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Council of Europe: Harmonisation of Law on Religious Liberties

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The European Convention on Human Rights and other core human rights instruments of the Council of Europe and United Nations set clear principles to be applied by states to protect the right of everyone to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The UK Government press states to adhere to these principles. But against a background of diverse histories, legal systems and social circumstances among states, including the member states of the Council of Europe, states should and do have some discretion in deciding how best to apply these principles.

Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands: Right of Individual Petition

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Chalker of Wallasey on 30 April 1995 (WA 1) and 29 June 1995 (WA 59-60), what progress has been made in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands towards restoration of the right of individual petition to the European Court of Human Rights and other suitable legal remedies for infringement of human rights.[HL3520]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Progress on restoration of the right of individual petition has been limited. However, there has been discussion on constitutional issues, including establishing a Bill of Rights in the British Virgin Islands. In September I signed a Memorandum of Co-operation and Partnership with the BVI Government which reaffirmed the BVI's commitment to the maintenance of human rights standards. At the Dependent Territories Association Conference in London last February the Foreign Secretary stressed the need to ensure that laws in the Overseas Territories did not breach the United Kingdom's international human rights obligations. The issue of human rights will feature in the forthcoming White Paper on the Overseas Territories.

Nuclear Weapons: Elimination

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further steps they are taking towards the elimination of nuclear weapons; and with which countries they are joining in endeavours to this end.[HL3551]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government are preparing for negotiations which will begin in the Conference on Disarmament next year on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty--the internationally agreed next stop.

We continue to play a leading role in the international response to the Indian and Pakistani

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nuclear tests and care working with the states of South East Asia and Central Asia to establish nuclear weapon free zones.

We are also considering further ways to achieve progress towards nuclear disarmament, building on the steps we have taken in the Strategic Defence Review and bearing in mind the commitment by the Nuclear Weapon States to work together for the success of the preparatory process for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the conference itself and related issues.

US-Japan Defence Co-operation: Guidelines

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have been informed of the geographical scope of the newly updated guidelines for Japan-United States defence co-operation; and how these guidelines may affect the American position in Diego Garcia.[HL2648]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The guidelines for US-Japan Defence Co-operation refer to co-operation, inter alia, in situations in areas surrounding Japan. The guidelines state that the concept is not geographical but situational. Since the guidelines represent an agreement between Japan and the United States, we do not presume to know how they may affect US activity in Diego Garcia. But it remains the case that our agreement is necessary for the use of aircraft based in Diego Garcia in any act against a third party.

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Algeria: EU Troika Meeting, 21 October 1998

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, at the European Union Troika meeting with the Algerian Foreign Minister on 28 October, they will enquire about the implementation of promises made by the Minister of the Interior to relatives of "the disappeared", that offices would be opened throughout Algeria to receive and investigate the statements of relatives of "the disappeared".[HL3579]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As part of the ongoing dialogue with Algeria, EU Troika Ministers met with the Algerian Foreign Minister in Vienna on 21 October 1998. Although the specific subject referred to in the noble Lord's question was not covered, a wide range of human rights issues was discussed.

GCHQ: Recruitment Statistics

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the recruitment statistics for GCHQ in 1997 in line with the requirements of the Civil Service Commissioners and say how they compare with the figures for 1996.[HL3681]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: GCHQ notified the Commissioners that, in 1997, 236 recruits had joined or were in the pipeline. This compares with 228 staff recruited in 1996. In addition, five reappointments were made in 1997 compared with two in 1996.

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