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6 Feb 1995 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday 6th February 1995

Myanmar: Attacks on the Karen People

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government: What is their response to recent developments in Myanmar (Burma), with particular reference to the military offensive being launched by the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) regime against the Karen people and other opposition groups.

Lord Inglewood: We are very concerned about the situation in Burma and in particular about the recent attacks on the Karen people. Together with our European Union partners, we intend to express these concerns directly to the ruling military regime in Burma. We will be pressing for clarification of their commitment to national reconciliation and democratic reform.

European Parliament: Costs of Triple Location

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government: What would be the savings to the European Union and to the United Kingdom if all meetings of the European Parliament were held in Brussels.

Lord Inglewood: The European Parliament estimates that the additional costs involved in its being located in Luxembourg, Strasbourg and Brussels adds approximately 15 per cent. to the Parliament's overall budget. On the basis of the 1995 Parliament budget this would account for some 110 mecu (£87 million) per year.

On the assumption that the UK's share would be equal to the UK's overall financing share, before abatement, in the 1995 adopted Budget, this would imply a possible saving to the UK's gross contribution of some 14 mecu (£11 million a year). This would be partly offset by any reduction in our receipts and in the size of our abatement.

Turkey: Prison Conditions

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they are supporting the action of the Foreign Minister of Denmark, who has raised living conditions and alleged torture in Buca Prison, at Izmir, with the Government of Turkey and others.

Lord Inglewood: We believe that individual cases, unless they are significantly worse than in other Turkish prisons, are best dealt with by the mechanisms of the UN and European Conventions for the Prevention of Torture. There is no evidence that conditions at Buca prison are much worse than conditions in prisons elsewhere in Turkey.

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Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Greek Trade Embargo

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: What steps they and other members of the European Union are taking to secure the removal of the trade embargo and blockage imposed by Greece on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Lord Inglewood: Together with other EU partners we have repeatedly urged the Greeks to lift their unjustified trade embargo against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The European Court of Justice heard the related case on 1 February, but their judgement is not expected for several months. We continue to support the efforts of Cyrus Vance, the UN mediator, who remains in touch with the parties, to reach a negotiated settlement between Greece and Macedonia.

Turkey: Trial of Mr. Yasar Kemal

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether in their opinion the trial in the State Security Court of the well-known novelist, Mr. Yasar Kemal, is likely to contravene the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of expression, to which Turkey is a party; and if so, what action they will take.

Lord Inglewood: No date has yet been set for the trial. It would therefore be premature for the Government to comment.

South Lebanon: Legality of Israeli Weapons

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether the use in South Lebanon by Israeli artillery of shells containing flechettes [steel-arrows three inches long] contravenes international law.

Lord Inglewood: These weapons are not specifically prohibited by any international agreement but their use in any particular case would be subject to generally applicable rules of international humanitarian law. We deplore the use of weapons that may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.

Southern Iraq: Exclusion Zone

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether the United States have created "a new exclusion zone" in southern Iraq; and, if so, whether United Kingdom armed forces are to be used in establishing this exclusion zone and whether United Nations Security Council support for such action would be required.

Lord Inglewood: There has been no new exclusion zone in southern Iraq since the establishment in 1992 of the No Fly Zone south of the 32nd parallel in support of Security Council Resolution 688.

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Iraq: UN Security Council Resolution 949

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether in their view United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 949 permits the use of force in the event of Iraq redeploying its armed forces "towards the south" without further reference to the Security Council.

Lord Inglewood: Resolution 949 does not as such authorise the use of force.

Goma, Rwanda: Expected Volcanic Eruption

Viscount Brentford asked Her Majesty's Government: What help they are giving to the United Nations to ensure that the Rwandan refugees in Goma are moved before two adjacent volcanoes erupt next month.

Lord Inglewood: We welcome the preparations being made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to move refugees to the safety of new camps in the event of volcanic eruption. UNHCR is not currently seeking additional help with this operation.

Hospitals for Mentally Handicapped: Opposed Closure

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many hospitals for mentally handicapped people are threatened with closure where such closure is opposed locally and where support exists for their evolution into village communities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): Proposals to close hospitals are subject to public consultation. There are currently no proposals to close hospitals for people with learning disabilities in England that have been contested by the community health council and referred to Ministers for decision. There are no current proposals to close such hospitals in Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, Ministers are currently considering proposals to close Woodlands Hospital, Grampian.

Professions Supplementary to Medicine: Self-Regulation

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government: What plans they have to review the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960.

Baroness Cumberlege: The Government accept the case for examining how far this legislation provides an adequate framework for professional self-regulation. We intend to commission an independent review of the current operations of the statutory bodies concerned. We shall then bring forward for consultation specific proposals for change in the light of the outcome of that review.

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National Lottery Jackpot

Lord Dormer asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they will consider reducing the size of the jackpot in the National Lottery so as to benefit more people and charities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor): The percentage of lottery proceeds that should go to the prize fund and to good causes is set out in the licences issued by the Director-General of the National Lottery to Camelot Group plc, copies of which are in the Library of the House. The percentages relating to prizes and good causes were offered by Camelot as part of the competitive process for the operator's licence and cannot be varied by the director-general without Camelot's agreement.

Within the total amount available for prizes, the level at which individual prizes, such as the jackpot, are set is an operational matter for Camelot Group plc. I have therefore asked Peter Davis, the Director-General of the National Lottery, who is responsible for regulating the operation of the lottery, to write to the noble Lord on this point, placing copies of his response in the Library of the House.

Pedal Cyclists: Identification

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government: In which countries of the European Union pedal cyclists are identified by means of number plates or registration.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): No member countries of the European Union appear to have such a national system for identifying pedal cyclists.

Roadworks in London: TV Cable Installation

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government: What is the approximate percentage of current roadworks in the area of Greater London caused by installing television cables, taking into account road obstructions due to cable being laid below a pavement.

Viscount Goschen: This information is not held centrally. Details on street works in London appear on the street works registers of local highway authorities, which are available for public inspection.

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