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12 Feb 1997 : Column WA21

Written Answers

Wednesday, 12th February 1997.

UN Dues: United States Arrears

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations, which states that a member in arrears "shall have no vote in the General Assembly" unless the General Assembly "is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the member" should be applied in the case of the United States, particularly in view of its $260 billion defence budget.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Under Article 19 of the United Nations Charter, a member state loses its vote in the General Assembly only when the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. US arrears are not yet at this level.

The EU proposals for financial reform include measures to tighten the application of Article 19.

Israel: New West Bank Settlements

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are protesting to Israel against plans to sell 5,000 plots for new houses in the West Bank and Gaza and to build 2,300 additional houses at Har Homa, near Jerusalem, and what concerted multi-national action will follow if those plans are approved.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Israeli government are aware of our view on settlements in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), which is that they are illegal and damaging to the Peace Process. We raise these issues with them on a regular basis, both bilaterally and through the EU.

Service Families Medical Centre, Hohne: Vaccine Availability

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why there are no vaccines available for the immunisation of infants in service families at the Families' Medical Centre at Hohne in Germany; what action is being taken to rectify this situation; and whether any disciplinary action is being taken against the person or persons responsible for ensuring that adequate supply of vaccines is available.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): A full range of the required vaccines is now available at the Families' Medical Centre, Hohne, for the immunisation of infants. Problems were encountered in December in replenishing stocks of Haemophilus Influenza type B vaccine (ACT HiB). The manufacturers of ACT HiB ceased production of the vaccine which was replaced by a new product combining HiB with Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTP). The use of this replacement was rejected on medical grounds, as some children had already received a DTP vaccination and would therefore have received a double dose in order to gain HiB protection.

A suitable replacement for ACT HiB, called HiB Titre, was identified by the Medical Supplies Agency. However, an interruption in supply did follow, when the new automated medical supplies replenishment system failed to link supplies of the new vaccine to existing demands for the old product. Once the problem had been identified, supplies of the new vaccine were delivered to Germany within 24 hours. In the circumstances no disciplinary action has been taken.


Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether NATO members are always consulted by the US before the latter embarks on "Partnership for Peace" projects, and whether they were so consulted before last year's US examination of Romanian airfields, which was carried out, according to the Romanians, under the auspices of Partnership for Peace.

Earl Howe: NATO decisions on Partnership for Peace (PfP) projects are taken collectively by all NATO members. Many NATO members also undertake bilateral co-operative activities with Partner nations which are not recognised as PfP projects but which are regarded by the participants as being in the spirit of PfP. There are procedures within the Alliance for Allies to share information on bilateral activities, but it is not obligatory and I am not aware of any such discussion in this case.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the US "Regional Airspace Initiative", which is intended to develop the sharing of both civil and military flight plan and radar tracking data in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Albania and Slovenia under a NATO inter-operable command control and communications architecture, has been discussed with other NATO members, including those who are also members of the European Union.

Earl Howe: The US has discussed its Regional Airspace Initiative for airspace management modernisation with its NATO Allies, and has kept all Allies informed on its progress.

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Nuclear Weapons: Research

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What procedures they intend to adopt for a further evaluation of the possible effectiveness, value for money and ability to contribute to national security and independence, of ballistic missile defence systems.

Earl Howe: Our assessment of the need for ballistic missile defence for the United Kingdom is continuing. At present the Government have no plans for a further evaluation of the ballistic missile defence systems which have been studied in the course of work to inform current policy deliberations. Any further evaluation would, however, be conducted in accordance with established procedures for equipment acquisition, and would include full technical, cost and risk analyses.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of Baroness Chalker of Wallasey's Answer of 15th July 1996 (H.L. Deb., col. WA 40), whether it is their intention, or that of the United States, to conduct laboratory and computer experiments relating to the improvement of nuclear weapons, specifically making use of the 1.8-Teraflops-Capable Supercomputer soon to be brought on-line at the Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, US, the primary use of which is reported to be to simulate nuclear weapons tests.

Earl Howe: The UK will continue to carry out those activities necessary to ensure the safety and reliability of our nuclear deterrent in a manner consistent with our obligations under the CTBT. It is not possible to say whether we will make use of the particular equipments or facilities being procured or planned by the US. The specific uses to which the US supercomputer is to be put is a matter for the US Government. The UK will however continue its technical exchanges with the US on nuclear defence related matters which include the use of advanced computers, such as the one described.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are taking part in the US "Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program" and whether the purpose of this programme is, or could be, to design new warheads or to improve the reliability of existing nuclear weapons.

Earl Howe: Questions related to the scope and purpose of the US Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Programme are matters for the US Government. The UK has its own programme, which is designed to maintain the safety and reliability of UK Trident Warheads as well as preserving long term capability. We will however co-operate closely with the US on some elements of their Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Programme.

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General Sir Peter de la Billiere

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

    Whether General Sir Peter de la Billiere obtained clearance from the SAS and the Ministry of Defence before publishing his books Storm Command and Looking for Trouble.

Earl Howe: Manuscripts submitted to my department by former members of Special Forces are scrutinised to remove material demonstrably damaging to national security. However, this in no way constitutes approval of publications, a point made clear to the author or publisher in each case.

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

    What were their reasons for banning General Sir Peter de la Billiere from making social contact with serving SAS officers.

Earl Howe: Because of the concerns set out in paragraphs 727 to 731 of the 1996 Statement on the Defence Estimates, we have recently taken a number of measures to prevent and deter disclosure of information by former Special Forces personnel. As one of those measures, a number of individuals will, in future, be excluded from Special Forces establishments. I am not prepared to identify the personnel involved.

Scotland: Milk Suppliers

Lord Gallacher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the proposed merger between Robert Wiseman Dairies plc and Scottish Pride Holdings plc, they are satisfied with the current and projected arrangements for the collection and processing of milk in Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): Following publication of the MMC report on the proposed merger between Robert Wiseman Dairies plc and Scottish Pride Holdings plc, the Director General of Fair Trading has been asked to seek appropriate undertakings from Wiseman.

Separately, the Director General of Fair Trading is keeping the competitiveness of and developments in the market for milk in Scotland under review. The Government's objective is to secure the conditions most favourable for the continued development of milk marketing in Scotland.

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