Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

11 Jun 1997 : Column WA81

Written Answers

Wednesday, 11th June 1997.

Zimbabwe: Proposed Legislation

The Earl of Lindsey and Abingdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations to the Government of Zimbabwe on the proposed legislation to discriminate against racial minorities in the form of positive action within the business sector, as reported in The Times of 5 March.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have followed with concern recent press reports that such legislation is under consideration by the Government of Zimbabwe. However legislative proposals have not yet been published. We have no plans at present to make representations to the Government of Zimbabwe. The British High Commission at Harare will continue to monitor the situation actively.

Nuclear Weapons: Elimination

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will support the aim of ABOLITION 2000, which represents 700 organisations in 50 countries and seeks international agreement to a timetable to secure the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We strongly support the goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons. We believe that adequate verification and mutual and balanced reductions are necessary elements in that process. We remain to be convinced, therefore, of the wisdom of a pre-set timetable for nuclear disarmament.

Iraqi Visa Applications

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Mr. Hussein Al Dulaimi, Dr. Tikriti and other senior officials of the Iraqi Ministries of Oil and of Industry, and of the Military Industrial Organisation, have applied for visas to visit the UK; whether it is the Government's practice to refuse all such applications; and whether they have evidence that the Iraqis are trying to persuade companies in the UK and elsewhere to breach the United Nations sanctions for the purpose of developing the Nassiriya oil field in southern Iraq.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Five Iraqi officials applied for visas to visit the UK. Visas are issued to Iraqi government officials only if there is a

11 Jun 1997 : Column WA82

compelling reason to do so. In this instance, they were refused. We have no evidence to suggest that the Iraqis are trying to breach sanctions for the purpose of developing the Nassiriya oil field in southern Iraq.

International Criminal Court

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

    Whether they will support the creation of a permanent international criminal tribunal to try serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We fully support the establishment of an international criminal court to try war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. We will take an active part in the negotiations on a statute for the court.

China: Human Rights

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the French Government's decision to expand trade with Beijing, whether the European Union can still achieve a consensus at the United Nations on human rights violations in China and Tibet.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We recognise that there has been a difference of emphasis amongst our European Union partners on the right tactical approach to China on human rights. However, we are all agreed on the importance of this subject and we shall remain in close touch with our partners on future policy.

Operation Cancellations: Statistics

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library the latest available data on the number of operations cancelled for non-medical reasons on the day patients are due to arrive in hospital, or after admission; and the number of patients not readmitted within one month.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The information has been placed in the Library today.

Surrogacy Law: Review

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to review the law on surrogacy.

11 Jun 1997 : Column WA83

Baroness Jay: It is important that in an area as sensitive as surrogacy the law is kept under review in order to ensure that it continues to meet public concerns.

The legal position regarding surrogacy is clear:

    surrogacy must not be commercialised; and

    surrogacy arrangements are unenforceable. However, since this issue was last examined, the number of difficult cases which have attracted public attention has increased, although because so many arrangements are entirely private it is always difficult to make any assessment of the numbers of cases.

In view of current concern, UK health ministers have invited a small team with the relevant expertise to take stock and reassess the adequacy of existing law in this difficult area.

The terms of reference for the review are as follows:

    to consider whether payments, including expenses, to surrogate mothers should continue to be allowed, and if so on what basis;

    to examine whether there is a case for the regulation of surrogacy arrangements through a recognised body or bodies; and if so to advise on the scope and operation of such arrangements;

    in the light of the above to advise whether changes are needed to the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 and/or Section 30 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

Margaret Brazier, Professor of Law at Manchester University, will lead the review. The other team members will be: Susan Golombok, who is Professor of Psychology at the City University, London; and Alastair Campbell, Professor of Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol.

We have specifically asked the review team to consider the issue within the context that surrogacy should not be commercialised and that any woman who has a baby as part of a surrogacy arrangement should not be compelled to give it up if she changes her mind. We also want to know whether there is, realistically, any practical way in which surrogacy arrangements could or should be regulated and, if so, how.

Bracken Control

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answer by Earl Howe on 14 December 1992 (H.L. Deb., col. 390), whether they will consider again the need to support research into biological control of bracken in view of the continuing substantial spread of this plant in the United Kingdom since 1992.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is currently undertaking research into the biological control of bracken with the aim of achieving effective long-term control of bracken and the successful re-establishment of more desirable vegetation.

11 Jun 1997 : Column WA84

The Ministry is funding a project on the development and field testing of a mycoherbicide for bracken control. The research, undertaken by the University of Strathclyde, involves the development of a mycoherbicide formulation consisting of spores of a native disease-producing fungus specific to bracken. The aim is to develop a biological control product that can be sprayed on to the bracken plant as an alternative to using pesticides. The project focuses on field trials of the most promising formulations. It is due to be completed in September 1998.

Mandatory Life Sentence for Murder

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

    Whether they intend to introduce legislation to abolish mandatory life sentences for the offence of murder.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government have no plans to introduce such legislation.

European Elections: Proportional Representation

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What form of proportional representation is being considered for the 1999 European elections; and

    What consultations are taking place and with whom on the introduction of proportional representation for European elections; and

    What is the last date for introducing legislation on proportional representation to enable it to be effective for the 1999 European elections; and

    Whether, in accordance with the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty, which stipulate that there should be a common electoral procedure in different member states, they will implement the de Gucht Report in time for the 1999 European elections.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government's election manifesto contained a firm commitment to introducing a proportional system for electing Members of the European Parliament. No decision has yet been taken on the timing for this change and, accordingly, it would be premature to speculate on the type of proportional system that would be most suitable or to begin consultations on the subject.

In order to give time for proper consultation and preparation it would be preferable for the necessary legislation to have been enacted some 9-12 months before the elections took place under a new system. We have no present plans to introduce legislation on proportional representation for European elections this session but if an opportunity to legislate arose we would consider taking it.

11 Jun 1997 : Column WA85

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page