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Written Answers

Monday, 6 December 2004.

Northern Ireland: Offences Involving Private Hire Taxi Drivers

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): As aggregated details of the types of offence are not kept, and as taxi driving licences are generic with no split between private and public hire licences, this information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Northern Ireland National Memorial Committee

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The committee, now known as the Northern Ireland National Memorial Committee, has not yet reported but is expected to report in spring 2005.

West Belfast: Gaeltacht Quarter

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: Officials are working with community representatives to take forward the recommendation of the Joint West Belfast/Greater Shankhill Task Force that a Gaeltacht Quarter be developed. Proposals are expected early next year. Proposals for an Ulster-Scots quarter have not been submitted.

Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Amos: As far as I am aware, the Prime Minister's Office has not received this letter.

Prisoners: Repatriation of Foreign Nationals

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Her Majesty's Government fully support the humanitarian principles underpinning repatriation and are keen to ensure that wherever possible prisoners are allowed to serve their sentences in their own countries. As at 31 October 2004, HM Prison Service held 8,996 prisoners who gave their nationality as other than British. Of these, 3,349 came from countries with which the United Kingdom has a prisoner transfer agreement. The Government will continue to encourage other countries to conclude prisoner transfer agreements.

Repatriation remains a voluntary process. Not all foreign nationals will wish to transfer to another country, particularly if their primary links are with the UK. In 2003, only 147 prisoners applied for repatriation. The Prison Service is keen to see this figure increased and to ensure that prisoners are aware of the possibility of repatriation. The Foreign National Resource Pack, which was launched on 1 December at Wormwood Scrubs prison by my honourable friend the Minister for Correctional Services and Reducing Re-offending, contains information for prisoners and staff about the repatriation process and how to apply for repatriation. Procedures governing repatriation are kept under constant review.

Gypsies and Travellers: Housing Needs

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Guidance on the inclusion of Gypsies and Travellers in the housing needs assessment process is currently being drafted. The Government recognise the importance of involving stakeholders in this process and when produced, the guidance will include a list of stakeholders that local authorities should consult when they are conducting their housing needs assessments.
 
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Millennium Dome

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: As indicated in my Written Statement to the House on 21 June 2004, (Official Report, col. WS41), the commercial deal between English Partnerships and the consortium of Lend Lease, Quintain Estates and Development plc and Anschutz Entertainment Group has gone unconditional. Since that time substantial progress has been made by the private sector developers on preparations for start of work both on the new arena in the Dome, and associated operations, and on the development of the new homes and allied community facilities on the wider peninsula lands, including through securing further detailed planning permissions and in working up business plans and negotiating with contractors.

Auschutz expects to start work on the new arena early next year, for it to open in 2007. Meridian Delta Limited (Lend Lease and Quintain) expect to start work on transport infrastructure works and on the Millennium Square outside the Dome, for which Greenwich Council recently resolved to grant planning permission, in 2005. Development of the first new homes will start in 2006.

As also indicated in my Statement of 21 June, English Partnerships will continue to incur costs in relation to the Dome until Anschutz completes construction of the arena. The average monthly running costs on the Dome for the six months to the end of September were £189,000; these costs comprise management, maintenance, security and English Partnerships' staff costs. English Partnerships estimates that the average monthly cost could fall to around £60,000 when the main arena contract starts in 2005.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

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

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): The Government have conducted a wide-ranging review of statutory prohibitions on disclosure over a number of years. The review is now drawing to a close.
 
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Over 400 items have been identified during the course of the review, of which 44 have been repealed or replaced by other legislation during the course of the review; 37 are agreed for repeal or amendment (of which eight amendments are to introduce a "sunset clause" ranging from 10 to 100 years depending on the information protected); 102 will be retained; and 247 are presently being reviewed.

Details of the interim findings are included at Chapter 5 of the annual report on the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, published on 29 November. A final report on the Government's review of statutory prohibitions on disclosure will be published in March 2005.

As a result of this work, the first order to be made under Section 75(1) of the Freedom of Information Act was laid before Parliament on 4 November this year, relating to eight of the 37 enactments mentioned above. These are: Factories Act 1961, Section 154; Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963, Section 59; Medicines Act 1968, Section 118; Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Section 28; Biological Standards Act 1975, Section 5; National Health Service Act 1977, Schedule 11, paragraph 5; Audit Commission Act 1998, Section 49; and Access to Justice Act 1999, Section 20.

The majority of these amendments prevent the prohibitions applying to disclosures made by public authorities subject to the Freedom of Information Act.


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