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Lord Williams of Mostyn: This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The chief commissioner has been asked to write to the noble Lord. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: On 22 March 2003, as a result of a police operation, an AKM assault rifle and a large quantity of ammunition, along with other items, were discovered in Essex Street, Lower Ormeau Road, Belfast. A number of items have been sent for forensic examination and at this stage it is too early to provide details as to the origin and age of the weapons, timer power units and the other items seized. The police have stated that they believe the Provisional IRA was responsible. Two persons have been charged in connection with this incident and police inquiries are continuing.
Whether it is their intention to ban all self-contained air cartridge system air guns; and[HL2232]
Whether in the event of a ban on self-contained air cartridge systems air guns they would provide compensation to those persons affected.[HL2233]
As indicated in the recent White Paper on tackling anti-social behaviour, these weapons are easily converted to take conventional ammunition and have become popular with criminals. In 200102 they were used in at least seven murders and 10 attempted
We intend therefore to ban their import, sale, transfer and manufacture. Current owners will be able to keep their guns on licence and the question of compensating them does not therefore arise. I am considering the position in relation to United Kingdom dealers and manufacturers.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The following list sets out the key performance targets that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has set for Her Majesty's Land Registry for 200304.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The Game Licences Act 1860 set the price of an annual licence to kill game at £3. The current price is £6. The average weekly earnings of regular full-time men farm workers increased from around £0.70 in 1860 to £367 in 2002. If the price of a licence to kill game had increased in line with farm workers' earnings since 1860 it would now be £1,600.
My earlier statement that the equivalent today would be about £2,000 had not properly allowed for the increase in the cost of the licence to £6 in 1968. I apologise to the noble Lord for the slight misunderstanding.
The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): VisitBritain (formerly the British Tourist Authority) has recently reviewed its operations in Germany and South America, which will result in some rationalisation following consultations with staff. Over the next two years VisitBritain plans to expand its activities into China, South Korea, Poland and Russia, but currently there are no plans to open offices in those countries or elsewhere.
Baroness Crawley: The Government increased their core contribution to the United Nations Population Fund in 2002 to £18 million to support the important work the fund is doing to improve the sexual and reproductive health of the poor. We will remain strong supporters of UNPFA.
The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): With the agreement of the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Transport, I wish to make an announcement concerning the Lord Chancellor's panel of independent inspectors. This follows informal consultations with relevant parties. From today I have asked the Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency to take on full responsibility for arranging for suitable inspectors to carry out public inquiries into proposed road schemes.
The Lord Chancellor has nominated inspectors for road scheme inquiries since acceptance of a recommendation in the 1978 White Paper on the handling of the 1970s roads programme. The Planning Inspectorate was established as an executive agency in 1992, bringing with it the high standards of impartiality, openness and fairness that are a hallmark of the work of the inspectors.
The Planning Inspectorate has established a deserved reputation for the independent and impartial way it conducts inquiries. That is rightly regarded as key to the process of public participation at inquiry stage, which the Government recognise and value. I therefore have every confidence in asking the agency to take on the task of arranging for suitable inspectors to carry out road inquiries. And that confidence will, I know, be shared by all holding an informed view of the process.
The Planning Inspectorate places great importance on employing inspectors with an appropriate range of technical skills. Over the last few years it has recruited as inspectors a number of highly qualified and experienced men and women. Their expertise now covers a wide area, including planning, the environment, architecture, engineering, housing and transport issues. Such high quality recruitment is a continuing feature of the agency's profile.
This change will provide greater flexibility for the Planning Inspectorate to manage resources more effectively, enabling it to deliver an enhanced service, while maintaining and improving quality.
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