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Local Government: Ethical Framework

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: We intend to publish tomorrow our proposals for a new ethical framework for local government in England. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

This paper is the last in the series inviting discussion on the Government's agenda for modernising local government in England. It sets out our proposals for a new framework of conduct for councillors and council staff. These proposals are built on the Third Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, presented to Parliament in July 1997 (Cm 3702).

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Through our modernising agenda we are seeking to build and maintain a culture in which councils are open and readily accountable to their local communities. We believe our proposals for the new conduct regime will play a vital part in building up that culture and restoring that essential bond of trust between local people and those who serve them in their local councils.

Citizen Rights: Draft European Convention

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a draft European convention on citizen rights was approved by officials on 20 March; and, if so, whether and when, in the interests of open government, they will publish it for discussion.[HL1170]

Baroness Hayman: A draft Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters has been the subject of negotiations within the United Nations Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE). The draft convention was discussed at UNECE's Committee on Environmental Policy on 17 March and will now be considered by UNECE Environment Ministers at the "Environment for Europe" meeting in Aarhus, Denmark, in June, where Ministers will be invited to adopt and sign the convention.

In accordance with normal procedures in relation to treaties, a copy of the text of the convention, if signed by the UK, will be published as a Command Paper as soon as possible after signature, and laid before both Houses of Parliament with an Explanatory Memorandum for 21 Sitting days before any UK ratification takes place.

The convention has not yet reached the stage when treaties are formally presented to Parliament. However, copies of the draft text as it stands are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

We will be considering what steps may be necessary, once the text of the convention is agreed by UNECE Ministers, to publicise its existence more widely and to explain how the UK intends to implement its provisions.

During the negotiations, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, which included a delegate from an organisation based in the United Kingdom, played a significant role in the development of the convention text.

British Forces: Deployment Overseas

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In how many places are British military forces involved overseas; and in each case which forces and for what specific purpose.[HL1167]

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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): This information is not held centrally, but available records show that, as at 27 March 1998, British forces had deployed overseas in the following places and for the following primary purposes. These figures do not include military staff in British Embassies, High Commissions and NATO headquarters:

Region Force Primary Purpose
Adriatic RN Support to NATO-led Stabilisation Force
Antarctica RN Army Hydrographic Survey
Argentina Army Training
Australia RN Army RAF Exchange
Austria RAF Training
Baltic States RM Army Training
Belgium RN Army RAF Exchange, Training, Movements Control and Air Traffic Control
Belize Army Training
Brazil RN Training
Brunei RN Army RAF Brunei Garrison, Training and Advice
Canada RN Army RAF Exchange, Training
Chile RN Army RAF Attending Airshow and Training
Cyprus Army RAF Joint Service Garrison of the Sovereign Base Areas and UN Operations
Czech Republic RAF Advice
Denmark RN RAF Exchange
Diego Garcia RN Administration of Naval Facility
Ethiopia RAF Advice
Falkland Islands RN Army RAF Joint Service Falkland Islands Garrison
Finland Army Equipment Trials
France RN Army RAF Liaison, Training
Former Yugoslavia RN/RM Army RAF British contribution to NATO-led Stabilisation Force
Georgia Army UN Operations
Germany RN Army RAF Stationed Forces, Exchange, Training
Ghana RM Army Training and Advice
Gibraltar RN Army RAF Joint Service Gibraltar Garrison
Gulf Region (Including Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE) RN Army RAF Joint Service Operations, Training and Advice
Greece RN RAF In transit
India Army Air Force Training
Indonesia RAF Training and Advice
Italy RN Army RAF Training, Exchange and Operations
Kenya Army Exercises
Malaysia RN RAF HQ Five Powers Defence Arrangement
Mozambique Army Training
Nepal Army Recruitment, Administration and Welfare
Netherlands RN RAF Exchange
New Zealand RN RAF Exchange
Norway RN/RM Army RAF Exchange, Training
Pakistan RAF Exchange
Portugal RN Army Port call, Training
Republic of Ireland RAF Examinations
Romania Army Training
Singapore RN Administration of Naval Facilities
South Africa RN Army RAF Training and Advice
Spain RN Army RAF Visits, Training
Sri Lanka Army Training
Sweden RN Army RAF Training
Switzerland RN Training
Turkey Army RAF Operations
USA RN Army Air Force Training, Exchange
West Indies RN RM RAF Training, Advice and Guardship Duties
Zimbabwe Army RAF Training and Advice

Details of certain deployments could, if disclosed, cause harm to defence, security and international relations, and I am therefore withholding certain details under exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

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Upholder Class Submarines

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the disposal of the four Upholder class submarines.[HL1407]

Lord Gilbert: The Government of Canada have today announced their intention, subject to final negotiations, to lease all four of the Upholder class submarines for a period of eight years. Canada has chosen to acquire the submarines via a lease with an option to purchase, as this is the most satisfactory solution for them.

During the period of the lease, the submarines will still be owned by the UK, but Canada will have full and unrestricted use and control of them and will indemnify the UK from any claims that may arise from Canadian operations. At the end of the lease period, the Canadian Government will have the option of purchasing the submarines outright. If Canada does not take up this option, Canada will dispose of the submarines on our behalf.

This arrangement is worth some $610 million (Canadian) to the UK. Various UK companies will be involved in reactivating the submarines and GEC Marine at Barrow will be providing technical and logistic support, including the provision of training.

This decision by the Canadian Government represents the most practical and cost-effective manner of securing the future of the submarines and is a strong indication of the continuing close relationship between the UK and Canada in defence matters. The links between our armed forces are traditionally strong, both bilaterally and within NATO. Her Majesty's Government hope that this deal will lead to further co-operation between the two navies and that it will enhance Canada's contribution to NATO.

Force Levels in the Middle East

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to change force levels in the Middle East.[HL1408]

Lord Gilbert: We remain fully committed to ensuring that Saddam Hussein honours the agreement he made with the UN Secretary General on 23 February, subsequently endorsed by UN Security Council resolution 1154, giving free and unfettered access to UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors. Saddam has complied so far, but access alone is not enough. Saddam has not yet provided the evidence that we need in order to be sure that he has destroyed all his weapons of mass destruction. It is, therefore, too soon either to relax our vigilance or to reduce our military capability in the Gulf.

We have been reviewing the composition of our forces to ensure that we have the best mix for the job. We have decided that, as temperatures in the Gulf increase, we should deploy additional Tornados to replace the Harrier GR7s embarked on HMS

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Illustrious, since Tornados are better suited to operations in extreme heat than Harriers operating from aircraft carriers. With the generous agreement of the Kuwaiti Government we will, therefore, be increasing to 12 the number of Tornados based at Ali Al Salem Airbase in the middle of April. HMS Illustrious will then depart from the Gulf. In July she will enter a major refit programme, which will include a number of enhancements to her capability to conduct joint air operations.

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