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Hunting Bill

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The National Gamekeepers Organisation wrote on 9 July 2002 in response to the consultation letter sent to them by my right honourable friend the Minister for Rural Affairs, and my right honourable friend met them on 22 July to discuss their concerns, including about the use of dogs underground. I understand the organisation, Campaign for Shooting, is part of the Countryside Alliance, with whom my right honourable friend has been in regular contact.

Under the provisions of the Hunting Bill a person intending to use a dog underground will be required to make an application for registration. An applicant would have to show evidence that both the tests of utility and cruelty are met in the case of the particular hunting proposed. The registrar will determine the application on the basis of an objective assessment of all the evidence provided, whether the activity satisfies the two tests.

Grey Squirrels

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: Grey squirrels, unlike our native red squirrels, are not a protected species and owners and occupiers of land and property may control them if they feel this is necessary to prevent damage. Private pest control contractors may also be employed to undertake this work. The actual method of control is also at the discretion of those carrying out the work, provided that the method used does not contravene current legislation, such as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986.

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CPS Racist Monitoring Annual Report

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Crown Prosecution Service expects to publish the racist incident monitoring annual report for the years to the end of March 2001 and 2002. [HL1623]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): The Crown Prosecution Service Racist Monitoring Annual Report for the period 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001 was published on 8 July 2002. The report for the year ending 31 March 2002 will be published early next month.

As in previous years, the report will be lodged in the Libraries of both Houses and will be accessible via the Internet on the CPS website at

Asylum Seekers: Checks

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether steps are currently being taken to check that immigrants and asylum seekers are not members of international terrorist organisations such as the Al' Qaeda network. [HL1462]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): All asylum seekers are screened in a three-tier process.

First, the details of all asylum seekers are checked against the warnings index.

Secondly, their fingerprints are taken and checked against existing Home Office records and EURODAC and they are photographed. It is our aim to issue all asylum seekers with an application registration card.

The third stage, the interview, has different levels of screening which allow for those with acceptable evidence of identity and nationality to be fed into the system while allowing for more in-depth screening interviews for those with little or no credible evidence. Should there be any indication given during any of the processes that someone might be of security interest, the information is quickly passed on to the appropriate agencies.

As regards non-asylum seekers (visitors, students, those joining family members here and others), appropriate checks are made when a visa is applied for, at the point of entry and when any application for further leave is made. These include checks against the warnings index, the use of local intelligence and UK-held records, targeted examination of persons on entry, the close checking of documents for fraud and the use of profiling where appropriate.

Asylum Seekers from Zimbabwe

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

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    Whether they intend to continue their temporary freeze on deportations of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. [HL1625]

Lord Filkin: The temporary suspension of the removal of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe remains under review.

Oakington Asylum Centre

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the weekly cost of running the Oakington asylum centre. [HL1665]

Lord Filkin: The estimated weekly cost of providing the facilities at Oakington in 2001–02, the last full year for which information was available, was £288,000. The comparable (provisional) figure for the first six months of 2002–03 was £294,000.

Asylum Applications

Viscount Goschen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will define the precise terms of their pledge to reduce by September the number of asylum applications by half; and whether they will specify over which periods comparisons will be made. [HL1699]

Lord Filkin: The Government are looking to reduce the number of new asylum applications by around half compared with the number last October. We are seeking to achieve this by September this year.


Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further consideration they have given to the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, on 19 November 2002 (HL Deb, col. 298) on the question of jury treatment of date rape cases in rape trials. [HL1485]

Lord Filkin: The Government had already given comprehensive and detailed consideration to the suggestion that there should be a separate offence of date rape before the Command Paper Protecting The Public was introduced on 19 November. As I said to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, on 19 November 2002, the view we have taken is that rape is rape and cannot be divided into more and less serious offences. It can be equally as traumatic to be raped by someone you know and trust, who has chosen you as his victim, as it can be to be raped by a complete stranger.

This remains the Government's position. We believe that the crime of rape is so serious that it needs to be considered in its totality rather than being constrained

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by any relationship between the parties. The issue of severity of the offence should be left to the judges on sentencing, rather than attempting to deal with it by creating a separate offence.

This view is supported by the Sentencing Advisory Panel in its recently published guidelines on sentencing in cases of rape.

Road, Rail and Air Transport Breakdown, 30 January

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

    What were the causes of the breakdown in road, rail and air transport on 30 January following snowfalls.[HL1469]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Roads: The Secretary of State has asked the Highways Agency to look into the reasons why its procedures were not effective and what steps might be taken to help prevent a recurrence in the future.

Rail: Most scheduled train services ran, albeit with some delays. The East Coast and West Coast Mainlines and commuter services north of London were worst affected due to a combination of frozen points, rollingstock and power failure and the inability of rail maintenance staff to reach affected parts of the network.

Air Transport: Most airports operated relatively normally, but Stansted and Heathrow were badly affected. The main causes were problems with aircraft de-icing; difficulties experienced by airport and airline workers in getting to airports because of road and rail problems; and aircraft being out of position because of adverse weather conditions and cancellations.

Virgin Trains: Punctuality and Reliability

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the definitions of punctuality and reliability used by Virgin Trains are satisfactory, which were used in publicity exhibited by the company saying that trains were 94.4 per cent punctual and 97.7 per cent reliable in the four weeks commencing 8 December 2002.[HL1491]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Under existing franchises, all TOCs are required to publish Passengers' Charter figures every four weeks. The figures quoted were compiled by Virgin Trains under the Passengers' Charter system in accordance with this requirement.

Cars: Recyclability Standards

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

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    Whether they consider that the comparative labelling scheme they intend to introduce for cars measuring energy use should be developed so that end of life recyclability of components is included.[HL1644]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Department for Transport is now finalising the arrangements for piloting a comparative car label. It is not, however, intended that this label should indicate information on the end of life recyclability of the car's components. This is because consumer research shows that attempting to include too much environmental information in one simple rating could be confusing and counterproductive. The End-of-Life Vehicles Directive will in time require all vehicles to be designed to specified recyclability standards.

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