Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. Was she going to say something about the Ituri Pacification Commission which has been mentioned by several noble Lords and which the Ugandans said would begin to operate on 24th April? Is that so; and will the Ituri Pacification Commission have a military component which will be strong enough to keep the peace in Bunia?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I shall write to the noble Lord. I do not have the details in my brief.

It was agreed in Kinshasa that peace could be brought to Ituri quickly, a peace which the international community could help keep. There has very recently been progress on this front.

The signing of the "Global and Inclusive Agreement on Transition in the DRC", which was signed in Pretoria on 17th December last year, as we were reminded by the right reverend Prelate, was a step in the right direction. But it left three main issues unresolved. They were: a new constitution, under which the transitional government would work; security in Kinshasa for members and institutions of the transitional government; and the formation of a new national Army.

On 6th March, in Pretoria, the Congolese parties reached an agreement on the constitution. Negotiations continue on the remaining two issues. This allowed for a final plenary of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, which concluded yesterday, and which should soon be followed by the formal installation of the transitional government. We look forward very much to this event. I would like here to give tribute to the hard work of those whose efforts have brought about a chance of real peace for the DRC.

As soon as there is an agreed, legitimate transitional government in Kinshasa, we are keen to play our part in helping the Congolese to rebuild the DRC, in the same way as we have been helping the Tanzanians, Ugandans and Rwandans to do so in their countries. We have offered to play our part in enabling the establishment of a reformed national army, drawing on the forces of the Kinshasa Government and the armed groups. We will also be helping with the enormous task of demobilising the tens of thousands of combatants who have taken up arms during the conflict. We have pledged 25 million US dollars over five years to the multi-donor regional demobilisation and reintegration programme in the Great Lakes.

3 Apr 2003 : Column 1579

Perhaps I may refer to some of the questions raised. If I do not answer them all, it is because we are running close to time. I shall ensure that all noble Lords receive answers. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester asked when the UK will publish a response to the UN panel's report and whether we shall press Uganda and Rwanda to do the same. We intend to respond to the UN panel's report as soon as the UN provides information that we have requested.

I was also asked what the UN is doing about allegations in the panel report against Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. We welcome the Porter Commission set up to investigate the allegations made in the UN panel report specifically about Uganda. We await publication of the commission's report with interest. We have encouraged the Rwandan Government to respond positively to the UN panel report. We have limited scope to encourage Zimbabwe to take seriously and respond to the allegations of the panel report.

Where a UK connection is clear, it would be possible to consider action in the light of the nature of such a connection and the strength of the information supplied by the panel during its work during the coming months. Where there is robust evidence, we will take what action we can.

The right reverend Prelate also asked whether Her Majesty's Government will press to strengthen MONUC. We fully support MONUC's activities. If any new mandate is required to bring peace and stability, we would support it. He also asked what the UK is doing to control weapons entering the DRC. We continue to uphold the EU arms embargo imposed in 1993, which bans the export of military equipment from the EU to the DRC, and to examine all export licensing applications against our national criteria and the European Union code of conduct. Similarly, we are upholding the UN embargo on the sale and supply of arms to non-governmental forces in Rwanda, which also applies to the sale and supply of arms to neighbouring states, if they are for use in Rwanda.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, asked whether we would take action on the evidence of the report against UK companies—what sanctions the UK might take. Where there has been a clear breach of UK law, such a breach could be

3 Apr 2003 : Column 1580

persecuted—I mean prosecuted; they feel persecuted when they are prosecuted—under the relevant legislation.

Where there is an alleged breach of OECD guidelines, we would review the allegation and take appropriate action. We would also consider other mechanisms and measures to prevent a recurrence and to strengthen control to prevent further illegal or unethical exploitation of natural resources. I shall write to noble Lords about the timescale.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked about UK support for security sector reform in the DRC. A joint DfID/MoD/FCO scoping mission visited the DRC in January to assess how the United Kingdom could contribute to integrating the armed forces in the DRC. We are working with European Union partners to co-ordinate our efforts.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for giving me notice of his question. He asked what steps the Government have taken for allegations of breaches of the OECD guidelines by British companies to be investigated by the national contact point. The national contact point, which is the mediator between the complainant and the company, has been made aware of the UN panel's report. We are ready to take steps when a formal complaint is lodged. Such a complaint would require more evidence than is contained in the UN expert panel's report. I shall write to the noble Lord about publishing evidence. I thank him very much for his offer of mediation with the national contact point; we shall speak to him about that. As the Department of Trade and Industry is the national contact point, perhaps I may suggest that the noble Lord addresses his specific points to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked what the UK was doing specifically about conflict in the DRC. Britain is providing people and money for the military, political and peace observation aspects of the Lusaka peace agreement. I shall enlarge on that to the noble Baroness in writing.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. This has been a very important debate. The DRC—as the noble Baroness, Lady Park, said—is such a rich country, with so much that could be going for it. It is a crying shame that there is so much illegal exploitation of that country. I will ensure that noble Lords have complete answers.

        House adjourned at ten o'clock.

3 Apr 2003 : Column GC149

Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Water Bill [HL]

(Third Day) Thursday, 3rd April 2003.

The Committee met at a quarter before four of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): Welcome to the Committee on the Water Bill. The usual statement was read out at the beginning of the proceedings of the Committee stage, but perhaps I should remind those who were not here that if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, we will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and return after 10 minutes. I believe there will be at least one Division today.

Clause 19 [Form, contents and effect of licences]:

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 56:

    Page 22, line 21, at end insert—

"( ) Every licence under this Chapter shall be subject to a duty to use the water abstracted in an efficient manner, so as to further water conservation."

The noble Baroness said: We believe that the Environment Agency should have the powers to make sure that water that is abstracted is used efficiently. That would enable water conservation to be furthered.

We have discussed this at length before, but I should particularly like the Minister to address the question of where in the Bill the Government's intention that was so clearly stated in Taking Water Responsibly appears. The relevant part of that document says:

    "the Government intends to bring forward legislation, when Parliamentary time allows, which will enable the Environment Agency to make an enforcement order requiring an abstractor to enter into a water resources management arrangement".

It is not clear from the Bill whether the Government are still of that mind but have found some reason why that particular duty cannot now be in the Bill; whether they believe that it is in the Bill in another form; or whether it is not in the Bill, in which case we shall feel encouraged to press the amendment at a later stage.

By supporting the amendment, the Government would simply be returning to their earlier position on the duty of efficient use. Wide support was expressed on Second Reading and earlier during the Committee stage for an efficiency duty. I can only imagine that

3 Apr 2003 : Column GC150

there must be some impediment that the Government have not yet disclosed as to why that duty should not be in the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: I add our support—although perhaps not necessarily to this amendment. I am delighted that the noble Baroness has tabled the amendment, which obviously we support, but if my Amendment No. 3 had been adopted when we began the Committee stage, we would not be having to do what the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is rightly trying to do to the best of her ability, which is to put in a requirement for efficiency and water conservation wherever it is relevant. I support the thrust behind the amendment, but we wait to hear what the Minister has to say about whether it is necessary. In principle we certainly support the amendment. We want water to be used as efficiently as possible. Obviously, we wish to see water conserved as well.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page