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27 Apr 1998 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 27th April 1998.

House of Lords: Members' Ages

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked the Leader of the House:

    How many (a) life peers and (b) hereditary peers currently entitled to sit in the House of Lords are: (i) below the age of 45; (ii) aged between 45 and 50; (iii) aged between 50 and 55; (iv) aged between 55 and 60; (v) aged between 60 and 65; (vi) over the age of 65.[HL1543]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard):

Life Peers Hereditary Peers
AgeLife Peerages Act 1958Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876Of First CreationBy SuccessionTotal
44 or under4017176
45 to 49 inclusive12014861
50 to 54 inclusive26006086
55 to 59 inclusive470085132
60 to 64 inclusive593083145
65 and over305237278613

Those peers without writs of summons and those on leave of absence are excluded from the figures given above.

Chemical Defence Programme

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom chemical defence programme is in compliance with the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention.[HL1634]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant, permits activities which protect against the use of chemical weapons. The UK chemical defence programme has been constructed to meet that need. A copy of the 1997 summary outlining the UK chemical defence programme, which has been forwarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, has been placed in the Library of the House.

US Department of Defence: Transformation Proposals

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have discussed with the United States the Transformation Strategy currently being pursued by the United States Department of Defence for its forces; and what the implications of the strategy may

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    be for the forces of United States allies, with particular reference to the implications of the proposal for an Americas Command, made by the National Defense Panel, of December 1997; and[HL1435]

    Whether the United States military Transformation Strategy and the anticipated need for allied forces to adopt similar strategies is being taken into account in the Strategic Defence Review; and, if so, what costs are being attached to any such transformation in the light of the United States National Defense Panel's estimate of between 5 and 10 billion dollars annually for funding "a true transformation".[HL1436]

Lord Gilbert: The Ministry of Defence has a continuing close dialogue with the United States Department of Defense on future strategies and force structures. We place importance on ensuring that British forces can operate effectively alongside United States and other allied forces, and this is a major theme of the Strategic Defence Review. The proposals of the National Defense Panel are a matter for the United States Government. I understand that the Department of Defense is still considering many of the recommendations made by the Defense Panel.

EU Law and the British Parliament

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out the procedure by which Parliament, if it thought fit, might change the law in the event that a ruling by the European Court proved to be adverse to the interests of the United Kingdom, unjust or contrary to the intentions of Parliament.[HL1456]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): In passing the European Communities Act of 1972 Parliament accepted and legislated to implement the UK's obligations under the treaties to give effect to European Community law. If Parliament wished to legislate in a way which was contrary to a ruling of the European Court of Justice the UK would have to negotiate an amendment to the EC instrument which was the subject of the ECJ ruling or be in breach of its treaty obligations.

Falkland Islands

Lord Ewing of Kirkford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total population of the Falkland Islands; and what is the annual cost of the islands to the Treasury.[HL1491]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: According to the 1996 census, the population of the Falkland Islands is 2,221 (excluding military personnel and civilians at Mount Pleasant and including persons temporarily absent from the islands on the day of the census).

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The Falkland Islands are financially self-sufficient in all areas other than defence.

The costs of maintaining the Falkland Islands garrison for 1997-98, which are included in the budget of the Commander of British Forces in the islands, amounted to some £74 million.

President of the Commission: Mode of Address

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 2 April (WA 59), why reference is made to "President" Santer rather than Mr. Santer, President of the Commission; and whether this practice will now be discontinued, particularly given that later reference is made to "The President of the Council" and not to President Blair.[HL1497]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is common practice to refer to "President Santer" when referring to Jacques Santer, President of the Commission.

Further European Integration: Electoral Support

Lord Rankeillour asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the electorate supports further European integration; and in view of their commitment to democratic and open government whether they will hold a referendum to prove it.[HL1506]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: At the general election the electorate gave its support to the present Government and their manifesto commitment to constructive engagement with the European Union. The Government have made clear their intention to hold a referendum in the event of a decision to apply to join a single currency.

Burma: Human Rights

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they made to place the plight of Karen refugees and the abuse of human rights in Burma on the agenda of the recent ASEM II Conference in London; what action they are taking to have those responsible for continuing violations of human rights brought before an international war crimes tribunal; and what action has been taken since the meeting between Mr. Derek Fatchett MP and Premier Oil on 17 December 1997 to dissuade the company from economic investment in Burma.[HL1517]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: During ASEM 2, the human rights and political situation in Burma were discussed, including the plight of refugees on the Thai-Burma border. There is at present no international tribunal with jurisdiction over crimes against humanity in Burma. Officials remain in regular contact with Premier Oil. They met most recently on 14 April. We continue to make clear the reasons why we do not encourage British companies to trade or invest in Burma.

European Commission: Corpus Juris Paper

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the assurance by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 24 March (H.L. Deb., col. 1198) that the corpus juris initiative "has never even been considered by the institution of the European Union", whether they are aware of the European Parliament's Session Document A4-0082/98, dated 3 March 1998, paragraph 9 of which requests the Commission to communicate with the European Parliament about the European Public Prosecutor system proposed in the corpus juris.[HL1520]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On 31 March, one week after the comments made by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey, the European Parliament did adopt a resolution, "having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs (A4-0082/98)."

The motion for a resolution was drafted by the Committee on Budgetary Control on 3 March. The resolution calls upon the Commission further to examine aspects of the corpus juris paper, a discussion paper produced by a group of academic experts under the aegis of the European Commission.

The ideas contained in corpus juris are not the subject of any formal proposal for legislation. For any of them to have effect they would need to be proposed formally and agreed by unanimity in the Council of Ministers. The Government disagree with many of its recommendations and could not support any such proposals.

Burma: Unilateral Sanctions and EU Law

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What legal obstacles, if any, prevent an individual European Union member state from imposing economic and financial sanctions on an unelected foreign government; and whether they are taking any steps to overcome these obstacles in the case of Burma.[HL1521]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The imposition of economic and financial sanctions on third countries is a matter for the European

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Community in accordance with Articles 73(b), 73(g)(1) and 228(a) of the Treaty of Rome. Article 228(a) requires prior unanimous agreement under the Common Foreign and Security Policy. No such agreement at present exists. As a matter of domestic law, the Emergency Laws (Re-enactments and Repeals) Act 1964 also limits scope for unilateral action. Furthermore, in the absence of a United Nations Security Council resolution, imposition of economic sanctions could breach World Trade Organisation obligations. We have, however, been able to adopt some trade measures short of sanctions in addition to existing EU measures against Burma. We shall continue to urge EU partners to adopt similar measures.

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