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Civil Justice Reforms

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor: The first phase of the civil justice reforms will be introduced on Monday, 26 April 1999, when the new civil procedure rules and supporting materials will come into effect.

Internal Market Council, 24 September

Baroness Crawley asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): I represented the UK at the Internal Market Council in Brussels on 24 September.

The Commission reported to the Council on member states' progress towards implementation of the Single Market Action Plan, which aims to improve the operation of the Single Market. The Commission reported that the number of directives not yet implemented in all member states had been cut from 35.5 per cent. in June 1997 to 15.4 per cent. currently. The Council adopted conclusions which reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the action plan, noted the importance of making the Single Market rules more effective and welcomed the Commission's communication, Making the Single Market rules more effective, which set out some ideas for achieving this.

The Council had an initial orientation discussion on a proposal for a directive on the protection of inventions by "utility model". This is a form of intellectual property protection right, which does not currently exist in the UK, for technical innovation, which is aimed, in particular, at ephemeral products with a short shelf life, and for use by small businesses.

The Council also discussed the issue of parallel imports and trade-mark rights, following the European Court of Justice's recent judgment in case 355/96 (Silhouette).

The Commission made presentations of its Green Paper on patent protection within the EU; on its communication on statutory audit in the EU, addressing the supervision of auditing and auditing standards within a Single Market context; and on its progress towards development of an action plan to follow up the report of the Business Environment Simplification Task Force (BEST).

Biological Weapons Convention

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the negotiations on a protocol to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.[HL3327]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Since 1995 an Ad Hoc Group of States Parties has been meeting in Geneva to consider measures to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. UK officials chair the sessions on compliance measures at the negotiations. The Ad Hoc Group has made good progress and is now working on the rolling text of a draft protocol. Next year will see further intensification of this work, with some 16 weeks of negotiations. Much detailed work remains to be done but the United Kingdom, together with its EU partners, believes that an effective package of measures can be agreed during 1999.

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Chemical Weapons Convention

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the full and effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.[HL3328]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Since entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on 29 April 1997, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has put in place a rigorous inspection regime to ensure full and effective compliance with the provisions of the treaty. One hundred and eighteen countries have so far ratified the CWC, and the UK aims to achieve a treaty with universal adherence. To this end, we initiated a series of demarches world wide during our EU Presidency earlier this year.

The CWC Act of 1996 provides the legislative framework for implementation of the Convention in the UK, with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) acting as the national authority. The DTI has successfully overseen the 18 OPCW inspections which have so far been received by the United Kingdom, all of which have passed off without problems.

Iran: Mujaheddin Actions

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any instances documented by sources independent of the Iranian Government where civilians have been maimed or killed during military operations carried out against the Iranian regime by the Mujaheddin over recent years; what account they have taken of the statement issued by the majority of members of the United States House of Representatives on 16 September that the Mujaheddin is "legitimate opposition to the Iranian regime"; and whether they recognise the right of Iranian people to resist a dictatorship.[HL3378]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government do not recognise the National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI), of which the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq Organisation (MKO), otherwise known as the People's Mujaheddin of Iran (PMOI), is the dominant party. Her Majesty's Government remains firmly opposed to the violence practised by the MKO and to terrorism from any quarter. The MKO has claimed responsibility for the bomb explosion at the Iranian Revolutionary Court in Tehran in June, which killed at least two people. They have also claimed responsibility for the recent shooting of Mr. Lajevardi, the former head of the prison service, in his shop in the bazaar in Tehran, in which it appears that a passer-by and a friend of Mr. Lajevardi were also killed. Such

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attacks on unarmed individuals in public places, with the resultant deaths of passers-by, can hardly be considered as "military" actions. Her Majesty's Government condemned both attacks unreservedly.

The MKO remains on the US State Department list of terrorist organisations despite the recent statement by the House of Representatives.


Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In light of the unanimous opposition demonstrated by the Government and opposition parties of Gibraltar, how they intend to reply to the proposals presented by the Spanish Foreign Minister, Senor Matutes, during the last round of the Brussels agreement talks on 10 December 1997.[HL3363]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government have said that we will study the proposals and reply in due course. We have also said that we stand by the commitment enshrined in the preamble to the 1969 Constitution. There can be no change in sovereignty over Gibraltar without the consent of its people. That remains the position.

International Criminal Court

Lord Goodhart asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to ratify the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction over war crimes.[HL3383]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is our hope that we shall be among the first 60 states to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court. We will bring forward the necessary legislation as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.


Lord Russell-Johnston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions the "Contact Group" has had with President Rugova about the future of Kosovo.[HL3386]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Representatives of the Contact Group have been in regular contact with Dr. Rugova at which they have underlined that the Contact Group's position on the status of Kosovo is clear: we support an enhanced status with a large degree of autonomy for Kosovo within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This must include meaningful self-administration. Dr. Rugova's negotiating team is engaged in talks on a Contact Group-endorsed interim settlement based on these principles.

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Strategic Defence Review White Paper: Leak

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the outcome of his inquiry into the leak of the Strategic Defence Review White Paper.[HL3490]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): A copy of the Strategic Defence Review White Paper was leaked to the Opposition Front Bench and to the press on the afternoon and early evening of Tuesday 7 July. As soon as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence learned about the leak, he asked the Cabinet Secretary to authorise an immediate and thorough investigation into how it came about. This inquiry has been conducted by two independent investigators. It has now been completed.

We regret that after extensive enquiries, the investigators were not able to identify the person responsible for the leak. They have, however, established the course of events on the afternoon and evening of 7 July with a high degree of probability.

The investigators concluded that on 7 July a photocopy of the White Paper was sent by an authorised recipient within government to the Opposition Front Bench; and that subsequently four copies were made within the House and made available to selected journalists. The first newspaper to receive a copy was the Daily Telegraph. Further copies went to The Times, the Financial Times and the Daily Mail, apparently in phased distribution because of the bulk of the document being copied. The investigators found no evidence to suggest that, in addition to the copy sent to the Opposition, a second authorised recipient sent copies to the newspapers.

The investigation revealed some small weaknesses in the generally very successful procedures for the distribution of the White Paper. None of them was a likely cause of the leak. The necessary steps will be taken to ensure that these small errors are not repeated. In itself the leak was of no significance to national security. But we are naturally most concerned that someone working for the government breached security in this way. Ten thousand copies of the White Paper were circulated under embargo in advance of its publication. It appears that only one of the authorised recipients did not respect its confidentiality.

The leak was a gross discourtesy to Parliament; and I once again express my anger and my apologies that it occurred.

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