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FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

European Charter for Regional and

Minority Languages

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how the Government plan to implement the provisions of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages; and if he will make a statement. [147383]

Mr. Vaz: The Government will apply the provisions of Part II to all the languages which they regard as meeting the Charter's definition of a regional or minority language. The Government will promote the use in public life of Welsh, Scottish-Gaelic and Irish by applying a minimum of 35 provisions from Part III to each of those languages.

Within a year of the Charter's entry into force in the UK, the Government will submit a report on UK implementation of the Charter for examination by the Charter's Committee of Experts.

Divali Celebrations

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many invitations Ministers in his Department accepted and from whom in 2000, for Divali celebrations. [147292]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 26 January 2001]: The Foreign Secretary, Baroness Scotland, the then Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) and the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) and I did not accept any invitations to Divali celebrations in 2000. The Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) accepted invitations from the Leicester Hindu Festival Council, the Leicester Bratma Samaj, the Shree Prajapati Association, London First and the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission in Neasden for Divali celebrations in 2000.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the result of the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education in October 1999; and what communications he has received concerning the recommendations of the special rapporteur. [148043]

Mr. Battle: Following the special rapporteur's visit to the UK on October 1999, and her visit report which was presented to the Commission on Human Rights in 2000, we have not received any external communications about her visit.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards will meet the special rapporteur again on 7 February to discuss the report of her visit. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State and Deputy Home Secretary will also meet the special rapporteur to discuss her concerns about the provision of education in prisons.

Mercenaries

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what factors underlay

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his decision to vote against resolution 2000/3 at the UN Human Rights Commission in March and April 2000 concerning the use of mercenaries; what position he will take in 2001; and what measures he has taken to regulate companies recruiting and offering the services of mercenaries. [148042]

Mr. Battle: The EU does not believe the Commission on Human Rights is the appropriate forum to deal with the problem of mercenary activity. We share the view that this subject should be dealt with directly in the UN General Assembly's Sixth Committee. We have not decided what position we will take if and when we are asked to vote again this year. As in previous years, the UK, along with other member states of the European Union, could not support the resolution entitled "The Use of Mercenaries as a means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination" at the 56th Session of the Commission on Human Rights in March-April 2000.

Work is continuing on the preparation of a Green Paper outlining options for the regulation of mercenaries and private military companies.

Slavery

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will sponsor with its European Union partners a resolution at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights this year condemning bonded labour and other forms of slavery. [148117]

Mr. Battle: The Government are firmly committed to the promotion of fundamental labour standards including those covering forced and bonded labour. Discussions with EU partners continue on which initiatives should be considered at the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). The Government, along with EU partners, have no plans to sponsor a resolution at UNCHR condemning bonded labour and other forms of slavery.

MI6

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the comments by Richard Tomlinson concerning the training of MI6 personnel in the Gosport and Portsmouth area, with particular reference to illegal entry into people's homes. [148177]

Mr. Robin Cook [holding answer 1 February 2001]: In accordance with well established policy I am not prepared to comment on speculation about alleged intelligence operations. This applies equally to the allegations described in the book by Mr. Tomlinson, who has a history of spreading sensationalist and misleading material. I can confirm, however, that officials of the intelligence services in the UK, including those undertaking training, are required at all times to carry out their work in accordance with the law.

EU Agenda

Mr. Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list (a) the forthcoming business in the Council of the European

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Union for February and (b) the major European Union events for the period between 1 February and 31 July 2001. [149039]

Mr. Vaz: Forthcoming EU business in February is as follows:









No agendas for the above are available at present.

The following are the principal events in the EU between 1 March and July 2001 (certain relevant events are also included: the list is based on the information available at the date of issue.).

DateVenueEvent
March
6BrusselsEmployment and Social Affairs Council
8BrusselsEnvironment Council
12BrusselsECOFIN Council
12BrusselsInternal Market/Consumer Council
15BrusselsJustice and Home Affairs Council
16BrusselsJustice and Home Affairs Council
19BrusselsAgriculture Council
19BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
20BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
20-21BrusselsFisheries Council (possible)
23-24StockholmEuropean Council
March-April
31-1BrusselsInformal Meeting of Ministers of the Environment
April
5-6BrusselsTransport/Telecommunications Council
8-10BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
8-10BrusselsAgriculture Council (Informal)
24-25BrusselsAgriculture Council
May
5-6BrusselsGymnich
7BrusselsECOFIN Council
7BrusselsEmployment and Social Council (possible)
14-15BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
14-15BrusselsIndustry and Energy Council
22-23BrusselsAgriculture Council
28-29BrusselsJustice and Home Affairs Council
28BrusselsEducation and Youth Council
30BrusselsDevelopment Council
31BrusselsHealth Council
June
5BrusselsECOFIN Council
5BrusselsInternal Market/Consumer Council
7-8BrusselsEnvironment Council
11-12BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
11BrusselsEmployment/Social Affairs Council
15-16GothenburgEuropean Council
18BrusselsFisheries Council (possible)
19-20BrusselsAgriculture Council
19BrusselsECOFIN Council (possible)
21BrusselsCulture Council
25-26BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
26BrusselsResearch Council
27-28BrusselsTransport/Telecommunications Research Council
July
6-7BrusselsInformal Employment and Social Affairs Council
10BrusselsECOFIN Council
13-14BrusselsRegional Territories Council (Informal)
16-17BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
16-17BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
20BrusselsBudget Council
23-24BrusselsAgriculture Council

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