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1 Nov 1995 : Column WA159

Written Answers

Wednesday, 1st November 1995.

China: Opposition to Population Policy

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have on opposition within the People's Republic of China to the one child policy.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The manner in which the Chinese Government's population policy is implemented, including the reported use of fines and other punitive measures, indicates that such opposition exists. It is not possible to say to what extent compliance by Chinese people with birth planning restrictions is due to an acceptance of the population policy, rather than a wish to avoid the consequences of non-compliance.

Treaties: "Ponsonby Rule"

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that it is a constitutional convention, contained in the so-called "Ponsonby Rule", that the Government do not proceed to the ratification of a treaty until the treaty has lain on the table of each House of Parliament for a period of 21 sitting days, and that, in the case of important treaties, the Government submit them to each House for discussion within this period.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: It has been the practice of successive Governments for the past hundred years to lay before Parliament, in the Treaty Series of Command papers, all treaties entered into by the United Kingdom, but only after their entry into force. Since 1924, it has also been the practice (known as the "Ponsonby Rule") to lay before Parliament, before entry into force, those treaties which have been signed subject to ratification. The treaty lies on the table in the normal case for a period of 21 sitting days, after which it is ratified and published again in the Treaty Series once it has entered into force. The Ponsonby Rule, which applies as indicated only to treaties which are subject to ratification (or its equivalent), has been understood as allowing for exceptions from its operation in special cases, when other means of consulting or informing Parliament may be employed in its stead.

The above practices are not understood as precluding the Government, in appropriate cases, from proceeding to ratification (or its equivalent) without laying for 21 days or from concluding treaties which enter into force on signature.

The practice is more fully described in an affidavit sworn for the purposes of the proceedings in

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R v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, ex p. Rees-Mogg. I am arranging for a copy to be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been departures, during the past 15 years, from the so-called "Ponsonby Rule"; and, if so, whether they will list those departures, and the reasons for them.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The information requested is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. However, departures from the Ponsonby Rule are in practice rare.

Mr. Chen Ziming

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take, either independently or with other members of the European Union, to secure the release of Mr. Chen Ziming, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for his part in the Tiananmen pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989 in Beijing, and for him to be allowed access to proper medical treatment for his cancer of the prostate.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are deeply concerned about the detention and treatment of Chen Ziming, and about reports of his deteriorating health.

During discussions between my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and Chinese Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen on 3 October, we gave the Chinese delegation a list of cases of particular concern to us, which included Chen Ziming. We will continue to press the Chinese authorities to provide information on his health and treatment.

Outer Space Treaty

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the 1967 Space Treaty gives an undoubted right, to those individual states that are capable of doing so, to conduct unlimited military espionage and target acquisition on other sovereign states, and if so whether they will cite the passages in the treaty text which allow this, in the light of Article 1 of the treaty, which states that "exploration and use of outer space . . . shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic and scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind".

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Outer Space Treaty does not prohibit the use of satellites for the purposes of military observation. Such use is an accepted part of space activities.

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Overseas Development Administration: Cash Limit

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made in the 1995–96 cash limit for expenditure by the Overseas Development Administration.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the cash limit on the External Assistance Vote (Class II, Vote 5) will be increased by £4,919,000 from £1,759,074,000 to £1,763,993,000. The increase is in respect of rollover of underspending against the 1994–95 External Assistance Vote. The increase will be offset by a claim on the Reserve and will not, therefore, add to the planned total of public expenditure.

EU Council Forthcoming Business

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Subject: Monthly forecast of business for November 1995

1. The following Councils are scheduled:

    November 6: Industry Council

    November 7: Industry Council

    November 9: Consumers Council

    November 13: Agriculture Council

    November 14: Agriculture Council

    November 15: Fisheries Council

    November 17: Budget Council

    November 20: FAC, Culture Council

    November 21: FAC

    November 23: Internal Market Council

    Justice Council

    November 24: Justice Council

    November 27: ECOFIN Council

    Telecoms Council

    November 30: Health Council

2. The following items are likely to be discussed:

Monday 6 November, Industry Council Agenda

    SME policy: oral presentation by Commission of

    (a) Communication on EU strategy for SMEs.

