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Written Answers

Tuesday, 30th October 2001.

Freedom of Information Act Training

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the timetable for the training of Ministers and civil servants to give effect to the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and by whom is such training to be provided.[HL803]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): A seminar for Ministers on the implications of the Freedom of Information Act is being arranged by the Centre for Management and Policy Studies in the Cabinet Office. We expect this to take place in January next year.

The training of officials is a matter for each department. Officials in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Division in my department (formerly in the Home Office) have undertaken awareness seminars in a wide range of departments, including the Cabinet Office, the Home Office, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Scotland Office and in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, as well as in my department, and have also participated in courses at the Civil Service College and courses arranged by other organisations.

I expect to provide further details of training in my statutory report to Parliament in November.

Judicial Appointments Annual Report

Lord Plant of Highfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the third Judicial Appointments Annual Report.[HL1002]

The Lord Chancellor: The Judicial Appointments Annual Report, covering the period 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001, is published today. The report includes comprehensive narrative descriptions together with statistics on appointments to the judiciary, Queen's Counsel, lay magistrates and General Commissioners of Income Tax. It also includes information on my appointments policies and procedures; and on the progress in implementing Sir Leonard Peach's recommendations, such as the appointment of the First Commissioner for Judicial Appointments.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report is also available on the following website:

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Court Service Review

Lord Plant of Highfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to begin the quinquennial review of the Court Service.[HL1003]

The Lord Chancellor: I am today formally launching the first review of the Court Service, which was established as an executive agency in April 1995. The terms of reference have been agreed and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. My department would like to hear from those who wish to contribute to the review. It is intended that the review should be completed by spring 2002.

Medical Records: Subject Access

Lord Plant of Highfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to keep under review the fee for individuals to gain access to their medical records under the Data Protection Act 1998.[HL1004]

The Lord Chancellor: The maximum fee for subject access to medical records held in computerised form is £10. For the time being, the Data Protection (Subject Access) (Fees and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations 2001 maintain at £50 the maximum fee for subject access to medical records held in other forms. The Government believe that, in the light of current technology and record-keeping practice, the £50 maximum strikes the proper balance between ensuring that cost is not a barrier to subject access and avoiding the diversion of resources from patient care. The Government are committed to working with the Information Commissioner, in consultation with other key interests, with the aim of finding a long-term solution.

Convicted Prisoners: Change of Plea

Baroness Seccombe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on reviewing the convictions of prisoners who change their pleas from guilty to not-guilty after their conviction.[HL828]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): In conferring the right of appeal, the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 does not distinguish between persons convicted following a guilty plea and those convicted by a jury. However, the Court of Appeal is rarely prepared to grant leave to appeal if the applicant pleaded guilty in the Crown Court.

The Home Secretary's powers to consider alleged miscarriages of justice came to an end on 31 March 1997. These were replaced by new powers vested in an independent body, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has a main responsibility under

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the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 to review suspected miscarriages of justice and to refer a conviction, verdict, finding or sentence to the appropriate court of appeal when the commission considers that there is real possibility that it would not be upheld. In making its decisions, the commission applies the same tests as the Court of Appeal.

Asylum: Language Analysis

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will make an authorisation under Section 19D of the Race Relations Act 1976 on a language analysis pilot.[HL1028]

Lord Rooker: In light of evidence that some asylum applicants are falsely posing as nationals from countries with high grant rates of asylum or exceptional leave, we have decided to undertake a language analysis pilot at the start of November 2001.

The purpose of language analysis is to provide expert evidence which helps to identify the place of origin of asylum seekers. Language analysis is used in a number of European countries and the results are generally successful. We will be piloting the scheme to see how well language analysis works in the United Kingdom, and for the purposes of the pilot we will be covering asylum seekers of three nationalities where we believe the problem of false nationality claims to be most pronounced. Those nationalities are Afghanistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka.

The authorisation I made will enable staff in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, where there are objective reasons for doubting the nationality of a person claiming to be from one of these three countries, to request them to undertake a further interview which will be taped and sent to a language expert for analysis. Individuals may refuse to consent to this further interview but this refusal can be taken into account when determining whether the applicant has established the facts of their case. This may lead to their claim being refused.

We will review the need for this authorisation once the pilot has been completed. In addition, the race monitor to be appointed under Section 19E of the Race Relations Act 1976 (as amended) will report to Parliament via the Secretary of State on the likely effect of authorisations made by Ministers and on how they are operated in practice by officials.

A copy of the additional authorisation has been placed in the Library. Any future additional or amended authorisations will also be placed in the Library.

Armed Conflict

Baroness Wilcox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Question by Lord Strathclyde (H.L. Deb., col. 283) and the reply by Lord Williams of Mostyn (H.L. Deb., col. 286) on 8 October, whether it is legally correct to state that the United Kingdom is at war; and, if so, with whom.[HL796]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The military coalition is engaged in an armed conflict in self-defence against those who perpetrated the terrorist attack of 11 September and those who harbour and sustain them.

Development Strategies

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken to ensure that development strategies will not be disrupted following the World Bank's recent economic assessment that the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States will affect economic growth in developing countries, resulting in as many as 10 million more people living in poverty next year.[HL816]

Baroness Amos: The UK will continue to work for international co-operation to bring benefits to all. The launch of a development Round in the WTO is essential in order to ensure greater access to global markets for developing countries' goods and services and will enable these countries to increase their share of foreign investment.

Kuwaiti Missing Files

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the latest information on the whereabouts and well-being of Kuwaiti and other prisoners of war still unaccounted for by Iraq; and what recent initiatives they have taken or supported to secure their release.[HL897]

Baroness Amos: Iraq has only provided information sufficient to close three Kuwaiti missing files so far. The UK continues to take an active role in the Tripartite Commission to establish the whereabouts of 605 Kuwaiti and other nationals still missing since the occupation of Kuwait, but the Government of Iraq currently refuse to co-operate with the process.

Joint Strike Fighter Contract

Lord Taylor of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in the selection of the prime contractor for the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the joint strike fighter programme.[HL1001]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): It was announced in Washington on Friday 26 October that Lockheed Martin has been selected for the contract award.

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The UK participated fully in the selection process, and the decision is good news for our Armed Forces and for UK defence companies teamed with Lockheed Martin.

The aircraft, which will meet our future joint combat aircraft (FJCA) requirement, will incorporate advanced stealth technology and will be able to conduct multi-role operations from the sea and from the land. The decision represents a further important step, following the Strategic Defence Review, to provide the UK with up-to-date flexible expeditionary air power capability.

UK industry stands to gain substantial benefits. The value of the work for UK companies over the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase is of the order of £3 billion, with much further work in production and support activities in years to come. Lockheed Martin assesses that up to 3,500 jobs could be sustained or created during EMD, rising to 8,500 in the later phases.

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