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Written Answers

Thursday, 23rd July 1998.

Treasury: Reviews

Lord Tope asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the reviews currently being undertaken by the Treasury will be published during the Parliamentary Summer recess.[HL2791]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I refer the noble Lord to the reviews I listed in my Answer to Baroness Hamwee on 8 July (Official Report, col. WA 141). Treasury Ministers have no plans to publish, during the Parliamentary Summer Recess, the results of any of the reviews for which the Treasury is responsible.

European Court of Justice: Case C-106/96

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the organisations whose European Commission grants were suspended following the judgment of the European Court of Justice in case C-106/96 and the amounts involved in each case; why they did not take concurrent steps, as holders of the Presidency of the European Union, to secure agreement on measures to safeguard recipients against the effects of the ruling in the event of the action succeeding, instead of waiting until after the judgment; what action they have taken to restore this funding, in accordance with the assurances given by the Prime Minister to the European Parliament on 18 June; whether they have met the deadline of 17 July set by the meeting between the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament for solving the problems created by the Court's ruling; and whether they will seek to compensate the organisations concerned for the disruption of their activities caused by the interruption of legitimately expected funding.[HL2807]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No existing grants to organisations have been suspended following the judgment of the ECJ in case C-106/96. The making of new grants from a number of budget lines was, however, suspended while the European Commission carried out a review to establish whether funds could be used in accordance with the ECJ's ruling.

Responsibility for the execution of the budget is solely a matter for the European Commission. The Government have, though, repeatedly urged the Commission to take account of the likely consequences of the ECJ's ruling by bringing forward proposals for a legal base for community expenditure where appropriate.

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In line with the assurances given by the Prime Minister to MEPs on 18 June, the Government have worked actively and constructively to enable funding to be released while ensuring that the European Court of Justice's ruling is respected. At a meeting of budget Ministers with representatives of the European Commission and European Parliament on 17 July, a series of measures were agreed which meet these objectives. These measures include:

    approving the Commission's readiness to continue operation of certain lines for which legislative proposals were currently being considered;

    noting that the Amsterdam treaty would make it possible to adopt a legal base dealing with the fight against social exclusion and that the Commission would consider the scope for refocusing budget lines so that they could be regarded as preparatory for such proposals;

    committing the European Parliament and Council to seek to accelerate the examination of legal bases that have been proposed but not yet adopted.

At the same meeting a legal base was agreed for 200 mecu of funding for NGOs involved in development work. This alone accounts for (and resolves the problems with) over two thirds of the value of the budget lines where the Commission have suspended implementation.

Finally, the institutions have agreed to a joint declaration which sets limits on the level of spending on pilot and preparatory actions together with a clearer definition of the areas where the treaties give the Commission the right to spend autonomously (without a legal base).

The Commission have promised that all legitimate expectations of funding from the 1998 budget will be met. The question of disruption of funding does not therefore arise.

Office of Public Service: Reviews

Baroness Maddock asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many of the reviews currently being undertaken by the Office of Public Service will be published during the Parliamentary recess.[HL2784]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Office of Public Service has no reviews outstanding.

East Timor: EU Troika Mission

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in accordance with the practice established in the case of the European Union Troika visit to Tibet, they will place a copy of the report by the European Union Troika mission to East Timor in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.[HL2575]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The conclusions of the EU Heads of Mission Troika visit to East Timor (27-30 June) have now been published. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. European Union Heads of Mission Troika visit to East Timor: 27-30 June 1998 Conclusions The Process of Engagement

The rapidly changing situation in East Timor, as witnessed by the EU-HOM-Troika, lends a new urgency and even greater importance to the Tripartite Talks under UN auspices, and to the necessity of direct contacts between the Indonesian Government and Xanana Gusmao.

The people of East Timor themselves need to be able to contribute to the dialogue concerning their future. At present they have no way of doing so apart from on the streets. This leads to frustration and is potentially dangerous. One possibility is to hold more frequent meetings of the All-Inclusive Intra-East Timorese Dialogue, with an expanded membership and a mandate to include debate on East Timor's political future. Xanano Gusmao has confirmed that he would support this.

Other measures also need to be taken to facilitate dialogue within East Timor itself. Attempts have been made, but so far without success. As representatives from both sides made clear to us, to be successful, international support and mediation, in conjunction with the Church, may well be necessary.

There needs to be a better understanding of the issues involved. Autonomy, for example, is not receiving a fair hearing. Discussion within the United Nations framework might seek ways of promoting this better understanding. Possible Confidence Building Measures

Implementation of the reduction already proposed by the Indonesian Government of its military presence in East Timor should be started immediately and in a visible way. In particular, withdrawal of Kopassus (Special Forces) troops should be a top priority. This should be accompanied by the disbandment and disarmament of local paramilitary organisations.

Steps have been taken recently to make the military more accountable for actions which contravene human rights. This should now become normal procedure.

Investigations into incidents that result in deaths should, where possible, be undertaken jointly with an impartial body such as the Church or the Justice and Peace Commission, and their conclusions published quickly.

There should be a declaration of a cease-fire by Falintil, with a simultaneous corresponding action by Indonesian military forces. The military campaign would then be seen to be at an end.

There should be further releases of political prisoners. Xanana Gusmao should also be released.

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Many interlocutors suggested that Portugal should now deepen its involvement in the process, in particular by opening an Interests Section in Jakarta, as proposed by the UN secretary-general's Special Representative Marker. This has the support of Xanana Gusmao. The restoration of visa rights between Indonesia and Portugal, and the exchange of high-level visits, would also be welcomed.

The full implementation of the recommendations in the 1998 UN Commission on Human Rights Chairman's Statement on East Timor would be a significant contribution to the restoration of confidence. International Involvement

On the basis of our findings, we believe that, in addition to its present involvement, the international community may soon be required to assist with the process of political change, the facilitation of dialogue and the maintenance of stability in East Timor. Final Assessment

It is our impression that there will be no lasting solution in East Timor without a firm commitment to some form of direct consultation, at some stage in the future, of the will of the people there. Such consultation could be on the issue of independence, or on the basis of a negotiated settlement, or via a genuinely representative electoral process. And there is an urgent need to promote immediate dialogue involving East Timorese leaders, for flexibility from all sides in the negotiations, and for the implementation of confidence-building measures.

Robin Christopher, British Ambassador in Jakarta (Presidency)

Viktor Segalla, Austrian Ambassador

Paul Brouwer, Netherlands Ambassador (representing Luxembourg)

Klauspeter Schmallenbach, European Commission Representative

Fayli Kurds

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received a report from the Iraqi Communist Party alleging that the Fayli Kurds who were detained in the early 1980s because of their alleged Iranian origin were held in the Abu Ghraib prison, and that some of them were used as guinea pigs in experiments to develop internationally prohibited weapons; and whether they will call for an international investigation of these allegations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.[HL2603]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have received a copy of the Iraqi Communist Party report about the testing of chemical weapons upon the Fayli Kurds and others held in Abu Ghuraib prison. We understand that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has passed the report to the UN Special Rapporteur on Iraq, who reports annually to the Commission on Human Rights with an interim report to the General Assembly.

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