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Written Answers

Monday, 13th October 2003.

Northern Ireland: Dangerous and Exotic Animals

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will bring the law in Northern Ireland concerning the domestic ownership of dangerous or exotic animals into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.[HL4350]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): We are actively preparing proposals for legislation to regulate dangerous wild animals kept by private individuals in Northern Ireland. Legislation will aim to establish an appropriate regulatory regime in the interests of public safety.

We will be consulting on proposed legislation during the period October to December 2003.

Waterways Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When were the job advertisements which appear in the Belfast News Letter of 14 August for Waterways Ireland submitted to the appropriate departments and the North/South Ministerial Council for approval; and on what date the approval was given.[HL4352]

Baroness Amos The organisational structure and staffing levels for Waterways Ireland were agreed at a meeting of the North/South Ministerial Council on 21 June 2000. The job advertisements, which appeared in the Belfast News Letter on 14 August 2003, related to posts within the overall complement agreed at that meeting.

Northern Ireland: Advice to Ministers

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that Northern Ireland Office Ministers who are required to sign North/South Ministerial Council decisions as part of the procedure of November 2002 are appraised of all advice offered to the appropriate department.[HL4354]

Baroness Amos: Yes. Departments are aware of the importance of briefing Ministers fully, taking into account advice that they are offered.

Northern Ireland: Departmental Legal Advice

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which Northern Ireland departments sought legal advice since 12 October 2002; on what dates the advice was sought; and on what issues.[HL4382]

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Baroness Amos: Government departments frequently seek legal advice on matters relating to the discharge of their functions. Apart from the fact that the cost of answering this question would be excessive, it would not be appropriate to disclose the dates and issues on which legal advice was sought, as such disclosure could compromise its confidentiality.

Legal advice is exempt from disclosure under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, a copy of which is available in the Library. To disclose the dates and issues on which legal advice was taken could compromise the important principle of privilege for legal advice. Apart from that, it would simply not be feasible to identify, across 11 Northern Ireland departments, each occasion and issue on which advice was sought.

Northern Ireland: Fouling by Dogs

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people have been prosecuted in each of the past five years for allowing their dogs to foul pubic footpaths in Northern Ireland.[HL4383]

Baroness Amos: District councils in Northern Ireland are responsible for taking enforcement action against those who allow their dogs to foul in public places under the provisions of the Litter (Northern Ireland) Order 1994. Such action can involve issuing fixed penalty notices or taking summary proceedings against offenders in the courts. I understand that issuing fixed penalties is more likely to be the form of action taken by councils.

The department does not routinely collect or hold information about the number of prosecutions taken by district councils. It is considered that the action required contacting all 26 district councils to obtain the information sought would only be obtained at a disproportionate cost.

North/South Implementation Bodies: Final Accounts

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 8 September (WA 6) concerning cross-border bodies, why the audit of the 2001 accounts for Waterways Ireland has not been completed.[HL4405]

Baroness Amos: Waterways Ireland submitted copies of its Statement of Accounts for 2001 to the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland and the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General in April 2002. This is in accordance with statutory procedures set out in the North/South Co-operation (Implementation Bodies) (Northern Ireland) Order 1999. Ultimate responsibility for examination and certification of these accounts lies jointly with the Comptroller and Auditor Generals.

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Special European Union Programmes Body

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 8 September (WA 8) concerning the budget for the Special European Union Programmes Body, when the approval for the budget was given; and why that information was not included in the original answer.[HL4406]

Baroness Amos: The initial grant for the SEUPB (i.e. the budget for first quarter of 2000) was made from money appropriated by the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 (main estimates), following parliamentary debates on 15 and 21 June, which came into operation on 22 June 1999. Approval for the remainder of the 2000 annual budget was made under the Appropriation Act (Northern Ireland) 2000 and following debates in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 1 June, 12 June, 19 June and 26 June 2000, came into operation on 25 July 2000. In the South, Dail Eireann approved the 2000 grant for the SEUPB on 20 June 2000.

As the 2000 budget was not approved by the NSMC it was not appropriate to give an approval date in the answer to the noble Lord on 8 September (WA 8).

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 9 September (WA 108), whether the budget for the Special European Union Programme Body for 2001 and 2002 was approved by the North/South Ministerial Council using the procedure of 5 December 2002.[HL4451]

Baroness Amos: I refer the noble Lord to the information provided in the Written Answers of 9 September 2003 (WA 108) and 7 July 2003 (WA 3). The budgets for the Special EU Programmes Body in 2001 and 2002 were approved by the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) prior to the introduction of the procedure of 5 December 2002.

Northern Ireland: Suspected IRA Murders

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many bodies from suspected IRA murders have not been discovered since 1969.[HL4408]

Baroness Amos: On 29 March 1999 the IRA named nine people that it admitted it had murdered and buried at various locations. Of these, three have so far been recovered.

We await confirmation as to whether human remains discovered last month in County Louth are those of another of the so-called "disappeared".

Belfast Agreement: Human Rights

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 9 September (WA 107) concerning human rights, in the discussion with the

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    Government of the Irish Republic what assurances have been received about the implementation of a parallel human rights programme in that country.[HL4449]

Baroness Amos: The British and Irish Governments have discussed the work of the two commissions in drawing up a joint charter of rights for the island of Ireland and have resolved to stay in touch.

Northern Ireland: Tourism

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to support the tourism industry in Strabane District Council area.[HL4450]

Baroness Amos: Government departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies make available a range of programmes aimed at supporting tourism development throughout Northern Ireland, including the Strabane District Council area. Areas eligible for support include accommodation development, amenity and visitor attractions, marketing programmes and events.

For example, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) has identified activity tourism as a winning theme. The NITB will work proactively with its partners in the Strabane District Council area to provide appropriate support for the development of the area's activity tourism product, eg angling, cycling, walking, golf and equestrian pursuits.

One specific initiative which applies to Strabane District Council is the natural resource and rural tourism initiative (NRRTI). Jointly developed by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Department of the Environment and the NITB, the initiative is aimed at developing tourism in selected rural areas throughout Northern Ireland. Some £3.2 million of the NRRTI funding has been made available during the period 2002–06 to promote and assist the development of sustainable projects which will increase the tourism potential in the Sperrins. This area incorporates the whole of Strabane as well as parts of Omagh, Cookstown and Magherafelt District Council areas.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any of the departments in Northern Ireland are European Fund implementing bodies for "Sustainable Tourism Developments on Cultural Resources" and, if so, which; what allocations have been made; and for what purposes.[HL4496]

Baroness Amos: The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is the implementing body for the PEACE II economic renewal measure for sustainable tourism development based on shared natural and cultural resources. This is being delivered through the natural resource rural tourism initiative (NRRTI).

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The NRRTI offers assistance to tourism-related project promoters within five disadvantaged rural areas of Northern Ireland which are also designated or proposed as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Assistance focuses on the development and enhancement of natural and cultural resources which may have suffered as a result of conflict and which can benefit from the opportunities now available from peace.

The initiative is valued at £15 million overall and is delivered by five local partnership bodies. Each partnership is responsible for drawing up, delivering and monitoring a sustainable tourism strategy.

The allocations are as follows:

Target AreaPartnershipFunding Allocation £
The SperrinsSperrins Tourism Ltd3,405,385
Causeway Coast and GlensCauseway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust3,086,528
South ArmaghSouth Armagh Tourism Initiative2,985,748
The MournesMournes Heritage Trust2,923,853
FermanaghFermanagh Local Strategy Partnership3,311,486

It is not possible to split the funding allocation between cultural and natural elements at this stage.

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