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Consolidated Fund Bill: Human Rights Act Statement

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have made a statement under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

Armed Forces Aircrew Retention

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Ministry of Defence has conducted a comprehensive review of aircrew retention this summer. We sought to identify why we have a shortfall in this highly trained group of personnel and how that shortfall might best be addressed. A study team, including representatives from the three Services, HM Treasury and external consultancy, has reviewed aircrew requirements and looked at employment patterns, career structures, training systems and remuneration, as well as the recruitment and financial policies of the commercial sector.

The working group collated the views of over 1,000 aircrew (probably the largest such survey the Armed Forces has undertaken) as well as those of managers. It examined and identified why people leave service life, as well as the attractions of the commercial sector.

The main cause of the shortage of aircrew was a failure of the training system to deliver against challenging targets. That has already been addressed but it will take time to deliver. We intend, therefore, further to improve the retention of our current aircrew.

The working group identified a series of issues impacting on retention. Many of the quality of life issues emerging from the review of aircrew retention were already being tackled: for example, the very significant programmes introduced to spend an additional £1 billion over the next 10 years on modernising single living accommodation and to spend £650 million by November 2005 on upgrading married quarters. We recognise that accommodation problems spread beyond housing, and action is needed to address sub-standard working and technical accommodation as well. Senior service officers have also set in hand work to address a number of key concerns raised by aircrew—for example, on operational tempo, career management, frequency of moves, and more. The impact of resolving these

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concerns will also be of benefit to personnel beyond the aircrew community. Some of the issues raised by aircrew are misperceptions and to address this better communication is being developed across the services.

There are some remuneration aspects arising from this review and, as is usual, we have made proposals to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB). The outcome will be reported to the House in due course—probably early February.

We are monitoring closely developments in the commercial sector. But, even if the pull to the private sector decreases as a result of a contraction in the civil sector, we still have a responsibility to deal with the natural factors which cause personnel to leave and which are preventing us reaching aircrew manning balance.

European Union

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any proposals which might lead to the European Union acquiring legal personality; and, if so, what is their response to such proposals.[HL1953]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Article 24 of the Treaty of the European Union (added by the Treaty of Amsterdam) gives the Council of the European Union the capacity to conclude international agreements in areas covered by the Common Foreign and Security Policy (Title V TEU) and Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (Title VI TEU) when it is necessary to enter into such agreements to implement those titles.

This is a very limited form of legal personality for the European Union to conclude international agreements for these specific purposes. It is not the overarching, explicit legal personality which some others have advocated and which the Prime Minister successfully resisted at Amsterdam.

Various proposals for amending the EU treaties have been made in the current debate on the Future of Europe. More are likely in the run up to the 2004 Intergovernmental Conference. Decisions remain a matter for member states at the IGC.


Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much has been paid by way of loans through the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme to tourism businesses which are suffering from cash-flow problems.[HL1879]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities, which is used to classify loans

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under the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme, does not treat tourism as a separate industrial section. Tourism is spread across a number of sections, including wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants and transport.

Of the new loans that have been guaranteed by the Small Business Service, where the application forms identify that the businesses are suffering from cash-flow problems resulting from foot and mouth disease, 16 loans totalling £444,000 are considered to be tourism related.


Lord Hunt of Wirral asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the statement by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 31 October (HL Deb, Col. 1486) that the appointment for a meeting between the chairman of Railtrack and the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions had been made on 5 October, whether they will make a further statement on the date on which the appointment was made.[HL1781]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Secretary of State had been advised that any decision he could take—whether to accede to Railtrack's proposals or not—would be market sensitive and had to be communicated to Railtrack speedily. As it was envisaged that all the evidence would be available for the Secretary of State to review on Friday 5 October, the chairman of Railtrack was contacted on Thursday 4 October and a meeting scheduled in advance for the following day.

Local Authority Contracts

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

    Whether they believe that it is necessary to keep Section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988 in place; and, if so, why.[HL1867]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988 sets out a number of non-commercial matters that local authorities are not permitted to take into account in contracting exercises. The order made earlier this year under the Local Government Act 1999 modified Section 17 and provided that, in respect of best value authorities, for certain workforce matters to cease to be defined as non-commercial for the purposes of Part II of the 1988 Act to the extent that they are relevant to the achievement of best value and also in circumstances where they are relevant to a TUPE transfer.

The European Directives for Public Procurement, which are implemented in the UK by various procurement regulations, require contracts to be awarded on the basis of non-discrimination,

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transparency, freedom of movement and competitive procurement principles. Section 17 is consistent with the European legislation and makes clear the need for local authorities to avoid introducing irrelevant considerations into the contractual process.

Council Tax

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is (a) the average annual percentage increase in council tax levied in England and in Wales respectively for each year since it was introduced; and (b) the annual increase in the retail prices index for each of those years.[HL1888]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The council tax was introduced in England on 1 April 1993. The annual average percentage increase in council tax and the annual increase in the retail prices index (RPI) since 1993–94 are given in the table below.

Annual average increase in Band D Council Tax (%)Annual increase in RPI (%)

(a) All Items Index (RPI) as at April each year.

Information on council tax in Wales is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales.

Business Tenancies

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Law Commission made in 1992 to amend Part II of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, as proposed in the consultation paper of March 2001 Business Tenancies Legislation in England and Wales: the Government's Proposal for Reform.[HL1898]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton : We plan to make an announcement early in the new year about the outcome of the consultation exercise and proposals to implement the reforms by means of a regulatory reform order.

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