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6 Nov 2002 : Column WA103

Written Answers

Wednesday, 6th November 2002.

Georgia

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What warning they have given to the Russian Government about incursions by the armed forces of Russia into the independent state of Georgia.[HL6195]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): We are closely following the situation in Georgia. We have urged both the Russians and Georgians to co-operate over security, including along their border, in a spirit of openness and transparency, and to avoid any actions that would exacerbate tensions. With EU partners we have expressed our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.

Asif Ali Zardari

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Foreign Secretary or the High Commissioner have raised with the Pakistan Government the continuing detention of Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of Benazir Bhutto, without being brought to trial.[HL6198]

Baroness Amos: We are aware of the case of Mr Zardari but have not raised it with the Pakistani authorities.

Hong Kong

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they have had with the Government of Hong Kong about the proposal to introduce anti-subversion legislation under Basic Law Article 23; whether they will propose that the Government of Hong Kong invite independent experts to advise them on the compatibility of the draft legislation with Hong Kong's international obligations on civil and political rights; and whether they will ask the Government of Hong Kong to allow a period of consultation with the public on the draft Bill, prior to its introduction in the legislature.[HL6228]

Baroness Amos: The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government published a consultation paper on 24 September outlining their proposals for legislation to meet their responsibilities under Article 23 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong. Before this we had discussed the general issue of Article 23 with the SAR Government on a number of

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occasions, including when my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary visited Hong Kong in July this year. Since the publication of the consultation paper, the Lord Chancellor has discussed the proposals with members of the SAR Government during his visit to Hong Kong last month.

We have made clear to the SAR Government that any legislation should be consistent with the principles of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong and the two UN human rights covenants. We welcome the Hong Kong Secretary of Justice's assertion that any new laws would comply with these international covenants. We will watch this closely.

The precise wording of any legislation will be of crucial importance. We are aware that many commentators on Hong Kong have urged that the text of the proposed legislation be published before it is tabled in the Legislative Council. We hope that the SAR Government will use the consultation period to clarify the detail of the legislation.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What confirmation they have received of the undertakings given by the Angolan President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the Namibian President, Sam Nujoma, and the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, that the forces of those countries would be withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo by the end of October.[HL6259]

Baroness Amos: The UK has not received any official confirmation from the Governments of Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe that the forces of those countries would be withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo by the end of October. The UN mission in the DRC (MONUC) has reported that the Namibian forces have already left the DRC. The Angolans and Zimbabweans recently met in Kinshasa to announce a joint programme to complete the departure of remaining Zimbabwean and Angolan troops. There was a military ceremony on 30 October to symbolise the final departure. We expect UN observers to confirm shortly whether these withdrawals have been completed.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will draw to the attention of other Commonwealth states the report by Amnesty International Democratic Republic of Congo: Making a killing; the diamond trade in government-controlled DRC and the report by the United Nations panel of experts on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo.[HL6260]

Baroness Amos: The UK will draw attention to the report by the United Nations panel of experts on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo to other Commonwealth states. Amnesty

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International normally distributes its reports widely to governments and other interested parties.

Sudan

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will suggest ways for providing independent monitoring of the existing ceasefire in the Sudan.[HL6310]

Baroness Amos: The means for monitoring the existing cessation of hostilities are currently under discussion at the peace talks in Machakos.

Cayman Islands

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any developments in the constitutional review process in the Cayman Islands.[HL6360]

Baroness Amos: We have now completed our review of the report of the Constitutional Review Commissioners and associated papers forwarded by the Governor of the Cayman Islands in August. We have invited representatives of both government and opposition parties to an informal meeting in London on 9-11 December to discuss how to take the various proposals forward. Copies of the relevant reports have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Depleted Uranium

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any smart bombs or guided missiles containing either depleted uranium or natural uranium have been used in Afghanistan since September 2001, and how many bombs of 2,000 kg, 1,000 kg and less than 1,000 kg have been dropped.[HL6190]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The United Kingdom has not employed any weapons containing depleted uranium in Afghanistan. There are no air-launched bombs containing depleted uranium in UK service.

It is not our practice to comment on the details of operations conducted by other nations.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any bunker busting bombs such as GBU 28, GBU 37, GBU 15, GBU 24 and similar weapons were tested in the Balkans; and, if so, whether any contained natural uranium or depleted uranium, and how many of which sizes were dropped.[HL6191]

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Lord Bach: The GBU-series are United States munitions, and it is not our practice to comment on the details of operations conducted by other nations.

However, the UK Paveway III, which was employed by the RAF in the Balkans, is essentially the same weapon as GBU-24. It is a precision-guided general purpose bomb, not specifically designed for bunker-busting, and does not contain depleted uranium. The United Kingdom does not possess equivalents to GBU-15, 28 and 37.

There are no air-launched bombs containing depleted uranium in UK service.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any weapons containing natural uranium or depleted uranium have been used in the bombing of the northern or southern no-fly zones in Iraq since the end of the Gulf war.[HL6192]

Lord Bach: Since the establishment of the no fly zones following the Gulf conflict, United Kingdom aircraft have released no munitions containing depleted uranium when responding in self-defence against attacks on them by Iraqi air defence weapons. There are no air-launched bombs containing depleted uranium in UK service.

It is not our practice to comment on the details of operations conducted by other nations.

Gulf War Illness

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of the representations about Gulf war illnesses made for the ex-service community to the Prime Minister by the Reverend Martin Smyth MP on 26 June, further to his Question on 19 June (HC Deb, cols. 278–279), and of the response sent to him.[HL6298]

Lord Bach: I will place a copy of the Reverend Smyth's letters to the Prime Minister of 19 and 26 June, together with the reply dated 12 September, in the Library of the House.

Betting Tax

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to review the gross profits tax on betting.[HL6372]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have today published the consultation document The Modernisation of Gambling Taxes: Consultation on the Evaluation of the Gross Profits Tax on Betting—One Year On, copies of which have been deposited in the Library of the House.

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