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27 Jan 2003 : Column WA127

Written Answers

Monday, 27th January 2003.

Ivory Coast

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they would support peace-keeping operations in the Ivory Coast under the control of the United Nations; and what is their policy towards the Ivory Coast, in the light of the New Partnership for Africa's Development and the G8 Action Plan agreed in 2002.[HL1086]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We remain concerned at the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire and its implications for the wider region. We are working closely with the French and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for a peaceful resolution. We urge the Ivorian parties now meeting in Paris to engage seriously in the search for an inclusive political solution.

Both NEPAD and the G8 Africa Action Plan emphasise the wish of Africa's leaders to address the long-term development needs of the continent. Peace and security are key elements of this. We are supporting the ECOWAS peace-monitoring force, which has already begun to deploy in Cote d'Ivoire. The UK is providing £2 million to assist the Ghanaian contingent. We welcome the political support which the UN Security Council has provided for the peace process. Its continued engagement will be important if this is to succeed.

Queen's Counsel

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Chancellor on 7 January (WA 167), what are perceived to be the benefits and costs to consumers resulting from the current system of appointment of Queen's Counsel.[HL1043]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Consumers benefit directly from the internationally recognised quality mark represented by Queen's Counsel status. It can guide uninformed consumers when choosing an advocate and help more experienced consumers switch to new advocates, thus facilitating competition. There are no costs to consumers resulting from the current system of appointment of Queen's Counsel because, as I stated in the House on 12 December 2002, the fee paid by applicants for appointment as Queen's Counsel represents full cost recovery.

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Chancellor on 7 January (WA 167), which Minister

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    of the Crown is at present directly and personally answerable to Parliament for the appointment of Queen's Counsel in Northern Ireland.[HL1044]

The Lord Chancellor: I am. In addition, I make the recommendations to Her Majesty the Queen about which advocates in Northern Ireland she should appoint as Queen's Counsel. These recommendations are made after detailed discussions with the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, who has himself consulted all sectors of the legal profession in that jurisdiction.

Election Candidates: Copies of Electoral Register

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether intending candidates in an election are each entitled to a copy of the relevant electoral register before submitting their nomination papers in order that they may seek nominations from bona fide electors and fill in a nomination paper correctly.[HL974]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Yes. Candidates at parliamentary elections are entitled to receive a copy of the relevant electoral register for this and other electoral purposes. The term "candidate" is defined in Section 118A of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which states that a person becomes a candidate on the date of dissolution or on the occurrence of a vacancy if on or before that date he is declared by himself or by others to be a candidate at the election.

Election to Public Office: Qualifying Age

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to reduce the qualifying age for election to public office from 21 to 18 years.[HL1020]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government have no plans to do so at this time. I understand that the Electoral Commission has indicated that it intends to review the minimum age for election to public office alongside its review of the minimum voting age. The Government will consider any recommendations produced by that review.

Electoral Register: Right to Opt Out

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) What publicity was given to the right of electors to opt out of the electoral register made available to commercial purchases and (b) how many electors have exercised that right.[HL1021]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: (a) The prescribed electoral registration form was amended to provide information about the new arrangements for the registration of electors from the 2002 canvass onwards and about the opt out box for persons who do not wish to be included in the edited version of the register. In addition, the Electoral Commission prepared an explanatory leaflet for electors, free of charge and available in several languages, about these changes, including the new edited register and the right for electors to choose not to be on it.

(b) Precise information on the number of electors who choose to opt out from the edited register in the 2002 canvass is not available. However, in a sample survey of registration forms returned to Electoral Registration Officers in England, an average of 25 per cent of electors exercised their right to opt out.

Magistrates' Courts

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have with regard to the pilot scheme which extended court sitting hours in the magistrates' courts.[HL1297]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Further to my Answers on Monday last in this House, I am now able to announce that my honourable friend Yvette Cooper has made a statement today in another place with regard the outcome of the pilots. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Capita Contracts

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list all contracts that have been awarded to the Capita Group by each government department.[HL1108]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested for all government departments is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

However, the following table shows Capita contracts with the Chancellor's departments.

HMT 1Recruitment of staff
IR 2Two management consultancy frameworks let in 2002
HMCE39Listed below: 1 Maximum return on investment training 2 Membership subscription 3 Promoting flexible working practices 4 Managing change training 5 e-learning training 6 Leadership training 7 GORS selection interview training 8 Training administration introduction 9 NPL Training 10 IT tests 11 Talent spotting 12 Professional skills for SEC 13 Business writing 14 Taking responsibility training 15 Civil Service reform training 16 AA/AO assessment tests 17 Training evaluation 18 Legal trainees 19 Fast stream recruitment 20 Advanced assertiveness for managers training 21 Complaints training 22 Henry V and inspirational leadership 23 Positive image training 24 Assistant print buyer 25 Access to personal information training 26 Time management training 27 Data protection training 28 Belfast building work 29 Diagnostic internal communications manager 30 Feedback 31 RAS Helpline 32 Thinking on your feet 33 GLS lawyers recruitment 34 Human resources manager 35 Communication training 36 Internal communications manager 37 Effective middle management 38 Human resources 39 Customer contact centre advisor
OGC1Capita Property Consultancy is appointed to provide property related advice and services under the terms of a framework agreement.

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Treasury Employees: London Weighting Allowance

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What London weighting allowances are paid to employees of HM Treasury.[HL1130]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: A £2,000 per annum London allowance is paid to senior civil servants pay band 1 (formerly range F). When responsibility for pay was delegated to departments in 1996, HM Treasury amalgamated London allowances/weighting into annual salary (pay bands A–E).

CIA: Sunday Express Report

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the report in the Sunday Express of 22 December 2002 that agents of the United States Central Intelligence Agency are operating in the United Kingdom with orders to "track, hunt and eliminate" Al'Qaeda suspects and with written authority from the United States President to "shoot to kill" is true; and, if so, whether this is taking place with the approval or agreement of the British Government.[HL1054]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): No. Any foreign nationals in the United Kingdom are subject to the criminal law and are liable to be prosecuted if they commit acts of murder.

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