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Operation Lifeline Sudan: Nuba Mountains

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The Nuba Mountains should be covered by Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). The problem is that the Government of Sudan refuses access by OLS and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) despite several representations to them by the United Nations (UN) this year at the highest level. We are very concerned at this continuing lack of progress and, together with the UN and the ICRC, maintain constant pressure on the Government of Sudan to agree an early assessment mission to the Nuba.

In view of the high level of insecurity in the area, the UN is also urgently seeking from both sides in the conflict a guarantee of safe passage for such a mission.

Sudan: Diversion of Food Aid

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: There have been a number of allegations about the diversion of food aid supplies in southern Sudan. The report of a task force jointly prepared by Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in September 1998 identified a number of cases in Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) areas. Strong evidence exists that diversions in these areas continue. We are pressing the donor community and the United Nations are taking firm action with the SPLA to insist it resolves the problem.

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British Government priorities for next year will include the securing of improvements in relief delivery. We will work towards an improved OLS operation and will continue to press both sides in the conflict to assume responsibility for the safe passage of humanitarian supplies and to co-operate fully with OLS.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What independent evidence there has been of diversion in southern Sudan of Operation Lifeline Sudan food deliveries by (a) Government of Sudan forces, and (b) Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) forces.[HL221]

Baroness Amos: There is strong evidence that diversion of food aid in southern Sudan continues. The report of a task force mentioned in reply to the noble Lord's earlier Question, and other corroborating evidence, have identified cases of food aid diversions in Sudan People's Liberation Army areas. No similar assessment of Government of Sudan (GoS) areas has yet been undertaken, but diversions by GoS forces are suspected, though not on such a wide scale.

Council of Europe and WEU Assemblies: UK Delegation

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    If they will announce the composition of the United Kingdom delegation for the January 1999 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.[HL381]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The January 1999 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will be opened in Strasbourg on 25 January. The delegation from the United Kingdom for the session will consist of 23 members of the Labour Party, nine from the Conservative Party and four members from the minority parties. The delegation will serve in place of the current delegation from the opening January 1999 ordinary session.

The appointments of representatives and substitutes have been made on the basis of nomination by the parties concerned.

The same delegation will be representing the United Kingdom parliament at the Assembly of the Western European Union. Representatives from the Government benches will be: Mr. Terry Davis MP, who will act as leader; Mr. Tom Cox MP; Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe MP; Mr. Bill Etherington MP; Mr. Paul Flynn MP; Mrs. Maria Fyfe MP; Mr. Kevin McNamara MP; Mr. Jim Marshall MP; Mr. Eddie O'Hara MP; Mr. James Wray MP; Lord Kirkhill and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. Representatives from the Conservative Party will be: Mr. David Atkinson MP; Sir Sydney Chapman MP; Mr. John Townend MP and the right honourable Sir Alastair Goodlad MP.

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Representatives from the Minority Parties will be: Mr. Mike Hancock MP and Lord Russell-Johnston. The following substitutes have been appointed to act as necessary on behalf of the delegates. From the Government benches: Mrs. Ann Cryer MP; Ms Jenny Jones MP; Dr. Douglas Naysmith MP; Mr. Gwyn Prosser MP; Ms Debra Shipley MP; Ms Christine McCafferty MP; Miss Geraldine Smith MP; Mr. David Taylor MP; Dr. Rudi Vis MP; Lord Grenfell and Lord Judd. From the Conservative Party--Mr. Michael Colvin MP; Mr. Christopher Gill MP; Mr. David Wilshire MP; Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Lord Northesk. From the Minority Parties--Dr. Peter Brand MP and the Right Honourable John Taylor MP.

House of Lords: Hereditary Peers' Contribution

The Earl of Listowel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the request made on 25 November (H.L. Deb., col. 97) for the commissioning of a business consultancy to report on the contribution of the active hereditary peers and to consider what effect their removal would have on the functioning of the House of Lords.[HL316]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government have always made it clear that they appreciate the contribution which individual hereditary peers can make to the work of the House of Lords. However, the Government are also clear that much of the work of the House is done by life peers, and that the House will continue to function perfectly well after the hereditary peers have left.

