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21 Oct 2002 : Column WA75

Written Answers

Monday, 21st October 2002.

International Human Rights Instruments

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

    Whether they intend by the end of 2002 to publish the report of their inquiry into the case for United Kingdom acceptance of the jurisdiction of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and for specialised human rights treaty bodies to consider complaints against the United Kingdom of breaches of human rights; and for United Kingdom ratification of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights.[HL5893]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): On 7 March 2002, I announced that my department would lead an interdepartmental review of the United Kingdom's position under various international human rights instruments. The terms of reference for the review were:

"To review the United Kingdom's position on international human rights instruments in the light of experience of the operation of the Human Rights Act, the availability of existing remedies within the UK, and law and practice in other EU Member States; and to report by Spring 2003."

The review is now well under way and is examining, among other matters, the case for acceding to the right of individual petition to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and other specialised human rights treaty bodies; and for United Kingdom ratification of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights. The review is on schedule to report to Ministers by Spring 2003. I would expect to be able to report the outcome shortly thereafter.

Immigration Appellate Authority Hearing Centres

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to open additional Immigration Appellate Authority hearing centres.[HL6060]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are extensive plans to open new hearing centres as part of the Immigration Appellate Authority's (IAA) expansion programme. The IAA has been tasked with increasing its capacity from the current 4,500 asylum appeals per month to 6,000 cases per month from November 2002.

Centres are planned for Newport, Stoke-on-Trent, North Shields, Bradford and Manchester, opening between November 2002 and June 2003. In addition to the new locations, the hearing capacities of existing centres in Birmingham and Hatton Cross are being

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increased. A new administrative support centre is also opening in Leicester.

The precise timescales for the expansion programme remain subject to planning and lease considerations.

Non-fossil Fuels: Excise Duty

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the impounding of cars and the prosecution of drivers in Llanelli, Dyfed, for using a mixture of cooking oil and methanol as fuel, what rate of duty should have been paid on this alternative non-fossil fuel.[HL5918]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Any substance, whether or not it is a mineral oil, is subject to excise duty where it is used as a road fuel. This duty is normally charged at the rate of the fuel for which that substance is substituting. Because cooking oil can only be used in some diesel-engined cars, it will normally be liable at the rate set for ultra-low sulphur diesel, which is 45.82p per litre. Some cooking oil may meet the specification for biodiesel for duty purposes. To support the growth of the biodiesel industry the Government introduced a reduced duty rate in this year's Budget for biodiesel used as a road fuel, which is 25.82p per litre.

Insurance Mediation Directive

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the Government's proposals for implementing the European Union's Insurance Mediation Directive.[HL6059]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As the Economic Secretary to the Treasury announced in the House of Commons on 12 December 2001 (WA 890-891W) the Government propose to give the Financial Services Authority (FSA) responsibility for regulating general insurance and reinsurance mediation. The Government have today published a consultation document that sets out the intended approach to regulating the sale of general insurance products following adoption on 30 September 2002 by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers under the co-decision procedure of the Insurance Mediation Directive (the directive).

The consultation document explains that the FSA will regulate the following activities: introducing, proposing or carrying out other work preparatory to the conclusion of contracts of insurance or reinsurance; assisting in the administration and performance of such contracts, in particular in the event of a claim; and concluding contracts of insurance or reinsurance.

The directive requires the regulation of mediation activities in relation to all contracts of insurance. However, it provides certain exemptions for insurance sold as part of a package, including travel

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insurance sold with a holiday and extended warranties that are contracts of insurance.

It is for the UK Government to decide whether to regulate those insurances that are exempted from the directive and the Government have decided to defer a decision on whether the FSA should regulate extended warranties pending the outcome of the Competition Commission inquiry into extended warranties for electrical goods.

As to travel insurances that are sold with a holiday, we need carefully to weigh the consumer protection issues against regulatory costs. The Government also need to weigh fairly the competition issues between those intermediaries that sell travel insurance direct and travel agents that sell insurance alongside a holiday. The Government have decided, therefore, to consult on whether to give the FSA responsibility for regulating these products. There are three options:

    no statutory regulation of sales of travel insurance sold as part of a package;

    FSA regulation to cover these sales in the same way as stand alone sales of travel insurance; or

    industry-specific regulation, requiring sellers of these products to be authorised by the FSA unless they are subject to an ABTA code which would be certified by the FSA. Sellers who were subject to the ABTA code but who also carried on other FSMA regulated activity, including selling any insurance other than packaged travel insurance, would be subject to FSA authorisation in relation to all of their regulated activities (including the activities to which the ABTA code applied).

Responses to the consultation on general insurance and reinsurance regulation, and on the options for travel insurance sold as part of a holiday, should be sent to HM Treasury by 31 January 2003.

Gulf Veterans

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 24 September, whether they will now compare, in number and percentage terms the incidence of "symptoms and signs of ill-defined conditions" (SSIDC) among Gulf veterans who were (a) regular and (b) reservist members of the Armed Forces deployed to liberate Kuwait.[HL5770]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Answer to which the noble Lord refers concerns mortality. In the period 1 April 1991 to 30 June 2002, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is aware of five Gulf veterans having died who were regulars at the time of the Gulf Conflict and whose deaths have been coded by the Office for National Statistics to the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases, (ICD) 9th revision, (1977) Chapter XVI, Symptoms, Signs and Ill-defined Conditions (SSIDC). Four of these deaths

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occurred overseas, and despite inquiries by MoD staff, the precise cause of the deaths has not been established. In the remaining case, the body of the deceased was found some three weeks after death. The coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure and the cause of death as unascertainable.

The MoD is not aware of any deaths so coded for reservists who served in the Gulf during the conflict. In the control group there were 11 deaths, all of whom were regulars, coded to ICD 9 Chapter XVI for similar reasons of insufficient cause data.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 24 September, how many Gulf veterans with war pensions related to their service in the Gulf War were (a) regular and (b) reservist members of the Armed Forces deployed to liberate Kuwait.[HL5771]

Lord Bach: As at 30 June 2002, there had been 5,257 claims from ex-service personnel who served in the Gulf. While the Veterans Agency requires confirmation of service when considering a claim for war pensions, information relating to regular or reserve service and details of deployment are not recorded for statistical purposes. Therefore, this information requested is not available in the format required; it could be obtained only at disproportionate effort.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What to date have been the legal costs for the Ministry of Defence in cases involving pension appeals by Gulf war victims.[HL5773]

Lord Bach: To date counsels' fees for legal services in connection with war pension appeals involving Gulf war veterans amount to £3,250.41.

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