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Miscarriages of Justice Compensation: Independent Assessor

Baroness Howells of St Davids asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: My noble friend Lord Brennan will succeed Sir David Calcutt as independent assessor of compensation for miscarriage of justice for England and Wales with effect from 27 July. The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, was selected through an open and equal competition in line with the guidance of the Commissioner for Public Appointments and his appointment was made by the predecessor of my right honourable Friend the Home Secretary (Mr Straw) on the advice of an advisory panel with an independent member.

Tristan Da Cunha

Lord Alton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We provided £75,000 to help with storm damage.

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This included repairs to the hospital and replacement of damaged medical equipment. A doctor and nursing staff are available on the island.

Genetically Modified Food: Discussions

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of their policy towards genetically modified food and its production, what discussions they have had with the United Nations Development Programme on that body's endorsement of such food production in developing countries and on the relevance of such a policy to sustainable development, health and biodiversity; and what was the outcome of any such discussions.[HL297]

Baroness Amos: We have not held bilateral discussions with the UNDP on these issues. However, we are taking an active role in the international debate on biotechnology and GMOs. The Government, in co-operation with the OECD, Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Secretariat to the Convention on Biological Diversity sponsored a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, last week to explore ways to integrate best scientific knowledge on the safety of GM crops and foods into the international processes for consensus building. Its aim was to ensure international biosafety activities incorporate the best scientific evidence and address public concerns. The UK provided support for developing country experts to help ensure the views of developing countries were well represented.

The Government's view is that genetic modification technologies have the potential to provide great benefits for people and the environment when managed responsibly. We remain concerned to help ensure that in developing countries they are used safely, appropriately and effectively to bring real benefits to poor people and that these countries are in a position to manage their safe development and use. A background briefing note on DfID's approach to GMOs and developing countries is available on the DfID website at

Bermuda: Constitutional Reform

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether consultation has taken place in Bermuda with regard to the recent proposals for constitutional reform; whether they considered such consultation satisfactory; and whether they consider that the people of Bermuda are in favour of single member constituencies and a reduction in the size of the House of Assembly.[HL252]

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Baroness Amos: Yes. The Government of Bermuda's proposals to amend the constitution were presented to the Bermuda Legislature on 18 August 2000. The proposals were discussed in the local media and a series of public meetings were held in the autumn. Following this public debate the proposals were debated in the Bermuda House of Assembly and Senate. A resolution was passed by the House of Assembly requesting that an Order in Council be made to implement the proposals. An FCO team visited Bermuda at the beginning of April to hold consultations with the political parties and interested members of the public about the various proposals for constitutional reform. The proposal for single member constituencies reflects a pre-election manifesto commitment of the Government of Bermuda and has been endorsed by resolution of the House of Assembly. However, there will be a further opportunity to discuss proposed changes to the electoral system when the Constituency Boundaries Commission has made its report. It is premature to say that the House of Assembly will be reduced in size. Given the prescribed parameters of 20 to 40 constituencies, the commission's recommendations would not necessarily be to the effect that the number of Members of the House should be reduced from the current 40.

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why it is proposed to change the Bermuda constitution, empowering a boundaries commission to make recommendations as to whether there should be single member constituencies and how many seats there should be in the House of Assembly, without there first being a constitutional conference to seek agreement on these matters; and whether these arrangements are compatible with the undertaking given by the British Government in 1966 that no major change in the constitution would be made without such a conference.[HL253]

Baroness Amos: Her Majesty's Government responded to the request by the democratically elected Government of Bermuda to take forward their proposals to amend the Bermuda constitution. Ministers have approved a draft Order in Council which, inter alia, will enable the Constituency Boundaries Commission to recommend the number and boundaries of constituencies in a report to the Governor. The commission would act in accordance with prescribed terms of reference and invite views from the public. The commission's report would be debated in the House of Assembly and the Governor would be required to transmit it, with the views of the House, to the Secretary of State. The report would then be considered.

Before making any decision on the commission's recommendations, further consultation with Bermuda would be required, and the Secretary of State would wish to take into account the report and local reactions to it. It would be premature now to decide that in any event a constitutional conference should be held or a referendum organised. But neither option has been

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ruled out. Her Majesty's Government will consider all possible options at the time. The Government do not believe that the present draft Order in Council will make major changes to the Bermuda constitution.

Zambia: Death of Mr Paul Tembo

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will use Commonwealth or bilateral channels to ask the Government of Zambia to set up an independent judicial inquiry into the murders on 6 July of Mr Paul Tembo (a leading opposition politician) and into the murders of other members of the opposition. [HL379]

Baroness Amos: We are deeply concerned at the news of Mr Tembo's death. The Zambian Government are well aware of that concern. They know that the international community wants to see the culprits brought to justice rapidly. I am sure we should give their judicial authorities the chance to do so before considering international action. But we shall monitor developments and reconsider our position should they not make early progress.

Western Sahara

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to support the framework agreement for the solution of the Western Sahara problem, granting autonomy of the territory and providing for a referendum in which Moroccan residents would be entitled to vote, irrespective of whether or not the agreement of the Frente Polisario can be obtained. [HL532]

Baroness Amos: Her Majesty's Government supported UN Security Council Resolution 1359 which was passed unanimously on 29 June 2001. It extended the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 November 2001. This resolution reiterated full support for the ongoing efforts of MINURSO to implement the settlement plan and agreements adopted by the parties to hold a free, fair and impartial referendum for the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara. It also confirmed full support for the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to invite all the parties to meet directly or through proximity talks, under the auspices of his personal envoy, James Baker, and encouraged the parties to discuss the draft framework agreement and negotiate any specific changes they would like to see in this proposal, as well as to discuss any other prosposal for a political solution, to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement. Her Majesty's Government's objective is to assist the parties to achieve a just and lasting solution to the question of Western Sahara.

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Nigerian High Commission: NNDR Debts

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they plan to take in respect of the £339,945 of national non-domestic rates unpaid at 16 July by the diplomatic mission of Nigeria; and how long this sum has been owing.[HL449]

Baroness Amos: Her Majesty's Government are very concerned at the level of national non-domestic rates (NNDR) debts owed by the Nigerian High Commission and are proposing to take up this issue with the Nigerian authorities, both here and in Abuja as a matter of urgency.

The Government have asked the Valuation Office Agency for details of how long this sum has been owing.

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