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4 Dec 1995 : Column WA61

Written Answers

Monday, 4th December 1995.

National Security: House of Lords Debates

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer of Baroness Chalker of Wallasey on 2 November (WA 170), whether their policy of answering questions raised in debate on matters of national security are different in this House and in the House of Commons; and, if so, in what way and why.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): No.

Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration

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

    Whether the terms of reference, composition and method of operation of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, established under the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme, on the Harare Commonwealth Declaration has been agreed and, if so, whether they will be made publicly available.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration for the next two years are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia, Jamaica and the United Kingdom. The group has not yet decided on the date for its first meeting. In New Zealand, Heads of Government agreed to establish the group to deal with serious or persistent violations of the principles of the Harare Commonwealth Declaration. It will be the group's task to assess the nature of the infringement and recommend measures for collective Commonwealth action aimed at the speedy restoration of democracy and constitutional rule.

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

    Whether they will ensure that Ministers appointed to the newly established Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group are members of governments which respect fundamental human rights, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, so that all members of the group are manifestly qualified to deal impartially and effectively with violations of the principles contained in the Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Heads of Government unanimously agreed the membership of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group at the

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Commonwealth Conference in New Zealand. Heads of Government will review the group's terms of reference and operation every two years. All Commonwealth member states have endorsed the Harare Declaration in its entirety.


Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the United Nations should take any action following the presentation by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly of the interim report (A/50/569) on the situation of human rights in Sudan prepared by Dr. Gaspar Biro, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We support continued UN monitoring of the human rights situation in Sudan, which remains of grave concern. Dr. Biro's interim report will be considered shortly in the Third Committee of the General Assembly.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will raise in the United Nations Security Council the threat to peace arising from Sudanese aggression against Eritrea, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are concerned at allegations of Sudanese support for extremist groups based in Sudan which present a threat to neighbouring states. We understand that the Organisation of African Unity is taking this matter forward.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they have taken in the United Nations Security Council following the receipt by the President of the letter dated 3 October 1995 from the Secretary General, stating that the Government of Ethiopia had concluded that the terrorist assault on the motorcade of President Mubarak of Egypt in Addis Ababa on 26 June 1995 was supported, assisted and facilitated by the security organs of Sudan.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The President of the UN Security Council sent a reply dated 12 October 1995 to the UN Secretary-General. This noted the efforts of the Organisation of African Unity to resolve the issue of alleged Sudanese complicity in the assassination attempt on President Mubarak and asked the Secretary General to keep the UN Security Council informed of developments.

The Gambia

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What additional measures they are taking, following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Auckland, to persuade the military regime in the Gambia to hand power back to the elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara.

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Lord Chesham: The Gambia should benefit from the Millbrook Programme agreed by Commonwealth Heads of Government, which is intended to advance Commonwealth fundamental political values and to support the practice of Harare principles. We are considering with our Commonwealth partners how to take this forward.

Nuclear Disarmament

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Committee system which operated during the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference failed to allow for the consideration of the treaty on general and comprehensive disarmament under strict and effective international control (as required to be negotiated under Article 6 of the NPT); and, if so, what steps they intend to take to ensure that the matter of such a treaty is properly considered in the forthcoming preparatory meetings and at the next Review Conference.

Lord Chesham: No. Main Committee 1 did in fact review progress towards a treaty on general and complete disarmament.

Nuclear Test Ban

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the complete test ban which is now being negotiated is expected to ban the micro explosions which are by some considered as a possible technique for securing nuclear fusion as a source of electricity.

Lord Chesham: A comprehensive test ban treaty will not affect the right of states parties to develop means to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, such as electricity production.

Female Genital Mutilation

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of their commitment at the UN Conference on Women in Beijing to the elimination of violence against women and the signature of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, what steps they are taking to eliminate female genital mutilation in countries where it is still prevalent; and what they have spent abroad in the last three years to that end.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are prepared to support activities directed at the elimination of female genital mutilation wherever these are likely to be effective. Apart from supporting the work of women's organisations which seek to educate communities and strengthen laws against female genital mutilation, we are expressing our view in wider dialogue with relevant governments.

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Opportunities for substantial spending in developing countries have not yet emerged, and the most influential activities may not require large expenditure. The sum of £37,000 has been provided to support conferences and research and we are currently considering another proposal. Our general support to projects for women's empowerment contributes indirectly to reducing the prevalence of female genital mutilation.

ODA: Supply of Defective Condoms

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Overseas Development Administration has had to write off a loss after the acquisition of substandard condoms which were manufactured in South East Asia by Kokup; and, if so, how much was the loss.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: ODA has written off £17,000 for the safe and effective destruction of 24 million substandard condoms. These were part of a project to supply 66 million condoms to Zimbabwe in 1993 at a total cost of £1.535 million. The defective batch was identified during the post-shipment inspection in Zimbabwe and was burnt, in line with standard and appropriate practice for defective prophylactics. The defective batch of condoms was supplied by DongKuk, a Malaysian manufacturer who had previously supplied the World Health Organisation with condoms of a satisfactory standard. DongKuk replaced the defective condoms at no additional cost. The balance of 44 million condoms was supplied quickly by alternative manufacturers. This project has contributed in a timely way to the prevention of HIV infection in Zimbabwe.

The difficulties of quality control in the manufacture of condoms worldwide has led ODA to implement an independent testing system for the condoms it supplies under the British aid programmes. ODA has also contributed to efforts by the World Health Organisation to promote better quality condom production worldwide.

NATO Expansion

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which, if any, historians or political philosophers contributed to the recently published NATO study on its expansion.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: None.

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