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Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: Meetings between United Kingdom Ministers and Scottish Executive Ministers take place on a regular and frequent basis to discuss a whole range of issues of common interest and concern.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The setting of audit fees is a matter for the Audit Commission itself, which operates independently of Her Majesty's Government. I have asked the Chair of the Commission to write to the noble Baroness with an explanation of the fee increases.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is most important that we give the voluntary approach to the new quality standards enough time to make an impact. Take-up of the new standards is already approaching 50 per cent and further progress will be reviewed at next year's Tourism Summit. We support efforts by the English Tourism Council, the AA and the RAC to encourage more properties to join. These include the ETC's new "Stepping Stones" initiative, aimed at encouraging
The new quality standards have made an encouraging start but they are in their infancy. It is too soon to predict what take-up percentage will be sufficient to improve the quality of accommodation to the competitive levels that we consider necessary.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: On 31 March, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State issued a determination under Section 2(2) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (as amended), introducing a 50 per cent reduction in the television licence fee for people who are registered blind, with effect from 1 April. Copies of the determination have been placed in the Library of the House.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Her Majesty's Government, acting in concert with other Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) participating states, has repeatedly pressed the Russian Government to honour the language in the summit declaration on the conflict in Chechnya. The Russian Government has so far rejected calls to use the good offices of the OSCE to find a political solution to the conflict. However, it recently allowed
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We recognise Chechnya as an integral part of the Russian Federation. The UK position is shared by our international partners. President Maskhadov was elected in 1997 in a process recognised as democratic by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Russian Presidential elections, held on 26 March, were monitored by observers acting for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). An OSCE mission that visited the region prior to the elections concluded that, given the security situation, normal conditions for voting did not exist in Chechnya. The OSCE did not monitor voting in Chechnya, but preliminary results show a turn-out of 465,000 of those registered to vote in Chechnya--approximately 65 per cent of the electorate, which is close to the national turn-out.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We expect Russia, like all Council of Europe members, to meet its obligations. The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly passed a recommendation on 27 January calling on Russia to meet several conditions related to human rights in Chechnya. The Assembly will meet on 4-7 April to assess Russian progress towards meeting the conditions. It would be premature to make a judgment on Russian progress before all the evidence is presented.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Both my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary have raised allegations of human rights violations in Chechnya at the highest level in Russia. We have urged a full investigation of these allegations. But the Government recognise Chechnya as an integral part of the territory of the Russian Federation. The UK position is shared by our international partners.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently has one officer in each of the Foreign Ministries of the following EU member states: Portugal, Holland and Germany. These assignments vary in length, but are generally between six months and one year.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are three nationals from other European Union member states' Foreign Ministries currently working in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Two are from Germany and one is from France. The normal secondment length is one year.
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