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14 Dec 1999 : Column WA23

Written Answers

Tuesday, 14th December 1999.


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of the significance of the Burundi dimension to the overall crisis in the Great Lakes region; and what action they are supporting both bilaterally and multilaterally to deal with it.[HL227]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Instability in Burundi contributes to insecurity in the rest of the Great Lakes region. Resolution of the Burundi conflict will improve the prospects for peace throughout the region. There can be no military solution to the situation in Burundi. We have urged all parties in Burundi to dedicate themselves to a negotiated settlement. The UK has contributed over £450,000 to the Burundi peace negotiations and stands ready to support further a credible commitment to peace. We continue to work with our EU and regional partners in the search for peace in Burundi. The recent appointment of Nelson Mandela as a mediator is very welcome and we will offer any assistance to him that we can.

United States Missile Defence System

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United States Administration's plan to deploy a national missile defence system, if proceeded with, would require changes to the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty; and, if so, whether they will seek to be actively involved in any necessary re-negotiation.[HL235]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The interpretation of the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty is a matter for the parties to that treaty.

The United Kingdom is not a party to that treaty, and would not therefore be involved in any renegotiation.

European Defence Initiative

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the recently expressed comment in the Daily Telegraph on 1 December that a move towards a common foreign and security policy within the European Union "distracts attention from emerging security threats, such as the

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    spread of missiles and weapons of mass destruction" and "sows the seeds of discord within the Atlantic relationship".[HL236]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Britain has worked to develop the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy since its establishment in 1992. Part of this effort has been to work with our EU partners in mobilising Europe's substantial political and economic weight to counter emerging threats. The European Defence Initiative will further strengthen CFSP by delivering credible military capabilities to underpin our policies. The US have a positive view of CFSP, understanding that a stronger Europe means a stronger Alliance.

Overseas Territories Citizens: British Citizenship

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When British citizenship will be given to the people of the Overseas Territories.[HL254]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As soon as practicable, given the need for preparatory work before the introduction of a Bill, and in the context of the Government's priorities in the Legislative Programme. Delay does not signal any lack of resolve on the part of the Government to ensure that the commitment to offer citizenship is carried out.

Iran: Death Sentences

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask for clemency for the 13 Iranian Jews, four students and any others, facing the penalty of death in Iran.[HL259]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The cases of the 13 members of the Iranian Jewish community and others detained on espionage charges have yet to come to trial. The sentencing of the four students to which his Lordship refers is less clear cut. There have been reports that one has been acquitted and the other three have received the death sentence but continue to have a right of appeal. But we and EU partners do not believe that the death penalty is justified under any circumstances. We have expressed our concern over all these cases with the Iranians on many occasions. We have in the past pressed the Iranian Government for clemency in cases where the death sentence has been confirmed. If necessary, we will do so again.

Iran: Newspaper Closures

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recent closure of three newspapers and the conviction of Mr Abdollah Nouri, editor and Tehran City councillor, by a Clerical Court,

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    have altered their appreciation of the current situation in Iran.[HL260]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The EU Presidency expressed concern about these issues on behalf of ourselves and our EU partners during the latest round of EU/Iran talks on 1 December. We continue to follow events in Iran closely in the run-up to February's Majles (Parliament) elections. Our policy of engagement with Iran will continue and we will use the opportunities this affords to raise our concerns with the Iranians.

Hong Kong

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the status of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong after the Joint Liaison Group ceases to meet on 1 January 2000.[HL339]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong is a treaty registered at the United Nations which creates international rights and obligations for both parties to it. The Joint Declaration has no termination date, although China has made an explicit commitment that its basic policies on Hong Kong, which include maintaining Hong Kong's capitalist system and way of life, will remain unchanged for 50 years from 1 July 1997. Under paragraph 7 of the Joint Declaration, China committed herself to abide by all her commitments in the Joint Declaration.

Her Majesty's Government will continue to take a close interest in developments in Hong Kong and to report to Parliament on the implementation of the Joint Declaration.

Yugoslavia: Exception to Arms Embargo

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have granted a licence for the export of electrical firing cable to the HALO Trust in Kosovo.[HL340]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government have granted a licence for the export to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) of 7 x 500 metre lengths of electrical firing cable for use by the HALO Trust, an organisation engaged in humanitarian demining activities in Kosovo on behalf of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). 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 in UNSCR 1244, which provides that prohibitions imposed by UNSCR 1160 shall not apply to the sale or supply of arms and related material for use by the international civil and

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security presence in Kosovo. We have notified the UN Sanctions Committee of this export and they have raised no objection. The export of this equipment required for demining purposes is not prohibited by the EU arms embargo.

Apex Rail Fares

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many privatised rail companies are still offering Apex concessionary fares and how many have reduced the number offered or altered the terms on which they may be obtained.[HL244]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Apex fares and other concessionary fares are not regulated by the Franchise Director and are offered by train operating companies at their discretion. We do not maintain records of all unregulated fares which are on offer, but I understand that some train operators have reduced the number of concessions offered because of increased demand for services.

Criminal Courts: Review

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for a review of the criminal courts.[HL380]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I have appointed the right honourable Lord Justice Auld to conduct a review of the criminal courts. The terms of reference of the review are as follows: "An inquiry into the practices and procedures of, and the rules of evidence applied by, the criminal courts at every level, with a view to ensuring that they deliver justice fairly, by streamlining all their processes, increasing their efficiency and strengthening the effectiveness of their relationships with others across the whole of the criminal justice system, and having regard to the interests of all parties including the victims and witnesses, thereby promoting public confidence in the law".

The review is expected to last for 12 months.

I have today placed copies of the terms of reference of the review in the Libraries of both Houses.

Financial Services Industry and EMU Membership

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the analysis of the Governor of the Bank of England that "The City has in fact gone from strength to strength, most

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    recently coming through the global financial turbulence of the last couple of years as well as the advent of the euro at least as strong as before"; and, if so, whether they intend to ensure that their policy towards the euro will be framed with this in mind.[HL334]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The strength of our financial services industry is vital to our economy. And the dynamic nature of the financial services industry means there can be no room for complacency. So it is right that the Government should include the impact on our financial services industry as one of the five economic tests for potential EMU membership.

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