G7/8: UK Presidency

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been achieved by the G7/8 during the United Kingdom Presidency this year.[HL382]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: During the United Kingdom's Presidency of the G7/8 this year, we have made progress on international action in a wide range of areas.

The successful G8 Summit in Birmingham in May marked a departure from tradition. Leaders were able to have a more businesslike and focused discussion in an informal atmosphere, and agreed a shorter, more action-oriented communique. The new format worked well and will be followed next year under the German Presidency.

One of the most challenging responsibilities was the turbulent world economy and the need to modernise international financial architecture. The Birmingham Summit endorsed G7 Finance Ministers' proposals on strengthening the global financial system. This was

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followed up by wider-ranging recommendations in statements issued by G7 leaders and by G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on 30 October. This includes enhanced financing arrangements for dealing with financial market contagion; codes of good practice for greater transparency and openness in economic policy-making and in private sector financial institutions; better processes for monitoring and regulating global financial stability; and reforms to improve the effectiveness of the international financial institutions. We hope to see good progress in these areas by the IMF/World Bank meetings in April 1999.

The G8 has renewed, at Birmingham and since, its commitment to resisting protectionism and continuing trade liberalisation in the framework of the WTO.

At Birmingham, G8 leaders discussed national action plans which set out practical measures to promote employability. These were based on the seven principles agreed at the G8 conference on employability, growth and inclusion held in February to generate new employment opportunities and tackle unemployment and exclusion.

Development was a key theme of our Presidency. At Birmingham, G8 members committed themselves to the internationally agreed targets for economic and social development. They recognised the importance of substantial levels of development assistance and undertook to work towards untying it wherever possible. They supported the WHO's roll-back malaria initiative, to which the UK has pledged £60 million, and which is now being actively implemented by Mrs. Brundtland, the new Director General.

The UK was keen to use our Presidency to press ahead with debt relief for the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative. The Birmingham Summit agreed that all eligible countries should be in the debt relief process by the year 2000, and should receive interim relief where necessary. The IMF/World Bank annual meetings in October took this forward by agreeing to extend the HIPC initiative to the end of 2000; to allow IMF post-conflict assistance programmes to count towards a country's track record under the HIPC initiative; to carry out a comprehensive review of the initiative as early as 1999; and to undertake further work on what the international financial institutions can do to help post-conflict countries. Following UK proposals, the World Bank has set up a trust fund to help meet the multilateral debt service obligations of Nicaragua and Honduras, and the Paris Club of official bilateral creditors has agreed a three-year moratorium for these countries.

Leaders set in train further G8 action against trans-national organised crime. They endorsed a 10-point plan to combat high-tech crime and agreed the need for further action against money laundering and financial crime, official corruption, trafficking in human beings and the illegal firearms trade. Since Birmingham, officials have taken this work forward and G8 Interior Ministers reviewed progress in a video conference on 15 December.

With the end of the century fast approaching, leaders recognised the challenge posed by the millennium bug. G8 officials have, since the Summit, co-ordinated G8

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preparations and contingency planning, worked actively to raise global awareness, and started to identify vulnerable areas in which international organisations have a key role to play. The United Kingdom is contributing £10 million to the World Bank trust fund to help developing countries.

After agreement at Birmingham for urgent work to take forward the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, G8 members all negotiated constructively at the conference of the parties in Buenos Aires in November and secured agreement on a workplan to bring into effect the international mechanisms such as emissions trading. G8 Foreign Ministers in May endorsed an action programme to protect the world's forests. In April, G8 Environment Ministers agreed a package of measures to fight against environmental crime.

In May, G8 Foreign Ministers agreed to focus G8 efforts against terrorism on terrorist financing, improving co-ordination on hostage-taking, and export controls on explosives and other terrorist-related items. A conference of senior officials on 7-8 December agreed shared principles and points for further action to tackle terrorist support mechanisms.

G8 leaders and Foreign Ministers discussed international action in various regions--for example, the Middle East and Kosovo. After Birmingham condemned India's nuclear tests, G8 Foreign Ministers met in June and established a senior officials' task force of G8 and other countries to take forward the international response to the tests in India and Pakistan.

We are working closely with the German Government on the handover to their G7/8 Presidency on 1 January 1999 and are preparing for the next G8 Summit in Holn on 18-20 June 1999.

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