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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 8 November 2005


Sanctions Regimes

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): The Government have committed themselves to informing Parliament on an annual basis of the sanctions regimes being implemented by the United Kingdom. Currently the United Kingdom implements mandatory United Nations sanctions, imposed by the UN Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in relation to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Somalia. The UK also implements sanctions regimes imposed autonomously by the EU in relation to Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burma, China, the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (in connection with individuals indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia), Moldova, Sudan and Zimbabwe. In accordance with a decision of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Kingdom implements arms embargoes on Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Government also take full account of the Economic Community of West African States moratorium on certain exports of small arms and light weapons to the Economic Community of West African States members. A full list of sanctions regimes and restrictive measures implemented by the UK has been published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at: www.fco.gov.uk/sanctions.

Syria/Lebanon: UN Sanctions

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): With the support of Her Majesty's Government, the United Nations Security Council on 31 October 2005 adopted UNSCR 1636 (2005) which calls on Syria to comply with the UN International Independent Investigation Commission inquiry into events surrounding the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri.

UNSCR 1636 (2005) warns Syria that if it does not co-operate with the UN inquiry then the Security Council will consider what further action is appropriate. The resolution also establishes sanctions against individuals suspected of involvement in the planning, sponsoring, organisation or perpetration of the assassination. The individual sanctions imposed comprise an assets freeze and a travel ban, with individuals being proposed by the UN Commission or Lebanese Government with the agreement of a UN Sanctions Committee established by UNSCR 1636 (2005). The Sanctions Committee will also be responsible for making decisions on permissible exemptions to the application of the individual measures. Such exemptions are defined by the resolution as including travel for
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humanitarian purposes (including in connection with religious obligation) and funds for basic expenses such as medical treatment, food and accommodation.

The measures will remain in place until the Sanctions Committee reports to the Security Council that all investigative and judicial proceedings relating to the assassination have been completed, unless the Security Council decides otherwise.


NHS (Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 1992

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Jane Kennedy): In August 2003, the Department consulted on a package of proposals to reform the regulatory system governing national health service community pharmacy services. It also put forward possible options for further reform which, if pursued, would require primary legislation. When announcing the programme to implement the reforms in autumn 2004, Ministers said they would consider introducing new primary legislation:

Ministers committed to consult further on such legislation. This consultation started on 25 July 2005 and ended on 20 September 2005.

These proposals are included in the Health Bill published on 27 October 2005. In relation to the second proposal, this will only apply where a primary care trust is assessing competing applications together.

A paper summarising the 29 responses received has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.


Immigration: Electronic Monitoring

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): Section 36 of the Immigration and Asylum (treatment of claimants etc) Act 2004 allows for the electronic monitoring of those liable to be detained under the Immigration Acts. This includes asylum seekers, illegal entrants, those found working in breach of their conditions of stay, overstayers, people subject to further examination at a port of entry, and those refused leave to enter.

Electronic monitoring takes three forms: telephone reporting using voice recognition techniques, tagging and tracking. These are being used, in combination with face to face contact at immigration reporting centres, to improve compliance with the requirements we place on people to remain in contact with us. Contact Management, including electronic monitoring is a key aspect of the New Asylum Model as described in the five year plan.
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During the passage of the 2004 Act, the then Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Beverley Hughes) stated that an electronic monitoring requirement would be imposed only with the consent of the individual. This commitment was re-iterated when her successor my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. Browne) wrote to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Consent is not a statutory requirement but was introduced as a matter of policy in recognition of the novel use of electronic monitoring in the immigration context.

The electronic monitoring pilots have generally been a success, but asking for the subject's consent is inconsistent with any other area of contact management. It hampered our ability to manage contact with people flexibly because the need for consent left us with very little recourse if the individual failed to give it or where, having initially agreed to be monitored electronically, they subsequently failed to comply. That is why I agreed a change in the policy before the summer recess to allow the Immigration Service to draw up contact management plans without first seeking the consent of the individual. The consideration of whether the individual will comply with specific requirements will be part of the process of deciding how best to manage contact and this change places us in a stronger position by enabling us to consider what action to take where someone fails to comply with an electronic monitoring requirements.

The impact on compliance in the short period since the change in policy has been positive. Between July and September of 53 people who failed initially to comply with telephone reporting, 47 began to do so after one written warning that their continued failure may lead to their re-detention. Since the start of the pilot in October 2004, we have tagged 49 people, 23 of them since the policy on consent was changed, but we have seen no adverse impact on the level of compliance notwithstanding that we have tagged a larger proportion of high risk cases without seeking their consent.

This is a promising start, but we shall continue to monitor the situation as electronic tagging is applied in increasing numbers. I will update the House on the progress we are making in a further statement early in the New Year.


