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14 May 2003 : Column WA35

Written Answers

Wednesday, 14th May 2003.

Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the cost of building smoking chambers in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast; who took the decision to install the chambers; what consultations were held; and with whom.[HL2586]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The cost of building the smoking chambers is estimated at £490,000. The decision about this expenditure was taken by the Royal Hospitals Trust. There was discussion with all interested parties within the trust.

Northern Ireland Office: Questions for Written Answer

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, since 10 out of the 17 Questions for Written Answer which have failed to receive an Answer after three weeks fall to be answered by the Northern Ireland Office, Ministers in that department will arrange special training for the officials concerned at the Civil Service College; and whether parliamentary guidelines that answers are expected to be given within two weeks will be respected in future.[HL2773]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am pleased to inform the noble Lord that all 10 questions have now been answered.

The Northern Ireland Office endeavours to answer all Parliamentary Questions within the 14 day timescale. However, because of the large numbers of Parliamentary Questions in recent months, many of which have required co-ordination between several parts of the Northern Ireland Office and the formerly devolved administration, the 14-day timescale has occasionally not been met.

I would like to assure the noble Lord that the Northern Ireland Office recognises the importance of prompt Answers.

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001: Telephone Interceptions

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many telephone taps or interceptions have been authorised under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001; and who authorises such telephone interceptions. [HL2711]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The annual reports of the Interception of Communications Commissioner appointed under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 list the number of interception warrants issued and explain

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the authorisation process. The commissioner's report for 2001 is available in the Library.

MoD Hospital Units

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the current staff levels of Defence Medical Services personnel in the Ministry of Defence Health Units, in comparison with the Ministry of Defence's establishment.[HL2656]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The military establishment and strength of each Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit as at 10 April 2003 was as follows:

Frimley Park278185
(Royal Hospital Haslar and Queen Alexandra Hospital combined)

Afghanistan: Provincial Reconstruction Teams

Lord Elder asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the UK to lead one of the coalition provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan. [HL2806]

Lord Bach: The commitment of the United Kingdom to helping the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country is well established. We are already extensively engaged in a range of activities from security to reconstruction to humanitarian aid. In conjunction with our international partners and the Afghan Transitional Authority (ATA), progress has already been substantial, particularly in Kabul.

Looking to build upon that progress, as my right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr Ingram) informed the House, in another place, in answer to a Parliamentary Question on 9 April (Official Report, Commons, col. 296W) from my honourable friend the Member for Lewisham Deptford (Ms Ruddock), we have been interested in leading a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) and were conducting the necessary preparatory planning work. We have had wide-ranging discussions with the ATA, the United Nations, regional leaders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). As a result of these talks and planning, we have decided to participate in the coalition's deployment of PRTs. The role of these teams is to aid the extension of the ATA's capacity, the development of a stable and secure environment in the Afghan regions and to stimulate security sector reform and reconstruction. Overall, there are expected to be eight such teams. From July 2003, the United Kingdom will lead the PRT in Mazar-e Sharif and the five surrounding provinces.

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The UK PRT will initially be military-led and deploy for up to two years. It will initially comprise some 50 troops who will liaise with Afghan military forces in the region and provide the team's support and protection. The PRT will include civilian staff from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development (DfID) who will be responsible for providing political and development advice respectively. DfID will also provide funding for the PRT to support appropriate development programmes in close connection with the central and local Afghan authorities. We have invited the ATA to provide a representative to work with the PRT, which will also employ directly a small number of local staff. By encouraging and facilitating dialogue between all the polictial groups and militias around Mazar-e Sharif, the team will contribute towards the Afghans themselves creating a safer and more stable environment. We therefore anticipate the structure of the PRT may change over time and we shall in any event be seeking to include personnel from other members of the coalition as soon as is practicable. In the future, we may also look to contribute British personnel to PRTs in other regions.

The PRTs are not a part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul. Our decision to lead the Mazar-e Sharif PRT is additional to our commitment to the ISAF. We shall retain our current ISAF commitment for the duration of the joint German—Dutch leadership of the force. We expect to remain a significant troop contributor when a NATO headquarters is deployed in August 2003 as part of the alliance's package of measures to enhance its support to the ISAF.

Iraq: Antiquities

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

    What steps they have taken during the past two months to prevent or deter the export or international trade in antiquities looted in Iraq.[HL2649]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): The UK is a signatory to the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the Government are supporting a Private Member's Bill which will strengthen UK law in respect of preventing illicit trade in antiquities. In addition, we have secured the assistance of the UK art trade in locating and identifying material looted from Iraq and are working with international bodies to establish a database of stolen items. We are also contributing to the International Council of Museums' Red List of the most common categories of objects that may have been stolen or looted in Iraq. We have also alerted Customs to the need to enforce the current embargo on any imports from Iraq.

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Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the statistically most likely condition for an abortion in the latest year for which figures are available in terms of:

    (a) the marital status of the woman;

    (b) the age of the woman;

    (c) the gestation of the pregnancy;

    (d) the number of previous children born by the woman;

    (e) the number of previous abortions undergone by the woman; and

    (f) the legal grounds under which the abortion was performed.[HL2604]

Baroness Andrews: The number of abortions, by most likely condition, performed on residents of England and Wales in 2001 are shown in the following table:

ConditionMost likely condition (Statistical MODE)NumberPercentage of total
Total Number of abortions176,364100
aMarital StatusSingle124,93071
bAge Group20–24 years48,26727
cGestation Group9–12 weeks79,36845
dPrevious ChildrenNo previous children92,82453
ePrevious AbortionsNo previous abortions122,12969
fLegal GroundsGround C*171,04197

*Includes Ground C (that the pregnancy has not exceeded its 24th week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman) alone and in combination with other grounds.

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the number of abortions in the years 1966; 1968; 1969: 1970; 1980; 1990 and 2000 [HL2605]

Baroness Andrews: Data are shown in the following table:

Numbers of abortions under the Abortion Act 1967, as amended, England & Wales

YearResidents of England and WalesNon-residents

*eight months data only as legislation did not come into effect until 27 April 1968.

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