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17 Jun 1996 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 17th June 1996.

Wilton Park

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the Wilton Park Agency performed against the targets which were agreed for 1995-96; and if targets have yet been agreed for the current year.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): According to provisional figures which are subject to audit Wilton Park exceeded all four of the agreed targets set for the 1995-96 financial year, for the number of conference participants, income, cover recover and cost per head to the FCO overall.

The Wilton Park Departmental Board met in April. We have agreed to the recommendation of the board that the following key targets be adopted for this financial year:

    To increase overall income from £1309K in 1995- 96 to £1368K.

    To increase the target for the overall number of Wilton Park conference participants from 1,350 in 1995-96 to 1,500.

    To reduce the average cost to the FCO to each participant from £165 in 1995-96 to £160.

EU and NATO Enlargement: Comparative Costs

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the estimates of the United States Congressional Budget Office that NATO enlargement will cost between 60 and 120 billion dollars; what is their estimate of the cost of European Union enlargement to 24 states and whether both these sums are likely to be easy to find; and, if not, which expenditure in their view would give the better value for money.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: It is impossible to predict accurately yet what the exact costs of EU and NATO enlargement will be. EU and NATO enlargement are complementary steps in securing long-term peace and prosperity throughout Europe.

Assembly of European Regions

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the British members of the Assembly of European Regions (belonging to the Council of Europe) are selected, and how those of other member states are selected.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Although its General Secretariat is located in Strasbourg, the Assembly of

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European Regions (AER) has no connection with the Council of Europe. All UK counties and metropolitan districts are eligible to become members upon payment of a fee, the amount of which is calculated according to the population of each region. About 30 counties and metropolitan districts of England and Wales are currently members, as were the former Scottish regions prior to local government reorganisation on 1st April 1996. Outside the UK, we understand regions defined by the AER as "the level of government situated immediately below that of the central State", i.e., German (Land) or Swiss (Canton), are eligible for membership subject to payment of the fee. AER membership is open to all such regions of Europe, including central and eastern Europe.

UK Action in EU: Legality

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it will be open to European Union member governments or others to claim compensation from the British Government in the British courts, or elsewhere, for its blocking proceedings of the European Union.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in another place on 21st May there is no question of the UK "indulging in actions that would be illegal before the British Courts or the European Court". The question of compensation does not, therefore, arise.

UN Weaponry Convention: Implications of Amended Protocol

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What effect, if any, they consider there will be on the principle of extra-territorial jurisdiction over offences committed by any persons in relation to internal armed conflicts, as a result of Article 14 of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices, adopted at the 14th Plenary Meeting of the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on prohibitions or restrictions on the use of certain conventional weapons which may be deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Article 14 of Amended Protocol II of the UN Weaponry Convention provides for States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure the imposition of penal sanctions against persons, who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the Protocol, wilfully kill or cause injury to civilians, and to bring such persons to justice. The Government accept that jurisdiction may be exercised in such cases pursuant to international agreements. We are however currently assessing the full implications of the Amended Protocol.

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UN Human Rights Committee: Annual Report

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

    Further to the Answer given by Lord Chesham on 5th June 1996 (WA 128), whether they consider it desirable that the UN Human Rights Committee should be allocated sufficient resources to enable it to publish its full annual report.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We support UN regular budget funding of the Human Rights Committee's annual report to the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly. We welcome publication of the voluntarily funded compilations of the committee's documents, which is not mandated by the General Assembly, when resources allow.

Human Rights Conventions

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

    Further to the Answer given by Lord Chesham on 5th June 1996 (WA 128), what are the differences between the rights and freedom secured by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and those secured by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The rights and freedoms secured by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights are set out in those instruments, the text of each of which is a public document. I would refer the noble Lord to those sources as well as to the Answer by Lord Chesham on 5th June.

The Mall: Parking

Viscount Astor asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What organisations or individuals are allowed to park along the Mall, how many places are allocated, what is the charge and what are the criteria for deciding who should be eligible for car parking places.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Viscount Astor from the Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Agency, Mr. David Welch, dated 17th June 1996.

I have been asked by Lord Inglewood to reply to your Parliamentary Question about parking on the Mall.

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Permits to park on the Mall are issued to some Commissioners and staff of the Museums and Galleries Commission, Royal Fine Art Commission and Commonwealth Secretariat and Government Hospitality Fund. Some Downing Street staff are also allowed to park there whilst parking on Horse Guards Parade is temporarily suspended during ceremonials. There are approximately 250 parking spaces on the Mall.

Permits are issued free of charge. The criteria for deciding who should be eligible for parking spaces are that the individual works unsocial hours, or is disabled, or a car is essential for official business.

In addition, the Lord Chamberlain's office also has a number of spaces allocated for its staff.

Fisheries Council, 10th June

Lord Kingsland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Fisheries Council held in Luxembourg on 10th June.

Lord Lucas: My honourable friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 10th June.

The Council had an initial exchange of views about the principles and objectives for the next series of measures designed to bring all member states' fishing fleets into better balance with available fish stocks. My honourable friend made it clear that the UK could not agree to the possibility of further reductions in the UK fleet until there is satisfactory progress towards sorting out the problem of quota hoppers. He also drew attention to the inconsistencies in the scientific advice underlying the Commission's thinking, for example in their assessment of Irish Sea stocks and the lack of any proposed reduction in industrial fishing. He stressed that the approach had to be credible and command the confidence of the industry whose livelihoods are at stake. Significant further technical work will be needed before decisions can be taken. Other member states also had difficulty with the Commission's ideas and supported our view that any measures must be seen to be necessary, fair and workable. Discussion will be resumed at the next meeting of the Council inOctober.

The Council agreed unanimously that the Community should at the earliest opportunity sign the United Nations Agreement on Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Species. It is designed to ensure international co-operation in the long term conservation and sustainable use of these fish stocks. My honourable friend indicated the UK's strong support for such international measures.

The Council agreed by qualified majority, with the United Kingdom and Ireland voting against, the allocation between member states of the 1996 quotas for redfish under the North-East Atlantic Fisheries

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Commission (NEAFC) and North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO). Despite its lack of track record in the newly regulated NEAFC fishery, the UK was allocated a quota of 44 tonnes.

The Council unanimously agreed a short term arrangement so that no more than 3,000 tonnes of the 43,000 tonne sprat total allowable catch for the Skaggerak and Kattegat could be fished using 16 millimetre meshes for the remainder of 1996. This restriction is designed to limit the by-catch of juvenile herring.

The Commission reported the latest scientific advice on North Sea herring. This indicates that catch reductions of 50 per cent. are necessary during the current year in order to avoid closing the fishery next year. My honourable friend outlined the UK's view that early action is essential to prevent a stock collapse and to avoid a complete closure. He supported quota cuts for North Sea herring this year subject to the juvenile herring by-catch in other fisheries, including industrial fisheries, being reduced in parallel; the same proportionate cut applying to both the northern and southern North Sea herring stocks; and the cut in herring quotas being applied equitably to all member states. This approach secured support from a number of other member states and the Commission will be having urgent discussions with Norway before making specific proposals for action to protect the herring stocks.

The UK expressed its continuing concern about the market for farmed salmon and asked the Commission to continue to monitor the position very carefully over the summer.

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