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5 Nov 2001 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 5th November 2001.

Palestinian Territories

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to the Government of Israel following its latest assault on several towns in the autonomous Palestinian territories.[HL934]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We have conveyed direct to the Israeli Government our disapproval of Israeli military incursions into the Palestinian-controlled areas. We continue to urge the Israelis to withdraw their forces from these areas.

Following the General Affairs Council on 29 October, we and our EU partners issued a declaration in which we called on the Israeli authorities to withdraw their troops immediately from Palestinian-controlled areas and the Palestinian Authority to arrest those responsible for violence against Israel, and called on both parties to resume negotiations.

Middle East Peace Process

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What new and urgent initiatives they are taking bilaterally and through the European Union to further the Middle East peace process and implement United Nations resolutions leading to a viable Palestinian state.[HL935]

Baroness Amos: This Government have made clear their commitment to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister met the Palestinian Authority President, Yasser Arafat, on 15 October and visited Egypt for talks with President Mubarak on 11 October. He travelled to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority between 30 October and 1 November to meet regional leaders. The Foreign Secretary discussed the Middle East peace process with US Secretary of State Powell when he visited Washington on 23 and 24 October and also discussed the Middle East peace process with EU Foreign Ministers at the General Affairs Council on 29 October. Following that meeting the EU issued a declaration which called on Israel to withdraw from Area A land and the Palestinian Authority to arrest those responsible for violence against Israel, and called on both parties to resume negotiations.

We are working in concert with the US and EU to get the peace process back on track by urging restraint and a resumption of negotiations on the basis of the

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Tenet plan and the Mitchell Committee report. The goal remains a permanent settlement, based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of "land for peace"; security for Israel within recognised borders; and an end to occupation, which allows the emergence of a viable, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state committed to co-existence with Israel.

Embarkation Control

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they ceased to require passengers departing from the United Kingdom by air to show their passports to officers from the Immigration Service; why this practice ceased; and whether they will reintroduce it.[HL957]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): In 1994, the Government withdrew the embarkation control for passengers travelling to continental destinations from ferry ports and small/medium sized airports. The residual embarkation control at the large airports was reconfigured by the Immigration Service in March 1998 after a lengthy period of consultation with interested parties. The routine presence of immigration officers was replaced by a new arrangement based on an intelligence-led approach, with enhanced co-operation between the agencies and an increased use of CCTV technology.

The reconfiguration of the embarkation control means that the Immigration Service can now use its resources more flexibly, concentrating on key delivery areas, while operating a targeted embarkation control any time there is an immigration-related operational need. It has a contingency plan for emergency, short-term targeted embarkation controls, which can be set up at one hour's notice if there was an urgent operational need. This involves setting up an embarkation control at the traditional point and an additional gate check embarkation control at airports.

I do not think a return to a routine, manual embarkation control is a sensible use of Immigration Service resources, which is why we are considering as a matter of urgency a range of measures to enhance border security, including the use of new technology.

Mutual Understanding on Religious Issues

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that there is regular consultation between the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Education in Northern Ireland on:

    (a) the prevention of inter-communal and inter-religious hatred, violence and discrimination;

    (b) the promotion of inter-faith dialogue and co-operation; and

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    (c) education for mutual understanding and integrated schools, organised on the basis of inter-denominational and inter-faith balance and founded on mutual respect.[HL979]

Lord Rooker: Government departments consult each other regularly on a wide range of issues where they have a shared interest or responsibility, including those where domestic policy can inform or influence foreign policy and vice versa. I can assure the noble Lord that this already happens and will continue to happen, where appropriate, on religious issues.

FRY: Export Controls

Lord Bragg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any recent changes to export controls in place against the FRY. [HL1103]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The EU arms embargo was lifted at the General Affairs Council on 8 October 2001 due to the improved security situation and ongoing process of internal reforms undertaken by the FRY authorities. In light of this, the Government have decided to lift the controls imposed in 1996 on exports to the FRY of all wheel drive vehicles capable of off-road use that have a ground clearance of greater than 175 millimetres; heavy duty recovery vehicles capable of towing a suspended load of more than 6 tonnes or winching a load of more than 10 tonnes; and drop-sided trucks that have a load-carrying capacity of more than 5 tonnes. An amendment to the Export Control (Goods) Order will be made in due course.

The Government have also decided to lift the policy, as announced to Parliament on 14 March 2000, of presumption of refusal for the export of dual use goods to the FRY which could benefit the armed forces, internal security forces or similar entities of the authorities in Belgrade. Again, with the change to a democratic government in the FRY and ongoing improvements in the security structures there, we have no reason to continue doing so. This will bring our export control policy on the FRY in line with that on most other countries. All future applications for dual use goods to the FRY will be judged on a case-by-case basis, on their merits, against the consolidated EU and national export licensing criteria.

Companies Registration

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On average over the past three calendar years, how many companies registered in England or Wales have notified the Registrar of Companies of a change in their registered office (as distinct from first notifications of registered offices by newly incorporated companies). [HL950]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The average number of companies that have changed their registered office over the past three years is 302,174.

Premature Babies: Pain Relief

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of research published by the Medical Research Council which concludes that the foetus may be aware of pain after 20 weeks of gestation, revised guidance has been issued to hospitals and other medical establishments with regard to pain relief for premature babies. [HL1021]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): This research concluded that the experience of pain in the unborn or new-born is still poorly understood and pointed to concern about the effects of anaesthetics and analgesics. The possibility of harmful long-term effects of pain in prematurely born babies is a matter of serious concern, but this has to be carefully balanced against the potential risks of the analgesics themselves. It is essential to establish that the treatment does not do greater harm to the developing brain than the pain it is intended to relieve and for this understanding to be reached before it is possible to issue guidance.

NHS Information Network

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the target date of April 2002, by which all clinicians are to be connected to the National Health Service information network, will be met. [HL1038]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Our target of enabling desktop access for all clinical staff in National Health Service trusts by March 2002 is well on the way to being met. Indications are that clinicians will have access appropriate to their local working practice by the target date.

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