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Select Committee Recommendations

Lord Norton of Louth asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The information requested is not held centrally. Details of select committee reports and government responses are available through the sessional returns published by the House of Commons. I will write to the noble Lord with further details.

Yugoslavia: Export of De-mining Equipment

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We have granted a licence for the export to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) of 2,000 incendiary hand grenades and 6,000 coloured smoke grenades for use in de-mining activities by the Norwegian KFOR contingent deployed in Kosovo. These goods are on the UK's Military List.

UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1160 imposed an arms embargo on the FRY. The only exception to this embargo is that UNSCR 1244 provides that prohibitions imposed by UNSCR 1160 shall not apply to the sale or supply of arms and related material for the use of the international civil and security presences in Kosovo. Equipment needed for de-mining activities is not covered by the EU arms embargo.

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Yugoslavia: Mail Service Resumption

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether normal mail services to and from Serbia have been restored; and, if not, whether they will use their best endeavours to achieve this end.[HL70]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Royal Mail resumed normal surface and airmail services with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) on 2 August.

Recorded, Registered and Swiftair services remain suspended for the present. But Royal Mail intend to resume these services also, once they are confident that the internal postal system in the FRY is able to handle such items securely and swiftly.

Parcelforce Worldwide hope to resume services shortly.

Mail from Serbia and Montenegro is a matter for the Serbian authorities. However, with UNMIK (UN Mission in Kosovo) assistance, postal services within Kosovo resumed on 1 August.

Kosovo: International Police Force

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What emergency measures are in hand to put right the shortfall in numbers of the international police force agreed for Kosovo; and when it is expected that the planned strength will be achieved.[HL108]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: UNMIK police are now present in all five regions of Kosovo, and have relieved KFOR of responsibility for maintaining law and order in 60 per cent of Kosovo. As of 17 November, 1,809 UN police officers were in Kosovo.

The UN Secretary-General has recently notified the Security Council of the need to revise the original estimate of police officers required from 3,100 to 4,718. The UN has approached some 50 member countries for increased contributions to cover this urgent requirement. The UN expects to reach the new target by April 2000. Sixty UK police officers have been working with the UN International Police in Kosovo since the beginning of November.

Cultural Council, 23 November

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What issues were discussed at the European Union Cultural Council on 23 November; what conclusions were reached; and what future action will be taken by Her Majesty's Government as result of those conclusions.[HL127]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: At the Culture/Audiovisual Council held in Brussels on 23 November, the Presidency reported on the ongoing conciliation process for the Culture 2000 programme.

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The Council agreed a resolution on the promotion of the free movement of persons working in the cultural sector. The Commission will carry out a study on the obstacles to free movement, and the results will be presented at the beginning of the French Presidency. The Council agreed conclusions on the cultural industries and employment in Europe. There was some discussion of the successor pogramme to MEDIA II and we now await the Commission's proposals for this, which are expected shortly. The Council adopted conclusions on the protection of minors in the context of development in digital audiovisual services. These encourage the parties concerned, (manufacturers, broadcasters and operators), to co-operate in considering ways of evaluating and rating audiovisual content in order to assist parents in the protection of minors. Several cultural initiatives carried out by member states in support of reconciliation in Kosovo were also announced.

Northern Ireland: Small Firms Capital Allowance

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 25 November (WA 15), what were the reasons given by the European Commission for judging the small firms capital allowance to non-agricultural enterprises in Northern Ireland under Article 87 of the EC Treaties to be incompatible with state aid rules, when paragraph 3(a) of that article specifically allows for "aid to promote the economic development of areas where the standard of living is abnormally low or where there is serious under-employment".[HL135]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The question is based on the premise that the non-agricultural elements of the proposal were judged to be incompatible with state aid rules. That is not the case: as stated in the Written Answer given on 25 November (WA 15), the European Commission decided on 25 June 1999 that the proposal to allow 100 per cent first year capital allowances to non-agricultural enterprises in Northern

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Ireland was compatible with the state aid rules as contained in Articles 87 and 88 of the Treaty of Rome (as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam).

Debt Relief Policies

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made bilaterally and multilaterally in prioritising human development and sustainable economic policies in the application of debt relief policies; and how far the role of the International Monetary Fund in the recognition of which countries should be eligible for such relief is now shared by the World Bank, individual governments and other appropriate agencies.[HL131]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As part of the enhanced HIPC debt initiative proposed at the G7 Summit in Cologne and subsequently agreed at this year's IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings, the IMF has adopted a new structural reform process, the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility. This facility will promote good governance and will be based on pillars of increased and more effective fiscal expenditures for poverty reduction, with better targeting of resources, especially on social priorities in basic education and health, enhanced transparency, stronger country ownership of the reform and poverty reduction process and macroeconomic stability. The reforms adopted followed the recommendations made by the UK Government in its submission to Phase II of the HIPC Review.

At the heart of the new Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility will be poverty reduction strategies which will be prepared by the countries themselves, in consultation with the IMF, the World Bank and Civil Society. This new co-ordinated approach will mean closer working between the IMF and the World Bank in relation to HIPC.

Bilaterally, the UK also provides support under the HIPC Capacity Building Programme, which assists HIPC countries in drawing up sensible debt management strategies so that they can achieve a permanent exit from unsustainable debt burdens.

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