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19 Dec 2005 : Column 2493W—continued

Sudan

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the current situation in the Darfur region of Sudan; and if he will make a statement. [37102]

Ian Pearson: We remain very concerned about the situation in Darfur. In his latest report, the United Nations Secretary General notes that while there have been fewer attacks between the parties, the security situation remains poor. Banditry and lawlessness are rife, and continue to hamper the delivery of humanitarian supplies, particularly in south and west Darfur. We have made clear that this violence, and particularly attacks on humanitarian workers, are unacceptable. We are encouraging anyone with information on the perpetrators to pass it to the relevant bodies for consideration under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1591 and 1593.

We continue to press the parties to rein in their fighters and to reach a political agreement. The seventh round of Darfur peace talks began in Abuja on 29 November. The UK fully supports the African Union-led mediation team and has provided financial and technical assistance to the talks. We also plan to maintain our observer presence throughout the talks.

Sugar Regime

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact that the new EU reductions in sugarsubsidies will have on Caribbean (a) agricultural economies and (b) Caribbean communities in other countries. [36147]


 
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Mr. Douglas Alexander: We recognise the consequences that the reforms to the EU Sugar Regime agreed at the 24 November Agriculture Council may have on some African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar producers with preferential access to the EU market. However, we welcome the overall agreement in the broader context of reforming the EU's Common Agricultural Policy and the benefits this will bring to many developing countries. Furthermore, the sugar reforms will see a smaller price cut and a longer adjustment period than originally proposed. This will give the ACP a better opportunity to adapt to the reforms.

The EU will provide transitional assistance to help ACP producers improve their efficiency in the sugar sector where feasible or diversify into more profitable sectors. Ensuring that credible and timely transitional assistance is in place remains a priority for the UK.

In September 2003, the Department for International Development (DfID) commissioned consultants (LMC International Ltd) to produce an independent report into the impact that EU sugar reform would have by 2015 on the ACP countries that are party to the Sugar Protocol. This work was updated in June 2005, after the Commission put forward its proposals but before agreement was reached on the shape of the reforms. It therefore assumes a 39 per cent. price cut rather than the actual 36 per cent.

More recent assessments have been carried out by European Commission funded consultants, who again assumed a 39 per cent. price cut. For example, in Jamaica the consultants concluded that this would reduce the value of sugar export revenues from 6.9 per cent. of total exports to 4.9 per cent. and reduce GDP by 0.8 per cent. over four years.

My noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Parliamentary Under-secretary of State, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, discussed the impact of reform of the EU sugar regime on the Caribbean at a meeting in London in October with members of the Caribbean British Business Council, which represents British businesses with interests in the Caribbean. The subject was also discussed at the UK Caribbean Business Forum in London in June, which brought together Ministers and leading businessmen from the UK and the Caribbean.

Currently, DFID is working with Caribbean countries affected by the reforms to help them draw up the country plans through which the EU's transitional assistance will be delivered.

Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether discussions are under way with the EU to determine the criteria that will be used to determine how much Caribbean sugar protocol nations will receive from the euro transitional assistance budget proposed to ease the impact of the reduction in sugar prices over the next four years. [36438]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: There have been some preliminary discussions about how to allocate transitional assistance for Africa Caribbean and Pacific countries to adjust to sugar reforms. The Commission have said that allocations will be based on the needs of
 
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each country, in particular on the impact of the reform on the sugar sector in the country concerned and on the relative importance of the sugar sector in the economy. The Caribbean countries involved are working to develop their country plans to determine how assistance could best be used. Given the impact that sugar reform will have on some of the Caribbean countries involved, they should be well placed to qualify for their fair share of assistance under the criteria the Commission are developing.

Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he took to ensure that the concerns of British businesses with interests in Jamaica, Guyana and Belize were taken into account in the reform of the EU sugar regime. [36460]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: My noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lord Triesman of Tottenham), discussed the impact of reform of the EU sugar regime on the Caribbean at a meeting in London in October with members of the Caribbean British Business Council, which represents British businesses with interests in the Caribbean. The subject was also discussed at the UK Caribbean Business Forum in London in June, which brought together Ministers and leading businessmen from the UK and the Caribbean. Our high commissions in the region have also maintained regular contact with such businesses.

Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether an impact study was carried out on the crime and security implications for the UK of the decision to cut sugar prices in Caribbean nations known to be tran-shipment points for narcotics and small arms to the UK. [36461]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Through our contacts with Governments, business and civil society in the Caribbean, we are aware that a reduction in the EU sugar price will have social consequences for those deriving an income from sugar production. That is why the EU will provide transitional assistance to help Caribbean producers improve their efficiency in the sugar sector where feasible or diversify into more profitable sectors. Ensuring that credible and timely transitional assistance is in place remains a priority for the UK. The Department for International Development (DFID) are collaborating with the World Bank to assess the implications of the EU reforms.

DFID, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence continue to assist Caribbean Governments and their security and law enforcement agencies in their fight against drugs trans-shipment and organised crime.

Tactica Vehicles

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what export licences have been granted for the export to Indonesia of (a) Tactica vehicles and (b) spare parts for Tactica vehicles since 1 May 1997; and if he will make a statement. [36854]

Dr. Howells: The UK is committed to maintaining one of the most rigorous and transparent arms export control systems in the world. Information on export
 
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licensing decisions is published by destination in the Government's Annual and Quarterly Reports on Strategic Export Controls, available at http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=109103717l526. The Government cannot provide information on the suppliers of specific exports, as this would breach commercial confidentiality.

Tortured Detainees

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to other EU Governments on investigating allegations that detainees held by other states may have been tortured in their countries. [37041]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 14 December 2005]: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has discussed these allegations with his EU counterparts. Following those discussions, he—as EU presidency—wrote to the US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, about the allegations. The US Secretary of State issued a public statement on this subject on 5 December, and sent a copy of that statement to my right hon. Friend on 6 December by way of reply to his letter. He has communicated this response to his EU counterparts.


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