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25 Jun 1997 : Column WA163

Written Answers

Wednesday, 25th June 1997.

Diplomats: Serious Offences

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many serious offences were committed in the United Kingdom in 1996 by persons entitled to immunity; and how many foreign diplomats or members of their families were withdrawn from their posts in the United Kingdom in the past year as a result of alleged offences.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): From a diplomatic community of over 17,000 persons, 34 alleged serious offences by persons entitled to immunity were drawn to the attention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1996. "Serious offences" are defined in accordance with the Report to the Foreign Affairs Committee The Abuse of Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges (1985) as offences which fall into the category which in certain circumstances attract a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment or more: the majority involved drinking and driving and shoplifting.

Six diplomats or members of their families were withdrawn at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's request from posts in the United Kingdom as a result of alleged offences, compared with five the previous year.

Bosnia: US Train and Equip Programme

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United States has been keeping its NATO allies, the OSCE, and the United Nations, fully informed of the progress of its policy to arm and train the Bosnian-Croat element of Bosnia, and what is the present situation.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United States Government, in conjunction with Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), which runs and administers the Train and Equip programme, provides regular updates on progress. Current indications are that MPRI will continue to train the Federation Army at least until mid-1998.

EU Committee of the Regions

Lord Bowness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will support any of the submissions made by the Committee of the Regions of the European Union (CoR) for consideration at the Intergovernmental Conference, and in particular the total separation of CoR from the Economic and Social Committee.

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: A number of the changes suggested by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) for consideration by the Intergovernmental Conference were agreed at the Amsterdam European Council. These include the separation of the administrative structures of the CoR and the Economic and Social Committee.

Turkey and Indonesia: British Defence Equipment

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether in their view British arms exported to (a) Turkey and (b) Indonesia have been used in the last five years for internal repression or the control of illegally occupied territories.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No formal procedures have existed for routinely monitoring the use that has been made of British defence equipment, once exported. We are aware of concerns expressed in the media and elsewhere that, in the past, UK defence equipment exported to Indonesia, and UK-designed vehicles manufactured under licence in Turkey, may have been used for purposes of internal repression.

We have made a firm commitment not to allow the sale of arms to regimes that might use them for internal repression or international aggression. To give effect to that commitment, we have initiated an urgent review of the criteria used in considering licence applications for the export of conventional arms. We are also committed to strengthen monitoring of the end-use of defence exports to prevent diversion to third countries and to ensure that exported equipment is used only on the conditions under which the export licence has been granted.

British Information Services New York: E-Mail

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why British Information Services New York do not offer e-mail address on their website to which correspondence may be sent; and whether they will ensure that this deficiency is remedied.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is not the case that "Britain in the USA", the Internet site maintained by British Information Services (BIS) New York, lacks an e-mail address. Since the site's inception in 1995, its front page has carried the e-mail address, Further e-mail addresses are available on the relevant pages for the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations (, the Invest in Britain Bureau (, the British Trade Office, New York (, and the Science and Technology Office of the British Embassy in Washington (

Visitors to the "Britain in the USA" site are encouraged to use the BIS e-mail address to comment

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on the content of the site and to report technical errors; they do so in increasing numbers.

Treaty on European Union: Human Rights

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

    What approach they intend to adopt at the Intergovernmental Conference in Amsterdam on 16 and 17 June as regards: (a) the protection of fundamental rights; (b) the place which social rights should have in the Treaty on European Union or in the preamble; (c) the penalties to be applied to states which fail to respect fundamental rights and democracy; and (d) the powers of the Union to take measures to combat discrimination in general and to promote equality between men and women.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Intergovernmental Conference in Amsterdam agreed Treaty amendments including the following: (a) an amendment to Article F.1 strengthening the Union's role as a guarantor of human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, liberty and the rule of law; and a new role for the European Court of Justice (ECJ), giving it explicit jurisdiction over fundamental rights with regard to the acts of the institutions in so far as the ECJ has jurisdiction under the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) and Title VI of the Treaty on European Union (TEU); (b) a new paragraph in the preamble to the TEU on social rights as defined by the European Social Charter and the Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers. Social Agreement provisions were also incorporated into the TEC; (c) a new article providing for suspension of rights of a new member state which breaches fundamental rights; (d) new articles allowing the Community to take action to combat discrimination and to promote equality between men and women.

Social Security Claimants: Effects of Disentitlement

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will commission research on the experience of those who suffer disentitlement to social security benefits and in particular whether the percentage of those in employment six months later is higher or lower than of those who were able to remain on benefit.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Since October 1996 jobseeker's allowance (JSA) has been the main benefit for unemployed people.

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The current inter-departmental programme of evaluation includes major national surveys of unemployed claimants before, and jobseekers after, the introduction of the new policy. The surveys enable us to look at labour market outcomes after six months and include small numbers of claimants who were disallowed benefit.

In addition, an in-depth study of a few claimants disqualified or disallowed from unemployment-related benefits was undertaken before the introduction of JSA. We expect to publish the findings in July. A similar study will be carried out to shed light on the attitudes and decision-making of claimants and jobseekers who were sanctioned under the JSA regime.

Our aim is to modernise social security and we intend to undertake a fundamental review of the social security system. We will be examining all our future research requirements in the context of that review.

Suicides: Inquest Verdict

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make it a requirement that inquests returning a verdict of suicide should record whether the person was homeless or enjoyed visible means of support.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): No. This would be inconsistent with the limited aims of an inquest verdict.

British Library: Deposit of Publications

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Under which clauses of which Acts, and under which secondary legislation, the British Library has a right to receive copies of printed works gratis.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Section 15 of the Copyright Act 1911 (as amended) provides for the publisher of every book published in the United Kingdom to deposit a copy of it with the British Library, at his own expense, within one month of publication. The term "book" for this purpose has a wide meaning and includes journals, newspapers, pamphlets, sheets of letter-press, sheets of music, maps, plans, charts and tables. Categories of material which are exempted from deposit, including trade catalogues, advertisements, local passenger timetables, calendars and wall charts, are set out in regulations made under the Copyright (British Museum) Act 1915 and the British Museum Act 1932. Under the Theatres Act 1968, scripts of new plays publicly performed in Great Britain must be deposited with the British Library. Reciprocal arrangements exist with the Republic of Ireland. Under the Irish Copyright Act 1963, as amended by the National Cultural Institutions Act 1997, publishers are required to deposit at the British Library a copy of every book published in the Republic.

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