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11 Nov 2003 : Column WA173

Written Answers

Tuesday, 11th November 2003.

Law Officers' Advice: Disclosure

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

    Further to the Answer by the Lord President on 13 October (Official Report, cols. 600–01) whether it is within the discretionary powers of the Government to decide to make an exception to the convention that legal advice from the Law Officers is not publicly disclosed.[HL4894]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given by the Attorney-General in response to his Question (HL 4893). There have been a few cases in which exceptions have been made to the convention that legal advice from the Law Officers is not publicly disclosed. Exceptions are, however, only very rarely made, since otherwise this would undermine the purpose of the convention, which is to enable the Government, like everyone else, to obtain full and frank legal advice in confidence.

World Trade Organisation: Cancun

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will clarify the statement by the Baroness Amos on 13 October (Official Report, col. 697) that the meeting of the Committee on Agriculture did take place and they were present.[HL5174]

Baroness Amos: A special session of the WTO Committee on Agriculture was due to take place between 6 and 10 October, but was in fact cancelled just a few days previously.

I wrote to the noble Baroness on 17 October 2003 clarifying this point; and copied my letter to those who participated in the debate, and to the Library of the House.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving me the opportunity to put the record straight.

Gypsy and Traveller Women

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether gypsy and traveller women have access to public health care on an equal footing with the rest of the population; and what is their response to the recommendations in the report Breaking the Barriers—Romani women and access to public health care, published at a Council of Europe conference in Strasbourg on 11 to 12 September.[HL4876]

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Access to health services in the UK is based on the principle established at the start of the NHS, of clinical need rather than ability to pay. This continues to be government policy, and the Department of Health will continue to keep this under review to ensure the Government meet the issues raised in the report and avoid disadvantaging any sector of society.

Foreign Office Human Rights Policy Department

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the priorities of the Human Rights Policy Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for 2004–05; and how this department's budget for that year compares with that for year 2003–04.[HL5105]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Individual departments within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are due to agree specific objectives for the financial year 2004–05 in February 2004. Engaging with multilateral human rights mechanisms, dealing with thematic issues such as torture and the death penalty, raising awareness of the Government's work to promote human rights abroad and mainstreaming democracy and good governance work within the FCO are likely to remain the overall priorities for the Human Rights Policy Department.

We do not expect there to be any significant change in the staffing or administrative budget of the Human Rights Policy Department in the next financial year.

In the financial year 2003–04 the Human Rights Policy Department is administering the human rights project fund with a total budget of £8.1 million. Across the FCO, approximately £13 million will be spent on human rights-related projects this financial year. From next year, almost all FCO human rights project work will be funded under the Global Opportunities Fund, which was launched by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in July 2003. The total allocation to this fund in the financial year 2004–05 will be approximately £17.6 million.

European Union: Forthcoming Council Business

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union from November 2003 to May 2004.[HL5367]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union is as follows:

6BrusselsEU—Russia Summit
6BrusselsJustice & Internal Affairs (Informal Council)
6MilanMeeting of Ministers for Urban Policies
6–7CataniaEuropean Conference on Employment
14–15Taormina, SicilyMinisterial Seminar on Mountain issues in the EU
17–18BrusselsGeneral Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC)
17–18BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
18MilanEuropean Conference on Immigration & Labour Market
21RomeInformal Ministerial on Consumer Policy
24–25BrusselsEducation, Youth & Culture Council
27–28VeniceEuromed Agriculture
27–28PaduaInformal Ministerial Meeting on Housing
27–28BrusselsJustice & Internal Affairs (Informal Council)
28–29NaplesForeign Ministers Conclave on IGC
28BrusselsEU & Western Balkans JHA
1–2RomeEuromed Meeting
1–2BrusselsEmployment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council
1–3RomeInformal Public Administration Ministerial
2–3NaplesEuroMed Foreign Affairs
4–5BrusselsTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
5–7RomeClosing Conference for the European Year of the Disabled
8–9BrusselsGeneral Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC)
9BrusselsEU and Western Balkans Foreign Ministers meeting
15–17BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
22BrusselsEnvironment Council
8BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
16–17BrusselsEmployment & Social Policy (Ministerial Informal)
16–17GalwayInformal Employment and Social Policy
22–23DublinJustice & Home Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
26–27BrusselsGeneral Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC)
19BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
23–24BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
23–24BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
25–26PorlaoiseMeeting of Regional Policy Ministers
26BrusselsEducation, Youth & Culture Council
2BrusselsEnvironment Council
4–5BrusselsEmployment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
8–9BrusselsTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
11BrusselsCompetitiveness Council
22–23BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
22–23BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
25–26DublinInformal on Humanitarian Aid
31BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
18–19UnconfirmedASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting
23–24 BrusselsEconomic & Financial Affairs (Informal)
26–27BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
26–27BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
29–30BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
6–7DublinEuroMed Foreign Ministers
9–11KillarneyInformal Agriculture
14–16WaterfordInformal Environment
17–18BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
19–20OffalyInformal Budget Committee
23–25BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
27–28BrusselsEducation, Youth & Culture Council

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Zimbabwean Asylum Seekers

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why unsuccessful asylum seekers who are not returned to Zimbabwe are not given discretionary leave to enter the United Kingdom pending substantial political change in Zimbabwe; and[HL4784]

    Whether their policy of putting unsuccessful Zimbabwean asylum seekers into an indeterminate immigration status with no right to support or accommodation is satisfactory; and[HL4785]

    What is their estimate of the number of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers who are without any means of support or accommodation, at the latest convenient date.[HL4786]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Unsuccessful asylum seekers are granted a period of discretionary leave only if they meet the strict criteria set out in the published asylum policy instruction. The fact that we do not choose to pursue removal action against an unsuccessful asylum seeker is not sufficient to justify the grant of discretionary leave.

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Although we are not at present enforcing the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to Zimbabwe, we are encouraging voluntary returns. These people are eligible to apply for voluntary return through the Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP).

We cannot say how many Zimbabwean nationals who have been refused asylum are without support in the United Kingdom.

Where an individual is unable to leave immediately due to circumstances beyond their control they may be eligible for the provision of accommodation through provisions in Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (as amended).

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