennium Dome. [HL874]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: We do not intend to publish the preferred bidder letter at present. Legacy are not precluded from further involvement in the process; and the letter and associated documentation contain information which could be of use to other potential bidders and undermine the Government's negotiating position.

Under the terms of the preferred bidder letter, Legacy plc's status as preferred bidder expired on 14 February 2001. I am today placing in the House libraries a copy of a letter dated 15 February from the Competition Director to Legacy plc, notifying them of the Government's decision that was announced on the same day (Hansard, col. 221W).

Millennium Dome: Best Value

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they received as to best value for money for the taxpayer in selling the Millennium Dome site if the Dome were retained. [HL873]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: In considering bids for the Millennium Dome, the Government have received advice both from officials and from outside professional advisers as to best value for money. They will continue to do so.

EU Institutions: UK Stagiaires

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the number of young Britons taking up positions as stagiaires in European Union institutions; and what they are doing to encourage more young people to learn about the workings of the European Union. [HL1176]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Government aim to raise European awareness amongst young Britons by promoting training opportunities such as the

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institutions' stagiaire schemes. We have been satisfied with the number of British stagiaires in recent years, particularly in the European Commission, where Britons account for more than 10 per cent of the total number of stagiaires at each intake.

The Government produces guidance on each of the institutions' stagiaire schemes and UK studentships to European centres of learning--to which the Government make a generous allocation of scholarships for students from the UK. The information is available on request, at careers services, at careers events and via the Internet.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they consider that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is representative of the entire community when it has no representatives from any of the ethnic minorities, from the evangelical Protestant community or from the 22 per cent of the population who consider themselves to be Ulster Scots. [HL1336]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: None of the members of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was appointed to represent any particular group or section of the community within Northern Ireland. Each was appointed on his or her own merits but with regard to the statutory requirement that the Secretary of State should "as far as practicable secure that the Commissioners, as a group, are representative of the community in Northern Ireland". The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland remains committed to complying with the obligations placed on him by Sections 68(3) and 75 of the Northern Ireland Act in making any future appointments. In making appointments, however, the Government are inevitably constrained by the numbers and quality of applications made.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will start the process of recruiting a chief executive, chief commissioner and members of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission for its next statutory period; and whether they will ensure that it reflects all strands of Northern Irish society. [HL1337]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The chief commissioner and other existing members of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission were appointed for three years from 1 March 1999. The Commissioner for Public Appointments recommends that public appointees should initially be assessed for their willingness and suitability for reappointment six months before the end of their appointment and, if appropriate, a further appointments process should then be run.

The Government are currently seeking to appoint further commissioners through open competition following the resignation of Angela Hegarty in

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January. All further appointments to the Commission will be made with regard to the Secretary of State's statutory obligations under s.68(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

The chief executive is directly employed by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, so her employment is a matter for the commission itself. The chief commissioner has been asked to write to the noble Lord. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.


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