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Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have no evidence to suggest that Saudi Arabia possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq: Consequences of Military Action

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No decision has been made to take military action against Iraq. We have at all stages during this crisis considered the options carefully with our allies, taking account of all the circumstances. It was acting in this spirit which enabled us to secure the unanimous support of the United Nations Security Council for Resoution 1441.

Iraq: Democracy and Human Rights

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No decision has been taken to launch military action against Iraq. Our policy remains to ensure Iraq complies with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions, including by giving up its weapons of mass destruction. As I said in my 7 January Statement on our Iraq policy objectives (WA 180), we would like Iraq to become a stable, united and law-abiding state, within its present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or to international security, abiding by all its international obligations and providing effective and representative government for its own people.

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Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following the reopening of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) office in Belarus, and the announcement by the new OSCE Ambassador Eberhard Heyken that he would monitor and report on institution-building, they will propose that the OSCE should offer assistance to non-governmental institutions concerned with free and fair elections in advance of the forthcoming elections.[HL1736]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The arrival of Ambassador Heyken as head of office only on February 10 has left little time for the OSCE to engage in such activity before the elections on 2 March. However, Her Majesty's Government fully expect the new office in Minsk to address the issue of free and fair elections as part of its new mandate.


Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken to help secure a settlement in Cyprus.[HL1877]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Goverment's aim remains a comprehensive settlement in time for a reunited Cyprus to accede to the European Union on 16 April. For this to happen, the UN has set 28 February as the deadline for a decision on the Secretary-General's proposals. On Sunday 23 February, Kofi Annan put forward ideas to the two sides on how he might revise his 10 December proposals and consulted the governments in Ankara and Athens before his historic visit to Nicosia. President-elect, Mr Tassos Papadopoulos, has made clear that the change of government under way in Cyprus will not impede the UN timetable. The UK has supported the UN throughout this process and has welcomed the balanced and comprehensive settlement proposals tabled by the Secretary-General. We urge both sides now to secure a settlement.

During the intensive negotiations which followed the Copenhagen European Council, it became clear that the issue of territorial readjustment was a key one, needing to be resolved if there was to be a settlement. In particular, it became clear that both sides attached great importance to adjustments which represented a relatively small percentage of the area of Cyprus. The Government therefore gave urgent consideration to whether we could in some way help to bridge the remaining gap. A decision was reached to inform the UN Secretary-General that Britain would be prepared to cede part of the UK's sovereign base areas, and this offer has now been included in the UN Secretary-General's ideas of 23 February.

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The offer consists of 45 square miles—just under half of the total area of the SBAs. This makes up 1.2 per cent of the area of the new state of affairs in Cyprus. The areas involved would bring a number of Cypriots living near Limassol, and in the Dhekelia sovereign base area, within the administration of their respective constituent state. It will also open up areas of coastline for possible development. The areas involved do not contain military infrastructure, and this offer will not have any adverse impact on the functioning of the SBAs. The offer would only become valid if there were agreement by both sides to the UN's proposals. And, of course, legislation would be introduced to bring the transfer of territory into operation. In the event that either side in Cyprus rejects the proposals, or the proposals are rejected in a referendum by either side, the offer, along with the rest of the UN proposals, will become null and void.

We urge both sides not to let this historic opportunity to heal the division of Cyprus slip away; and to go the last mile to conclude negotiations and secure the settlement.

Hong Kong

Baroness Ramsey of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the next report to Parliament on Hong Kong and the Sino-British Joint Declaration.[HL1878]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The 12th report on the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong was published today and copies have been placed in the Library of the House. A copy of the report is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website ( The report includes a foreword by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. I commend the report to the House.

Flue Gas Desulphurisation Plants

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What account is taken of the running costs of flue gas desulphurisation plants in the market for electricity generation to ensure that these plants are not at a commercial disadvantage to plants without abatement equipment.[HL1802]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): In England and Wales, the Environment Agency regulates power generation plants through the integrated pollution control regime. The agency applies the best available techniques not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC) on a site by site basis. BATNEEC balances the cost to the operator against the benefits to the environment.

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However, in England and Wales the Environment Agency is reviewing the current regulatory framework to assess whether plants fitted with FGD are commercially disadvantaged relative to non-FGD plants. Depending on the outcome of the review, further conditions may be imposed on unabated plants to ensure the emissions of sulphur dioxide per gigawatt hour more closely align with those from plants fitted with FGD operating at a high load factor.

Export Certificates for Animal Health Products

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which division of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has taken over responsibility from the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Arable Crops Division for issuing export certificates for animal health products; whether the target turnaround period is still five working days from receipt of the application to issue of the certificate; and what proportion of certificates are issued within this period.[HL1636]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Within Defra a number of divisions, including the Arable Crops Division, are responsible for issuing certificates of free sale for a wide range of food and feed products. Defra's agencies are responsible for issuing similar certificates for pesticide and veterinary medicinal products. This service is offered free of charge to assist exporters in meeting the needs of importing countries for official statements on the status of products in the UK.

In addition, Defra's International Animal Health Division is responsible for the preparation of export health certificates for live animals and products of animal origin. It is sometimes the case that an export health certificate in respect of a non-EU country is not available. In these instances it can take some time to obtain the import conditions from the country concerned and agree the detail of the certificate. Once an export health certificate is available, the State Veterinary Service is in most cases responsible for issuing it to an exporter.

Over 97 per cent of relevant certificates are processed within five working days of receipt of applications.

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