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Zimbabwe: Asylum Claims

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: All claims for asylum from Zimbabwean nationals are considered on their own individual merits. Where a claim is refused and any appeal dismissed we consider it safe for that person to return to Zimbabwe. Although we are not at present enforcing the return of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe we are encouraging voluntary returns. As part of this, we are promoting the voluntary assisted return and reintegration programme (VARRP).

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The letter to which the noble Lord refers has been amended to make it clear that there has not been a change in the Home Office's policy on Zimbabwe.

Counter-terrorism Detection: Advice to Businesses

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to issue advice to businesses about chemical, biological radiological and nuclear (CBRN) detection kits.[HL3882]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: This statement is to confirm advice to businesses and inform the House of our view on the question of whether organisations should acquire their own equipment to detect chemical, biological or radiological materials as part of their contingency plans.

The Government take contingency planning for potential terrorist attack very seriously, and are working with emergency services to ensure that they have the equipment they need to protect the public from the use of chemical, biological or radiological (CBR) materials. Government are also ensuring that effective measures are in place to detect such substances on a routine basis, where required. Such equipment is regularly tested by independent scientists and by users in the relevant agencies, including the emergency services, to ensure that it is of the standard required. Staff are also well trained in its use.

The Government's advice is, therefore, that other organisations, including businesses, leave the demanding and potentially dangerous job of detecting CBR materials to personnel in the emergency services and responsible agencies which are professionally trained in the necessary equipment. Any business considering measures to prevent or reduce the impact of terrorism should contact the counter-terrorist security adviser in their local police force who will be able to give further advice.


Race Monitor: Report

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the report produced by the independent Race Monitor under Section 19E of the Race Relations Act 1976 to be published.[HL3883]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Home Secretary has today laid in another place a copy of the annual report produced by Mary Coussey, the independent Race Monitor, under Section 19E of the Race Relations Act 1976, together with his reponse. The Race Monitor has a statutory duty to report to Parliament via the Home Secretary on ministerial authorisations made under Section 19D of the Race Relations Act enabling immigration staff to discriminate on the basis of nationality or ethnic or national origin in the exercise of their functions.

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Defence Procurement: Gulf Operations

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    From which contractors new weapons or equipment, used in the Gulf this year, were obtained.[HL2899]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): A large number of contracts for new equipment used in operations in Iraq this year were placed by both the Defence Procurement Agency and the Defence Logistics Organisation. I will write to the noble Lord on this matter once information from those two sources has been collated and place a copy in the Library of the House.

Iraq: Spanish Contribution to Allied Coalition

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the Spanish contribution to the allied coalition in Iraq.[HL3198]

Lord Bach: During decisive combat operations, the Spanish made a valuable contribution to the humanitarian efforts of the military coalition in Iraq through the early deployment of a marine contingent based around the Landing Platform Dock SPS Galicia, including medical, engineering and bomb disposal capabilities.

The Spanish Government have also announced a continuing commitment to Iraq, and will contribute a brigade headquarters and a battalion to the Polish-led multinational division.

Defence Procurement: Industrial Participation

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have a policy on offsets, which are a part of the global defence trade.[HL3305]

Lord Bach: The Government do have a policy on industrial participation (IP), which is otherwise known as "offsets". The policy invites overseas companies bidding for UK Ministry of Defence equipment contracts where overseas purchases in excess of £10 million are being comtemplated to put forward IP proposals. Exceptions to this are France and Germany, where the reciprocal threshold has been set at £50 million. IP is not applied to collaborative programmes.

Iraq: Unexploded Ordnance

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether warnings have been given to the civilian population of Iraq about the dangers of unexploded ordnance and of cluster bomblets in particular; and

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    whether known sites of land mines and unexploded cluster bombs have been clearly marked.[HL3393]

Lord Bach: United Kingdom forces have launched an awareness programme, aimed at children and young adults in particular, about the dangers of unexploded ordnance of all types. It includes giving briefings in schools and colleges and putting up posters.

Whenever unexploded munitions—including cluster bomblets—are discovered, UK forces mark the site and inform those in the vicinity. The munitions are then destroyed by available resources according to the priority of threat they pose to continuing operations and civilian life.

Iraq: Military Interpreters

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Arabic speakers, qualified as linguists and interpreters, the Armed Forces deployed for the commencement of Operation TELIC.[HL3664]

Lord Bach: During decisive military operations in Iraq, 28 military interpreters deployed to theatre. At the same time these were augmented by locally employed civilians as required. Records of these employments are not held centrally and could not be provided.

Iraq: Prisoners Captured by British Forces

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 30 June (WA 64), how many people captured by British forces in Iraq and transferred to United States internment facilities have neither been released nor classified as prisoners of war.[HL3733]

Lord Bach: As of 3 July 2003, the United States is holding one prisoner of war and 22 other persons captured by British forces, who are either suspected of committing criminal offences or are interned where necessary for imperative reasons of security in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention. All other British captured prisoners of war have been released under the supervision of British forces, and with the knowledge of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 30 June (WA 64). how many people captured by British forces in Iraq and transferred to United States internment facilities are now classified by the United States authorities as "enemy combatants" rather than prisoners of war.[HL3734]

Lord Bach: The United States does not classify persons detained by British forces. As the detaining

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power, the United Kingdom has the sole authority for determining their status. This is reflected in an arrangement that exists between the two nations. All those persons captured by British forces who had the status of enemy combatant were entitled to be, and to be treated as, prisoners of war.

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

    What assurances they have received from the United States authorities about the treatment of people captured by British forces in Iraq and transferred to United States internment facilities; whether any of them could face the death penalty; and when they will be released or tried.[HL3735]

Lord Bach: The United Kingdom's and United States' responsibilities in relation to captured persons are contained in an arrangement between the nations. In accordance with this arrangement, the United States agreed to treat persons in accordance with the relevant Geneva Conventions. Under the terms of the arrangement, the United Kingdom has primary right to criminal jurisdiction for offences committed prior to transfer. For offences committed after transfer, the United States has primary right to jurisdiction, and in such cases it is up to the United States to decide sentence. We are not aware of any situation where United Kingdom captured persons have committed any post transfer offences. In the absence of any post transfer offences, the decision to release rests with the United Kingdom authorities.

Persons suspected of crimes other than against coalition forces or the security of Iraq are immediately handed over to Iraqi authorities. Persons suspected of crimes against coalition forces or the security of Iraq are held pending collection of evidence and a decision as to the forum for trial. Persons held for imperative reasons of security, in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention, will be released as soon as their internment ceases to be necessary.

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