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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the Environment Agency has undertaken research and has produced an extremely important and valuable leaflet which includes details of other pervasive species that are damaging watercourses such as giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam. I commend the work done by the city and county of Swansea which has worked closely with the Environment Agency for Wales. I also commend the work of Pembrokeshire County Council which is working in partnership with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. The problem does not appear to be one of additional funding but of targeting the activities of those agencies which have power to act in this regard.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, do the Government have a list of the total number of this country's endangered species which are being threatened by alien species? Is the Minister aware of the recent so-called "X-files" order instituted by President Clinton in the United States which seeks to enable the Government there to deal with alien species which threaten up to 50 per cent of the endangered species of the United States?
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I cannot even attempt to top that! Is the Minister aware of the difficulty of controlling this weed, particularly with regard to watercourses where chemical sprays have been found to be one of the few methods of controlling it? When it gets a hold, I believe it grows through concrete. However, it is the watercourses that constitute a particular worry in this regard.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the watercourses are a worry. The Environment Agency has issued guidance on control of Japanese knotweed, including the use of specialised and limited chemical agents. A colleague who is not in the Box at present advised me when I was briefed on this subject that she has a real problem with Japanese knotweed in her London garden. She has discovered that the roots go down 17 feet. It is a major scourge.
Lord McNair: My Lords, will the Minister convey to the agencies that will target this problem that if they wish to target the Japanese knotweed that I have in my garden in Wales they will be welcome to do so?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, proposals for a maritime operation are still in the planning stages. We would of course take account of the legal implications of any planned NATO operation before agreeing to it. Any action taken will be in accordance with the law.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her usual clear and explicit Answer. However, I ask for a little more reassurance. Can she assure the House that the embargoes that are proposed will not damage Montenegro or undermine its
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the law in this area is of course complex. There is customary law, treaties and international conventions. I assure the noble Lord that all of these areas will be considered not only by NATO but also by legal advisers here. We have to make any embargo as effective as we can. NATO is working out military options. We shall take into account any rules of engagement as well as international law. The noble Lord referred specifically to Montenegro. He also mentioned Russia which is not the only supplier, and nor indeed is the sea the only route. We shall seek to make any embargo as effective as possible and as consistent as possible. However, we shall of course take into account the needs of Montenegro in the way the noble Lord suggests.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, as the spokesman of a party which has consistently supported the Government on the Kosovo crisis, and indeed pressed for an international protectorate at an early stage, will the Minister consider carefully whether the present planning by NATO, particularly of its proposed naval blockade but also of its bombing, takes fully into account some of the political repercussions? Will the Minister consider the vocal pleas made by Montenegro today; namely, that the effect of the severe bombing of Bar, its major port, and of its capital, Podgorica, is destabilising them and is an invitation to Milosevic to intervene in that country? That is a serious matter. Will the Minister consider carefully whether that situation can be avoided?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that we are in regular contact with Montenegro. EU Foreign Ministers decided on a package of economic support for those hit by the crisis, bearing in mind the particular needs of Montenegro. Mr. Djukanovic is in no doubt of our support for his political and economic reforms. We and our allies have also warned Mr. Milosevic--as I think I have already mentioned to the House on previous occasions, but I do so again because I realise how important this point is--not to move against Montenegro. If he does so, there will be grave consequences.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord that this is an illegal war. The action that we are taking is legal. It is justified as an exceptional measure to halt the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe that we have seen played out and which we sadly continue to see being played out.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I have already indicated, NATO military planners will not be looking solely at a sea blockade; they will be looking at a number of issues. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear yesterday when answering questions on a similar subject, we understand that there are many different routes by which such oil may be taken. All such eventualities are being looked at.
Lord Blaker: My Lords, does the noble Baroness recall that she assured the House last week that there had been no failure by NATO leaders, including the Prime Minister, to think far enough ahead about the matter of Kosovo. Why is it that the complex matter of an oil blockade is being considered now rather than weeks ago?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I told the noble Lord last week, as situations develop so does the planning. That is inevitably so. Naturally, when NATO leaders were together last weekend they looked very carefully at the question of an oil embargo. As the noble Lord will know, there is also an EU oil embargo. Your Lordships discussed that matter last week and it was discussed again on 23rd April. There has been no failure of planning. The planning has been carefully undertaken both within the EU and NATO.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, if the Government proceed with the oil embargo, will they have regard to the lessons of the sanctions busting carried out in Rhodesia, where the international oil companies--not least our own oil companies--showed themselves remarkably adept at evading all the laws that man could prescribe?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, not only will military planners be looking at that issue but strategic planners as well. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, should look carefully not only at the NATO planning but at the EU oil embargo to which I have referred. That was agreed on 23rd April and comes into force on 30th April. EU applicants, including some of Serbia's neighbours and Cyprus, are already associating themselves with it. So it is not only the current members of the EU but those who are hoping to join the EU which support the embargo. The noble Lord may be reassured to know that, contrary to some press reports, the United States is also implementing a comprehensive ban on oil.
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