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International Law: Armed Attacks

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): International law, in particular the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions 1949, governs all armed attacks in an international armed conflict.

International Law: Attacks on Computer Networks

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: International law, in particular the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions 1949, governs armed attacks in an international armed conflict. Military operations are conducted in accordance with our obligations under international law. Her Majesty's Government do not comment on the details of NATO targeting plans.

Air Attacks: Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: We have not been at war with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The application of international law to an armed conflict is not dependent upon the existence of a state of war between the parties. In conducting military operations we, along with all

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other parties to the conflict, are bound by obligations under international law, including those arising under the Geneva Conventions 1949 and the First Additional Protocol to those conventions.

Target Selection: Kosovo

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all targeting in Kosovo is now left to individual military commanders without the political oversight of the NATO council; and, if so, what legal advice is available to General Clark.[HL2714]

Lord Gilbert: SACEUR is responsible for the selection of targets within the authority delegated to him by the North Atlantic Council. He has the benefit of a qualified legal service who are involved in all operational issues, including targeting.

Target Selection: Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is the case that it was agreed at the NATO summit that General Clark should no longer have to seek approval from the alliance member states for targeting; and whether it was General Clark who authorised the attack on the television station in Belgrade, the use of cluster bombs, the use of the weapon that shorted the electricity supply in Belgrade and elsewhere and the attack on the Chinese Embassy.[HL2573]

Lord Gilbert: Within the authority delegated to him by the North Atlantic Council, SACEUR is responsible for the selection of targets and of the weapons systems which will be used to attack them. It is for nations whose forces are asked to carry out attacks to ensure that their attack is legitimate under international law. These arrangements have been in place throughout the current military action.

Service Personnel Awaiting Secondary Care Medical Treatment

Lord Craig of Radley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Ministry of Defence records the number of personnel of each of the three services who are unfit for duty while awaiting secondary care medical treatment; and, if so, what are the most recent available figures for each service.[HL2716]

Lord Gilbert: The MoD does not maintain central records of the number of service personnel who are unfit for duty while awaiting secondary care medical treatment.

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Schipol: Air Accident Report

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the report on the results of the inquiry, published on 22 April, into the air accident which occurred near Schipol airport involving an El Al cargo aeroplane carrying nerve agents.[HL2145]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We understand that this report was made to the Dutch Parliament following a parliamentary inquiry into the accident at Schipol airport involving an Israeli aircraft and is not available in English.

GM Crops and Insects

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence exists of the effect upon the natural predators of aphids when the latter have fed upon, or partly upon, genetically modified plants.[HL2620]

Lord Whitty: It is considered unlikely that adverse effects on predators feeding on aphids reared on genetically modified (GM) crops would be observed compared to equivalent conventional crops unless the GM crop had been modified to express an insecticidal toxin or antifeedant. Some research has recently been published which suggests that beneficial insect predators, such as lacewings or ladybirds, which feed on crop pests may be indirectly affected if they feed on prey which has fed on GM insect resistant plants.

In particular, one study has been published by researchers at the Scottish Crop Research Institute which suggests that ladybird longevity and reproduction were reduced when they fed on aphids reared on beans which were genetically modified to produce a lectin which is known to be an anti-aphid protein. This research was published in March this year (Molecular Breeding 5, pp75-83). This GM crop has not been released in the UK. Nevertheless, the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) was asked to consider this research and advise the Government. ACRE's advice is published on the DETR ACRE website on Essentially, ACRE advised that the results do not challenge current scientific understanding or indicate that genetic modification is inherently unsafe. However, this work does underline the need for thorough testing of GM crops for indirect effects on non-target organisms.

DETR is funding research at the Institute of Arable Crops Research to investigate the environmental effects of GM insect resistant plants. In the course of this research, two review papers on insect resistant crops have been published in Trends in Biotechnology in April 1998 and May 1999. The second paper summarises the current evidence available on adverse effects on non-target species, and its conclusions reflect those of ACRE.

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Witham Bypass: Hedge Cutting

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Highways Agency authorised the mechanical cutting on the verge of the northbound carriageway of the A12 trunk road Witham bypass of the hedge and shrubs adjoining that trunk road on the afternoon of Monday 7 June, thus exposing the advertising hoardings erected on land belonging to Braintree District Council adjacent to the trunk road: if so, why; and, if not, what action the agency proposes to take to deal with unauthorised trimming of hedges from its property.[HL2770]

Lord Whitty: The hedge along the A12-frontage is planted on land outside the highways boundary. Braintree District Council is the owner of the land on which the advertising signs stand and the hedge. Cutting of the hedge is therefore the concern of the district council.

There is evidence that some of the shrubbery and trees within the highway boundary near the hoardings has also been cut back. The Highways Agency did not authorise any cutting back and would not permit interference with landscaping on the trunk road to improve the visibility of the hoardings. The agency is seeking a formal undertaking from the district council that no further unauthorised cutting of the landscaping within the highway boundary will be carried out.


Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission.[HL2860]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The International Whaling Commission's 51st Annual Meeting was held in Grenada from 24 to 28 May. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary attended the meeting, together with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the British Virgin Islands, as well as representatives of environmental organisations.

At the meeting my honourable friend re-affirmed the United Kingdom's opposition to whaling. We are pleased to say that efforts by Japan to secure a quota of 50 minke whales, despite the moratorium on commercial whaling, and to weaken the Southern Ocean Sanctuary were defeated by substantial majorities. There was once again strong criticism of Norway's and Japan's continued whaling activities.

