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The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): The deployment of traffic wardens is an operational matter for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The PSNI does not disclose specific numbers of police officers on duty at points in time and would apply the same criteria to traffic wardens until such times as DRD assumes responsibility for them in autumn 2006.
Whether the nature of the six-year commitment undertaken by 16 year-olds on joining the Armed Forces is compatible with obligations of the United Kingdom under the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. [HL3104]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): The six-year commitment is a term of service that applies to the Army. It provides that all recruits over 18 years old who enlist into the Army sign up to a minimum of four years with the right to give 12 months' notice at the three-year point. Those aged under 18, however, only have their reckonable service taken from their 18th birthday. Therefore, if a young man or woman enlisted on their 16th birthday, for instance, he/she could serve a minimum of six years, comprising two years under-18 service and four years of adult service, before leaving the Army by giving 12 months' notice at what for them would be the five-year point.
The UK ratified the optional protocol (OP) on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict on 24 June 2003. In so doing the UK agreed that it would take all feasible measures to ensure that members of the Armed Forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities. The UK made another declaration upon ratification concerning the minimum age of recruitment (age 16, in line with minimum school-leaving age) and on the safeguards to ensure that all recruitment of under-18s is genuinely voluntary and with informed consent of the volunteer and his/her parents.
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Although the six-year commitment predates the ratification of the OP, it is consistent with it. There are adequate safeguards in place to ensure that young servicemen or women under the age of 18 years may, if they wish, leave the services before committing to adult service, and that any commitment to adult service is both considered and voluntary.
This is done through the Armed Forces operating a policy whereby all new recruits, regardless of age, have a right of discharge within the first six months of service by giving not less than 14 days notice in writing to the commanding officer if they decide that the Armed Forces is not a career for them. In addition, service personnel under 18 years three months who have passed their statutory six-month period for "discharge as of right", and have registered, before reaching their 18th birthday, clear "unhappiness" at their choice of career, can request permission to leave the Armed Forces. This provision does not provide "discharge as of right" and the commanding officer has discretion to delay a decision on discharge if he has doubts about the permanence of the individual's unhappiness. However, it is exceedingly rare for such an "unhappy" individual to be refused permission to leave.
The most relevant provision of the Convention on the Rights of the Child concerned the recruitment of children aged 15 into the Armed Forces. This convention predates, and was largely superseded by, the provisions of the OP. The Government consider that the safeguards provide sufficient protection to under-18s serving in the UK's Armed Forces and sufficiently comply with the UK's obligations under the convention. Similarly, the Government consider that the safeguards in terms of service of under-18s in the Armed Forces sufficiently comply with the United Kingdom's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Triesman on 19 October (WA 126) on the Note Verbale of 20 April, what further communications they have had with the Government of India in respect of this matter; and what steps they have taken to seek a prompt response. [HL3209]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The British High Commission in New Delhi received a Note Verbale, dated 26 October, from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, informing the British High Commission that they were pursuing the matter with the relevant authorities and that they would make the requisite information available to the British High Commission on receipt of a reply. The British High Commission awaits this information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): Current EU spending in north Cyprus is funded through a package of financial assistance established in 2003 under the 200306 financial perspective. The proposed aid regulation aimed at ending the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community is expected to be funded out of the 2006 budget. The political agreement reached between member states in December on the EU's budget for 200713 will have no effect on either of these budget lines. The corresponding budget lines in the 200713 budgetary period will not be determined until a final deal on the overall budget is agreed with the European Parliament.
Whether they will reconsider the decision not to give financial help from the Skipton Fund to the widows and other dependants of haemophilia patients who have died from infection with hepatitis C from contaminated National Health Service blood and blood products. [HL2744]
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The Skipton Fund is designed to make ex gratia payments to those living with the hepatitis C virus and is not designed to compensate for bereavement. However, as I announced to the House on 12 January, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health and her counterparts in the devolved Administrations have agreed to extend the period when claims can be made to the Skipton Fund on behalf of deceased patients by relatives or dependants. This means that the relatives or
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dependants of a person infected with hepatitis C through National Health Service blood and blood products who died after 5 July 2004, when the scheme became operational, will now be eligible to make a claim.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Details of particular training programmes will be decided closer to the time when identity card enrolment centres are being set up, but we will ensure that all staff have followed a suitable training programme and are issued with comprehensive guidance. We are in the process of consulting representative bodies on disability issues to cover all aspects of the identity cards scheme, but all facilities and services will be required to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.
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