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Lord Williams of Mostyn: On the basis of monitoring information gathered by a number of government departments since the 1960s, I am satisfied that water quality in Lough Neagh is being maintained at a sufficiently high quality for use as a potable water supply, to sustain a commercial fish population, and to support a range of recreational activities. However, specific water quality problems, mainly related to enrichment by plant nutrients from agricultural and urban sources within the catchment area of the lough, have been identified. These probems have led to a number of cross-departmental actions aimed at preventing further deterioration and achieving improvements in water quality, where possible. A nutrient control strategy, designed to co-ordinate activities in this area, will be issued by the Department of the Environment's Environment and Heritage Service by the end of this year.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The 110 officials referred to, like every Northern Ireland civil servant, are subject to and carry out the duty placed on public authorities by Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, to "have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity" between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation; between men and women generally; between persons with a disability and persons without; and between persons with dependants and persons without.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Government are committed to maintaining effective immigration control while at the same time ensuring that genuine passengers are able to pass through our ports with the least possible inconvenience.
An essential part of our effort to maintain effective immigration control is to prevent passengers entering or remaining in the United Kingdom using forged documents. We have therefore been working with our EU colleagues on a new secure vignette to be used when people are granted permission to remain in this country. The new vignette, which will be placed in the holder's passport, follows a common EU-wide format allowing easy identification across the whole EU. This does not alter the conditions on which a person may enter the UK, or allow those people granted permission to remain in other EU countries to come to the UK. The vignette is solely a uniform and secure way of granting people permission to remain within each member state of the EU.
In parallel with this initiative we are introducing changes to the Immigration Rules which will require non-EEA nationals who wish to come to the UK for more than six months to obtain an entry clearance before travelling here. The entry clearance will be obtained from a British diplomatic mission overseas. This change reflects the need to manage the flow of passengers through UK ports effectively and at the same time to provide a first class service to travellers. By introducing this change we intend to streamline the service provided to people who are coming to the UK. For people who are coming to this country for more than six months we do not believe that applying for entry clearance in advance of travel will prove an unreasonable burden. This approach will provide the best service to passengers and allows for the most efficient use of our resources.
It is our intention that the new entry clearance arrangements will be introduced in stages over a two-year period. The first stage will involve introducing this requirement for nationals of 10 countries and will come into force from 13 November 2003. We will be publicising this change in advance but recognise that there may be some passengers who are not aware of this change. There will therefore be transition arrangements to ensure that genuine passengers are not unduly inconvenienced. A "grace period" will operate until 23.59 p.m. on 13 January 2004, during which any passenger who arrives at a UK port, and would qualify for entry except for the absence of the necessary entry clearance, will be admitted.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): From a community of around 20,000 in the United Kingdom entitled to immunity, 20 serious offences, allegedly committed by such persons, were drawn to the attention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2002. "Serious Offences" are defined in accordance with the 1985 White Paper on Diplomatic Immunities and Privilegesthat is as offences that would in certain circumstances, carry a penalty of 12 months or more imprisonment.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The figures recorded for the number of outstanding parking and other minor traffic violation fines incurred by diplomatic missions and international organisations in the United Kingdom during the year 1 January 2002 to 31 December 2002 totalled 4,302 (£173,180.00). In April this year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote to all affected diplomatic missions and international organisations giving them the opportunity to either pay their outstanding fines or appeal against them if they considered that the fines had been issued incorrectly. As a result payments totalling £52,200.00 were received, leaving a total of 3,021 (£120,980.00) unpaid fines for 2002. The following table details those diplomatic missions and international organisations that have 11 or more undisputed fines unpaid.
|Diplomatic mission/international organisation||No. of fines outstanding||Amount in £|
|United Arab Emirates||323||12,830.00|
|United States of America||23||920.00|
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