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Written Answers

Tuesday, 21st October 2003.

Northern Ireland: Action Mental Health

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the senior official currently on secondment as chief executive of Action Mental Health in Northern Ireland will return to a post in the Department for Employment and Learning.[HL4596]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The secondment is scheduled to end on 31 March 2005.

Prime Minister: Contact with Mr Rupert Murdoch

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what dates since 30 September 2002 the Prime Minister has met Mr Rupert Murdoch or spoken to him on the telephone respectively.[HL4639]

Baroness Amos: The Government's position on the disclosure of information relating to contacts with outside interest groups or individuals remains as set out in its response to the sixth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which is that it should not be the normal practice to release details of meetings with private individuals or companies. Ministers and civil servants meet many people as part of the process of policy development and analysis. Some of these discussions will take place on a confidential basis.

WTO: Food Security Policy

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy towards food security and special agricultural products in the poorer developing countries under World Trade Organisation rules.[HL4709]

Baroness Amos: At the Doha ministerial meeting in 2001, it was agreed that the WTO agriculture negotiations would aim to achieve substantial improvements in market access. The UK is firmly committed to this objective and to ensuring that adequate special and differential rules are agreed, with the aim of meeting the development and food security needs of poor countries.

The so-called "food security box" proposals made by developing countries and being discussed in the WTO's Agriculture Committee include:

    (a) provisions for developing countries to reduce tariffs by a lower percentage and throughout a longer time period;

    (b) the extension of the safeguard mechanism (which is currently available only to the developed

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    countries) to protect developing countries during periods of import surges, which threaten domestic production and livelihoods of the poor; and

    (c) rules for developing countries to name special products, important for the food and livelihood security of the poor, which would be subject to limited tariff reduction commitments.

Afghanistan: Provincial Reconstruction Teams

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What lessons have been learned from the use of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in north and west Afghanistan; and whether security for humanitarian work is now an urgent priority in the east and south. [HL4827]

Baroness Amos: To date, four international joint civil-military provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) have been established in Mazar-e Sharif, Kunduz (both in the north), Bamiyan (in central Afghanistan), and Gardez (south east). Our experience so far from the United Kingdom's PRT, based in Mazar-e Sharif, has been very positive. It has been instrumental in facilitating the negotiation of a ceasefire between two competing warlords in Northern Afghanistan.

Four more PRTs are planned to be operational before the end of this year in Jalalabad (south east), Kandahar (south), Herat (west) and Charikar (near Kabul). This will help to improve security for reconstruction and development work by the Afghan Administration, the UN and NGOs in the south, east and west.

Crown Prosecution Service: Staffing

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the present level of staffing throughout the Crown Prosecution Service; and if not, what is being done to address the issue. [HL4751]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): Staffing levels have increased substantially in the last two years in order to deal with increases in workload. The manifesto commitment to increase the number of prosecutors has been met. Staffing levels will continue to be kept under close review in the light of changing workload demands.

Bagram Airbase: Detainees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether allied forces in Afghanistan are holding prisoners in underground cellars at Bagram airbase; whether there have been any deaths in custody there; whether sensory deprivation during the flight from Bagram to Cuba has affected the mental health of the prisoners; and what representations they have made, or are making, to the United States Government. [HL4626]

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): No British citizens are currently being held at Bagram and none of the detainees held there was captured by British forces. The British Government do not have detailed information on non-British detainees at Bagram or the conditions in which detainees are moved elsewhere. The ICRC has been able to assess conditions at Bagram since 22 January 2002 and the two widely reported deaths in custody there in December 2002 are under investigation by the US military. We are not aware of any further fatalities at Bagram. We believe that all detainees should be treated humanely and we remain in regular contact with the United States, at both ministerial and official level, about the situation of detainees.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they mean by weapons of mass destruction; and which countries they consider to be in possession of such weapons. [HL4670]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There is no universally-accepted definition of the term weapons of mass destruction (WMD), however it is generally taken to mean nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Russia and China are legally entitled to possess nuclear weapons. Additionally, India and Pakistan have tested nuclear devices. We continue to urge Israel to resolve international concerns about its nuclear status by acceding to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state.

There are four states parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention that have declared possession of chemical weapons. They are currently in the process of destroying them in accordance with their obligations under the convention.

The Government have made clear in recent months that we continue to believe that Iraq had produced and had active programmes for production of WMD. We are also aware of, and very concerned by, persistent reports that Iran, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Libya and Syria are pursuing programmes for the development of WMD and the means for their delivery.

British Citizens in Prison in EU

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 6 June (WA 200), whether they will give a broad breakdown by category of the offences for which 12 people were being held without bail in Belgium on 31 March; and [HL4726]

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    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 6 June (WA 200), whether they will give a broad breakdown by category of the offences for which 173 people were being held without bail in Spain on 31 March; and[HL4727]

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 6 June (WA 200), whether they will give a broad breakdown by category of the offences for which 56 people were being held without bail in France on 31 March. [HL4728]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We do not record statistics on the point raised, it would involve disproportionate cost to provide the information requested.

However, we believe that a higher percentage of the UK prisoners referred to were detained for drug offences.

Iraq and Kuwait

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether all Kuwaiti citizens held by Iraq after the 1991 Gulf war have been located; and, if so, whether they have been returned to Kuwait alive or dead. [HL4738]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We regret that none of the 605 Kuwaitis missing after the Gulf War has so far been found alive. We understand 34 sets of human remains have been positively identified. The Tripartite Committee, established after the invasion of Kuwait under the auspices of the ICRC, has begun to investigate mass graves in Iraq. The coalition has so far established that there are 202 mass grave sites. The UK sent a team of forensic experts to Iraq who have made recommendations on the treatment of mass graves, including identification programmes. The Coalition Provisional Authority has set up an Office of Human Rights and Transitional Justice which will put these recommendations into effect.

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current outstanding amount and status of reparations from Iraq claimed by Kuwait following the 1991 Gulf War. [HL4739]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: According to the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) Kuwait has been awarded 37,113,774,922 US dollars of which 9,340,747,973 US dollars has been paid. A total of 27,773,026,949 US dollars remains outstanding on the awards. The UNCC states that a further 22,186,998,404 US dollars of claims remain to be adjudicated.

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