|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to Chinese ministers regarding the destruction of churches in Wenzhou in China; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Battle: We are concerned at the disturbing reports of the destruction of non-official Catholic and Protestant churches, and Buddhist and Taoist temples in Wenzhou, China, in late 2000. Such activities run contrary to the provisions of religious freedoms contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which China signed in October 1998.
We regularly press the Chinese authorities to respect these provisions and to permit free religious worship outside the parameters of the official churches in China--we did so at the latest session of the human rights dialogue in October. We have raised specific concerns about the destruction of churches and temples in Wenzhou. We will address again the whole issue of freedom of religious belief most strongly during the next round of the high level UK/China human rights dialogue in Beijing between 12-14 February.
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the President of Burkina Faso about the recent UN report concerning his country and breaches of UN arms and diamonds bans on anti-Government forces in Angola and Sierra Leone. 
Mr. Hain: The UK Government have not yet made any representations to the President of Burkina Faso following the recent reports by the UN Sierra Leone Expert Panel on violations of the UN arms embargo and the link between arms and the trade in Sierra Leone diamonds, and by the UN Angola Monitoring Mechanism on violations of UN sanctions against UNITA.
The Sierra Leone report's findings and recommendations will be discussed in detail at an Open Debate of the UN Security Council later this month. Members of the Council will then consider appropriate follow-up action. The UN Angola Sanctions Committee will also discuss the Monitoring Mechanism's report this month.
We have previously raised our concerns with the Burkinabe authorities concerning allegations that arms have been shipped from Burkina Faso in breach of UN sanctions and I have publicly criticised its Government about this.
15 Jan 2001 : Column: 33W
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the extension by the President of Sudan of the state of emergency by another year. 
Mr. Hain: We took careful note of statements by Sudanese officials when the state of emergency was imposed in December 1999 to the effect that it was not intended to affect individual liberties, but was necessary to allow Government business to proceed in the absence of a National Assembly. A new National Assembly was elected in December and will shortly hold its opening session. We look to the Government of Sudan, in line with their earlier statements, to lift the state of emergency as soon as possible thereafter.
Mr. Hain: According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, over 13,000 Ethiopian refugees in Sudan have volunteered for repatriation. More than 4,000 of these were expected to arrive in Ethiopia in early January.
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the recent United Nations report concerning the role of Gambia in trafficking in conflict diamonds. 
Mr. Hain: The UK Government take very seriously the findings of the UN Sierra Leone Expert Panel in its hard-hitting report on violations of the UN arms embargo on Sierra Leone and the link between the arms trade and the diamonds trade. The Panel's findings on the transit of Sierra Leone diamonds through Gambia are worrying.
We look forward to the first substantive discussion of the report and its recommendations during an Open Debate of the UN Security Council to be held later this month. We will be calling therefore Gambia to take active steps to dispel international concern regarding its role in the international diamond trade.
Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received concerning the arrest of several hundred Chin people from Burma who are seeking asylum in the Mizoram state of north east India. 
Mr. Hain: We are aware of reports of the arrest of a number of Chin people in Mizoram last year. Officials in our High Commission in New Delhi raised this with the Indian Ministry for External Affairs. Officials have also discussed this with the Indian National Human Rights Commission. We are not aware of further arrests.
15 Jan 2001 : Column: 34W
Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initiatives NATO is assessing to combat the spread and illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons in the Euro-Atlantic area. 
Mr. Hain: Since 1999, the Ad Hoc Working Group of NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) has focused on the problem of small arms proliferation. Until early summer 2000, this was chaired by the UK. Under its auspices, several countries have held seminars and workshops on issues such as stockpile management and security, weapons destruction and border controls. These have usefully contributed to the international debate on the issue. Bulgaria, Macedonia and Switzerland have announced plans to hold follow-up seminars in 2001.
Although no partner country has yet made a formal request for assistance on small arms under NATO's Partnership for Peace Work Programme, there were expressions of interest at an EAPC seminar on export controls held at the end of November 2000. Such assistance could include expert visits and training in issues such as border controls and end-use certification. It could also be used to work with partner countries on developing best practice in stockpile management and weapons destruction.
In considering its future work programme, the EAPC Ad Hoc Working Group on Small Arms is preparing a food-for-thought paper on priorities for action. This follows the adoption in November of the OSCE Document on Small Arms. My right hon. Friend spoke last year about the need for the EAPC to sustain its momentum on small arms in the context of strengthening security co-operation through the EAPC. This will be important in the run-up to the July 2001 UN Conference on Small Arms.
Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the hon. Member for Walsall, North will receive a reply to his letter of 4 December 2000, regarding a constituent. 
Mr. Vaz: I replied to my hon. Friend's letter of 4 December on 11 December, but unfortunately due to an administrative error it was not dispatched. A reply has now been sent and it left my office on 12 January 2001.
The original fees for family visit visa appeals were based on an estimate of the full cost to the Immigration Appellate Authorities of handling these appeals. However, the fees have since been reviewed. I refer my hon. Friend to the reply my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) on 11 January 2001, Official Report, column 609W.
15 Jan 2001 : Column: 35W
13. Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussions he has had with the Royal British Legion on compensation payable to Gurkha former prisoners of war under the Japanese; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence has had no discussions with the Royal British Legion concerning former Gurkha prisoners of war in relation to the ex gratia payment for the British groups who were held captive by the Japanese during the Second World War. In general, former members of the old Indian Army, including those who served in its Gurkha regiments, are not eligible for the ex gratia scheme.
Prior to 1947 there were no Gurkha regiments in the British Army. The old Indian Army, to which the Gurkhas who served during the Second World War belonged, was separate and responsibility for it passed to the new Governments of India and Pakistan when these countries became independent. The United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan each reached its own agreement with Japan in respect of matters arising from the Second World War.
Mr. Spellar: Every rescue attempt from a submarine has to be evaluated to determine the optimum solution taking into consideration speed/time and distance. The aim is to ensure that rescue assets are on the scene as quickly as possible. The UK rescue system is based on the manned submersible LR5 which has the capability to operate to depths of up to 400 metres.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|