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16 Mar 2005 : Column 340W—continued


Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what actions his Department has taken to maintain a strong economy in Gibraltar. [221479]

Mr. MacShane: Economic development is a defined domestic matter for which the Government of Gibraltar is responsible.

Middle East

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had at the recent London meeting to support the Palestinian Authority on the impact of the separation barrier on water supplies and arable land. [221382]

Mr. Rammell: The focus of the London Meeting was to help the Palestinian leadership strengthen the institutions of the Palestinian Authority. The meeting saw the Palestinian Authority put forward detailed plans for institutional renewal in the fields of security, governance and economic development. The participants agreed that achievement of the objectives set out in the London Meeting would constitute a major step towards the Palestinian Authority achieving its Roadmap commitments. Participants also urged and expected Israel to deliver on its Roadmap commitments.

While we understand that Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself against terrorist attacks, construction of the barrier on Palestinian land is unlawful, creates a physical obstacle to the two-state solution, and causes unacceptable humanitarian hardship for many Palestinians. My right hon. Friend the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean raised our continuing concerns over the barrier's route with the Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on 3 March during her visit to Israel.


Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations have been made to the Government of Nepal on democratic constitutional government; and if he will make a statement. [221431]

Mr. Alexander: Following the takeover of power by the King on 1 February I summoned the Nepalese ambassador to express our grave concern at developments. I also issued a public statement in which I set out our concern that the King's actions would increase the risk of instability in Nepal and undermine the institutions of democracy and constitutional monarchy in the country. In that statement I called for the immediate restitution of multi-party democracy. A copy of my statement is available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website Our ambassador in Kathmandu raised these issues directly with the King in an audience on 8 February.
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The UK also issued a statement with EU partners highlighting our concerns about restrictions on liberty and calling for human rights to be respected. With other EU member states' ambassadors our ambassador in Kathmandu also raised them with the new Nepalese Foreign Minister on 7 February.

Such is the level of our concern that on 14 February my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary recalled our ambassador in Nepal to London for consultations, following which we decided to withdraw a proposal, laid before Parliament in a minute of 20 January 2005, to gift a further tranche of military assistance to Nepal.

Our ambassador has now returned to Nepal and will be seeking an early audience with the King to encourage him again to restore fundamental rights and release party leaders from detention as a first step towards restoring democracy and democratic process.

Non-proliferation Treaty

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the members of the UK delegation to the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York in May; and what statement of proposals the UK Government intend to table. [221430]

Mr. MacShane: I refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave him on 13 December 2004, Official Report, column 898W and 26 January 2005, Official Report, column 428W.

Nuclear Disarmament

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the nuclear weapons in the United Kingdom stockpile which have been (a) withdrawn from service and (b) dismantled, (i) unilaterally and (ii) as a result of multilateral negotiations pursuant to United Kingdom obligations under Article six of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. [221447]

Mr. MacShane: The UK has unilaterally withdrawn and dismantled all its nuclear weapons except those currently in service. We are the only nuclear weapon state to have reduced our capacity to one nuclear weapon system, Trident, and retain a stockpile of less than 200 operationally available warheads. There have been no multilateral negotiations to withdraw and dismantle nuclear weapons as part of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) process. However, alongside the important unilateral steps already referred to, we have pursued the practical steps agreed by States Parties to the Treaty for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI of the NPT.

Post Conflict Reconstruction Unit

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what ways gender issues are being incorporated into the work of the tri-departmental Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit. [221827]

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Mr. Rammell: The Government recognise the positive and distinct contribution that women can make to post-conflict stabilisation. The new inter-departmental Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit (PCRU) has been asked to develop a capacity to identify best practice in gender-related issues and to consider gender-sensitive approaches in its planning and deployment.

As part of its recent public consultation process, PCRU sought the advice of groups representing gender issues in conflict, including Widows for Peace and Democracy and Women Waging Peace. PCRU will now produce a report drawing together the results of the public consultation which will show how contributions, including those on gender, have shaped the establishment of the unit. The report is likely to propose that permanent consultation mechanisms are established to ensure that PCRU continue to receive external advice and opinions on issues such as gender.

The PCRU will continue to develop its capacity through close consultation with civil society groups and the Women's National Commission—the Government's non- departmental advisory body on women—to ensure that gender is mainstreamed in post-conflict strategies. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will assist by providing country-specific advice as PCRU plans for deployments and briefing on UK Government work on women and conflict in international fora, such as UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.


Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the level of tension in the Taiwan Strait following the recent anti-secessionist legislation introduced by China; and if he will make a statement. [221354]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 15 March 2005]: As the legislation was only passed on 14 March, its impact has scarcely been felt. Much will depend on the reaction of others and how China seeks to apply it.

However, there is a risk that its introduction will slow or reverse the recent signs of progress in the relationship between China and Taiwan. We have made these concerns known to the Chinese and continue to watch developments closely. We continue to call on both sides to avoid unilateral actions which might heighten tensions. Although China has stressed its desire for a peaceful resolution of the issue, we are concerned that the legislation makes reference to the possibility of the use of "non-peaceful means". We strongly oppose the use of force and believe that the Taiwan question should be settled peacefully through negotiation between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his (a) European Union, (b) United States, (c) Russian, (d) Australian and (e) Japanese counterparts concerning the recent anti-secessionist legislation to be used by China against Taiwan; when these discussions took place; and what the outcome was. [221355]

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Mr. Straw [holding answer 15 March 2005]: I and my Ministers have taken a close interest in the development of China's anti-secession legislation. Of those the right hon. Gentleman mentions, there have been discussions at both ministerial and official level with other EU member states and institutions and with the US this year. There have also been discussions with Japan and Australia between officials. These discussions resulted in a better understanding of the issues and closer positions.

As a direct result of some of these discussions, the EU issued a statement on 14 March urging both sides to avoid unilateral measures which might heighten tensions.

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