Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

12 Jan 2000 : Column WA117

Written Answers

Wednesday, 12th January 2000.

Zimbabwe: Human Rights

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of human rights concerns in Zimbabwe; and what action they are taking to address these. [HL524]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Respect for human rights in Zimbabwe has improved since the low point of the Matabeleland atrocities in the 1980s. Zimbabwe has an active civil society and independent press (albeit harassed at times). However, there have been some serious lapses in the last two years which have coincided with the decline in the economic situation. The arrest and torture of the two Standard journalists in January shocked Zimbabweans as well as the international community.

Freedom of assembly is enshrined in the Constitution. The government has previously used emergency powers to ban strike action, although a Parliamentary Legal Committee subsequently declared the ban to be unconstitutional.

Zimbabwe is a party to all the international human rights conventions except the Convention against Torture. Torture, mainly beatings, is regularly used by the police (understaffed and lacking in training) to secure criminal convictions. There is an independent judiciary.

Where there is evidence of human rights abuses, we raise our concerns with the Zimbabwe authorities. In addition, we actively promote freedom of expression by training journalists in the UK. Earlier this year we held a conference on media freedom in Harare. We support a number of NGOs working with the Zimbabwe police to enhance their respect for human rights. We also support good governance projects, and provide equipment and research material to NGOs working to improve people's access to law. We are encouraging the Zimbabweans to accede to the Convention against Torture.

Wassenaar Arrangement: 1999 Assessment

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the results of the 1999 Assessment of the Wassenaar Arrangement; and what action they are taking to address these.[HL525]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The 1999 Assessment of the operation of the Wassenaar Arrangement was concluded at the Arrangement's annual Plenary in Vienna on 1-3 December. The agreed public statement on the Plenary is available on the Arrangement's website (

12 Jan 2000 : Column WA118

We welcome the decision by Participating States to expand the scope of their reporting on their transfers of certain types of conventional arms. As a result, arms pillar reporting requirements in the Wassenaar Arrangement will now for the first time extend beyond those in the UN Register of Conventional Arms. We also welcome the Plenary's decisions to structure the information exchange on the basis of global and regional views--as a result of a proposal by the UK--and to mandate the introduction of a secure electronic information system. These steps will greatly increase the value and accessibility of information exchanged by Participating States.

Despite these positive developments, we regret that proposals to include other types of arms in the reporting requirements, including small arms and light weapons, warships of 150-750 metric tonnes displacement and missiles of less than 25km range, were not agreed due to opposition from a small minority of Participating States. We also regret that the Plenary did not agree that Participating States should provide details of decisions to refuse the transfer of military equipment, or details of end-users in all denial notifications for dual-use goods. We continue to believe that these improvements would significantly enhance the ability of Participating States to identify potentially destabilising transfers or accumulation of conventional arms and dual-use goods.

Throughout the course of the 1999 Assessment, most of which was taken forward in the Arrangement's General Working Group under UK chairmanship, the UK has been at the forefront of efforts to increase the effectiveness of the Wassenaar Arrangement. In particular we co-sponsored and lobbied in support of proposals for a substantive increase in arms pillar transparency. We will continue this year to work for the further expansion of reporting requirements, to include in particular transfers of small arms and light weapons. We will also consider the scope for expanding our existing commitment to volunteer details of our transfers of certain types of conventional arms which are not covered by the mandatory reporting requirements.

Yugoslavia: Television Broadcast Equipment Export Controls

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps have been taken to control the export of television broadcast equipment to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[HL526]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As of 5 January 2000, we have introduced an amendment to the Export of Goods (Control) Order to control the export to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) of television cameras, transmitters, codecs and transposers, satellite earth stations and up and down link equipment and transmission link and relay equipment. All applications to export these goods will be considered on a case by case basis.

12 Jan 2000 : Column WA119

We have introduced the control because of our concerns that companies based in the UK may consider supplying this equipment to the state-run television company in the FRY. This company is a propaganda tool of the Milosevic regime and has been consistently used by the regime to defend and promote its repressive policies, most recently and noticeably during the Kosovo crisis.

Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have had from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists about the initial consultation on proposals to replace the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960; what is their response; and what action they have taken or will be taking.[HL501]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists is a member of the Reference Group which is assisting in the preparation of proposals to replace the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960. It has yet to comment on the first draft initial consultation document.

The European Union and UK Jobs

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 13 December (WA 10-11), how many of the "up to 900,000 jobs" that the European Commission estimated had been created across the European Union as a result of the European Single Market were in the United Kingdom; how the Commission reached this estimate; whether the Government are satisfied with the Commission's methodology; and, if so, why.[HL471]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The European Commission report provides only aggregate data. It does not contain separate figures for the member states. An appendix to the report gives an overview of the Commission's methodology, which is based on the findings of a large number of studies and an extensive survey of business opinion. A copy of the report will be placed in the Library.

Political Staff, 10 Downing Street

Lord Chadlington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether political staff at 10 Downing Street, whose salaries are funded by the Labour Party, are covered by the same restrictions as civil servants

12 Jan 2000 : Column WA120

    regarding publication of memoirs; and whether they are required to sign the Official Secrets Act.[HL389]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Staff employed in the political office at 10 Downing Street are not civil servants. Their terms and conditions of employment are a matter for the Labour Party.

Government Advertising

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they believe that their expenditure on advertising represents value for money for the United Kingdom taxpayer.[HL432]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes. All government advertising is carried out in accordance with the Guidance on the Work of the Government Information Service. This requires it to be conducted in an economic and appropriate way, having regard to the need to be able to justify the costs as expenditure of public funds.

Political Honours Scrutiny Committee

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the terms of reference of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee.[HL303]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The terms of reference of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee are set out in the Order in Council of 20 May 1997, which I have placed in the Library of the House. Chapter 14 of the Fifth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, The Funding of Political Parties in the United Kingdom (Cm 4057-1), refers to the PHSC remit, drawing on evidence given to the Committee by the Cabinet Office Ceremonial Officer. That evidence is included in Volume II of the report.

The Prime Minister

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will define the role and responsibilities of the office of Prime Minister.[HL390]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Prime Minister is the Head of Her Majesty's Government and Her principal adviser. He is the chairman of the Cabinet. Some specific functions have also been conferred upon him by statute--for example, by the Intelligence Services Act 1994. However, the office has evolved over many years, drawing on convention and usage, and it is not possible precisely to define its role and responsibilities.

12 Jan 2000 : Column WA121

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page