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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 24 January 2000


Senator Pinochet

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Solicitor-General what request the Spanish authorities have made to the Crown Prosecution Service to seek leave for judicial review of the Home Secretary's decision in respect of Senator Pinochet; and if he will make a statement. [106408]

The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service is acting as the agent of the Kingdom of Spain in relation to the conduct of the Spanish request for the extradition of Senator Pinochet. It would therefore be inappropriate to reveal details of any instructions received in relation to this matter since The Crown Prosecution Service is under a duty to preserve solicitor-client confidentiality. It is for the Kingdom of Spain to release any details of their instructions to the Crown Prosecution Service.


Civil Service Press Officers

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Prime Minister if he will institute an inquiry into the reported remark by a civil servant to an Evening Standard employee concerning the consequences of the health correspondent continuing particular investigations; and if there are official guidelines concerning the acceptability of such remarks. [106037]

The Prime Minister: The Department of Health has already looked into the matter referred to by the hon. Member. I am fully satisfied that the press officer concerned behaved in accordance with the standards expected of civil service press officers.

A Working Guide for Government Press Officers states that:

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to answer questions on the different Government charges and taxes on students at universities throughout the United Kingdom. [105979]

The Prime Minister: Ministers will answer on issues for which they are responsible, in line with the resolutions of the House on 25 October 1999.

Responsibility for the funding of higher education in Scotland and Northern Ireland lies with the relevant devolved executive. Ministers will answer questions

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which relate to decisions which the devolved executives have taken, only to the extent that these have an impact on the Government's responsibilities.

EU Charter of Rights

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if the Charter of Fundamental Rights will accord new rights not currently granted in common law. [106281]

The Prime Minister: There is no agreement that it should do so. The Cologne Conclusions state that:

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister (1) if he will make a statement on the Government's policy on including rights of (a) free speech, (b) free association, (c) the existence for political parties and (d) trade union (i) existence and (ii) membership within the Charter of Fundamental Rights; [106279]

The Prime Minister: Work on the draft Charter has just begun. It is not possible to say at this stage how the drafting body will approach the question of inclusion of the above categories. The Government will wish to explore the best way to profile existing rights in a way which reflects the Cologne Conclusions and the nature of the current application of those rights in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the financial consequences of the adoption of a Charter of Fundamental Rights for (a) industry and (b) government; and if he will make a statement. [106377]

The Prime Minister: The Government see no reason for the Charter to add to existing rights and obligations, nor is there agreement that it should so do.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister what anti-discrimination enforcement measures will be included in the Charter of Fundamental Rights; and if he will make a statement. [106376]

The Prime Minister: It is for the Charter drafting body to consider how, if at all, such measures should be included.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the Government's policy on the withdrawal of voting rights of a member state deemed to be in breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights under the Treaty of Amsterdam as modified, under Article 13. [106399]

The Prime Minister: Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) sets out the circumstances whereby the Council can consider suspending certain rights deriving from the TEU, including voting rights, should they determine the existence of a serious and

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persistent breach by a member state of principles mentioned in Article 6(1) of the TEU. This says that the Union

There is no agreement that the Charter of Rights should give rise to action of that kind, or that it should be incorporated into the EU/EC Treaties.

Sir Richard Body: To ask the Prime Minister which body will be the final arbiter on questions on interpretation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. [106389]

The Prime Minister: The Government want a non-justiciable Charter which makes existing rights more visible. Where those rights are justiciable elsewhere, the relevant source instruments (for example, the European Convention on Human Rights or the EU/EC treaties) will continue to be interpreted in the usual way by the appropriate institutions (for example, the European Court of Human Rights or the European Court of Justice).

EU Intergovernmental Conference

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list those areas of potential qualified majority voting raised to date by (a) EU member states, stating the country in each case and (b) the Commission, as areas for negotiation at the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference, in which the Government have not insisted on retaining unanimity. [106165]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 18 January 2000, Official Report, column 416W.

EU Membership (Cost-benefit Analysis)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister what cost-benefit analysis of UK membership of the European Union the Government have undertaken. [106401]

The Prime Minister: The Government are clear about the benefits to the United Kingdom of its membership of the European Union. Membership of the European Union brings significant benefits to the British economy. Over half our trade in goods is with the EU, with eight of our top 10 trade partners in Europe. In 1998 trade in goods was worth some £95.4 billion. Membership gives us access to a single market of 372 million people--the largest and richest market in the world. Over three and a half million jobs are directly linked to trade with the EU with thousands of jobs being created as a result of Britain's position as the gateway to countries outside the Union. The UK is now the top location in the EU for foreign direct inward investment. At the same time we benefit as consumers, with Single Market competition bringing lower prices and greater choice, and the Single Market rules ensuring proper protection for consumers. In addition, we have secured European Structural funding worth £10 billion for 2000-06 for regeneration and economic development in the UK regions. Our farmers also benefit from the £5 billion a year in aid under the Common Agricultural Policy.

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Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 18 January, Official Report, columns 416-17W on the Iranian Foreign Minister, if he will define the countries in the area of strategic importance to the United Kingdom mentioned in his answer. [106568]

The Prime Minister: Iran and her neighbouring countries represent an area of strategic importance to the United Kingdom for a number of reasons. Among these are the region's history of political instability and conflict, the importance of the region for world energy resources, and its position across important global communications routes. Iran also straddles the major route by which heroin reaches the United Kingdom from Afghanistan.

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