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EU Reform

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent progress in the reform of the European Union's institutions. [32419]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Government's focus during the UK presidency of the EU is on taking forward a wider debate about the future direction of the EU rather than looking once again at its institutional architecture. The EU needs to find new ways to meet better the challenge of globalisation. In that context the UK will continue to advocate positive reforms of the EU institutions where it makes sense.

European Parliament

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the rules of procedure governing the conference of Presidents of the European Parliament. [32195]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The rules governing the conference of Presidents, who are the heads of the political groups in the European Parliament, are contained within the rules of procedure of the European Parliament, specifically rules 23, 24, 28 and 200. A copy of these rules is already in the Library of the House.

European Union (Opt-outs)

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 16 November 2005, Official Report, column1266W, on European Union (opt-outs), in which areas where the UK had an option not to participate the Government have joined in specific policy developments since 1997. [32002]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK retains the right to opt in to EU measures on visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to the free movement of persons (Title IV TEC), as set out in the 1999 treaty of Amsterdam. We opt in to such measures when it is in our interests to co-operate with our EU partners and where they are not incompatible with our right to operate and retain our own frontier controls. The UK has opted in to all proposals and measures on judicial co-operation in civil matters.

In reference to immigration and asylum, I refer the hon. Member to the answer that my right hon. Friend, the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr.Browne) gave to the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), on 7 March, 2005, Official Report, column 1596W. Since that question was answered, the UK has opted into three further immigration and asylum proposals: a proposal for a council decision establishing a European fund for the Integration of third-country nationals and two proposals for decisions of the European Parliament and Council establishing a European refugee fund and a European return fund.
 
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India

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on India's compliance with the Nuclear Suppliers Group rules. [32447]

Dr. Howells: India is not a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and therefore is not bound by the rules of the group. India has taken action in recent years to conform to international non-proliferation norms, for example the adoption of new export control legislation in April this year. The commitments made by India in its joint statement with the US on 18 July include adhering to the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Iran

David Lepper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Iran regarding (a) the provisions of the 1991 Memorandum of the Supreme Revolutionary Council of Iran regarding expulsion of Baha'is from university and (b) access to education for Baha'is in Iran. [32081]

Dr. Howells: During the UK's presidency of the EU, we have pressed the Iranian authorities on several occasions to address the problems faced by the Baha'i community. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did so when he first met Iran's new Foreign Minister, Manuchehr Mottaki, in September. The access of Baha'is in Iran to higher education is of particular concern. In 1993 the special representative of the UN Commission on Human Rights reported the existence of a 1991 memorandum from the Supreme Revolutionary Council of Iran that informed all authorities to deny Baha'i students access to university. The Baha'i International Community continue to report that Baha'i students are not able to access higher education unless they deny their faith or accept that it is recorded incorrectly on official university forms. The UK co-sponsored a resolution on human rights in Iran that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee on 18 November. The resolution expresses serious concern at, among other things, the

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has raised Iranian help to Iraqi insurgents with the government of Iran. [32653]

Dr. Howells: We continue to investigate extremist Shia groups in Iraq and their reported links to Iran. Ministers and officials have discussed these links with the Iranian authorities on many occasions. Senior officials did so most recently on 15 November. We have pressed Iran to do more to live up to its public commitments to fight terrorism, improve border security, and not to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs.

Iraq

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the use of private military companies in Iraq. [32785]


 
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Dr. Howells: The Government do not employ private companies in Iraq for military purposes. However, we do employ two companies for security purposes: ArmorGroup, which provide static guarding of our compounds in Baghdad and Basra; and Control Risks Group, which provides mobile security.

Israel

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations the Government have made to Israel on withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. [33031]

Dr. Howells: We welcome Israel's recent withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank. We believe the next step should be for both sides to meet their Roadmap commitments. The Roadmap is the best way to achieve a lasting and just settlement of two viable states living side by side in peace and security with their neighbours.

Latin America (Trade Disputes)

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the trade dispute between Venezuela and Mexico. [32445]

Ian Pearson: We consider this to be a bilateral issue between the two Governments.

Liberia

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the President of Liberia; and what was discussed. [32387]

Ian Pearson: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the new President of Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, have not met.

Nuclear Proliferation

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps have been taken by the Government to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the last five years. [32346]

Dr. Howells: The UK continues to regard the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and has played an active role over the past five years of the treaty review cycle. We have promoted strengthening of the treaty and have addressed the challenges it faces, by implementing the decisions of past review conferences, and taking forward work in the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. We played an active role in the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 and continue to do so in the 1540 Committee.

The UK takes part in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which contributes to fulfilling the requirement of UNSCR 1540 to take co-operative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery and related materials. The UK secured important counter-proliferation amendments to the Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea.
 
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The UK has been active on specific country issues. Working with the US, the UK was able to convince Libya in December 2003 to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programmes, which led to the uncovering and dismantlement of the international proliferation network run by AQ Khan and his associates. With France and Germany, supported by the office of the EU high representative, we have been working for two years to reach a long term arrangement which will give the international community objective guarantees regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme. While not directly involved in the 6 Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, the UK has regularly expressed its support for the process as the best available means to reach a solution based on negotiation.


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