Debt Relief

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): Excellent progress has been made on implementing the two key commitments on debt relief made by G8 leaders at the Gleneagles summit in July. In addition, the UK has granted further bilateral debt relief over the summer, and I take this opportunity to provide an update on the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

At Gleneagles, the G8 proposed 100 per cent. cancellation of the debts owed by qualifying countries to the International Monetary Fund, the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, and the African Development Fund (AfDF) of the African Development Bank. Since then, the proposal has been discussed by the Board of Directors of each
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institution and received broad support, including from African countries. The IDA and IMF components were agreed at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and IMF. The approval process is underway at the African Development Bank. We are working with others to resolve outstanding technical issues, and are confident that implementation of the new debt relief will begin in 2006. Up to $55 billion will be cancelled for the current 38 HIPCs, and we estimate that about $1 billion a year will be freed up for spending on poverty reduction in 2007, rising to $1.7 billion by 2010.

Countries will receive this 100 per cent. irrevocable debt cancellation when they complete the HIPC Initiative. There will be no further conditions attached. Countries that have already completed HIPC will need to demonstrate that they have maintained their commitment to poverty reduction and good macro-economic and public expenditure management. The allocation of additional donor resources through the existing Performance Based Allocation systems will then maintain a strong incentive for good policy and performance. In addition, Bank and Fund staff will continue to monitor and report on the overall efficiency of public expenditure as well as on progress in reducing corruption and enhancing transparency in recipient countries.

To ensure that the financing capacity of the World Bank and African Development Bank is not reduced, we and other G8 partners have committed to cover our share of the cost of the debt cancellation for IDA and the AFDF. We will make funds available ahead of the debt cancellation to cover the costs to the World Bank and African Development Bank for the next three years. We have committed to meet our share of ongoing costs for the duration of the loans, which in some cases is 40 years. These funds will be additional to the resources we had already agreed for these institutions as part of the recent replenishments of the concessional funds of the World Bank and the African Development Bank. G8 Finance Ministers have agreed that in future replenishment rounds the costs of the debt relief initiative be reported separately to ensure that they are clearly distinguishable. Debt relief at the IMF will be funded through internal resources as far as possible, but donors will provide additional resources if needed to ensure that the IMF's financing capacity is maintained.

The G8 also made a commitment to the achievement of a fair and sustainable solution to Nigeria's debt problems with Paris Club of Government creditors. I am able to report that a deal was formally agreed at the Paris Club on Thursday 20 October. This deal sees approximately $18 billion of Nigeria's debt cancelled, the remainder being repaid by Nigeria using part of its oil windfall. The UK's share of the debt cancellation is approximately $5.1 billion. The deal will be implemented in two phases over the next six months, after which Nigeria's entire debt to Paris Club creditors will have been resolved. This is the largest single debt deal ever reached with an African country. The Government of Nigeria have committed to ring fence the debt savings of about $1 billion a year to tackle poverty, and has invited national and international monitoring of all the spending, including by representatives of UK NGOs.
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Steady progress is being made in implementing the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. This targets the poorest, most indebted countries, reducing their debt burdens to sustainable levels, alongside reforms that help ensure that resources freed up are spent on poverty reduction. Rwanda, Zambia and Honduras all completed the HIPC process earlier this year and received irrevocable debt stock reductions. Most recently Burundi completed the first stage of HIPC by reaching Decision Point and so qualified for relief on its debt service payments. We expect other countries to qualify or complete the process early next year. The IMF and World Bank have stated that several more countries will be considered for the exceptional debt relief under HIPC. This is a result of the extended "Sunset Clause" which now gives countries until the end of 2006 to meet the criteria for being considered under HIPC—an extension that the UK was instrumental in lobbying for. A final list of countries is expected in early 2006. Both creditors and debtors need to maintain their efforts to ensure the full financing of the HIPC Initiative, and the full participation of all creditors. The UK is the second largest bilateral contributor to the HIPC Trust Fund, which helps multilateral organisations deliver their HIPC assistance in a timely manner. The UK has committed $436 million to date (including our share of the EC contribution) and in August made our latest payment—$20 million to cover the costs to the African Development Bank of debt stock write-off for Rwanda.

Once implemented, the G8 multilateral debt cancellation deal will supersede the UK's Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) for HIPC countries. For other qualifying countries, we will continue to cover 10 per cent. of their debt service to IDA and the AfDF.

In addition, the UK will give debt relief on about £42 million of development loans granted via the EU in the 1970s to 40 less developed countries. In 1978 the (then nine) EU Member States provided the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) with $428.5 million to be lent on concessional terms. Earlier this year it was agreed that these should be treated as bilateral rather than joint funds. Consequently we will manage the UK share of these loans in line with international and UK policy on debt relief. All the nine Member States involved have agreed to cancel the loans to countries that have completed HIPC. In line with our policies, the UK will forgo payments from Decision Point and hold in trust payments between December 2000 and Decision Point; these monies will then be repaid when countries reach Completion Point. The total cost to the UK of cancellation for the HIPC countries will be about £22 million. In addition, I have decided to provide relief on our share (about £20 million) of the loans to the poorest non-HIPC countries, provided they are committed to poverty reduction, human rights and sound public financial management.

I have decided to grant assistance to the Government of Belize for a further year under the Commonwealth Debt Initiative (GDI). This decision will mean that Belize will not repay £1.458 million worth of official debt to the UK (representing payments that were due in the
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financial year 2003–04). The Government of Belize will put the money towards agreed poverty reduction initiatives and associated economic reform.

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