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16 Mar 2005 : Column 337W—continued


Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the government of Colombia regarding the death of Luis Eduardo Guerra and others at the San José de Apartado Peace Community in Uraba. [221315]

Mr. Rammell: We are deeply shocked by the brutal killing of eight unarmed civilians. Our Embassy in Bogota has spoken to the judicial authorities and to Colombian Government representatives at the highest level to express our concerns regarding these killings. Luis Eduardo Guerra was a highly respected member of the Colombian NGO community and well known to our Embassy. I met him during my visit to Colombia in 2004. I welcome the Colombian Government's assurances that there will be an impartial, swift and effective investigation into these murders. Officials from the human rights unit in the Attorney-General's office, as well as forensic specialists and other officials, are in the area where the killings happened and are carrying out their investigation. This process includes interviews with members of the Peace Community, as well as all local army units, to try and establish the facts. We have also stressed to the Colombian authorities the need for proper protection to be given to witnesses of the crimes and of human rights defenders following the case. The Colombian authorities have assured us that such protection will be available to anyone who needs it. We continue to closely monitor the situation. Those responsible, whoever they may be, must be brought to justice.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to President Uribe of Colombia on (a) human rights issues and (b) the conduct of the Colombian Army. [221439]

Mr. Rammell: Human rights lie at the heart of our policy towards Colombia. We regularly raise with the Colombian Government specific human rights cases. Through our Embassy in Bogota, we monitor the human rights situation in Colombia, keeping in close contact with the Colombian authorities. I have highlighted the importance we attach to human rights with President Uribe and other senior Colombian officials during my visits to Colombia in 2003, 2004 and during my most recent visit last month. I reinforced this again when I met Defence Minister Uribe here in London on 11 February. We continue to urge the Colombian Government to implement all outstanding recommendations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We have also made it plain that the armed forces must act in accordance with human rights and international humanitarian law, and have provided funding for training in these areas. Where members of the armed forces are proven to have committed human rights abuses they must be punished in accordance with the law. Impunity must not be allowed, a message we have also reiterated to the Colombians.

Company Standards

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what role the UN Norms on Business and Human Rights play in the setting of governance standards for UK and EU companies in
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domestic and global markets; and if he will make a statement on (a) the UK and (b) the EU position regarding the UN Norms. [221974]

Mr. MacShane: The recent report from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) on business and human rights notes that the UN Norms have the status of a "draft proposal". Therefore, the draft Norms have no formal or legal role in setting governance standards for business. However, through the Business Leaders' Initiative on Human Rights (BLIHR), a number of multinational companies have been "road-testing" the draft Norms, using the content to inform their codes of practice. This process will continue until December 2006. In addition, the FTSE4Good benchmark takes the draft Norms into account in its assessment of companies' performance. And some potential investors consider the draft Norms in their requirement for "human rights impact assessments".

The UK continues to play a constructive role in the debate on corporate responsibility and human rights. While we see merit in clarifying minimum standards for business in relation to human rights, we believe, as does the OHCHR, that future action on this agenda should take into account the many codes and initiatives which exist in this field, rather than focussing exclusively on the draft Norms. These include the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, the International Labour Organisation Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and the UN Global Compact.

The UK will be active at the forthcoming Commission on Human Rights in seeking to ensure proper follow-up to the OHCHR's report. We firmly believe that this exercise should listen to the views of all stakeholders.

Dependent Territories

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the status of each of the UK's overseas territories and Crown Dependencies will be under the EU Constitution. [221478]

Mr. MacShane: The status of the UK's overseas territories and Crown Dependencies would not change under the EU Constitutional Treaty.

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what provisions are made for British overseas territories in the European Union Constitution. [221480]

Mr. MacShane: A number of provisions are made for the overseas countries and territories (OCT) of the UK and other EU member states in the EU Constitutional Treaty. Articles III-286 to III-291 in Title IV Part III of the Constitutional Treaty set out the provisions relative to the association of certain overseas countries and territories with the European Union. These articles closely follow Articles 182 to 188 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC). Annex II to the Constitutional Treaty contains the list of overseas countries and territories to which Title IV Part III of the Constitution applies. It is in substance the same as Annex II to the TEC.
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The following UK Overseas Territories are listed in Annex II to the Constitutional Treaty: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falklands Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena and Dependencies, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands. Although listed as an OCT in the Annex, Bermuda has been excluded from successive Association instruments at its own request.

The geographical extent of the Union is set out in Article IV-440 of the Constitutional Treaty which corresponds to Article 299 of the TEC, with modifications to take account of successive accessions. Gibraltar is covered by paragraph 4 of Article IV-440, in substance the same as Article 299.4 TEC. Section 1, Title II of Protocol 8 to the Constitutional Treaty sets out the specific provisions relating to Gibraltar. These were originally incorporated in the UK's 1972 Act of Accession.

The Sovereign Base Areas are the subject of provisions set out in paragraph 6 (b) of Article IV-440 and Title III of Protocol 9 to the Constitutional Treaty. These provisions were originally set out in Article 299 6 (b) of the TEC and Protocol 3 to the 2003 Act of Accession of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic.

European Constitution

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what events he plans to attend during the next three months relating to the EU Constitution; and what meetings are planned during the next three months at which departmental Ministers will speak on the EU Constitution. [221377]

Mr. MacShane: I and ministerial colleagues will be making the case for the EU Constitutional Treaty at various public events over the next few months. As part of my series of UK regional visits as Europe Minister to discuss European matters with local audiences, I will be answering questions on a range of European issues, including the EU Constitutional Treaty.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has held with the Electoral Commission on the date for the referendum on the European Constitution. [221380]

Mr. MacShane: None.

European Union Bill

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reasons it was decided that a regulatory impact assessment was not needed for the European Union Bill. [221378]

Mr. MacShane: Paragraph 71 of the Explanatory Notes [Bill 45-EN] incorrectly states that no Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) for the EU Bill was needed. In fact an RIA was undertaken, and placed in the Library of the House and on the internet at on 25 January when the Bill was
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introduced. The RIA concluded that—as the Notes state—there will be no direct or indirect regulatory burdens on business, charities or the voluntary sector.

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