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11 Dec 2003 : Column 578Wcontinued
Mr. Pearson: I have had no formal discussions recently with representatives from Northern Ireland's dairies in relation to milk prices. This is a reserved matter and it is not Government policy to interfere in the operation of normal market forces. I note, however, that average producer price for raw milk sold in Northern Ireland in October 2003, at 21.18 pence per litre, was 15.6 per cent. higher than the price of 18.32 pence per litre realised in October 2002.
Angela Smith: The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has sought to introduce a pilot project based on the NHS Direct concept in the Western Health and Social Services Board area to test the system locally. Two bids were made for Executive Programme Funds to support this initiative but these were unsuccessful. The Department is currently engaged in the development of a Primary Care Strategy Framework document that will identify those issues that matter to people who use the service. The Strategy will determine the priority to be accorded to various initiatives to be introduced to primary care over the next 20 years.
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Jane Kennedy: We are considering how best to implement Part V of the Police Act 1997 in Northern Ireland and are exploring a number of options. It is important to note that the Pre-Employment Consultancy Service will continue to check the suitability of those seeking to work with children pending the implementation of Part V of the Police Act.
Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether Part V of the Police Act 1997 will be commenced in tandem with the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (NI) Order 2003. 
Mr. Pearson: The recent finding of potato ring rot in Wales poses a significant threat to the potato industry in Northern Ireland. Stringent preventative measures are already in place to minimise the risk of this disease spreading to Northern Ireland. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has increased its existing preventative actions. Its response to the current incident has included:
further targeted sampling of GB seed potatoes due to be planted in Northern Ireland in 2004;
increased monitoring by inspectors at the ports of Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint of all seed and ware potato imports;
increased inspections at premises of importers and processors, including inspections of stocks and checks on sources and reliability;
the issue of letters to merchants and importers seeking information on imports. Letters will also be sent to all growers; and
meetings with stakeholder representatives and key industry individuals to provide scientific information on the disease and advice on new preventative measures.
Jane Kennedy: I have had no discussions with representatives from Northern Ireland's Universities in relation to tuition fees. If student fees are increased in England, I will consider the implications for Northern
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Jane Kennedy: The European Directive on Working Time (93/104/EC) and the related Directive (94/33/EC) on the protection of young people at work were given effect in Northern Ireland by the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998, S.R. 1998/386. Subsequently, there have been two significant amendments to the 1998 Regulations, both of which were made this year, namely:
the Working Time (Amendment No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003, S.R. 2003/330 which implemented a further Directive known as the Horizontal Amending Directive (2000/34/EC). This extended working time provisions to previously excluded sectors (i.e. air, rail, road, sea, inland waterway and lake transport, sea fishing, other work at sea and doctors in training). The provisions for doctors in training will not apply until 1 August 2004.
Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action allied troops in Afghanistan are taking to (a) counter opium production and (b) interdict opium trade. 
International forces in Afghanistan are helping to train the Afghan Transitional Administration's security forces and, in Kabul, to assist in maintaining security. By doing so, troops of both the coalition and the International Security Assistance Force contribute towards the counter-narcotics programmes of civilian law enforcement and development agencies. They also help the Afghans themselves create the structures through which they can implement more effectively President Karzai's commitment to deal with both opium fanning and trafficking in his country.
Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what mechanism will be put in place to monitor Algeria's adherence to the human rights principles laid out in the EU/Algeria Association Agreement, once the Agreement is ratified. 
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Mr. Rammell: Under Articles 9295 of the EU/Algeria Association Agreement, an Association Council will be established which shall meet at ministerial level once a year and examine any major issues arising within the framework of the agreement.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will amend the 1956 Bahamas Long Range Proving Ground Agreement in order to charge rent to the United States for their occupation of Wide Awake Airfield and additional land exclusively occupied by US personnel on Ascension Island; and if he will arrange for the rent to be made payable to the Ascension Island administration. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Bangladesh concerning (a) attacks upon and (b) intimidation of (i) Christians and (ii) Hindus by militant Islamist groups. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Officials from the British High Commission in Dhaka regularly raise discrimination against religious minorities and other human rights concerns with the authorities. While I have not personally raised the issue, our High Commissioner did so with the Acting Foreign Secretary on 6 November 2003.
Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how he proposes to ensure that funding to Colombia from (a) the EU and (b) the United Kingdom is used for the purposes for which it was given in the light of the Colombian Government's decision to merge the programmes of Plan Colombia, Social Solidarity Network and the Colombian Agency for International Cooperation and to create a single programme instead. 
The UK's contribution to the EU Aid Budget to Colombia is some 19 per cent. Projects are monitored by the European Commission's office in Bogota. The workings of the merger are still settling down and it will be some time before things are completely clear. The European Commission are assessing the situation.
Funding for other UK assistance to Colombia is not channelled through any of these organisations. Our projects are implemented by non-governmental organisations, UN agencies or other Colombian Government bodies. We always ensure the reliability and probity of all our partners.
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Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy not to support any process of demobilisation of the paramilitaries in Colombia that fails to take into account the rights of the civilian population to truth, justice and reparation. 
Mr. Rammell: Before agreeing to support any process of demobilisation we would carefully consider all aspects, including the need to take into account the rights of the civilian population to truth, justice and reparation. We have stressed to the Colombian Government that in pursuing a peace process with any of the illegal armed groups that there should be no general amnesty or pardon for those who have committed human rights violations, and that all negotiations should be open, transparent and treated on the same basis.
Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the British Government will give to human rights defenders in Colombia; and if it will provide on going financial support to the UN Office on Human Rights. 
Mr. Rammell: We support publicly the role of human rights defenders, other NGOs and members of civil society in Colombia. We stress the importance of the role they should be given in the reform process, the need for continued dialogue, and for farther urgent and effective measures to protect them, at every opportunity. We will continue to do so.
Mr. Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent statements by ministers in the Colombian government that (a) the London Declaration of July 2003 is not binding and (b) the Colombian government will not be complying with all the UN recommendations on human rights because national sovereignty is more important than international commitments; and how the British Government will work with the EU to monitor full implementation of the UN recommendations. 
Mr. Rammell [holding answer of 10 December 2003]: None of the governments who attended the London Meeting on International Support for Colombia are bound by the London Declaration. It is a declaration not a legal document. Nevertheless, political commitments were made at the Meeting which are reflected in the Declaration. We continue to stress to the Colombian Government the importance of keeping to these commitments.
We are working with EU partners through the Working Group in Bogota of the governments who attended the London Meeting to monitor implementation of the London Declaration, including UN recommendations. We have requested an end of year evaluation.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of recent accusations made by members of the Colombian military against (a) the displaced civilian populations of the Cacarica River basin and Jiguamiendo, (b) the ombudsman
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of Cacarica, (c) Peace Brigades International and (d) Justice and Peace for the Colombian Government's compliance with commitments they gave in July at the London Conference. 
Mr. Rammell: We have stressed to the Colombian Government that such blanket public accusations are inappropriate and run the risk of being counterproductive. I made this clear to the Colombian Foreign Minister when I met her in September in New York and issued a press statement following the meeting. If there are credible allegations of impropriety by individual organisations, they should be investigated by due judicial process.
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