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Written Answers

Tuesday, 3rd June 2003.

Official Report: Numerical Index to Questions for Written Answer

Lord Brightman asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether he will arrange to have printed on the cover page of the House of Lords Official Report, against the words "Written Answers" in the list of contents, the serial numbers of the Questions which are answered in that issue.[HL2955]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): I am grateful for this suggestion. It would not be practicable, for reasons of space, to include a complete list of Questions answered on the cover page of the Official Report. However, officials are actively examining ways to include a numerical index at the back, in addition to the existing alphabetical index. I shall write to the noble Lord when the results of this work are known.

Official Solicitor: Correspondence Language Policy

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is the Official Solicitor's practice, when conducting business with legal authorities or lawyers in a jurisdiction where English is not the first language, to use English or the language of the other jurisdiction.[HL2934]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Each case is considered by the Official Solicitor individually, but in general the Official Solicitor will write in the first language of the recipient of correspondence. However, in order to contain translation costs (whether payable from public or private funds) the Official Solicitor may respond in English where it appears the authority or lawyer concerned is fluent in English or has ready translation facilities.

M6 Toll

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who is responsible for setting and approving the level of tolls to be charged for use on the Birmingham northern relief road; and what criteria are used to establish the level of tolls for different classes of vehicle.[HL2962]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Midland Expressway Limited (MEL) was given a concession for the M6 toll (formerly the Birmingham northern relief road) in 1992. Under the Concession Agreement MEL is responsible for all aspects of the M6

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toll's operation, including the setting of toll levels. It is obliged to comply with any applicable English and/or European Union legislation.

Prisons: Disinfecting Tablets

Baroness Walmsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether disinfecting equipment is made available to prisoners who use drugs intravenously; if so under which Prison Service order such provision is made; and how frequently prisoners are provided with such equipment.[HL2734]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Disinfecting tablets were introduced in prisons in England and Wales in September 1995 as a public health measure but were withdrawn shortly afterwards because of concerns about their safety. Following tests by the Health and Safety Executive, they were successfully reintroduced, on a trial basis, at 11 establishments in 1998–99. The Prison Service has invited tenders for a consultancy to design and implement a strategy to make disinfecting tablets available at all establishments in England and Wales over the next 12 months.

Terrorism Act 2000: Section 44

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether statistics are gathered on the operation of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000; and if not, why not.[HL2821]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Statistics on stops and searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act are published annually in Arrests for Notifiable Offences and the Operation of Certain Police Powers under PACE. A copy of the most recent bulletin is in the Library.

Identity Checks for International Travellers: Iris Scans

Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Given that the Home Secretary has reportedly reached agreement with members of the G8 to develop an iris-based biometrics system as an extra check to the identities of international travellers, whether due account has been taken about the limitations of the technology as expressed by the United States Department of Defence, Marcus Kuhn of Cambridge University and others.[HL3000]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): In line with emerging international standards for machine readable travel documents, the United Kingdom Passport Service (UKPS) is investigating the possible inclusion of fingerprints or iris scans as a back-up technology to

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facial recognition in the British passport and passport card. A tender for this work is currently being evaluated. The study will take into account all relevant information including that referred to by the noble Earl.

Asylum Seekers

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether those who enter the United Kingdom illegally who claim asylum and who refuse to reveal what country they have come from and what country they are claiming asylum from are allowed to proceed with their asylum claim; and what administrative procedures are followed in such cases.[HL3048]

Lord Filkin: Irrespective of the method of entry to the United Kingdom, an asylum claim is bound to fail unless a claimant can, amongst other things, demonstrate that he is outside the country of his nationality or place of habitual residence and is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. The claim of any asylum seeker who fails to reveal what country he is claiming asylum from would therefore be refused.

National Asylum Support Service Contracted Accommodation: Failed Asylum Seekers

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are made for accommodation and support of asylum seekers living in National Asylum Support Service contracted accommodation, after their applications have been refused, in circumstances where it is not possible to remove them to their countries of origin.[HL3064]

Lord Filkin: When an asylum seeker living in National Asylum Support Service contracted accommodation receives a final determination on their application support continues for 21 days following a negative decision in the case of single asylum seekers, support continues for families with children under 18 until they are removed or they leave the United Kingdom voluntarily or until they fail to comply with removal directions.

Where it is not currently possible for a failed asylum seeker to return to their country of origin following a negative decision, an application may be made for support under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Support under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 is provided on a full-board basis and accommodation is generally outside the London area.

Iraq: WMD Sites

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the 300 sites in Iraq, provisionally identified by the United States Department of Defense as likely to hold weapons of mass

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    destruction and how many of the further 700 sites identified by the United States State Department have so far been examined by allied forces; whether any sites, not previously identified, have been discovered and examined; and how many of these are within the area of operations of the British forces.[HL2655]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): As at 20 May 2003, coalition forces had initiated investigations into 99 sites within Iraq which may be connected to programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction. Investigations have been initiated into a further 53 sites identified since the conflict began. The majority of these sites are outside of the area of operations of British forces. We expect further sites to be identified as investigations progress.

I am withholding details of sites in accordance with Exemption 1 (Defence, security and international relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Tornado F3 Airframes in the Falkland Islands

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the recent use of C-17 sorties, they will change over the Tornado F3 airframes in the Falkland Islands; and whether the A400M will be capable of undertaking similar missions carrying the Tornado or its replacement.[HL2659]

Lord Bach: There is a routine programme to change over Tornado F3 airframes stationed in the Falkland Islands. This can be carried out either by flying the planes direct or by transporting them disassembled in a military C-17 or a civilian-chartered AN124 aircraft. There is no extant requirement to carry a Tornado F3 or its successor (Typhoon) in an A400M aircraft. In the event that the United Kingdom decided that such a capability was desired, a loading trial would be required.

Military Law: Written Guidance

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 28 April (WA 65), when and in what circumstance the Manual of Military Law, contributed to in relation to international humanitarian law by Sir Hersch Lauterpacht and Colonel Gerald Draper, ceased to be published and issued to Members of the Armed Forces, and what written guidance is now published and issued in its place.[HL2727]

Lord Bach: The Manual of Military Law has not been formally withdrawn. A new manual which will deal with the law of armed conflict for all three services, and which will for the Army replace Part III of the manual (The Law of War on Land), is in course of preparation. It is intended that this manual should

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in due course be published as a joint service publication.

Legal advisers are available to commanders at all appropriate levels in the operational chain of command, and they have access to the legal resources necessary to enable them properly to advise. The Rules of Engagement under which United Kingdom Armed Forces operate in any overseas theatre of military operations are always consistent with the UK's international law obligations, and with the provisions of UK domestic law that apply to personnel serving overseas.

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