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Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will respond to the letter from the hon. Member for Totnes dated 25 October, concerning his constituent, Mrs. V. Hobbs, and the Taba bomb. 
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department's latest assessment is of the (a) political, (b) social and (c) economic situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 
Mr. Mullin: The Transitional Government remain in place and continue to work, with the support of the UN Peacekeeping Force (MONUC) towards holding free and fair elections within the time scale laid out by the peace agreement. Many challenges remain, including army integration and re-establishing state control.
We are working with the Transitional Government and international partners to support the peace process and to repair the social fabric of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has been severely damaged by war and misrule.
Macroeconomic stability has been achieved and the DRC's economy is growing. However, the majority of the population still lives in poverty and the country's rich natural resources are not yet being exploited for the benefit of the people of the DRC.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by the European Commission to implement elements of the EU Constitution prior to its formal ratification; and what his Department's policy is towards the implementation of elements of the Constitution prior to ratification. 
[holding answer 30 November 2004]: No policies or institutions for which the entry into force of the Treaty is required can be implemented until the Treaty has been ratified by all member states. However, in some areas, the Intergovernmental Conference outcome explicitly requires preparatory work. In particular, in accordance with the Declaration on Article 124.7 of the EU Constitutional Treaty, preparatory work is being undertaken on the procedures for implementing the decision on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council, on which a political decision is required within six months of signature of the Treaty. In addition, in accordance with the Declaration on Article HI-296, the High Representative for CFSP/Secretary General of the Council, the European
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Commission and the member states have begun preparatory work examining the key issues relating to the establishment of the European External Action Service once the Treaty is in force. The European Defence Agency, Article 141.3 of the Constitutional Treaty, was established in June 2004. Member states agreed to establish the Agency in 2004 due to the pressing need for it to begin its work to help member states improve their military capabilities. The Agency was established under the existing institutional framework of the Treaty on the European Union.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has reached an agreement with the German Chancellor to seek an amendment to the proposed EU Constitution that would change the voting weights accorded to member states of different sizes. 
Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment has been made of the likely implications of ending the EU-China Arms embargo on UK relations with (a) North Korea, (b) South Korea, (c) the United States, (d) Taiwan and (e) China. 
Mr. MacShane: The Government will take all relevant factors into account in the on-going EU review of the EU Arms Embargo on China. The Government fully recognises the importance of maintaining regional stability. Since the imposition of the Embargo, the EU has agreed a Code of Conduct on defence export sales, including sales to China. In the event of the EU Arms Embargo on China being lifted, the Code of Conduct would remain the primary means of controlling arms sales.
Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the policy reasons for the UK's abstention in the UN General Assembly vote on a programme of work to include the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. 
Mr. MacShane: The United Kingdom's reasons for abstaining on resolution A/RES/59/81 in the United Nations General Assembly were given in an Explanation of Vote when the resolution was considered at the UN First Committee on Disarmament (4 October-5 November 2004). It stated:
The UK remains fully committed to an FMCT. It also continues to support the effective verification of international arms control treaties. The negotiation of an FMCT has long been an agreed priority of the international community and we would like to see negotiations begin at the Conference on Disarmament in January.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with which individuals and organisations his Department has consulted in relation to the proposed Draft UN Declaration for Indigenous People's Rights. 
Mr. MacShane: Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have consulted a wide range of individuals and organisations on the draft Declaration since the UN Working Group on the Declaration was established in 1994. This has included Round-Tables in London with interested NGOs in 2002 and 2003, as well as on-going contacts in Geneva with a range of member states and representatives of indigenous groups. The aim of these consultations is to promote solutions to difficulties with the current draft, in order to allow a strong Declaration to be agreed.
Mr. Rammell: The UK is concerned that many indigenous people do not enjoy their full human rights, and believes that this Declaration could be an important tool to help recognise and protect those rights. However, the UK has a number of concerns about the current draft, including the fact that it seeks to create new collective human rights, specific to indigenous people. The UK believes that human rights are universal and equal to all.
We recognise that governments of many states with indigenous populations have granted them various collective rights at national level, and have no objection to this welcome fact being reflected in the Declaration. However these rights bestowed nationally need to remain distinct from individual human rights, enjoyed by indigenous people and all others, and enshrined in international law. We believe that our concerns can be accommodated in a strong and meaningful Declaration, and we remain ready to participate fully in negotiations.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) discussions he has had with and (b) representations he has received from Commonwealth governments regarding the proposed Draft UN Declaration for Indigenous People's Rights. 
UK officials attending the UN Working Group on the Draft Declaration have regular discussions on the proposed draft with a wide range of member states, including the representatives of Commonwealth governments which participate. The aim of these discussions, which officials also hold with
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the representatives of indigenous groups, is to promote solutions to difficulties with the current draft, in order to allow a strong Declaration to be agreed. Neither my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary nor I have had discussions with, or received representations from, Commonwealth governments on the draft Declaration.
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