    (b) Communication on European secondary capital market for SMEs.

    SMEs and innovation technology—Council resolution.

    Community action programme for competitiveness of EU industry: Council decision.

    Services to business and industrial competitiveness: Council resolution.

    Industrial aspects of the Information Society: Council resolution.

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    Industrial co-operation with other regions and third countries—Council conclusions.

    Competitiveness of European machine construction industry—Council resolution.

    Effect of Uruguay round on textile industry—(possible) Council conclusions.

    European policy for promotion of quality—oral Commission report.

    Industry and research—oral Commission report on task-forces.

Tuesday 7 November, Industry Council Agenda

    Competition policy and industrial competitiveness: Commission presentation on aspects of competition policy which affect industry.

    State Aid for shipbuilding—proposal for Council regulation implementing OECD rules.

    Steel: monitoring report and opinions on Irish Steel and Austrian iron ore mines.

Thursday 9 November, Consumer Council Agenda

    Proposed Directive on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs.

    Amended proposal for a directive on comparative advertising: possible common position.

    Proposed directive on unit pricing: orientation debate.

    Proposed directive on markings appearing on the labelling of foodstuffs.

    Proposed directive on guarantees for consumer goods: Commission presentation.

    Access to justice: Commission presentation.

    Consumer education: Council resolution.

    Commission action plan on consumer protection and information 1995–1999: Commission presentation.

    Commission report on the implementation of the Council Directive on consumer credit: Council conclusions.

    Advertising products and services attributing health benefits (miracle products): Council resolution.

Monday/Tuesday 13–14 November, Agricultural Council Agenda

    Legislative changes to maximum residue limit Directives (possible).

    Feeding stuffs (possible).

    Meat products (possible).


    Reform of the fruit and vegetable regime.

    Reform of the rice regime.

Wednesday 15 November, Fisheries Council

Likelihood that it will be cancelled but if it goes ahead it will deal with the annual price and market regime proposals.

Friday 17 November, Budget Council Agenda

    Second reading of the 1996 draft budget.

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Monday 20 November, Culture Council and Foreign Affairs Council

Agendas not yet available.

Thursday 23 November, Internal Market Council

Agenda not yet available but likely to include inter alia:

    Functioning of the internal market (Commission report).

    Citizens First (open debate).

    Monitor Report (follow up).

    Joint meeting with Central and Eastern Europeans (over lunch).

    Pressure equipment (common position—possible A point).

    Customs 2000 (common position).

    Public procurement (state of progress/orientation debate).

    Tourism statistics directive (adoption).

    Motorcycle multichapter directive (common position—possible A point).


    Food of particular nutritional uses (PARNUTS).

    Mineral waters.

    Amendment to labelling Directive (poss).

Thursday/Friday 23–24 November, Justice Council

Agenda not yet available.

Monday 27 November, ECOFIN Council Agenda

    Cross Border Credit Transfers (probable A point).

    Preparation of stage 3 of EMU.

    Employment policy—preparation of Madrid European Council.

    Multilateral surveillance.

    Fraud: reports from member states—preparation of Madrid European Council.

    Loan Guarantee Fund (possible).

    Bank Winding Up Directive (possible).

Monday 27 November, Telecoms Council Agenda

Expected Agenda:

    Directive on Interconnection—orientation debate.

    Draft Article 90 Commission Directives amending Directive 90/388/EEC

    (a) with regard to mobile and personal communications and (b) regarding the implementation of full competition in telecoms markets—debate and possible Council conclusions.

    Directive on application of ONP (Open Network Provision) to voice telephony—final adoption (possible).

    Directive on Data Protection in telecoms sector—common position (possible).

    Decisions on a series of guidelines for trans-European telecommunications networks—common position.

    Decision on INFO 2000 programme concerning multimedia content—common position (possible).

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    Directive on development of Community postal services—orientation debate or political agreement.

    WTO discussions—Commission oral report.

Thursday 30 November, Health Council

Agenda not yet available.

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