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Mr. Rapson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the European Union is required to abide by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 when it takes over as the new employer of the Western European Union staff. [149899]

Mr. Vaz: I will write to my hon. Friend shortly and place a copy of my letter in the Libraries of the House.

Sierra Leone (Conflict Diamonds)

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact on dealing in illegal diamonds in Sierra Leone of his initiatives on conflict diamonds. [149989]

Mr. Wilson: As part of HMG's initiative to tackle the problem of conflict diamonds, the UK played the lead role in promoting UN Security Council resolution 1306, which was adopted on 5 July 2000 and imposed a ban on the direct or indirect import of all rough diamonds from Sierra Leone to the territory of UN member states. The resolution provided for an exemption from the ban for diamonds controlled by the Government of Sierra Leone through a certificate of origin regime. This exemption came into effect on 6 October 2000 when the UN

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Sanctions Committee Chairman reported to the President of the Security Council that an effective regime was fully in operation.

It is too early to assess the impact of the new regime on the illicit diamond trade. However, we anticipate that it will enhance the capacity of the Government and people of Sierra Leone to benefit from the country's diamond wealth, while limiting the rebels' income from illegal trade. In addition to the combative systems already in place, the UK is promoting a UN Security Council resolution recommending a package of measures against Liberia, identified as the rebel Revolutionary United Front's primary supporter in a recent expert panel report. We also co-sponsored resolution 55/56 on conflict diamonds, adopted by the UN General Assembly last December, and are working with Governments, industry and civil society to develop an international certification scheme, as mandated by that resolution.


Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what representations he intends to make to the Pakistani authorities over the use of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan; [150210]

Mr. Wilson: We remain concerned at reports that Pakistan's blasphemy laws continue to be abused. We have repeatedly raised our concerns with the Pakistani authorities and have called for the abolition of the death penalty under the law, or for them to be repealed. Most recently, an ad hoc EU Troika mission visited Pakistan on 20-21 November and raised these concerns with the Pakistani authorities.

Mr. David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Pakistani Government regarding the situation of Ahmadi Muslims. [150217]

Mr. Wilson: We remain concerned about the position of Ahmadis in Pakistan. We are particularly worried over the application of the blasphemy laws to them. We have ensured that the Pakistani authorities remain in no doubt about these concerns. We continue to raise our concerns with the Pakistanis and will monitor closely the plight of the Ahmadis.

United Nations Security Council

Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his counterparts in other EU countries regarding seats on the United Nations Security Council. [150115]

Mr. Battle: The Secretary of State has regular exchanges with a number of EU partners on issues relating to membership of the United Nations Security Council.

We continue to press for early enlargement of the Council, including new non-permanent and new permanent seats. We support the creation of five new permanent seats: for Germany and Japan plus three developing states.

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The question of an EU permanent seat is not on the agenda. Under the UN Charter, only states can be members of the United Nations or its Security Council.


Public Bodies

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will list the new public bodies established by her Department since May 1997. [145639]

Mrs. Liddell: Between May 1997 and 30 June 1999, the following non-departmental public bodies were established by the Scottish Office:

NDPBDate established
Clinical Standards Board for Scotland1 April 1999
Scottish Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards9 November 1998
Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission1 April 1999

The Scotland Office was set up in its present form on 1 July 1999. No new public bodies have been established by my Department since that date.

Long-term Care

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations she has received on proposals by the Scottish Executive to provide free care for the elderly; and if she will make a statement. [148947]

Mr. Foulkes: Health care and social care are devolved matters for the Scottish Executive.


Pre-paid Envelopes

Mr. Chope: To ask the Chairman of the Administration Committee how many hon. Members have been requested to make payments for prepaid House of Commons envelopes which have not been used in accordance with the rules of the House; and how many hon. Members have been ordered to make such payments following complaints since May 1997. [150348]

Mrs. Roe: Supervision and enforcement of the regulations for the use of House stationery and post-paid envelopes are a matter for the Serjeant at Arms. I have asked him to write to my hon. Friend.


Education and Employment Committee

Dr. Harris: To ask the President of the Council what information she received on the contents of the Education and Employment Committee's report on access to higher education, and the proceedings of the Committee prior to the publication of the report. [150052]

Mrs. Beckett: None.

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Depleted Uranium

Mr. Alasdair Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when it is intended to restart test firing of depleted uranium shells at Dundrennan in Kirkcudbrightshire; how many shells will be fired; and over what period. [148152]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 1 February 2001]: The current programme of proof firing Charm 3 depleted uranium rounds is due to recommence on 19 February 2001. A total of 60 rounds will be fired in five serials during the next seven months. Subject to weather conditions, the programme is expected to be completed by the end of September.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he is considering the availability of cost- effective alternatives to depleted uranium munitions; and if he will make a statement. [150216]

Mr. Spellar: The Ministry of Defence has for many years conducted research into weapon and armour materials and designs. Research and consultation with allies continues to include the search for potential alternatives to depleted uranium and to identify and characterise their cost effectiveness and environmental impact. Depleted uranium still has a significant margin of operational effectiveness over alternative materials when employed in anti-armour weapon systems. In recent years, a new tungsten round has been developed for the Royal Navy's Phalanx close-in weapons systems that offers superior performance (anti-armour qualities are not important for this weapon system). So, since 1996, all replacement ammunition for the Phalanx system has been of the tungsten variety.

Mrs. Gilroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made with work to identify a voluntary screening programme for service personnel and civilians who have served in the Balkans and who are concerned about exposure to depleted uranium. [150464]

Mr. Spellar: The first phase of work to identify a screening programme, which we intend should be equally applicable to Gulf veterans as to those who have served in the Balkans, has been completed. We are publishing today a consultative document setting out the technical issues associated with such a programme, inviting advice and comment in particular from a wide range of expert bodies. A copy of the consultative document is being placed in the Library of the House, and it will also be available on the MOD internet website.

The next step in our work is to develop firm proposals for screening, taking into account the advice and comments we receive in response to the consultative document. Those proposals in turn will be the subject of wide consultation.

Mrs. Mahon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if enriched uranium, U-236, and other radioactive material from nuclear processing plants is used in the manufacture of depleted uranium munitions in Britain. [147412]

Mr. Spellar: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) on 7 February 2001, Official Report, column 521W.

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