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2 Nov 2001 : Column WA185

Written Answers

Friday, 2nd November 2001.

Ladbroke Grove Disaster: Crown Prosecution Service Advice to British Transport Police

Baroness Serota asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the basis for the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service to the British Transport Police that no further investigation would be justified arising out of the Ladbroke Grove disaster.[HL1030]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): I shall place in the Library a statement by the Crown Prosecution Service explaining the basis for the advice that it has given to the British Transport Police to enable the British Transport Police to decide whether to conduct any further investigations arising out of the tragic circumstances of this disaster.

Afghanistan: UK Government's Policies to Assist Women

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific policies they are pursuing to assist women in Afghanistan.[HL817]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We have for a long time been extremely concerned about human rights abuses in Afghanistan, as well as the suffering of the Afghan population due to the longstanding conflict and the current drought. DfID strongly supports the common programming approach under the United Nations-led Strategic Framework for Afghanistan. This is intended to provide a principled, co-ordinated and coherent approach to humanitarian assistance. One of its key themes is the protection and advancement of human rights, with particular emphasis on gender.

Since 1997, we have provided over £32 million of humanitarian assistance to Afghans. This has included help to refugees in Pakistan and Iran who have themselves been so generous to millions of refugees over many years. The programmes that we support are carefully designed and monitored to ensure that women and girls benefit.

DfID has set aside an additional sum of £40 million to respond to the current crisis affecting Afghans in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries. Our top priorities are to: meet immediate life-saving needs within Afghanistan (such as food, water, healthcare, and shelter); help both refugees in neighbouring countries and the local population with similar practical support; and strengthen the capacity of the international humanitarian agencies to deliver relief aid.

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These funds are being made available now through UN agencies, the Red Cross movement and NGOs. Those agencies will continue to focus on the rights of Afghan women and girls, both inside Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries.

DfID recognises that a durable solution to the crisis in Afghanistan ultimately requires a comprehensive approach, which addresses both the long-standing underlying factors as well as the immediate consequences of the war. It is important that the Afghan people--through the active participation of civil society--drive this process forward to develop their own vision for a peaceful, stable and prosperous future. It is the responsibility of the entire international community to ensure that the women of Afghanistan are fully involved in this process.

British Sign Language

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will officially recognise British Sign Language; and[HL763]

    Whether they will seek to include British Sign Language in the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[HL764]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The Government have received many representations on recognition of British Sign Language (BSL) particularly since we announced our intention to ratify the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional Minority Languages. A number of meetings have been held with organisations of and for deaf people and advice was requested from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). One of the DRC's recommendations was that the Government should recognise BSL through inclusion in the Council of Europe's Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, if necessary through post ratification. The UK ratified the Council of Europe's charter for Regional or Minority Languages on 27 March 2001.

The UK member was elected to the charter's Committee of Experts on 4 October. Committee experts act in an independent capacity and the Government are not in a position to give instructions to the UK member about indigenous sign languages being covered by the charter. However, members of the committee may wish to consider representations from organisations of and for deaf people and others on this issue.

Green Travel Plans: Government Departments and Agencies

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which government departments and agencies have implemented green travel plans.[HL944]

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The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): All government departments and agencies have prepared green travel plans for key buildings. By the middle of this year most departments were reporting that the majority of their staff--70 per cent or more--were covered by travel plans.

Grain Imports and EU Agrimonetary Compensation

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans the European Commission has for import tariffs on the importation of grain from eastern Europe; and what proposals the Government have to claim agrimoney compensation for the United Kingdom arable sector.[HL947]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The European Commission asked member states represented at the Cereals Management Committee in Brussels on 11 October 2001 for their opinion on a draft regulation abolishing the supplementary import duty of 10 euro/tonne applied to imports of grain from Mediterranean, Black Sea and Baltic Sea ports. There was neither a majority in favour nor a majority against. We expect the Commission to proceed with abolition as from 9 November 2001.

As far as the UK Government's position on agrimonetary compensation for the arable sector is concerned, we refer the noble Lord to the Answer given on 31 October, Official Report, WA 168.

Rural White Paper: Implementation Plan

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will act on the recommendations made in the Rural White Paper.[HL967]

Lord Whitty: The Government are indeed already implementing the Rural White Paper. Many of the measures it announced are already in place. A detailed implementation plan was published on 1 March 2001. For each commitment made in the White Paper it reported progress to date and stated next stages in implementation with target dates indicating which government department is in the lead. The implementation plan was updated at the end of May and we intend to update it regularly. It can be viewed on the DEFRA website at

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Pesticides Safety Directorate

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the outcome of the quinquennial and better quality services reviews of the Pesticides Safety Directorate. [HL1104]

Lord Whitty: After having undertaken both a consultation exercise and detailed reviews of the functions, form and performance of the Pesticides Safety Directorate over the past five years, I have concluded that they should remain an executive agency for another term. The reviews established that the retention of agency status would be the most appropriate means of delivering high quality and cost effective services over the next five years.

The better quality services stage of the reviews has specifically identified measures to ensure continuous improvement in PSD's quality of service and cost-effectiveness.

Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why it was necessary to add Article 15(1) to European Union Council Directive 2000/78/Ec of 27 November 2000, establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. [HL959]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Article 15(1) of the directive allows for the exceptional measures for recruitment to the police force in Northern Ireland, as recommended in the report of the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland (the Patten report) and provided for in the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

Broadband Services in Rural Areas

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose to expand their original commitment to provide broadband services to rural areas; and what is the time-scale for the completion of this scheme.[HL966]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Government are committed to making the broadband market more extensive and competitive. To this end we have established the £30 million fund for regional development agencies and the devolved administrations to develop innovative schemes to extend broadband networks. The fund will operate over the years 2002-04. We are currently considering the recommendations of the broadband Stakeholder Group, and in addition, the Countryside Agency has included broadband issues in its audit of market towns.

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Foetal Pain Relief: Guidelines on Use in Abortions

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the research on foetal pain published by the Medical Research Council, they intend to issue guidelines for the use of foetal pain relief in abortions between 20 weeks and 24 weeks.[HL1022]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Government have no plans to issue guidelines since the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists already provides advice on this issue.

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Reproductive Cloning: Proposed Ban

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to introduce the proposed ban on reproductive cloning.[HL1023]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Any treatment using human embryos requires a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority which has stated that it will not issue a licence for reproductive cloning. Anyone carrying out such treatment without a licence would be guilty of a criminal offence. We will introduce primary legislation to put this ban on a statutory footing as soon as parliamentary time allows.

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