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National Firearms Register

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As the noble Lord is aware, the requirement under Section 39 of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 for a central register of certificate holders is being met through the provision of a National Firearms Licensing Management System (NFLMS). The contract
 
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awarded to Anite was for the development of this system with an interface to a national register of certificate holders situated on the police national computer (PNC). I understand from the Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO), which is taking the project forward, that it is expected to be ready for service at the end of August 2004 and to be fully operational by February 2005. The final cost of the project will not be available until then.

Unplanned but essential changes to the user requirements were required to prevent any degradation in the service currently employed by forces. In addition to the additional time needed to test these changes, it was also necessary to extend the rollout schedule to prevent any adverse impact on the "live" PNC service.

Local force records have not yet been converted to form a compatible service with NFLMS. This will be done in accordance with a back records conversion schedule and rollout plan which has been agreed with all forces and will start in September.

The consultation paper issued in May is the first step in our comprehensive review of firearms control and gun laws and will not affect the setting up of a central register of certificate holders.

International Arrest Warrants

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The UK takes its international obligations very seriously and, within what the law permits, stands ready to render maximum assistance to all of its extradition partners. For good and obvious reasons, however, it is our policy and practice not to comment, ahead of any arrest, on whether an international arrest warrant for a particular individual has been received or is under consideration.

Assuming that no arrest warrant exists in respect of a person who seeks to visit this country, then such a person, if subject to immigration control, must meet the necessary conditions for admission; and, once admitted, may travel freely. Again, it is not appropriate to comment upon visits made by individuals.

Sentencing and Imprisonment

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Astal: Release in all cases is now a matter for the Parole Board to decide. All life sentence prisoners are entitled to a Parole Board review in time for them to be released on tariff expiry. Before directing release, the board has a statutory duty to satisfy itself that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the prisoner should be confined. A prisoner will be detained beyond tariff until the board is so satisfied.

Alcohol: British Nationals and Islamic Law

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The position for each country is as follows:

Afghanistan: Alcohol is prohibited in Afghanistan. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advice says: "The importation and use of narcotics, alcohol and pork products are forbidden";

Iraq: the sale and consumption of alcohol are legal in Iraq;

Saudi Arabia: the travel advice for Saudi Arabia makes clear that Islamic law is strictly enforced and that the penalties for possession of, or trade in, alcohol are severe.

Zimbabwe

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Measures under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement were first taken against Zimbabwe in February 2002 (Council Decision 2002/148/EC) and are still in place following extensions for further 12 month periods in 2003 (Decision 203/112/EC) and 2004 (Decision 2004/157/EC).

These measures comprise the suspension of EU financial support to Zimbabwe from the European Development Fund (EDF), except for projects that directly support the population. Such projects should assist the social sectors, democratisation, respect for human rights or the rule of law. Humanitarian assistance is not affected by this suspension.

The application of the article of the Cotonou Agreement that ensures the free movement of capital
 
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(Article 12 of Annex 2) is also suspended in relation to Zimbabwe. This suspension allows for the application of the restrictive measures, including a targeted asset freeze, being imposed by the EU against Zimbabwe's governing regime under a separate common position (2004/161/CFSP).

Upper Nile: Shilluk Area Ceasefire

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Insecurity persists in the Shilluk area of the Upper Nile and problems with access continue, complicated by the fact that aid agencies need to approach from both Government of Sudan-held, and Sudan People's Liberation Movement-held territory. Our latest information suggests that 70,000–80,000 are internally displaced. The vast majority of these people seem to be being housed with host families. The Department for International Development has committed over £600,000 to support non-governmental organisations operating public health programmes and distributing non-food items in the area.

Sudan: Darfur

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Significant progress has been made on humanitarian access in Darfur. However, there are reports of continuing attacks by rebels and the Janjaweed militias. The Sudanese Government claim that they have taken action to improve the security situation, including by arresting over 40 Janjaweed members, and by deploying additional police from outside Darfur. However so far there is no evidence about the impact of these measures on the ground. Following the collapse of political talks in Addis Ababa on 17 July, we continue to press the parties to engage in good faith in political discussions.

The African Union-led Ceasefire Commission (CFC) has now started to conduct investigations into breaches of the ceasefire. They are partially deployed. They have over 60 monitors and support staff in Darfur (including the UK monitor), and others are on their way. They are also working to deploy more aircraft and vehicles, and to enhance their logistics and communications systems.
 
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