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Appeal Court Workload

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

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The impact on the workload of the Lords of Appeal of human rights and devolution appeals cannot yet be estimated. I will keep the position under review as appeals in these two areas come forward.

NATO and Kurdish Autonomy

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): NATO has no plans to promote Kurdish autonomy within Turkey.

NATO: Nuclear Policy

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Verhnam Dean: I refer my noble friend to the Answer I gave on 24 February Official Report, col. WA118.

In preparation for the Washington summit, we are considering with our allies all aspects of NATO security policy, to ensure that it reflects the current security environment. This includes the role of nuclear weapons.

Sierra Leone: ECOMOG Presence

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek assurances from the new Nigerian Government that it will continue to maintain an Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) presence in Sierra Leone; and whether such a joint presence might benefit from financial aid from the United Kingdom.[HL1364]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: A continued ECOMOG presence will be a vital part of efforts to build a lasting peace in Sierra Leone. The Foreign Secretary emphasised the strong UK support for ECOMOG during his visit to Nigeria on 8-9 March. ECOMOG is benefitting from practical British assistance to enable it to consolidate further the security situation. Since September 1998, we have provided over £4 million for direct logistic support to ECOMOG and humanitarian assistance to the Government of Sierra Leone. On 2 March, the Foreign Secretary announced a new £10 million package of assistance, including further substantial support to ECOMOG to enable it to fulfil its peace-building task in Sierra Leone. We are also urging other international donors to play their part.


Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are at present 12,000 Yugoslav army troops and up to 14,000 Serbian special police in Kosovo contrary to the agreements reached in October 1998.[HL1401]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Both sides in the Kosovo conflict are currently in breach of their obligations to the international community, as defined in UN Security Council resolutions and elsewhere. This includes FRY and Serbian security force levels being in excess of the numbers agreed in October 1998. The international community has repeatedly made clear to both sides that any who, by recourse to violence, contravene the commitments they have made to the international community will have to answer for their actions.

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Iraq: Assassinations

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose to the United Nations Human Rights Commission that the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary and Arbitrary Executions should conduct an inquiry into the assassination of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad al-Sadr and his two sons at the Kufah Mosque in Najaf, Iraq, on Friday 19 February; that the Rapporteur should invite persons with knowledge of this crime to communicate their evidence to him; and that the invitation should be broadcast over as many radio and television channels receivable in Iraq as possible.[HL1403]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government were appalled to learn of the assassination of Ayatollah al-Sadr, which followed other apparently politically-motivated attacks on Shia religious figures in Iraq over the past year. We urge the Iraqi authorities to conduct a full investigation into these deaths and bring the perpetrators to justice. I would assure the noble Lord that we are pursuing this matter. We look forward to hearing the Special Rapporteur's view on this and similar events at the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Gibraltar: Criminal Cases

Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the report which, as reported in The Times on 4 March (page 17), was handed to the Prime Minister by the Spanish Prime Minister during a meeting in Germany, and which contains certain serious allegations against the people of Gibraltar.[HL1405]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: This paper contains references to criminal cases which are continuing in the United Kingdom and are therefore sub judice. It would therefore not be appropriate to publish it.

Iraqi-Turkish Pipeline: Damage to Control Network

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to establish the facts concerning damage to the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline; whether attacks on this pipeline such as those of 28 February and 1 March are now permitted under the new rules of engagement agreed by the United States and Turkey; and whether this new policy is compatible with United Kingdom policy that Saddam Hussein can "sell as much oil as he wants for food and medicine for the Iraqi people" (Answer by the Prime Minister on 3 March, HC Deb., col. 1074).[HL1420]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On 28 February and 1 March, coalition aircraft took action against communications facilities forming part of the Iraqi air defence network, in response to being fired upon by Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery and being targeted by air defence radars. It appears that elements of these facilities also carried part of the pipeline control network. The Kirkuk-Yumurtalik pipeline was not damaged, and the flow of oil was resumed in three days.

Iraqi No Fly Zone: RAF Response

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will cite the United Nations Security Council Resolution which legitimates attacks under the new United States policy to topple Saddam Hussein, in which British aircraft are now taking part.[HL1421]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: RAF aircraft are patrolling the No Fly Zones as they have since their inception in 1991-92. When shot at or otherwise threatened, they are responding in self-defence. This is permissible under international law.

