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13 May 1999 : Column WA157

Written Answers

Thursday, 13th May 1999.

Yugoslavia: EU Oil Embargo

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the EU oil embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia came into force.[HL2266]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): On 23 April, The Council of the EU adopted a Common Position (1999/273/CFSP) prohibiting the sale or supply of petroleum and petroleum products to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Following from this Common Position, the EC adopted a Regulation on 26 April. The regulation prohibits:

    (a) the sale, supply or export, directly or indirectly, of certain petroleum and petroleum products listed in an annex to the regulation, whether or not originating in the Community, to any person or body in the FRY or to any person or body for the purpose of any business carried on in, or operated from the territory of the FRY;

    (b) the shipping of such products to the territory of the FRY;

    (c) participation in related activities the object or the effect of which is to promote the transactions or activities referred to under (a).

The regulation includes exemptions, under certain conditions, for the sale, supply or export of petroleum and petroleum products for the use of diplomatic and consular missions of EU member states; for the use of a future international military presence; and for humanitarian purposes.

The regulation applies within the territory of the Community, including its air space and on board any aircraft or any vessel under the jurisdiction of a member state and to any person elsewhere who is a national of a member state and any body which is incorporated or constituted under the law of a member state.

The regulation will enter into force on 1 May and is directly applicable in the UK. Legislation introducing licensing and enforcement provisions, including penalties, will come into force the same day.

Lawrence Inquiry: Report Leak

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received the findings of the independent investigation into the leak of material relating to the report by Sir William Macpherson into the death of Stephen Lawrence.[HL2484]

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The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has now received from his Permanent Secretary the report of the independent investigation into the leak, carried out following long-standing practice by a member of the panel maintained by the Cabinet Office. The summary findings of the report are as follows:

Information deriving from the draft report of the judicial inquiry was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph on 21 February. The most likely route for the leak was not the draft report itself but a summary of its findings and associated commentary which were internal to government. The leak is not, therefore, thought to have come from the inquiry team or from the printers.

Appropriate security arrangements were instituted by the Home Office to control tightly the handling of the draft report and related papers. They excluded advance briefing of the media. The handling procedures and the restriction on briefing of the media were observed. All copies of the relevant papers were accounted for. No one was found who had had unauthorised access to the material. Despite intensive investigation, it has not been possible to establish who deliberately leaked the story to the Sunday Telegraph.

We regret that it has not been possible to trace the originator of this deplorable leak. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary had access to the papers, and gave in a Statement in another place on 22 February, Official Report, cols. 21-34, his personal word that he was not responsible. The only other Minister with relevant access was my honourable friend the Minister of State, the honourable Member for Brent South (Mr. Boateng), who has asked me to relay a similar absolute assurance which he has given to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and which he fully accepts. The number of officials and advisers who also had access to the relevant papers is small, and we do not intend therefore, to publish their names, which would only serve to throw suspicion unfairly on them as a group when there is no evidence that identifies any individual as responsible.

Right of Individual Petition under International Conventions

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Williams of Mostyn on 31 March (WA 77), what is their estimate of the resources likely to be required by government departments in preparing for the right of individual petition under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and in responding to any complaints which may be brought under those procedures.[HL2175]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: Detailed estimates of the resources required are not available. All departments are heavily engaged in preparations on the Human Rights Act and any additional work on rights of petition under these treaties would divert available resources from that important task.

Human Rights Act: Implementation

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

    On how many occasions since the Human Rights Act 1998 received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998 have Ministers discussed collectively when to bring the provisions of the Act fully into force.[HL2179]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Ministers have met on a number of occasions to discuss the Human Rights Act. However, it is established practice under Section 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information not to disclose information relating to the proceedings of Cabinet and Cabinet Committees.

Kosovar Refugees: Asylum Data

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

    How many refugees from Kosovo have been given asylum by each of the member states of the Council of Europe since the beginning of the NATO bombing campaign.[HL2313]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Information supplied by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) detailing the movement of Kosovars is given in the tables. In the case of Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, this relates to the estimated displaced population of Kosovars since March 1999. Figures for other states indicate the numbers evacuated from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, mainly following identification by UNHCR.

These figures exclude persons from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia who apply for asylum having left the region outside the current evacuation programme. Data regarding these asylum seekers are not available for the period requested. However, it is known that some Council of Europe states currently have a moratorium on making substantive decisions in such claims.

The United Kingdom, however, is continuing to make decisions. A specialist team has recently been formed within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to expedite the processing of asylum applications from nationals of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to facilitate the entry of persons coming to the United Kingdom under the humanitarian evacuation programme.

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Population estimates of Kosovar refugees as at 7 May 1999

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia228,000

Humanitarian evacuations of Kosovars from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from 5 April through 6 May 1999 (Council of Europe States only)

Czech Republic458
United Kingdom(3)645

(1) Includes 88 evacuated without UNHCR/IOM involvement.

(2) Includes 1,980 evacuated without UNHCR/IOM involvement.

(3) Includes 315 evacuees arriving at Prestwick on 9 May 1999.

Volunteers: Checking by Criminal Records Bureau

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reconsider the proposal that voluntary organisations should be charged a fee for every request for a search to establish whether an applicant for a post has a criminal record.[HL2342]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We considered very carefully whether there was any way in which free checks could be provided for volunteers. Whilst we acknowledge the valuable contribution volunteers make, we have concluded that it will not be practicable to provide any free checks from the Criminal Records Bureau for volunteers or for any other groups. We realise that this is unwelcome news but providing free checks would prove an unsustainable burden on the public purse and might increase demand for certificates from the bureau to an uncontrollable extent. In addition, we do not consider it would be fair to allow volunteers to have free certificates when there are other equally deserving groups such as the unemployed or the disabled. The cost of the fees for certificates from the bureau will be kept to the minimum necessary to recoup costs.

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