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12 Jun 2003 : Column 1041W—continued

Working Families Tax Credit

Dr. Desmond Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what lessons have been learned from the change from working families tax credit for the implementation of the pension credit. [118665]

Maria Eagle: The Department for Work and Pensions has learned a number of lessons from previous take-up campaigns, including working families tax credit, and has adopted a measured take-up approach for pension credit. The Department will, during the period when advance applications for pension credit can be made, continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the marketing campaign in the light of current and previous experience and make any refinements needed to ensure that pensioners take up their entitlement.

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Zaccheus Trust

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what response he has made to recent representations from Zaccheus 2000. [118906]

Malcolm Wicks: Both Ministers and officials from the Department have received numerous representations from the Zaccheus Trust. The majority of these representations centre on the issue of "budget standards" and minimum incomes.

In the most recent response, of 4 June 2003, my right hon. and noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Baroness Hollis of Heigham, responded to an inquiry from the Trust dated 16 May. This inquiry was regarding our 'Measuring Child Poverty—Preliminary Conclusions' document, copies of which are available in the Library.

My right hon. and noble Friend responded to the inquiry by confirming that the recently published preliminary conclusions encompassed the views of those who formally responded to the original 'Measuring Child Poverty' consultation exercise. Baroness Hollis stated that several respondents to the consultation had included views on "budget standards" and they were therefore properly reflected in the response analysis and also in the conclusions set out in the document.

My right hon. and noble Friend also reiterated, as stated in the response document, that further methodical work will be carried out before finalising any new approach to measuring child poverty in the long term.



Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the government of Bangladesh on the setting up of parliamentary committees in the Bangladeshi Parliament. [118142]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the setting up of parliamentary committees with the Bangladesh Foreign Minister when they met on 21 May 2003. Our High Commissioner also raised the issue with the Bangladesh Speaker at the end of April and with the Deputy Speaker and the Opposition Chief Whip in May.

Our High Commission in Dhaka is in regular dialogue with the Bangladesh government to promote the need for better governance including the importance of a fully participatory Parliament.

Departmental Website

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what actions he has taken or is taking to ensure that the websites of his Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies are accessible to partially sighted and blind people; and if he will make a statement. [117350]

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Mr. MacShane: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have taken a number of measures to ensure their suite of websites are accessible.

The FCO main website, i-UK website, UK Visas and new embassy and high commission websites have all been built in line with the 'Guidelines for Government Websites' published by the Cabinet Office, which lays down comprehensive guidance on accessibility. The FCO web team have also consulted the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) on issues of accessibility relating to design and functionality of the websites and have put several of their recommendations into practice. In particular we have implemented several features specifically for the benefit of those who are partially sighted or blind, namely a text-only version, government standard access keys and HTML that validates to the internationally accepted standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

EU Enlargement

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on EU enlargement. [118500]

Mr. MacShane: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed EU Enlargement with EU counterparts during the European Conference on 17 April. He also has such discussions with EU counterparts in Brussels on a regular monthly basis, in the forum of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. EU Enlargement is also a frequent subject of discussion during other less formal contacts with EU counterparts, at both Ministerial and official levels.

EU Treaties (Marine Produce)

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the provisions in existing treaties on which claims to exclusive competence over the marine produce of the sea in the draft EU treaty are based. [117998]

Mr. MacShane: The Union's exclusive competence in respect of "the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy" as set out in Article 1–12 of the draft constitution derives from a variety of sources. These sources are EC Treaty Articles dealing with agriculture, Regulations adopted establishing the common fisheries policy. (The current regulation is Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 of 20 December 2002 on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy), and Article 102 of the Act concerning the conditions of Accession and the Adjustments of the Treaties annexed to the UK's Act of Accession.

The European Court of Justice held in Case C-804/79 that "since the expiration on 1 January 1979 of the transitional period laid down by Article 102 of the Act of Accession, power to adopt, as part of the Common Fisheries Policy , measures relating to the conservation of the resources of the sea has belonged fully and definitively to the Community."

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Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps he has taken to support the human rights of Falun Gong practitioners in (a) China and (b) Hong Kong. [118469]

Mr. Rammell: We regularly raise our concerns about the treatment of Falun Gong adherents in China with the Chinese authorities both in bilateral meetings and at the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue, the last round of which was in November last year.

We have followed closely developments involving Falun Gong in Hong Kong and have reported on these in the Foreign Secretary's regular reports to Parliament on the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong. Falun Gong remain free to practise in Hong Kong. We have raised the question of Falun Gong with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government in the context of their preparations to implement national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

Guantanamo Bay

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to challenge the legality of the detention by the US of UK citizens at Guantanamo Bay. [117611]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: We have been pressing the US to move forward with the process of determining the detainees' future and shall continue to do so. The detentions cannot be allowed to drag on indefinitely. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 26 February 2003, Official Report, column 257 "... we are still receiving quite valuable information from people who are there [Guantanamo Bay]. However, I agree that it is an irregular situation and we would certainly want to bring it to an end as swiftly as possible." The US is aware of our view.


Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what representations Her Majesty's Government have made to Indonesia about the use of UK arms in Aceh; [118432]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend, the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) today (UIN 118135, 118139 and 118140).

Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the policy on arms sales to Indonesia has changed since 2001; and what the current policy is. [118434]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: All export licence applications are rigorously assessed on a case by case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria taking account of the circumstances prevailing at the time and other announced Government policies.

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Our criteria clearly set out our commitment to take account of the risk that exports might be used for either internal repression or external aggression.

On the situation regarding sales to Indonesia, I refer my right hon. Friend to the answers I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) today (UIN 118135, 118138, 118139 and 118140).

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what discussions he has had with the Indonesian government this year concerning the use by the Indonesian armed forces of military equipment exported by the UK; and if he will make a statement about the UK's future relations with the Indonesian armed forces; [118135]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I visited Indonesia on 3–4 June 2003, and raised the issue of British-supplied military equipment with President Megawati and senior members of the Indonesian government. I reminded them of the assurances about the use of British-supplied military equipment in Aceh, and warned of the possible consequences for defence sales and defence relationships if there was a breach of the assurances. I also stressed that Indonesian military action in Aceh should be proportionate and in accordance with international standards on human rights.

The Indonesian government confirmed that British-supplied Hawk aircraft were used in Aceh on 19 May 2003 but claimed they were not used in violation of the assurances. We will be using all available sources of information to monitor the use of British-supplied equipment and will follow up all credible allegations on the misuse of British-military equipment.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes have been made since May 1997 to guarantees given by the Indonesian government concerning the use of military equipment exported from the UK; and what guarantees apply to the use of such equipment. [118138]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Before August 2002 the Indonesian government provided assurances that British-supplied military equipment would not be used in Aceh, or be used anywhere in Indonesia against civilians to prevent the exercise of their rights of free expression, assembly and association of other international human rights standards. The Indonesian government added that if, against expectations, they were to contemplate the use of such equipment in Aceh at a later stage they would inform the British government in advance.

In August 2002 the British Government received advance notification from the Indonesian government that they may deploy British-built military equipment to

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Aceh for casualty removal and logistics. Hawk jets do not perform these tasks. Ministers agreed in September 2002 to fresh assurances that British-built military equipment would not be used to violate human rights anywhere in Indonesia nor would the equipment be used offensively.

The assurances apply to all British-supplied military equipment. I emphasised the continuing importance we attach to the assurances during my recent visit to Indonesia.

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