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European Convention on Human Rights: Article 14

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

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government have not yet taken a position of principle for or against the drafting of such a Protocol. We have been taking a constructive part in the negotiations and will take a decision on whether to support any resulting text in the light of its terms.

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Separatist Conflicts within Sovereign States

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have an ethical strategy for just and lasting peace in separatist conflicts within sovereign states.[HL1218]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government work actively within the UN Security Council and in other international organisations to promote international peace and security, upholding the principles of the UN Charter and other relevant international law.

Nuclear Weapons in Russia

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they and allied powers are taking to help reduce the number of nuclear weapons held by Russia; whether their own reduction of capacity for nuclear war is proceeding pari passu; and what are the cost and duration of current programmes affecting nuclear weapons in Russia, stating separately the cost of eliminating nuclear waste.[HL1234]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We continue to urge the Russian Duma to ratify the START II agreement, so that negotiations may begin on a START III Treaty. The Strategic Defence Review set out the steps we are taking nationally to reduce our own nuclear weapons to the minimum level necessary.

The US will have spent over 2 billion US dollars on nuclear security programmes in Russia and the newly independent states between 1992 and 1999. These programmes will continue over the next five years. The G7/8 are currently studying options for the disposal of surplus weapons grade plutonium in Russia. The cost and duration of this programme are not yet clear. The US, Russia and IAEA are currently discussing a trilateral initiative to put certain US and Russian nuclear materials declared excess to defence needs under IAEA verification. Again, costs are not yet clear.

It has been estimated that the cost of completely eliminating nuclear waste and cleaning up contaminated areas in Russia could be in the range of 500 billion to 1,000 billion US dollars. It is of course unrealistic that such sums would be available from Western donors. Most pollution is low level and in remote regions. We are therefore, with our international partners, focusing on the most significant problems. For example, the EU is spending 8 million ecu dealing with nuclear waste in north-west Russia through its Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) programme.


Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will quantify, in percentage terms or currency value, the "massive leakage of food to fighters", by way of misappropriated British aid to

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    Sudan under the previous administration, as stated by the Secretary of State for International Development in the House of Commons on 3 February (HC Deb., col. 920); and what are her sources for this statement.[HL1264]

Baroness Amos: No definitive figures are available and the scale of diversions by the Sudan People's Liberation Army and Government of Sudan supported militias vary with location. The evidence is largely anecdotal. In any conflict situation, the danger exists of humanitarian aid being diverted by fighters, thus helping war to persist. It is for this reason that the international community, while providing such aid, has a duty at the same time to press warring factions to stop fighting and sue for peace. The previous administration donated much humanitarian aid to Sudan but made no attempt to engage in political dialogue.

From an early stage of last year's crisis in Sudan, we put pressure on both sides to ensure that assistance reached all the vulnerable people for whom it was intended. We and our international partners continue to apply this pressure and the UN World Food Programme report that the situation is showing real signs of improvement. In parallel we have played a key role in supporting the peace process. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Sudan and will also make every effort to press for a lasting and just peace as the only long-term solution to the suffering of the many vulnerable people there.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Baroness Amos on 3 February (WA 215), whether they will urge the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs to make public the report of the joint Operation Lifeline Sudan and Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association.[HL1262]

Baroness Amos: This report has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide an estimate, by way of a percentage figure or currency value, of how much British aid to Sudan, bilaterally, through Operation Lifeline Sudan or by way of British contributions to aid channelled through the European Community, was diverted or misappropriated in 1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98.[HL1261]

Baroness Amos: No such estimate exists.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is correct as claimed in the House of Commons on 3 February (HC Deb., col. 920) that 65 per cent. of British aid to Sudan is being stolen to feed combatants in that country's civil war.[HL1263]

Baroness Amos: There is no evidence that food aid diversion in Sudan is remotely close to this level.

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International Development Aid: GNP Targets

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made in their first full financial year in office in reaching the gross national product targets for international development aid recommended by the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Development Assistance Committee and the European Union.[HL1365]

Baroness Amos: It has been made clear by the Government that we have increased the international development budget by £1.6 billion over the period 1999/2000 and 2001/02; it is anticipated that this increase will raise the UK's oda/GNP ratio to 0.3 per cent. in 2001.

Aid targets are measured on a calendar year basis. For financial year 1997-98, we lived within the financial ceilings set by the previous administration while we re-ordered our priorities. We inherited a programme which was declining in cash terms and which resulted in 1997 in a UK performance of 0.26 per cent against the 0.7 per cent. GNP target. The 1998 oda/GNP ratio will be announced by the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD in June.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Lord Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the safety record in the United Kingdom and abroad of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which the Strategic Defence Review proposes are used more widely in training exercises.[HL945]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Currently, Phoenix is the only unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV, in service with the UK armed forces. During the development of Phoenix, there were instances where the UAV was damaged during landing, but it has always landed in designated safe areas and has never posed any significant danger to human life or property. Other unmanned land, air and sea vehicles are in the early stages of development. Safety is a key consideration in the design and operation of any piece of military equipment and full account is taken from initial development through to deployment on operations.

The MoD does not hold systematic data on the safety records of unmanned aerial vehicles operated by other countries.

Kosovo: Accommodation Units

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many "Corimec" accommodation units or similar twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) will or could be available for United Kingdom forces deployed in Kosovo by 1 May and 1 September 1999.[HL1302]

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Lord Gilbert: Five twenty-foot equivalent units could be made available by 1 May 1999. Subsequent accommodation will be provided as necessary in relation to the size of any force and the timing of its deployment.

NHS Trusts: Financial Arrangements on Dissolution

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What financial arrangements are being made in respect of the 37 NHS trusts dissolved on 1 April 1998.[HL1399]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Pursuant to the dissolution of 37 National Health Service trusts on 1 April 1998 and their reconfiguration through the establishment of 18 new trusts on that date, we propose to create originating debt for the new trusts equal to the net assets transferred to them and therefore to remit the outstanding debt of the dissolved trusts.

These operations involve no overall loss to the Exchequer. Her Majesty's Treasury has presented a minute to the House, on 2 March 1999, giving the particulars and circumstances of the proposed remission which it has approved in principle.

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