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18 May 1999 : Column WA17

Written Answers

Tuesday, 18th May 1999.

Smoking Policy: House of Lords Refreshment Department

Lord Peston asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What is the current smoking policy of the House of Lords Refreshment Department.[HL2525]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The Refreshment Department keeps smoking policy in the various outlets of the Refreshment Department under regular review. Policy was last revised in 1997. The present position may be summarised as follows:

    Peers Dining Room (Guest Dining Room)--No smoking at lunchtime until after 1.30 p.m. No smoking at dinner until after 9 p.m.

    Peers Dining Room (Long Table)--No smoking at lunchtime. No restriction at dinner.

    Bishops' Bar Coffee Room--No smoking at any time.

    Bishops' Bar and Guest Room Bar--No restriction.

    Home Room--No smoking at lunchtime. No restriction at dinner.

    Barry Room--No restriction.

In addition, the sub-committee has approved the practice whereby managers, exercising their discretion, allocate tables at the edges of the dinning rooms to regular smokers (who are usually well known to them) at those times when smoking is allowed and nuisance might otherwise be caused to non-smoking customers.

Judicial Studies Board: Domestic Violence Issues

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action the Judicial Studies Board is taking on issues involving domestic violence.[HL2326]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Judicial Studies Board provides regular training to judges on issues of domestic violence at its civil and family law seminars. Domestic violence issues have recently been introduced at seminars for judges sitting in the Crown Court. The development of training in this area is under current consideration.

Overseas Diplomatic Posts: Policy on Tobacco Products

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the publication of the tobacco White Paper in December 1998, what instructions have been

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    issued to overseas diplomatic posts to restrict their involvement in the promotion of tobacco products.[HL2548]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have issued the following guidelines to overseas posts: "1. The Government's White Paper on tobacco, presented to Parliament in December 1998, contained the following sentences concerning the role of Posts overseas:

    "We are not in the business of banning the production or export of tobacco products, and the DTI and our embassies will continue to provide advice, to which UK companies are entitled, in the sale of legal products. However, in keeping with the current practice of Ministers and officials not becoming involved in the advertising or promotion of tobacco products at home, guidelines will shortly be issued to our diplomatic posts instructing them to be scrupulous to ensure that they follow suit overseas, taking into account local circumstances." 2. Posts must no longer directly promote products containing tobacco, whether through advertising or through publicly associating HMG with their sale, especially where this might be misconstrued as some form of government endorsement or approval of them. However, given the general, non-discriminatory basis of British Trade International services and other UK government support for business--which, as a matter of principle, are available to all British companies, provided their products are mainly of UK origin and are legal--Posts should nonetheless, if approached, offer support and advice to assist UK tobacco companies through the provision of trade, investment and political information. While it may be true that such companies rarely, in any case, seek HMG assistance in their exporting effort, it will be important that Posts scrupulously adhere to these new guidelines, after taking into account local circumstances. Posts should bear in mind that the international tobacco control lobby is increasingly well organised, and pressure groups may seek to highlight any apparently controversial involvement in an event sponsored by a tobacco company. 3. It follows from the above that Posts should not inter alia be associated in any way with the promotion of the tobacco industry, for example by accepting advertisements for UK or local tobacco products in publications issued by the Post, or sponsorship from tobacco companies for their activities, including Chevening Scholarships. Nor should they attend or otherwise support receptions or high profile events--especially those where a tobacco company is the sole or main sponsor--which are overtly to promote tobacco products, such as the official opening of a UK tobacco factory overseas; events where tobacco sponsorship is more low-key (for example, among several sponsors of a visiting orchestra) can be attended. Posts may also continue to offer assistance to UK tobacco companies in other ways, such as in resolving business problems--customs or port clearance, smuggling, trademark

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    violations etc.--that are potentially discriminatory. They may also provide information and assistance on foreign country policies and investment opportunities including advice to help them comply with foreign government laws or regulations. 4. In short, unless otherwise specified above, Posts should not support activities designed specifically to encourage smoking. Posts have the delegated authority to decide for themselves whether any proposed action on their part is in keeping with these new regulations, but may refer to London for decision--to the FCO geographical department (if there are political implications) or JEPD--where this is felt necessary. 5. The White Paper also stressed the Government's wish to encourage and support the efforts of other countries to strengthen their own tobacco control strategies. Requests for help, particularly with expertise, should be passed to the Department of Health (Health Promotion Division). 6. These guidelines will take effect from 1 June 1999."

International Fact-Finding Commission

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to be able to recognise the competence of the International Fact-Finding Commission enshrined in Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions.[HL2523]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are pleased to inform the House that a declaration confirming the United Kingdom's recognition of the competence of that body was yesterday being deposited with the Swiss authorities in Berne. This further demonstrates our commitment to international humanitarian law, following our ratification of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions in January 1998, our ratification of the Ottawa Convention in July 1998 and our acceptance of Amended Protocol II and Additional Protocol IV to the UN Weaponry Convention earlier this year.


Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the findings of the independent evaluation of the Asia and Latin America Committee of the European Union's project "Sustainable Development in the Paraguayan Chaco (PRODECHACO)", and whether they will take steps to ensure that the conditions originally stipulated regarding the settlement of indigenous peoples' land claims are fully satisfied before this project goes ahead.[HL2421]

Baroness Amos: The evaluation report of the EU PRODECHACO project has yet to be distributed by the Commission, which received the final version of the report on 7 May. The report will be presented to member states at the May meeting of Asia and Latin America (ALA) Committee and discussion on the

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findings of the report will be held at the subsequent ALA Committee in June.

The UK attaches importance to the four conditions originally stipulated when the project was approved in September 1994 (particularly that relating to the settlement of land claims) and the UK was successful in obtaining an agreement that there should be an evaluation report on the status of land claims. The UK will seek to ensure that the Commission respects the conditionalities of the PRODECHACO project.

Economic Crime Units

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Burlison on 29 April (WA 63), what steps they have taken to evaluate the economic crime units set up by some European police forces (for example, Sweden) to tackle such subjects as fraud; and why they have not introduced such units into United Kingdom police forces.[HL2382]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): We are aware of the Swedish Economic Crime Unit in general terms and understand that it has some similarities to the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom as it has both an investigating and prosecuting function. Both the Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Crime Intelligence Service are also aware of its work. However, the position in the United Kingdom is very different as the responsibility for economic crime is spread across a number of central and local government and privately funded organisations. The Swedish Economic Crime Unit has only recently been established so it is too early to evaluate whether the Swedish model is likely to offer any improvement to the arrangements that have been developed here over the years.

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