The Chairman of the IWC, the Commissioner for Ireland, announced that discussions with IWC members on the ideas put forward by Ireland in 1997 were continuing, although he had no real progress to report. The Irish proposals would involve a ban on all whaling, including scientific whaling, outside coastal waters, with

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the possibility that countries might authorise whaling under IWC rules within their own coastal waters for domestic consumption. The proposals also envisage a ban on international trade in whale products.

In the ensuing debate my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary made it clear that the UK's ultimate aim remained a permanent, worldwide moratorium on all whaling other than aboriginal subsistence whaling. However, we recognised that this was not something that was likely to be achieved overnight or that could be imposed on members of the IWC against their will. We were, therefore, prepared to consider ideas for reaching interim solutions on the way to our ultimate destination. But any arrangements of this kind would have to deliver very real benefits to whale conservation. In this context, we continued to have reservations about some aspects of the Irish proposals, in particular the possibility of renewed coastal whaling. My honourable friend noted that it seemed in any case unlikely that the Irish proposals represented a realistic way forward, given the opposition by Japan to ending scientific whaling. In these circumstances it was important to consider other ways in which the IWC could move forward. In the UK's view these included the creation of new regional sanctuaries; changing the emphasis of the IWC's scientific committee away from the management of whale stocks in the context of whaling towards a much broader exploration of whale conservation issues; continuing the IWC's efforts to assess fully the impact of environment change for cetaceans; greater involvement of the IWC in issues relating to small cetaceans; encouraging whale-watching as a benign, potentially very profitable and sustainable way of exploiting a natural resource; and continued involvement of the IWC in welfare issues, including the encouragement of more efficient and humane killing methods, particularly in aboriginal subsistence whaling.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary also reaffirmed that in the UK's view the IWC has an essential role to play as the only international body with worldwide responsibility for the conservation of whales and that we would continue to participate actively, and constructively, in its deliberations.

Australia and New Zealand reported that consultations were continuing on the idea of a South Pacific sanctuary but that they were not yet in a position to put forward a formal proposal; the IWC is likely to refer to this topic next year.

The meeting confirmed the central role that environmental concerns now play in the IWC's work. An impressive presentation by the US commissioner demonstrated the scale of the potential threat posed to cetaceans by climate change and pollution. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary emphasised that in the light of our increasing understanding of these threats there was greater concern than in the past about the ability of whale populations to withstand direct exploitation; in our

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view this was a cogent reason to adopt a precautionary approach to cetacean conservation and management. The IWC agreed to provide core funding, including £100,000 drawn from its reserves, for two substantial programmes of research on the effects of climate change and pollution on cetaceans; it also urged other interested parties to contribute to these programmes.

The IWC agreed a further three-year aboriginal subsistence quota permitting inhabitants of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to take two hump back whales a year. During the meeting the IWC considered whether recent takes under this quota contravened IWC rules which prohibit the killing of whale calves: it was not possible to reach a firm conclusion on this matter as the rules in question are not entirely clear. However, the agreement to extend the quota amended the rules to remove any uncertainty, and the IWC also agreed a definition of the term calf for the purposes of this quota. In agreeing the quota the IWC also noted commitments by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to ensure that this hunt is properly regulated, to review and improve hunting and killing methods and to provide a more detailed statement of its aboriginal subsistence needs when seeking any further quota. As amended, it is now absolutely clear that the taking of a cow and calf is forbidden.

The IWC meeting was preceded by a workshop of scientific and veterinary experts which examined methods used to kill whales with a view to improving their humaneness. The UK delegation to the workshop was led by Professor Sir Colin Spedding, a previous chairman of the Farm Animal Welfare Council and an internationally recognised authority on welfare issues. The workshop produced an 11-point action plan to improve the effectiveness and humaneness of whale killing methods, including those used in aboriginal subsistence hunts. This was endorsed by the commission in a resolution, which went on to encourage member governments to continue to submit relevant information to the IWC and to future workshops and to take steps, including the provision of appropriate technical assistance, to improve the humaneness of aboriginal subsistence whaling.

The Dall's porpoise hunt off the coast of Japan is the largest directed take of small cetaceans in the world. Recent information suggest that the level of catch may not be sustainable and the IWC adopted a resolution, put forward by the UK, expressing concern about the sustainability of the hunt, directing the IWC's Scientific Committee to carry out a full review of the affected stocks in 2001 and in the meantime inviting the government of Japan to reconsider the quota it sets for Dall's porpoises.

A number of other issues were considered. There was a discussion on whalewatching, in which my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary emphasised the economic benefits of this activity, particularly in the Caribbean, and drew attention to the guidelines on whalewatching in the UK issued by the Government. A resolution was adopted drawing attention to the risk posed to consumers of whalemeat (including meat from small cetaceans) by the high levels of contaminants found in some samples, and

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requesting the IWC's Scientific Committee to monitor contaminant burdens in cetaceans and, where necessary, pass the information on to the World Health Organisation and appropriate national authorities. Other resolutions were agreed requesting the Scientific Committee to develop DNA methods for monitoring the origin of whalemeat as part of a control scheme for any future whaling and drawing attention to the continued threat posed to small

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populations of highly endangered whales by ship strikes, by-catches, and in a limited number of cases, whaling.

Overall, this was a successful meeting for the UK. We achieved all our main objectives, and made progress towards our ultimate goals. My honourable friend's presence at the meeting underlined the importance that the Government attach to their policy of opposing whaling and to the role of the IWC.

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