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IRA

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: I refer the noble Lord to my previous Answer dated 14 March 2007 (Official Report col. WA133) and wish to advise the noble Lord that the Government base their assessments on the Independent Monitoring Commission's reports.

In its statement of 28 July 2005, the Provisional Irish Republican Army ordered an end to the armed campaign and committed to an exclusively peaceful and political path.

This commitment has been borne out by the IMC's 14th report, which concludes that the Provisional IRA's “operational structures have been disbanded” and that it has abandoned terrorism and violence and is “firmly committed to the political path”.

Iraq: Refugees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:



18 Apr 2007 : Column WA71

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): We are in close touch with our international partners and aid agencies regarding the situation for displaced Iraqis both within Iraq and in neighbouring countries. We have regular meetings with UN agencies, in particular the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and the International Red Cross.

In January, UNHCR launched a $60 million appeal to address the influx of refugees into Iraq's neighbouring countries, of Syria and Jordan and the plight of displaced people inside Iraq (this is over 50 per cent funded). The money will go towards the provision of basic services and protection for internally displaced Iraqis and refugees, registration, and needs assessments. DfID has contributed £1.5 million to this appeal, part of £10 million that we have spent on humanitarian assistance in 2007. Inside Iraq, our support is providing urgently needed medical supplies, improved health facilities and restoring water and sanitation infrastructure.

Neither Kuwait nor Saudi Arabia are signatories to the 1951 refugee convention or its 1967 protocol. While promoting accession to the 1951 convention, UNHCR is working to strengthen both countries' adherence to the principles of refugee law, to improve protection and to advocate for the introduction of domestic asylum legislation. Thus its role for Iraqi refugees is one of monitoring and lobbying for protection rather than direct assistance.

Under the auspices of UNHCR, a meeting of international partners, including the US, UN agencies, representatives from regional governments and donor representatives will take place in Geneva on 17 April to discuss the caseload of refugees in the region and to agree the best ways to respond. We are part of this process and continue to monitor the situation closely.

Irish Language Bill

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The first consultation paper on proposed Irish language legislation was published on 13 December 2006.

An equality impact screening exercise was carried out for the purposes of this consultation. As a result, an equality impact assessment was conducted and published for consultation. Part one of the EQIA was

18 Apr 2007 : Column WA72

published on 13 December 2006 with a deadline for responses of 2 March 2007; part two was published on 19 January 2007 with a deadline of 9 March 2007. The consultation specifically invited comments on equality issues in relation to Irish language legislation.

A summary of responses to the equality impact assessments is shortly to be available on DCAL's website, www.dcalni.gov.uk.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has published a second consultation paper, on 13 March 2007, seeking views on indicative draft clauses for legislation. Any equality issues raised within this second consultation will be given consideration. The deadline for responses to this paper is 5 June 2007. Copies of the document are available from the Library of the House, and on DCAL's website.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The commitment to introduce Irish language legislation was made by Government in the St Andrews agreement of October 2006.

The Government believe that Ulster Scots at this stage is best enhanced and developed through the framework of the Council of Europe Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. To achieve this, support has been offered in an initiative to explore how the Ulster Scots language can progress to Part III status under the charter.

The Ulster Scots Academy Implementation Group proposals for the establishment of an Ulster Scots Academy are currently under consideration. The funding of the implementation group to deliver a language development programme and the establishment of the academy will have a significant role in the development of the Ulster Scots language.

In light of these developments, there are no current plans to introduce language legislation for Ulster Scots.

Legal Aid

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Crown Court cases expected to last 41 days or more are administered under the Very High Cost Case scheme by the Legal Services Commission. Therefore, expenditure on cases set down to last 40 days or more is not available. The latest figures available show that, during 2005-06,

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expenditure on cases expected to last for 41 days or longer was £103 million. However, not all those cases would have necessarily lasted 41 days or more in practice. Additionally, there are some residual cases lasting between 25 and 40 days from a previous scheme which are included in the figure for the Very High Cost Case scheme.

The latest figures available (2005-06) show that expenditure on all other Crown Court cases is £592 million. Those figures could include payments for cases that were not expected to last more than 40 days but did. A further £284 million was also spent on representation in magistrates' courts.

All the figures above are in cash terms. Figures for 2006-07 will be available in July 2007.

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: During 2005-06, the latest year for which figures are available, the expenditure on criminal matters through the criminal defence service scheme is set out in the table below.

Criminal defence service 2005-06£m net cash

Criminal magistrates' court

284

Criminal legal help

11

Court duty solicitor scheme

21

Police stations scheme

174

File review

4

Public defender service

4

First Assist police station phone service

3

Crown Court & above

695

Total criminal defence service spend

1197

During the same period, the expenditure on civil matters through the Community Legal Service scheme is set out below.

Community Legal Service 2005-06£m net cash

Family representation

471

Civil non-family representation

76

Immigration representation

5

Family legal help

65

Civil non-family legal help

117

Immigration legal help

97

Total Community Legal Service spend

831

Figures for 2006-07 are expected to be available by July 2007.

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:



18 Apr 2007 : Column WA74

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: During 2005-06, the last financial year for which figures are available, legal aid spend for proceedings in the Crown Court and above came to £695 million. Of that, £320 million was paid to solicitors and £375 million was paid to barristers. During the same period, £501 million was paid for legal advice and representation in the magistrates' courts. The figures will include payments made directly to barristers by the instructing solicitors, where paid. However, these payments form part of the solicitors’ disbursements, of which a separate breakdown is not available.

Figures for 2006-07 will be available in July 2007.

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: During 2005-06, the last financial year for which figures are readily available, £284 million was spent on representation for cases in the magistrates' courts. In addition to this, a further £21 million was spent under the court duty solicitor scheme and £4 million under the public defender scheme, both of which may include representation in the magistrates' court.

During the same period, £695 million was spent in the Crown Court and criminal appeal courts.

Overall expenditure on all criminal legal aid, including advice at the police station, came to £1,197 million during 2005-06.

Figures for 2006-07 will be available in July 2007.

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: In London a total of 496 contracts were issued to civil legal aid solicitor firms. 450 firms signed and returned their contracts by the deadline. 46 firms have declined to sign. This equates to a sign-up rate of 91 per cent among solicitors in London.

Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Government confirmed to the Irish Government at a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 26 February 2007 that Chris Sidoti

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would be invited to be the independent chair of the forum. Irish officials were informed of this intention the previous week.

Northern Ireland Events Company

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The Northern Ireland Events Company has received the following amounts of Government funding in the past five financial years:

YearAmount of Government funding

2002-03

£2,100,000

2003-04

£2,458,000

2004-05

£1,890,000

2005-06

£2,926,000

2006-07

£2,521,000


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