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22 Jun 1999 : Column WA67

Written Answers

Tuesday, 22nd June 1999.

Kosovar Refugees: UK Aid

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Kosovar refugees are in front-line states other than Macedonia and Albania; and whether the Government contribute to the work of non-governmental organisations in those areas.[HL2957]

Baroness Amos: According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 69,700 Kosovar refugees in Montenegro. There are the following numbers of asylum seekers in the other front line states, most of whom are assumed to be Kosovar refugees:




At present, we are contributing to the work of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Christian Aid, World Vision, and Radio Mir in Montenegro. We are not currently contributing to non-governmental organisations in Hungary, Bulgaria or Romania.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which British non-governmental organisations are active in helping refugees from Kosovo who are now in neighbouring states.[HL2958]

Baroness Amos: The Department for International Development is funding 23 NGOs, most of which are British based.

They are:

    Action Against Hunger, the Adventist Relief Agency, Catholic Fund for Overseas Development (CAFOD), CARE International, Children's Aid Direct, Christian Aid, Food for the Hungry, Marie Stopes International, the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, Merlin, Oxfam, the Salvation Army, Save the Children, UK Jewish Aid, War Child, World Vision.

A full list of all British NGOs working in the region is not available. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is responsible for co-ordinating the agencies.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What material support will be given to refugees returning to Kosovo.[HL2960]

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Baroness Amos: The Department for International Development (DfID) will be actively involved in supporting the returning refugees. We currently have an emergency assessment team in Kosovo. The immediate priority areas are de-mining and mines awareness education, and the provision of emergency relief (shelter, food, medicine, emergency rehabilitation of infrastructure).

We are also working to provide returning refugees with up to date information about the conditions in Kosovo. We are funding a public information officer for United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and are also supporting radio broadcasting to refugees in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro and through the BBC World Service.

The UK trucking convoy is active in moving supplies into Kosovo. DfID's new Pristina office will examine proposals from UN agencies, Red Cross and NGOs for specific support, taking into account the contribution of others.

Refugees in Serbia

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many refugees are still receiving international support in Serbia.[HL2959]

Baroness Amos: With the exception of the Red Cross, most international organisations working with refugees withdrew their staff from Serbia at the start of NATO's air campaign. The international and local Red Cross movement is continuing to assist 225,000 particularly vulnerable refugees from the conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia, in Serbia.

Since re-establishing a presence in Kosovo, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has dispatched relief convoys to 10 municipalities in Serbia to assist some of the 50,000 internally displaced Serbs from Kosovo. UNHCR has not been asked to assist other refugees.

Animal Procedures Committee

Lord Ewing of Kirkford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the latest annual report of the Animal Procedures Committee.[HL3216]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): We have placed the committee's annual report for 1998 in the Library today. We are grateful to the committee for its valuable work over the year and welcome this latest report. We wish the committee well in tackling the continuing agenda of work which the report identifies.

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Communications Interception

Lord Ewing of Kirkford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish their proposals for updating the legislation on interception of communications.[HL3215]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced last September in another place that he had put in hand a comprehensive review of the interception of communications regime and that a consultation document would be published in due course. The review is now complete and we are today publishing a consultation paper Interception of Communications in the United Kingdom, in which our proposals are laid out in detail. A copy has been placed in the Library.

The extraordinary pace of change in the communications industry, particularly in the last decade, has revolutionised communications and brought benefits to us all. This new technology, however, brings new opportunities for criminals and terrorists, which they have been quick to exploit. The law has not kept pace with these developments. We need to bring our interception law up to date to ensure the continued success of this essential investigative tool.

There are also some areas in which we need to improve the protection offered to the individual.

There is currently no basis in law, for example, for the interception of communications on private telephone networks. We intend to put such interception on a statutory footing for the first time. This will ensure that the privacy of those who use these networks is respected, and that they have a means of redress if their communications are intercepted unlawfully.

The Government are committed to building a safe, just and tolerant society. In the field of interception there is a difficult balance to be struck. We believe our proposals strike the right balance and will be grateful for views on any of the proposals in the consultation paper.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Contract with Siemens

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

    Whether they intend to pursue any remedies for breach of contract against Siemens in respect of the failure of the computer system within the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office; and [HL2915]

    Whether they will publish those provisions of their contract with Siemens for the supply of computer services to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office which are not commercially sensitive; and[HL2916]

    Whether they consider that Siemens are in breach of their contractual obligations in relation to the supply of computer services to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office.[HL2917]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: A copy of the contract between the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and Siemens Business Services for the casework programme is in the Library of the House. The charging schedules have not been made available as they are commercially sensitive. Some elements of the programme have been delivered but the new computer system was not available on the timetable required by the contract. In September 1998 the directorate and Siemens negotiated a commercial agreement for changes to the contractual payments to reflect the delay in full implementation.

Human Rights Act 1998

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

    Whether they will publish detailed guidance for public authorities and the general public on the Human Rights Act 1998.[HL2955]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: A range of guidance materials for public authorities is planned or in production. I have placed in the Library a copy of a detailed guide for Whitehall departments which has just been distributed. More general guidance material, suitable for all public authorities, will be issued later this year. The Human Rights Task Force has played a very valuable role in developing this guidance, and is also helping us to look at the options for a public information campaign to accompany implementation of the Human Rights Act in October 2000.

Charities and the Human Rights Convention

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

    Whether there are any legislative provisions governing the registration or regulation of charities, or any procedures followed by the Charity Commission, which they consider to be incompatible with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights or the first Protocol to the Convention.[HL2956]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: All departments are reviewing their legislation and procedures for compatibility with the Convention rights. This is a major task and it is not possible at this stage to say whether Parliament will be asked to consider any new legislation as a result of this review.

Open and Resettlement Prisons

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What current plans there are for the future development of (a) open prisons and (b) resettlement prisons.[HL2925]

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: Open and resettlement prisons remain a cost-effective way to prepare prisoners for release. Following a review of open prisons in 1996 it was recommended that open establishments should remain multi-functional--that is, the regimes should prepare both long and short-term prisoners for release.

There are no plans currently to establish another resettlement prison. But the three in existence remain an important part of the prison estate. Like all establishments, their role will continue to be scrutinised in order to ensure that they continue to be effective and provide value for money.

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