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Written Answers

Thursday, 23rd January 2003.

Zimbabwe: Consular, Passport and Visa Services

Baroness Park of Monmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the recent revision of Zimbabwe legislation on the exchange rate, whether the British High Commission in Harare will continue to require persons applying for United Kingdom passports or visas to pay at the parallel, rather than the official, rate.[HL1025]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): Our High Commission in Zimbabwe continues to set fees for consular, passport and visa services using the parallel rate of exchange. This practice is reviewed regularly to ensure it complies with Zimbabwean law.

North Korea

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy towards North Korea.[HL1085]

Baroness Amos: Her Majesty's Government deplore North Korea's stated intention to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. FCO officials summoned the DPRK charge d'affaires on 10 January to protest against recent actions by North Korea, and we continue to express our concerns to the DPRK Government via our ambassador in Pyongyang. Her Majesty's Government intend to remain engaged with North Korea; to maintain educational and human rights training programmes for North Korean officials; and to maintain humanitarian assistance to the people of North Korea. Technical assistance and trade promotion activities have been suspended until North Korea demonstrates a willingness to become a responsible member of the international community.

Afghanistan: Security

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the statement by Lord Bach on 17 December 2002 (WA101) that "Security in Afghanistan is primarily the responsibility of the Afghans themselves", whether they consider the Afghan administration to be capable of meeting that responsibility effectively at present; and, if not, when they envisage that it will be able to do so.[HL1088]

Baroness Amos: The Afghan authorities are making progress towards being able to meet their own security requirements. We believe that the best way to help

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them achieve this is by supporting demobilisation and disarmament of militias, building an accountable and multi-ethnic national army and police force under democratic control, stamping out the drugs trade and rebuilding the legal system. But this is a long-term process requiring the help of the international community. It is not possible at this stage to determine an exact date by which it will be complete.

British Council: Works of Art Exhibitions

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many indemnity undertakings were given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in respect of loss or damage to works of art loaned to the British Council for exhibitions overseas for the six-month period ended September 2002; and what was the value of contingent liabilities in respect of such undertakings which remained outstanding at that date.[HL1227]

Baroness Amos: The British Council, although not a government department, receives a substantial grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The council regularly organises or sponsors exhibitions overseas of works of art loaned from national galleries and private collections in the United Kingdom. It provides certain assurances or guarantees in respect of loss or damage while these works are on loan.

In the six month period ended 30 September 2002, the British Council provided such assurances to seven national lenders and undertakings to 156 private lenders. The value of the contingent liabilities that remained outstanding as at 30 September 2002 in respect of national lenders was £181,233,500 and £158,734,660 in respect of private lenders; these were, for the most part, attributable to the Constable exhibition which opened in Paris on 7 October. The exhibition closed on 13 January 2003.

Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act Powers of Detention

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to continue the powers of detention in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.[HL1258]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): A draft order to continue the powers of detention in the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 for a further 12 months has today been laid before Parliament. It will be debated by both Houses of Parliament early in March.

Where terrorism is concerned, our paramount responsibility is to ensure public safety and national security. So long as the present public emergency subsists, where a person is suspected of terrorism of the sort which led to 11 September 2001 and is considered

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to be a threat to national security but cannot currently be removed—and for whom a criminal prosecution is not an option—we believe that it is necessary and proportionate to provide for extended detention, pending removal. The person would be free to leave the UK if he wished to do so.

The Court of Appeal unanimously upheld our position on the need for these detention powers last October. The court agreed that the detention powers are not discriminatory and comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The draft Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Continuance in force of sections 21–23) Order 2003 provides for the continuation of the immigration powers under Part IV of the 2001 Act to certify, and to detain pending removal, suspected international terrorists, subject to safeguards. The continuation is from 14 March 2003 until 13 March 2004.

Of the 15 foreign nationals who have so far been detained using the powers under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act, two have voluntarily left the United Kingdom. The other 13 remain in detention.

The decisions of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to certify and detain these individuals were made on the basis of detailed and compelling evidence. That evidence will be examined by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission when the individuals' appeals are held, as provided for under the Act. The commission is equivalent to the High Court. It has the power to overturn the certificates which the Home Secretary has issued in respect of those detained.

The detention powers in Part IV of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act are a cornerstone of the UK's anti-terrorism measures. It is essential that we are able to take firm, swift action against those who threaten the safety of this country.

Terrorism Act 2000, Part VII

Lord Archer of Sandwell: asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will lay before Parliament the report by Lord Carlile of Berriew into the operation of Part VII of the Terrorism Act 2000.[HL1259]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, has completed the report on the operation of Part VII of the Terrorism Act 2000, which will be laid before the House today.

Defence Logistic Organisation: Temporary Deployable Accommodation

Lord Naseby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any cost savings arising from commonality between the Defence Logistic Organisation and the temporary deployable accommodation have been assessed.[HL1033]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): In assessing the whole life costs of solutions to meet the temporary deployable accommodation requirement, the investment appraisal has taken account of any potential commonality with in-service equipment supported by the Defence Logistic Organisation.

Light Forces Anti-Tank Guided Weapon

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which company has been selected as the prime contractor for the light forces anti-tank guided weapon.[HL1256]

Lord Bach: The Ministry of Defence has selected the Javelin weapon system, produced by a joint venture of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, as the preferred solution to the requirement for a new light forces anti-tank guided weapon (LF ATGW). This follows a rigorous and comprehensive assessment phase which included comparative live-firing trials between Javelin and the Spike system (offered by Rafael and MBDA). Taking all of these factors into account Javelin provides the best overall solution to our LF ATGW requirement in terms of risk, affordability, operational effectiveness and value for money.

Javelin, which is already in service with the United States Army, will provide the British Army with a significantly improved capability when it replaces the existing Milan system. The weapon system is highly manoeuvrable and man-portable and is capable of destroying the most advanced tanks and armoured vehicles at ranges up to 2.5km.

The contract, subject to satisfactory conclusion of negotiations, will be placed shortly. It will be worth over £300 million and is expected to create or sustain over 300 jobs across the United Kingdom in a diverse range of manufacturing companies.

Ex-Service Personnel: Rough Sleepers

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

    What research they have undertaken to determine how many homeless persons living on the streets have at some stage been discharged from, or have chosen to leave, the Armed Forces[HL879]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): No specific research has been undertaken. However, the Social Exclusion Unit's report on Rough Sleeping (published in July 1998) highlighted that repeated studies had found that between a quarter and one-fifth of rough sleepers had been in the services at some stage. More recently, a non-representative survey of around 1,500 single homeless people who were in contact with agencies in one week in November 2002 found that a small minority of single homeless people had a forces background (5 per cent).

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