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Mr. Akin Birdal

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As EU Presidency, the UK issued a declaration on behalf of the European Union on 13 May expressing shock and dismay at the shooting of Mr. Akin Birdal, condemning this cowardly attack on the Chairman of the Human Rights Association, and strongly supporting statements by the Turkish authorities that every effort would be made to bring to justice those responsible.

The Foreign Secretary made clear the importance we attach to the proper protection of human rights during his visit to Ankara on 19 May. He took the opportunity to visit Mr. Birdal in hospital to emphasise our support for the work of the Human Rights Association. We urge the Turkish authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks on Mr. Birdal and other members of the Human Rights Association.

Sri Lanka Conflict

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government believe a lasting solution to this tragic conflict can only be reached through a political settlement. We have said publicly that we stand ready to help in the resolution of the conflict if both sides ask us to play a role.

Former Yugoslavia: War Crimes

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government attach the highest priority to seeing all those who have been indicted for war crimes face trial in The Hague. The primary responsibility for bringing the remaining 32 war crimes indictees to justice lies with the parties to the Dayton Peace Agreement themselves. We shall continue to press them to fulfil this, and all other, Dayton obligations. However, the international community has also shown its willingness to act where others do not. The action in April by British SFOR troops to detain a further two indictees in Prijedor is the latest reaffirmation of this commitment.

Gibraltar Waters: Spanish Fishing Vessel Incursions

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions during the last twelve months Spanish fishing boats have operated or sought to operate in Gibraltar waters; and what action has been taken to prevent or deter such activity.[HL1955]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Royal Gibraltar police recorded 194 incursions by Spanish fishing vessels over the period May 1997 to April 1998. 153 of these incursions have taken place this year. Royal Gibraltar Police policy is to request such vessels to leave Gibraltar waters, and, in particularly serious cases, to arrest offenders.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 9 December 1997 (WA 17-19), whether it is now being proposed by the United States to its NATO allies that their area of operations be extended to the Middle East and to dealing there with weapons of mass destruction as "the most overriding security interest of our time" (Mrs. Albright, quoted in the International Herald Tribune, 17 December 1997); and whether this "most overriding security" interest includes monitoring the quantities, and checking the uses Israel may make of its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and the assistance, technical or financial, it may have received towards their development and employment.[HL1956]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I refer my noble friend to the answer I gave on 12 January (Official Report, WA 124). Her Majesty's Government believe that international co-operation against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is extremely important and should be strengthened wherever possible.

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Intelligence Agencies

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether MI5 or MI6 have been able to inform them as effectively about Israeli nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes as about Iranian and Iraqi (as described by the Foreign Secretary on 23 April); and, if not, why not.[HL1957]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Foreign Secretary, in his speech on 23 April, paid tribute to the work of the intelligence agencies in a number of areas. He also said that the results of the intelligence agencies' work cannot speak for themselves, and that we cannot proclaim their achievements if we want them to remain effective.

Sinn Fein Conference: Release of Prisoners

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the day release from prison of IRA criminals to assist in the campaign for a Yes vote in the forthcoming Northern Ireland referendum, it is their intention to release an equal number of other criminals to campaign for a No vote.[HL1890]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): The Secretary of State granted temporary release to four prisoners to attend a Sinn Fein conference to discuss the Belfast Agreement on 9 May. The release of those prisoners was a matter of concern and hurt to many members of the public and the Secretary of State has said that releases will not be granted for such purposes in the future.

County Armagh: Investment and Employment

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to encourage investment and increased employment opportunities in County Armagh.[HL1973]

Lord Dubs: For the immediate future, Government will be continuing with their extensive range of economic development measures; measures aimed at the promotion of investment and employment in County Armagh as elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

County Armagh has benefited from these measures in the past, for example:

    (i) over the past five years. Industrial Development Board (IDB) supported projects have promoted 2,170 new jobs;

    (ii) the Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU) assisted some 110 new businesses in 1997-98;

    (iii) through its local offices in Lurgan, Portadown and Armagh, the Training and Employment

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    Agency (T&EA) has found employment for over 3,800 people in 1997-98;

    (iv) since 1989 over £7.7 million has been provided by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board for tourism projects;

    (v) since 1991 total investment of £7.225 million in community initiatives has been supported by the Department of Agriculture under the Rural Development Programme.

Bloomfield Report: Consultation

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in response to the recent Bloomfield Report, they consider particular provision should be made for the relatives of members of the security forces killed while on duty in Northern Ireland.[HL1975]

Lord Dubs: In his report Sir Kenneth Bloomfield records that those killed or injured in the cause of their public duty should be given special consideration. Although this does not form one of the recommendations, the report as a whole is being studied and further consultation will take place before any action is taken. In addition to any action taken on the Bloomfield Report £4.5 million has been made available to fund a Police Federation initiative under the police retraining and rehabilitation trust.

Independent Commission on Policing

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what extent they plan consultation with the men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in any process of reform in the organisation or reorganisation of the police service in Northern Ireland.[HL1976]

Lord Dubs: The Good Friday Agreement provides for the establishment of the independent Commission on Policing and states that it will be asked to consult widely. The Government expect that the Commission will include the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Police Authority and the three police staff associations in its consultations. The Chief Constable, Chairman of the Police Authority and Police Federation have already indicated that they will be making submissions to the Commission. The Good Friday Agreement also provides that the Secretary of State will consult the political parties and the Irish Government on the independent Commission's proposals. She will of course also consult the RUC, the Police Authority and the three police staff associations. In addition, changes where appropriate will be subject to the normal negotiating and consultation mechanisms.

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