Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


5 Nov 2002 : Column WA83

Written Answers

Tuesday, 5 November 2002.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the letters of resignation from Ms Inez McCormack and Professor Christine Bell from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.[HL5911]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): It is a matter for Ms McCormack and Professor Bell whether they wish their personal letters to be made public.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office has been in correspondence with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission about its expenditure in 2001–02; and, if so, whether they will publish the correspondence.[HL5913]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office wrote to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission regarding its accounts in April this year.

There are no plans to publish the letter.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their reaction to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission co-publishing with the British-Irish Rights Watch; and whether they consider this to be an appropriate use of public funds.[HL5915]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent body and can co-produce publications to promote human rights without seeking the Government's approval.

The commission did not seek funding for this project through any supplementary bid. The costs of the publication are recouped from the selling price and not from public funds.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's description of itself in minutes of its meeting on 10 June as a "national institution" indicates a change in status for Northern Ireland.[HL5939]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There is no change in status for Northern Ireland.

The International Co-ordination Committee of the World Association of National Human Rights

5 Nov 2002 : Column WA84

Institutions at the United Nations has accredited the commission as a Category B—National Human Rights Institution. This status reflects the commission's sub-national position within the UK.

Lord Laird asked her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 24 September (WA 259), what qualifications are necessary in order to be able to advise the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on human rights issues.[HL5940]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The commission can receive advice from a person/s who has knowledge of the human rights issues. As an independent body, however, it is entirely the commission's choice whether or not to act upon that advice.

Scotland and England: 400th Anniversary of the Union of the Crowns

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider proposals to mark the 400th anniversary of the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England in 2003.[HL5943]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government have no plans at present to sponsor any proposals to mark this anniversary.

North-South Ministerial Council: EU Programmes Sector Meeting, 9 October 2002

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is meant by the word "national" in the last sentence of paragraph 11 of the Joint Communique following the special European Union Programmes Sector meeting of 9 October of the North-South Ministerial Council, set up after the Belfast agreement of 1998 in Ballycastle; and why would "national" be referred to in the context of European Union grants supplied to the cross-Border areas.[HL6287]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The word "national" in the last sentence of paragraph 11 of the Joint Communique, which was issued following the 9 October meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Special EU Programmes Sector, refers to the public expenditure and accountability responsibilities of each of the two member states involved in the delivery of this programme. Accountability for expenditure under European Union programmes administered by the Special EU Programmes Body is subject to the requirements of European regulations and to the separate requirements of the Irish public expenditure system and the UK public expenditure system. This is why the word "national" was used in this context.

5 Nov 2002 : Column WA85

North Down and Ards Area Draft Plan

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the area plan for Ards/Down area will be published; and what is the proposed procedure after publication. [HL6290]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government aim to publish the draft North Down and Ards area plan at the end of November.

Following publication, a public exhibition of plan policies and proposals will be held in both Ards and Down for one week and officers will be in attendance to assist members of the public with any queries. Copies of plan documents will also be available at that time.

A statutory period of six weeks will be available from the date of publication for comment, representation or objection to the draft plan.

If objections are received and cannot be resolved, the department may then request the Planning Appeals Commission to hold a public inquiry for the purposes of considering such objections. If a public inquiry is held the department will consider the recommendations of the Planning Appeals Commission and then decide to adopt the plan, in whole or in part, with or without modification. A final version of the plan, incorporating any amendments or revisions will then be published.

Planning Service is now making provisional arrangements for the draft plan publication and public exhibition on the basis of this timescale.

European Elections 2004

Lord Smith of Leigh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are planning to allow all-postal voting in the European elections in 2004. [HL6015]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We have just published a consultation paper which proposes holding the European Parliamentary and ordinary local elections in 2004 at the same time. In paragraph 26, which is appended, we explain that we are also considering very carefully whether to hold pilot voting schemes at these combined elections.

"Paragraph 26. Since the local elections in May 2000 we have been piloting, with local authorities and in close consultation with the Electoral Commission, a series of new and innovative ways of voting, such as allowing people to do so by telephone and the internet, or allowing everyone to vote by post. We have recently published a prospectus inviting local authorities to suggest further schemes for the 2003 local elections. We are currently considering very carefully whether we should hold pilots at the proposed combined local, GLA and European Parliament elections in 2004. To

5 Nov 2002 : Column WA86

do this would require separate changes to primary legislation, since piloting is not currently possible in local elections combined with European Parliamentary elections".

Food Aid

Lord Shutt of Greetland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the estimated numbers of people who will be reliant on food aid in the next four months in (a) Zambia; (b) Zimbabwe; (c) Malawi; (d) Mozambique; (e) Lesotho; (f) Swaziland; and (g) Angola. [6179]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): Food aid needs will peak in the period December to March. Recent assessments indicate that the numbers of people who will require humanitarian assistance will rise over that period to:


    Zambia 2.9 million


    Zimbabwe 6.7 million


    Malawi 3.3 million


    Mozambique 0.59 million


    Lesotho 0.65 million


    Swaziland 0.27 million


    Angola 1.9 million (to December 2003)

Police Negotiating Board

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to reduce the membership and streamline the procedures of the Police Negotiating Board. [HL6100]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): In April 2001 the Government approved a number of changes to the constitution of the Police Negotiating Board following agreement with the official and staff sides. Both sides agreed to reduce their membership of the full board and to include the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Chief Police officers in Scotland as members of the official side. The language of the constitution was simplified. Finally, government Ministers were given a new power to direct the board to consider and reach agreement on specified matters within specified deadlines, provided that those matters are of serious national importance to the police service.

5 Nov 2002 : Column WA87

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary used that power to direct the board to reach agreement on how to achieve a series of outcomes designed to modernise police pay and conditions of service. On 9 May 2002 the board reached agreement on a ground-breaking package of reforms. The reforms include competence-related pay for the most experienced officers in the federated ranks, special priority payments for the most difficult and demanding posts, new measures to manage ill-health retirements and poor attendance and new flexible working practices.

Under the Police Act 1996 the board is constituted in accordance with arrangements approved by government Ministers, made after consultation between Ministers and the organisations representing the interests of the authorities which maintain the police forces of the United Kingdom, the members of these forces and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.

There are no plans to consult the members of the board on further changes to the membership or procedures of the board.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page