Nuclear Weapons: Policy

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they would welcome the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of a policy to seek the global elimination of the nuclear weapon; and [HL1422]

    Whether they would welcome discussions in the Security Council with a view to forming an agreed policy towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.[HL1436]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: All five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council are already committed to pursuing systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons, under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

We have made it clear that we will consider any steps that would make a practical contribution to advancing nuclear disarmament.

Consular Fees

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to change any of the consular fees.[HL1520]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It costs more to issue a passport overseas than it does in the UK because the volume at each issuing post is small. Until now, the additional cost of issuing passports overseas has been met out of fees charged for passports issued in

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the UK. In future the costs of issuing passports overseas will be met in full from the fee charged to the applicant. The fee for issuing a passport in the United Kingdom remains unchanged.

The new charges, which will take effect from 12 April 1999, are:

    Standard (32 page) passport£43

    Frequent Traveller (48 page)£50

    Child passport (5 years validity)£25

    Emergency passport£20

    Amendments to an existing passport.£30

Exports: Support and Promotion

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their arrangements for the support and promotion of exports.[HL1521]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I am delighted to respond also on behalf of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

This Government attach great importance to the promotion of exports. That is why in June last year the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Foreign Secretary asked the Secretary of the Cabinet, Sir Richard Wilson, to review the current arrangements for the support and promotion of exports. I am pleased to be able to report on the outcome of that Review. Copies of Sir Richard's report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and will be widely distributed. It is also available on request to members of the public, and the executive summary can be found on the FCO and DTI websites.

The report records the excellent service given by personnel working on export promotion activity throughout the United Kingdom and in FCO posts around the world, while at the same time identifying a number of areas in the current arrangements which leave scope for improvement.

We welcome the recommendations, the core of which is that all trade promotion and development activities of the DTI and FCO should be unified in a new joint operation led by a single Chief Executive. The Government will expedite the establishment of such a unified operation, equipped with resources, both personnel and finance, broadly along the lines recommended in the Review. It will be known as "British Trade International". This will be a radical change. The new operation, which will have lead responsibility within Government for trade promotion and development, will provide a coherent framework for the Government's work in this area. We are confident that it will deliver an even better service to business.

The operation's first Chief Executive, who will have Permanent Secretary rank, will be Sir David Wright, currently Ambassador in Tokyo. We are confident, that with his experience of export promotion at home and abroad, he is ideally equipped for the task. He will be responsible, in consultation with DTI and FCO and

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others concerned, for the design of the new operation's precise configuration and the implementation of Sir Richard's other recommendations. Sir David will of course have flexibility over the details of the implementation, and he will have effective control over the operation's resources and personnel. And he will be responsible to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Foreign Secretary, through a ministerially-chaired board, for the performance of the entire operation from local to international level. This will be measured against a national export development strategy and objectives which the board will set.

The new board will be chaired by DTI and FCO Ministers and will subsume the present British Overseas Trade Board. It will be drawn predominantly from the private sector. In addition to senior officials from the FCO, DTI, and ECGD, it will also contain representatives of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations to guarantee their direct involvement in shaping the national strategy.

The current arrangements for the delivery of export promotion services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will continue within the context of national policy. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations would continue to have discretion to provide supplementary programmes to meet the particular needs of businesses in those parts of the United Kingdom.

Overseas delivery of the services of the new operation will continue through our diplomatic posts overseas. Heads of Mission will be responsible to the Chief Executive for the performance of their posts in support of British business abroad against the strategy and objectives of the new operation.

In England, the new operation will place greater emphasis on effective delivery of export services in the regions. The regional and local network, at present in Government Regional Offices and Business Links, will be integral to the new unified operation, under the effective control of the Chief Executive. In implementing the recommendations, the Chief Executive will need to work closely with the new Small Business Service which the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced earlier this week and the Regional Development Agencies in each region.

British Trade International will seek to provide a fast, consistent and high quality response to its customers in the business community. It will be staffed by personnel from both the FCO and DTI, and may also recruit directly, including through secondments. It will be supported by modern IT and other facilities designed to provide integrated information and communication systems.

The Chief Executive and the board will review the balance between the present range of export services and the provision of help to firms to develop their export capability, and also the scope for devolution of responsibility to the regional and international networks.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Foreign Secretary are confident that the new unified operation will represent a significant advance over present arrangements, both in terms of strategic

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direction and of improved customer focus, producing a real improvement in service delivery to business. It will be a major change and will take time to achieve. That will be primarily the task for the new Chief Executive. Meanwhile I can assure the House that there will be no hiatus: the present services to exporters will remain fully operational and available throughout the transition period.

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