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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have followed closely the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government's moves to introduce national security legislation to meet their obligations under Article 23 of the Basic Law.
We frequently raise Article 23 at high levels: my noble friend the then Lord Chancellor discussed it with senior SAR Government officials during a visit to Hong Kong in October 2002 as did my honourable friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr Rammell) when he visited in January 2003. We issued statements on Article 23 legislation in November 2002 and, most recently, on 27 March 2003. Since then we have continued to discuss the issue with the SAR Government.
Under international law we have no right to demand consular access to dual nationals in the country of their other nationality. However, our requests for access are usually met as was our request to visit Mr Richey to administer the Oath.
We are in touch with Mr Richey's lawyers both in the USA and the UK, as well as with Ohio state officials. Our Acting Consul General in Chicago attended Mr Richey's recent Court of Appeals hearing. We will continue to monitor his case closely to determine what other respresentations could be made on his behalf, and we will do all we properly can to try to prevent his execution.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): On 20 March we suspended consideration of Iraqi asylum applications following the start of military action in Iraq. We have been keeping under review whether this suspension should be kept in place.
Large numbers of Iraqis have come to the UK to seek asylum in recent years. We have provided them with asylum or protection on other grounds when they have needed it. But the situation in Iraq has now changed.
While there remain security and humanitarian concerns in some areas, we believe there has been a real and sustained improvement in the country situation, and that political persecution is no longer prevalent. We will therefore now resume consideration of Iraqi asylum claims. As with asylum applications from all nationalities, each case will be considered individually on its merits.
This resumption coincides with the decision of the chief adjudicator that adjudicators should start listing Iraqi asylum appeals again as from 16 June. Such appeals have been suspended for the same period as initial decision-making.
We are developing a coherent returns programme. Initially the emphasis will be on facilitating voluntary returns. This will cover failed asylum seekers and others who wish to return to Iraq, including those who applied for or received protection before the military action took place. We will start the enforced return of failed asylum seekers later in the year.
We have in the past given undertakings not to enforce the return of individuals to the Kurdish autonomous zone of northern Iraq via other parts of Iraq. That was because of the potential risks those individuals would face from the Saddam Hussein regime. Those undertakings are no longer necessary. Once enforced returns to Iraq are started they will be effected by the route deemed most appropriate.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): During consultation on the draft regulations published in October 2002 a number of representations were received. These made it clear that the draft exception for genuine occupational requirement provided in these regulations could cause practical difficulties in relation to employment for purposes of organised religion. It was decided to provide an additional and narrow exception to permit a requirement related to sexual orientation only where the employment is for purposes of organised religion, and where the requirement is necessary to comply with the doctrines of the religion or with the strongly held convictions of a significant number of the religious followers. If the latter applies, the context and nature of the employment should also be taken into account.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: A number of representations sought amendments to the draft regulations to ensure religious organisations could continue to comply with doctrinal requirements or strongly held religious beliefs of their followers. Many of these representations, both those received following the consultation in October 2002, and those received since the amended regulations were laid before Parliament, said that although they support Regulation 7, they believe it should apply to a wider range of faith-based organisations.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): The Interdepartmental Review of Human Rights Instruments has included the International Labour Organisation Conventions 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise) and 98 (The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining), both of which have been ratified by the UK. The review has not looked at the question of compliance with any instrument, as this is beyond its terms of reference. My department's Ministerial Forum on Human Rights has a core membership of non-governmental organisations concerned with the promotion of human rights in the UK, and invites other organisations as the need arises. The minutes of its meetings since 2002 are published on my department's human rights website (www.human rights.gov.uk).
Lord Filkin: Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights is one of a number of instruments on which the UK's position is being reviewed under the Interdepartmental Review of Human Rights Instruments announced by the former Lord Chancellor, my noble and learned friend Lord Irvine of Lairg on 7 March 2002. We will report the outcome as soon as is reasonably possible.
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