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5 Mar 1997 : Column WA131

Written Answers

Wednesday, 5th March 1997.

Karen Refugees

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of reports that Karen refugees, who had fled to safety in Thailand near Kanchanaburi, are being forcibly repatriated to Burma in the Mergui Tavoy region where their lives are at risk; and whether Her Majesty's Government will make representations to the relevant governments to protect the lives of these refugees, and whether they will bring pressure to bear for a resolution to the conflict in this part of Burma as a matter of urgency.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): We are very concerned at reports that refugees have been forcibly repatriated to Burma. Both on a national basis and with our EU partners, we have urged the Thai Government to protect civilians seeking refuge on their territory. We deplore the SLORC policies which are at the root of this humanitarian crisis: the right way to national reconciliation in Burma is through peaceful dialogue.


Lord Merrivale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider the possibility of attaching Gibraltar to a European constituency in the United Kingdom, since Gibraltar's citizens are United Kingdom nationals.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Attaching Gibraltar to a European constituency in the UK would contravene Annex II of the 1976 EC Act concerning the election of the representatives of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage. This provides that the UK will apply the provisions of the Act only in respect of the UK. Any amendment to the Act would require the unanimous agreement of all EU member states.

NATO and Russia

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they and the other European members of NATO briefed Vice President Gore preparatory to his recent discussions on relations between the NATO Alliance and Russia with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin; and Secretary of State Albright before her recent visits to Eastern Europe and Moscow; and whether they will brief President Clinton before he meets President Yeltsin in March, and, if so, to what effect.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We maintain a close dialogue with the United States government on

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NATO matters through the meetings of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels and bilaterally.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have agreed that US Secretary of State Albright should be committing NATO to negotiations with the Russian Government on a "charter" not to be submitted to NATO member states' parliaments or the US Senate which would not be legally binding on any of the signatories; and whether, to their knowledge, such a charter would be in any way binding on any US Administration other than President Clinton's.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The form and content of a future NATO/Russia agreement are matters for negotiation between Russia and the Alliance as a whole. There is no question of any individual Ally committing NATO to any particular outcome.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have passed any authority concerning NATO matters to US Secretary of State Albright and US Under-Secretary of State Talbott that could reduce the United Kingdom's freedom of action regarding NATO in negotiations with the Russian Government, and if so within what limits.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No. Negotiations between NATO and Russia are being conducted by the Secretary General of NATO on the basis of a mandate and negotiating position agreed by all 16 Allied Governments. We strongly support the Secretary General's efforts.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Secretary of State for Defence's remarks in his speech of 3 February in Kiev, to the effect that any "NATO actions beyond its borders would invariably require a mandate from the United Nations or from the OSCE", mean that Russia already has a veto over any such possible NATO actions, both in the OSCE and in the UN Security Council.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: NATO would not act in contravention of the United Nations Charter. The Russian veto in the United Nations Security Council, and the fact that OSCE takes decisions by consensus, are both well known.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with President Chirac that an agreement between Russia and NATO should be discussed more widely than bilaterally between the United States and Russia (as for instance also by the Governments of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy), so that a consensus on European security arrangements can be achieved before the Madrid NATO summit, and be endorsed there.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Any NATO/Russia agreement would be the result of negotiations between Russia and the Alliance as a whole. The NATO

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Secretary General is negotiating on behalf of all the Allies. The Government strongly support his efforts.

EU Fisheries Council: Total Allowable Catches

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is correct that, at the December EU Fisheries Council, the European Commission proposed cuts in Total Allowable Catches of: (a) 48 per cent. for North Sea sole, (b) 26 per cent. for Irish Sea plaice, and (c) 25 per cent. for West of Scotland haddock; and that these cuts were reduced by the Council to 20 per cent., 12 per cent. and 10 per cent. respectively; and if so, whether this is consistent with the statement by Mr. Baldry in the House of Commons on 14 January that the agreement was "consistent with the scientific advice and the conservation of stocks for the future". (HC Deb., col. WA 194).

Lord Lucas: The percentage cuts in Total Allowable Catches (TACs) initially proposed by the Commission, and those finally agreed at the December Fisheries Council, are as follows:

Commission proposalCouncil decision
North Sea sole4822
Irish Sea plaice2714
West of Scotland haddock2513

The substantial cuts in TACs agreed by the Council are consistent with the scientific advice and the conservation of stocks for the future. The Commission had proposed deeper cuts in the TACs for North Sea sole and Irish Sea plaice than were warranted by the scientific advice, while the reduced cut agreed by the Council for West of Scotland haddock took account of the very imprecise scientific assessments for this stock.

MAFF Research Establishments

The Earl of Selborne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When further memoranda concerning the prior options reviews of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's public sector research establishments will be made available.

Lord Lucas: Memoranda on the Central Science Laboratory (CSL), Horticulture Research International (HRI) and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) have now been placed in the Library of the House. These set out the rationale underlying the decisions taken concerning these establishments, which my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced on 9 December (CSL) and 29 January (HRI and VLA).

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Trunk Road Programme Cancellations: Respondents' Expenses

Lord Norrie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements exist for the reimbursement of property owners who incurred professional and other costs in responding to proposals for new road schemes put forward by the Department of Transport in respect of those schemes which were withdrawn by the Department of Transport on 26 November 1996.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Property owners are free to apply to the Highways Agency for reimbursement of reasonable costs necessarily incurred in responding to schemes subsequently withdrawn from my department's trunk road programme. In the case of schemes withdrawn before the announcement of a preferred route such costs are normally met only if they arose as a consequence of a direct approach by the Highways Agency or its agents.

DoT Research Site, Crowthorne: Sale

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Department of Transport's former research site at Crowthorne has been sold.

Viscount Goschen: The department has exchanged contracts with Legal & General Assurance Society Ltd. to dispose of the research site at Crowthorne, to take effect from 25 March. The price is £18.2 million with a clawback provision on the undeveloped part of the site. The disposal represents a good deal for the taxpayer and the local community at Crowthorne, which will have the benefit of a respected financial institution as the new landlord. The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has a long lease for most of the site, which has 14 years to run. TRL will be able to continue its excellent research, for which it is world famous.

Local Air Pollution Control: Revised Charges

The Viscount of Oxfuird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give details of the 1997-98 charging scheme for local air pollution control under Part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Charges to cover the costs of local enforcing authorities in regulating processes which are subject to Part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 were introduced in April 1991.

With the approval of the Treasury, and following consultation with local authority associations and industry, my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Wales have made a revised scheme specifying the

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scale of fees and charges to take effect from 1 April 1997.

The main changes are that the standard application fee is increased by £25 to £1,040, the substantial change fee is increased by £15 to £665, and the annual subsistence charge is increased by £15 to £640.

In addition, an adjustment has been made to the scheme this year to introduce variable payment arrangements for operators of mobile crushing and screening plant, allowing for reduced payments for multiple plant.

The scheme has been laid before both Houses and a copy placed in the Libraries.

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