Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, it is not the particular method by which the law is contravened that is important. The current regulations state that number plates must be securely fixed and readable at all times. Anything that is done to prevent them being readable is a contravention of the law.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, as this Question relates to tilting, will my noble friend confirm that nothing in next Tuesday's Budget will be tilted against the motorist?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I can neither confirm nor deny any proposals that might emerge in next week's Budget. They are matters for the Chancellor, and my noble friend will have to contain his anticipation.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, while I agree with the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, perhaps I may return to the one on the Order Paper. The Minister said that at present there is not much evidence. Is any evidence to be found in photographs from police cameras of number plates that are unreadable for one reason or another? Secondly, could there be a check in the MOT, which takes place after three years, to see whether such a device has been fitted--although I grant that it would be possible to undo the device when the vehicle was put in for MOT? Perhaps I may indulge myself in a third question. Will the Minister agree that it is not just a matter of police cameras: in a hit and run accident, for example, someone could have obscured his number plate?

Baroness Hayman: Yes, my Lords. That is why there is a variety of regulations covering it and why it is an

9 Mar 1998 : Column 9

offence to alter, rearrange or misrepresent the characters--that includes the use of fonts which are difficult to read--in a way that makes it difficult to distinguish the registration mark. That legislation is in place precisely because of the problems that can be incurred not only with technological methods of reading number plates but also in terms of witnesses remembering because they found it difficult to read the number plates. Number plates must comply with the current specified British standard.

In answer to the question about MOTs, number plates are checked as part of the annual MOT test and a vehicle whose number plate does not comply with the requirements would fail its test. We propose to tighten the regulations by, among other things, a mandatory character font which will facilitate enforcement and should go some way towards reducing the abuse which undoubtedly exists.

UN Sanctions: Targeting

3 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration has been given to devising international sanctions that will affect political and military elites rather than ordinary people in nations that are in breach of United Nations resolutions.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, we believe that, wherever possible, sanctions should be targeted to hit the regime rather than ordinary people. Recent sanction regimes have included humanitarian exemptions to minimise the impact on the civilian population. We are always open to suggestions on how sanctions can be better targeted to achieve maximum impact.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful answer. Perhaps I might draw her attention to the failure of sanctions in Iraq to change in any profound way the attitude of the regime towards the building of palaces. Does she agree that in regard to the disgraceful destruction of the village of Prekaz in Kosovo over the weekend, again sanctions against Serbia have had little effect? Will her department consider supporting work being done on targeting sanctions more precisely to those who make the decisions, the leaders and the political elite of the countries? I believe that that proposal has a great deal in it. So far it is being developed in certain universities.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government would draw attention to the fact that sanctions against the Iraqi regime have contained Saddam Hussein and prevented Iraq from attacking her neighbours. That is a not inconsequential outcome of the sanctions.

9 Mar 1998 : Column 10

Her Majesty's Government would also say that sanctions were instrumental in bringing Milosevic to the negotiating table in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. However, I take the noble Baroness's point about targeting sanctions. Some UN sanctions--notably those against the military leadership in Sierra Leone and the UNITA leadership in Angola, for example--have been targeted at the leaders of those regimes and have imposed travel restrictions.

The noble Baroness asked whether the Government would support the group looking at the issue at the moment. I believe I can say that Her Majesty's Government will be happy to look with interest at anything the group can bring forward.

Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, since the Minister mentioned sanctions against UNITA, is she aware that the UNITA representative in London is still here? That is despite having been asked to leave by the Home Office. He is still functioning as the UNITA representative in London. What steps will Her Majesty's Government take to ensure that the Government's commitment to the UN sanctions against UNITA is not flouted in that manner?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the UK is enforcing sanctions in accordance with the national legislation. So Her Majesty's Government are enforcing the sanctions so far imposed upon UNITA.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Baroness mentioned Sierra Leone. Will she confirm that the regime permitted by Security Council Resolution 11/32--which the United Kingdom was largely responsible for drafting--was unlawfully extended by the Nigerians? Thus it applied to all humanitarian goods, whatever they were. As a result, the situation in Freetown which was discovered by the captain of the British frigate that recently berthed there was harrowing. Britain was largely responsible for the situation, having failed to do anything to stop the Nigerians from unlawfully extending the sanctions regime.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sorry, I do not accept the premise of the noble Lord's question. There have indeed been humanitarian exemptions as regards the regime in Sierra Leone. We already allow the export to Sierra Leone of petroleum, petroleum-related products and a number of other products. I do not believe that I can accept the noble Lord's premise about the United Kingdom Government's responsibility in the way that he has depicted it.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, what assessment does the Minister make of the United States concept of consistent principles and flexible tactics depending on national interests and strategic relationships, which allows the United States to impose sanctions on countries such as Burma and the Sudan but which

9 Mar 1998 : Column 11

confers most favoured nation status on China? In the light of their ethically driven foreign policy, do the Government agree with that position?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the Government's position is that the British Government will support all the current United Nations sanctions regimes. That is the important point for Her Majesty's Government, and, of course, we also support the regimes imposed by the understandings we have in the European Union. We want effective implementation of the sanctions that are imposed by the UN.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, does the Minister agree that leaders of military and political dictatorships usually have little difficulty in ensuring that the sanctions bear upon innocent citizens and not upon their armed forces or security arrangements?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, sadly, what the noble Lord says is true. That is why I endeavoured in my response to the initial Question from the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, to give a reply which allowed for a continuing discussion on the issue. It is undoubtedly true that, much as we have tried in Iraq to ensure that humanitarian aid has reached the people of Iraq--after all, we know that there has never been any impediment to receiving food or medicine in Iraq--it is evident that the regime there has not always allowed free access by the people of Iraq to those humanitarian supplies. It is an interesting and important point which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, raised. That is why I am able to say to her that, if noble Lords wish to bring forward further suggestions of a practical nature, Her Majesty's Government will be willing to look at them.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, in that case can the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government are collaborating internationally with the banking community to identify, freeze and, if necessary, return, for the benefit of the countries concerned assets of political and military leaders in some of the more odious regimes?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, without being specific about particular countries, such questions are often raised. They are raised about assets in this country, and Her Majesty's Government consider all the issues on a case-by-case basis.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page