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British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.

Mr. Andy King: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement about the External Financing Limit of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. [51644]

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Mrs. Beckett: External Financing Limits of £25 million for 1999-2000, -£75 million for 2000-01 and -£150 million for 2001-02 have been set. These reflect expected improvements in efficiency and expected savings from the integration of BNFL and Magnox.

Oil and Gas Royalties

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on the current oil and gas royalties system. [49967]

Mr. Battle: The Petroleum (Production) Act 1934 empowers the Crown to receive royalties arising from oil and gas under the soil. These onshore rights were extended offshore in 1964. Royalty, at a rate of 12½ per cent. of the value of petroleum won and saved (less an allowance for eligible conveying and treating costs), is currently payable only in respect of production from fields for which development consent was given before April 1982.

In his 1998 Budget, on 17 March 1998, Official Report, columns 1097-112, the Chancellor announced that the Government would formally consult the oil industry on specific proposals to change the fiscal regime for companies involved in the extraction of UK oil and gas. The Government intend shortly to issue a consultative document on the North Sea fiscal regime. An outline of the options for change has already been published in an Inland Revenue press release issued on Budget Day. As explained in that press release, one of the options is the abolition of oil and gas royalty. This option is intended to encourage companies to exploit more fully the reserves of older oil and gas fields, and responds to representations made by some companies.

Companies House

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if the current staff who exceed the proposed requirements of Companies House, following its relocation, will be re-employed within her Department. [49972]

Mr. Ian McCartney: Staff in Companies House can and will continue to be able to apply for posts in the Department of Trade and Industry, and will be considered for appointment if they are suitably qualified.

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps she has taken to ensure that the relocation and rationalisation of Companies House in 1999 will not result in a reduced level of service. [49966]

Mr. Ian McCartney: The move of the Companies House London office to new premises at the end of 1998 will coincide with the introduction of new facilities for the on-line electronic delivery of information. The existing premium and standard microfiche service will continue to be provided until the current office closes in Autumn 1999. Alternative arrangements for those customers who continue to want to use microfiche will then be available from the Cardiff office, although it will not be possible to provide the current speed of service. I am confident, however, that the new facilities, offering a combination of traditional microfiche and newer electronic services, will lead to an improved service overall for customers.

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Mr. Chidgey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what percentage of the current staff are expected still to be employed within Companies House (a) immediately, (b) six months and (c) a year after the relocation. [49970]

Mr. Ian McCartney: There will be no change now, or in six months' time, in the numbers of staff employed in Companies House, London as a result of the initial relocation of the office. The numbers are expected to have fallen by about 75 per cent. one year after relocation.

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many staff will be made redundant or encouraged to take early retirement when the City Road premises of Companies House are closed. [49971]

Mr. Ian McCartney: Companies House will endeavour to help those staff not required at its new office to secure employment elsewhere, whether within the Civil Service or outside. It is not possible now to say how many staff will be found new jobs or how many will prefer to take early retirement or how many might be made redundant. One third of current staff in London are employed on a fixed terms or casual basis in anticipation of the change in the numbers required.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Angola

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government have taken over the UNITA office in the United Kingdom to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1127 (1997). [50448]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: UNITA's representative in the United Kingdom conducted UNITA business from his commercial premises in London. Following the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1127 (1997), Mr. Kandeya was immediately ordered to leave the United Kingdom. He has submitted an application to remain in the United Kingdom which is being considered by the Home Office. Officials have visited Mr. Kandeya's commercial premises and satisfied themselves that there was no sign of any continuing association with UNITA. As far as we are aware, there are no offices or premises being maintained in the United Kingdom under the name of UNITA.

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken over the funds and financial resources of UNITA and senior UNITA personnel in the United Kingdom to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1173 (1998). [50449]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: The Government have prepared Orders in Council to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1173, which it expects to be laid before Parliament on 22 July and enter into force on 23 July. When it is passed, the Bank of England will simultaneously write to the relevant UK financial institutions asking them to implement the United Nations' financial sanctions against UNITA.

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken to prohibit the direct or indirect

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import from Angola to the United Kingdom of diamonds that are not controlled through the Certificate of Origin regime of the GURN. [50450]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade proposes to amend the Open General Import Licence once the proposed Certificate of Origin Scheme has been finalised by the Angolan Government.

The Government have prepared orders in Council to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1173 which it expects to be laid before Parliament on 22 July and to enter into force on 23 July.

Torture Equipment

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) of 4 December 1997, Official Report, column 300, on torture equipment, what progress was made during the UK presidency of the European Union in encouraging member countries to introduce similar restrictions on the export of torture equipment to those introduced in the United Kingdom by the Government on 28 July 1997, Official Report, columns 26-29. [50724]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: We have pressed our EU partners vigorously on this issue, culminating in a formal invitation to join the United Kingdom in announcing bans on the export of the same equipment as in the announcement of 28 July 1997.

Our partners are sympathetic to our concerns. Indeed, in defining internal repression, the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports agreed on 8 June 1998 specifically includes torture or other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment among the actions which constitute internal repression.

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But some of our partners have doubts about the practicality and desirability of an outright ban. Many do not have national controls on some or all of the items involved. We believe from our contacts that there is support for the principle of controlling the export of such equipment.

As this equipment is not military equipment, matters relating to export controls fall within the Community's exclusive competence and it is for the Commission to make any proposal for a regulation establishing common rules. We are encouraging the European Commission to come forward with a proposal.

In the meantime, in the absence of an agreed EU position, it would be premature to press for global action. In due course, we would aim to press for such action to mirror the action that the EC decides to take.

The UK's national policy will be unaffected. Notifications of any licences denied under this ban will be issued to our partners under the denial notification arrangements agreed under the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.

Sudan

Mr. Howard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the objectives of the Minister of State's four day mission to discuss issues affecting Sudan. [50944]

Mr. Fatchett: The reports of the suffering in southern Sudan shocked us all. I have just returned from Nairobi and Khartoum, where my objective was to bring about a break in the fighting in southern Sudan. A temporary truce in the most hunger-affected areas will be essential if the Sudanese people are to be able to start rebuilding their lives.

I am pleased to be able to say that the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), have agreed to a 3 month ceasefire in Bahr al Ghazal. This is encouraging news for the people of southern Sudan. I hope that we can now build on this important step and work together with IGAD for a wider peace.

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