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4 Jun 2003 : Column WA155

Written Answers

Wednesday, 4th June 2003.

China: Population Control

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the United States State Department's Country Report 2002 for China which concludes that the Chinese Government continue to pursue a policy of coercive population control encompassing physical, psychological and economic pressure notwithstanding the presence of the United Nations Population Fund in a number of Chinese countries.[HL3071]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Amos): We are working to secure respect for reproductive rights in China. UK support is provided through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). There is evidence that UNFPA and IPPF's work is having an impact. Birth targets and quotas have been removed in UNFPA programme counties, and more recently in non-UNFPA programme areas. Abortion and sterilisation rates and maternal and child mortality have reduced in UNFPA programme counties. China's first Population Law, which became effective in September 2002, introduces new legislative protection for the population against abuses from family planning officials and establishes a clear complaints procedure.


Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans for the future of the post of Special Representative for Cyprus.[HL3187]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The search for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem has been and remains a high priority for the Government. For seven years, our contribution has been led with great distinction by Lord Hannay as Special Representative for Cyprus. But in the light of recent developments, we have been reviewing the arrangements for ensuring an active British input into Cyprus diplomacy.

My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have therefore accepted Lord Hannay's recommendation that his term should end with effect from the date of this announcement, and have decided, for the time being at least, not to make any further appointment of this kind. Lord Hannay has worked with enormous professionalism and dedication, in support of the United Nations, to bring peace, security and prosperity to Cyprus in the form of a comprehensive settlement so to enable a re-united Cyprus to join the European Union in 2004. Lord Hannay's support and advice during his time as Special Representative—invaluable here in London, but also singled out for praise

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by the UN Secretary-General and many of our international partners—have brought this country great credit.

The UK process culminated in the second revision of the plan which the UN Secretary-General presented to the parties on 26 February, and in negotiations which reached a climax in The Hague on 11 March this year. For reasons set out in the subsequent report by the UN Secretary-General and endorsed in UN Security Council Resolution 1475, this final effort ended in failure, for which the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Denktash, bore the prime responsibility. It is the British Government's firm view that the Annan plan remains the best way forward. We also concur with the Secretary-General's judgment that he should not take a new initiative unless and until he is given solid reason by all the parties to believe that the political will exists necessary for a successful outcome and that they are prepared to commit to finalising the plan by a specific date and to putting it to separate simultaneous referenda on a date soon thereafter.

The House will understand that this announcement in no way indicates a weakening of the Government's determination to work with others under the aegis of the UN to find a solution to the Cyprus Problem. Should events again make it appropriate for a Special Representative to be appointed, the Government will not hesitate to do so.

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether United Kingdom residents in Northern Cyprus have had access to the United Kingdom sovereign bases at Dhekelia since 1974; whether the freedom of movement of British citizens into United Kingdom sovereign territory has recently been prohibited.[HL3032]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): In line with the commitments made to the Republic of Cyprus in the 1960 Treaty of Establishment, British citizens, like other residents in Cyprus, have freedom of access and communication to and through the sovereign base area, provided they entered the island legally.

Any persons, including British citizens, who enter the island of Cyprus through a port of entry that is not internationally recognised are considered illegal immigrants by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. It has been Her Majesty's Government's policy since 1974 to act in accordance with the Republic of Cyprus' immigration policy.

Naval Recruiting and Training Agency

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What key targets have been set for the Naval Recruiting and Training Agency for financial year 2003–04.[HL3144]

Lord Bach: Subsequent to a proposal by the agency's owner, the Second Sea Lord and Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, we

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have today set the 2003–04 key targets for the Naval Recruiting and Training Agency, as follows:

    To deliver RN personnel to the trained strength (or to other training organisations), to the required quality standard, within 5 per cent variance from the tasked requirement.

    To deliver RM recruits to within 2 per cent variance from the tasked requirement.

    To maintain success rates of 95 per cent in career training (including targeted employment modules) and 97 per cent in examined pre-joining training.

    To increase the trained strength of the RNR to 2,200 by 31 March 2004.

    To reduce the average cost of the trained recruit to 98 per cent of the 2001–02 baseline figure.

    To achieve net benefits of £15 million in financial year 2003–94 from the partnering arrangement with Flagship Training Limited.


Baroness Thornton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to review Gurkha married accompanied service arrangements.[HL3157]

Lord Bach: The Government are acutely aware of the need to ensure that we have fair and appropriate terms and conditions of service for Gurkha personnel. The current arrangements stem from the 1947 Tripartite Agreement (TPA) between the Governments of UK, Nepal and India. One of the aims of this agreement was to safeguard the cultural, religious and ethnic heritage of Gurkha soldiers in accordance with the wishes of the Nepalese Government. It also linked British Gurkha terms and conditions of service to arrangements in the Indian Army.

The Government recognise, of course, that not all the principles that underpinned the TPA in 1974 apply today. It is for this reason that successive governments have regarded the TPA as having a degree of flexibility. This has enabled significant enhancements to be made to Gurkha conditions of service, particularly to Gurkha pay and pension arrangements. Indeed, Gurkha in-service remuneration is now in line with that of British personnel and Gurkha pensions, which were reviewed and at least doubled in April 2000, now compare favourably to professional salaries in Nepal, where all Gurkhas are discharged. Importantly, Gurkhas continue to be paid an immediate pension after only fifteen years' service, whereas the vast majority of British personnel receive a preserved pension payable at the age of 60.

The Government are satisfied, therefore, that these key elements of Gurkha terms and conditions of service are tailored to the needs of Gurkhas in 2003 and in particular that the difference between the pension schemes is both necessary and proportionate.

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Gurkha accompanied service provisions, however, have not been reviewed since the brigade's withdrawal from Hong Kong in 1997. It was decided at that time that married accompanied service should be introduced in the UK, but that, in accordance with the TPA, it should continue to be capped at 25 per cent of brigade strength. In practice, this means that family married quarters are provided for all Gurkhas holding the rank of Colour Sergeant or above. Below that rank, Gurkhas are entitled to one accompanied tour of around three years.

The Government are well aware of the problems these restrictions cause, alhough there are important contemporary factors that influence our current practice. These relate to the impact that any change in policy could have on the deployability and effectiveness of the brigade as well the need to maintain links between Gurkhas and their home country. These links were of importance to the Nepalese Government when they agreed to the transfer of Gurkha units into the British Army in 1947 and remain so to this day. Our bilateral relations with Nepal are higly valued and we take our obligations to the Nepalese Government very seriously.

It is important, therefore, that we strike the right balance between the aspirations and needs of our Gurkha soldiers and the effectiveness and employability of the brigade as a whole. With this in mind we have asked officials in consultation with the Brigade of Gurkhas, to undertake a thorough review of Gurkha married accompanied service arrangements. In so doing we will, of course, consult the Nepalese Government. We will also consider the implications for the garrison estate in Brunei, given that at any one time nearly a quarter of the brigade is stationed there, and address the education and welfare implications of any increase in the number of Gurkha families based in the UK.

We hope to be in a position to announce my findings to the House by the end of the year.

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