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Nuclear Test Veterans

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: There has been no consultation with other governments regarding pension policy for nuclear test veterans.

Matthews v Ministry of Defence

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

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Lord Bach: The case of Matthews v Ministry of Defence, which tested the compatibility of Section 10 of the Crown Proceedings Act 1947 with the claimant's rights under Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, was heard in the Court of Appeal on 22 and 23 April 2002. A unanimous judgment was handed down by Lord Phillips, Master of the Rolls, on 29 May. The Court of Appeal found in favour of the MoD but granted leave for the claimant to take the matter to the House of Lords. A date has not been set for the hearing.

When Parliament debated the repeal of Section 10, the question of retrospection was considered, and motions to allow all past and present members of HM Forces to pursue compensation claims for injury or death were moved. They were defeated or withdrawn. The view then, as it is now, was that there is no logical point at which to draw a line, short of trying to cover all types of injury going back to 1947, and this would create more examples of unfairness and injustice. The Government, therefore, have no plans to introduce legislation to allow ex-service personnel suffering illness or injury before May 1987 to be paid common-law compensation.

Compensation in the form of a war pension is, however, available to all former members of HM Forces suffering from service-attributable illness or injury. War pensions are paid by the Veterans Agency and are non-discretionary, not means-tested, and are made on a no-fault, tax free and retrospective basis. They are uprated annually.


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

    What is the justification for requiring European wireless operators to provide 3G coverage using only W-CDMA handsets and network, rather than permitting them to use the 3G technology known as CDMA2000 that is becoming available in Asia and the United States.[HL5889]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): W-CDMA was not mandated by Brussels nor any EU national government, including the UK. W-CDMA was the technology freely chosen from a range of IMT-2000 standards (including CDMA2000) by the companies that obtained licences for 3G in the UK auction of spring 2000.

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Dennis Hill Unit

Lord Bowness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many absconders there have been from the Dennis Hill unit at Bethlem Hospital site in the last three years.[HL5350]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Since 1999, there have been a total of 10,800 episodes (episodes means that there could be more than one absconsion by the same person) of leave from the Dennis Hill Unit, which means that 99.93 per cent of patients' leave (excluding the absconsions) has passed, been approved and undertaken in line with the trust's policy.

Since the creation of South London and Maudsley NHS Trust on 1 April 1999, only 0.7 per cent of the total number of absconsions were classed as unauthorised.

NHS Bodies: Performance

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 22 July (WA 27), what unaudited information is held centrally by the Department of Health in respect of the performance of individual National Health Service bodies against their key financial duties for 2001–02; whether they will publish that information; and, if they hold no such information, how they carry out their responsibilities for financial oversight of National Health Service bodies.[HL5567]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Unaudited in-year monitoring information relating to the performance of National Health Service bodies against key financial duties is collected centrally by the Department of Health. We have no plans to publish this information. The audited information in respect of performance against these financial duties for 2001–02 will be published in NHS bodies' individual annual accounts. This information will be available centrally in autumn 2002.

Hospital Bed Occupancy

Baroness Howe of Idlicote asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of hospital bed occupancy represents the ideal balance that would enable hospitals to manage both routine surgery and emergency situations most effectively; what is the current such percentage target for National Health Service hospitals; and to what extent this target is currently being achieved.[HL5908]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There is no national target set on bed occupancy. As part of routine capacity planning each National Health Service trust

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needs to establish the levels of occupancy required for different specialties and types of care depending on their own particular circumstances. Appropriate levels of occupancy will depend on a number of factors, including specialty, the balance between emergency and planned admissions and the size of the hospital.


Baroness Greengross asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action programme for the United Kingdom was agreed at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regional Ministerial Conference on Ageing held in Berlin on 11 to 13 September.[HL5860]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): At the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regional Ministerial Conference on Ageing held in Berlin in September, UNECE Ministers adopted the regional implementation strategy for the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing 2002.

A copy of the regional implementation strategy has been placed in the Library.

Communications Bill: Religious Broadcasting

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to meet formally with a range of representatives from the Christian broadcasting industry to discuss the statutory ban on religious organisations holding several categories of broadcasting licence in the context of their consultations on the draft Communications Bill.[HL5858]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): We have no plans to do so.

CCTV Cameras, East Belfast Interface Areas

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the decision was taken to place closed circuit television cameras at the East Belfast interface at Short Strand; why they are not in place; and when they will be.[HL5848]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): On 13 September 2002 my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office announced in a press release that CCTV cameras were to be installed in East Belfast interface areas.

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The Police Service of Northern Ireland, in conjunction with relevant agencies, is taking forward the installation work. It is intended that the system will provide for one pole with two cameras at the Cluan Place/Clandeboye Drive interface, with another pole and a single camera at the Cluan Place/Clandeboye Gardens interface. In addition, a single camera is to be situated at Bridge End and a similar unit for the central traffic island at the junction of Albertbridge Road/Woodstock Link.

In addition to the requirement to manufacture component parts for the cameras, PSNI has identified the need for a new and dedicated monitoring suite for the system. While it is not possible to give an exact date when the system will become operational, I can say that work on this very important project is progressing apace.

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals there are to erect closed circuit television cameras at Cluan Place in East Belfast; and what is the timescale for this work.[HL5854]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Laird, today.[HL5848]

William Mackessy

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which officials or ministers appointed William Mackessy to a post in the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast; what that post was; when he was appointed; and what attempts, including positive or negative vetting, were made to ascertain his security status.[HL5861]

    How and when they learned that William Mackessy was performing duties in the Northern Ireland Office over and above those he was required to perform by his employers.[HL5862]

    Whether William Mackessy was disciplined by the Northern Ireland Office; which officials or ministers were involved in that process; what the alleged offences were; and what was the outcome of the disciplinary process.[HL58631]

    Which officials or ministers decided to transfer William Mackessy to the Government of Northern Ireland; when this happened; and to whose department in the devolved administration he was transferred, and why.[HL5864]

    Whether officials or ministers in the Northern Ireland Office reported William Mackessy to the police or any other agency.[HL5865]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am responding to these Questions to the extent that the rules of sub judice make it appropriate for me to do so, given the criminal charges which William Mackessy is facing.

Mr Mackessy was appointed to the Northern Ireland Office, on secondment from the Department of Finance and Personnel, on 3 April 2000 as a

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Support Band Grade 2 Messenger. The normal security vetting that applies to all personnel appointed to the Northern Ireland Office was carried out and Mr Mackessy received security clearance.

Concern was expressed about Mr Mackessy's conduct in the NIO on one occasion. An investigation by his line management, and reported to the department's central personnel section, did not produce any firm evidence to substantiate that concern. Therefore, no disciplinary action was taken. As part of the investigation, further vetting checks were made with the police.

In October 2001 the Compensation Agency, an agency of the NIO, required a messenger to fill a temporary vacancy. Mr Mackessy was moved to the post. At the stage when he became surplus to the agency's requirements, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) had declared a number of vacancies for messengers which they needed to fill urgently. Mr Mackessy transferred to DETI on

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19 November 2001 to fill one of those vacancies. The transfer was arranged through normal personnel channels.

British-Irish Inter-Governmental Secretariat

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What role the Government of the Republic of Ireland have in dealing with affairs in Northern Ireland through the British-Irish Inter-Governmental Secretariat.[HL5927]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and Secretariat were established by the British-Irish Agreement, which took effect on Thursday 2 December 1999.

The conference and secretariat bring together the two governments to promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both governments.

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