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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 2 May 2001

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Rapid Reaction Force

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 10 April 2001, Official Report, column 532W, on the rapid reaction force, if a representative of the Danish Government was (a) present at and (b) participated in the discussion of the Presidency report on European security and defence policy; and how much time the Council spent discussing the report. [158815]

Mr. Vaz: Representatives of the Danish Government were present at and participated in discussion of the Nice Presidency report on European defence. Competent bodies of the Council discussed this report at length in the weeks leading up to the Nice European Council.

Israel

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library the agenda for the meeting of the EU Association Committee in May to review the operation of the EU-Israel Association agreement. [158804]

Mr. Vaz: A copy of the provisional agenda, agreed by the EU and Israel, was deposited in the Library on 26 April.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action the EU Association Committee will consider at its meeting in May to stop the import into the EU under preferences of goods labelled "made in Israel" which originate in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. [158807]

Mr. Vaz: The EU/Israel Association committee will discuss goods from settlements under the agenda item entitled "Rules of Origin". We expect the EU to raise the post-verification requests for certificates of origin and to remind the Israelis that they have until June 2001 to respond.

In consultation with the European Commission, the UK and other members states are carrying out a post- verification exercise in relation to a number of goods exported to the EU and described as Israeli. These are goods which benefit from preferential access to the EU under the origin protocol in the EU/Israel Association agreement.

The UK continues to support the Commission's efforts to establish whether any infringement of the EU/Israel Association agreement has taken place.

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Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who will represent the British Government at the meeting in May of the EU Association committee reviewing the EU-Israel Association agreement. [158805]

Mr. Vaz: The EU-Israel Association agreement states that "the Association Committee shall meet at official level". The UK will be represented by an official from the UK permanent representation to the EU.

Iraq

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received concerning industrial activities undertaken at the Al Daura plant, near Baghdad. [159729]

Mr. Wilson: The Iraqi acting Minister for Foreign Affairs wrote to the UN Secretary-General on 28 March requesting that funds from the UK oil-for-food programme be used for the reactivation of the Al Daura facility for the production of foot and mouth vaccine.

In the continuing absence of UN monitors, the United Kingdom has opposed this request for reactivation of a plant known to have been used for biological weapons production in the past.

Gibraltar

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to (a) the European Commission and (b) the Government of Spain regarding the handling of internationally dialled telephone calls routed through Spain destined for Gibraltar. [156134]

Mr. Vaz: This matter was raised with the Spanish Government on 20 March, and with the Commission on 30 March.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received regarding using the Gibraltar international direct dialling code prefix 350. [156131]

Mr. Vaz: The Government of Gibraltar have brought to our attention various issues related to the use of Gibraltar's international direct dialling code.

As my hon. Friend the Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce made clear in her answer of 6 April 2001, Official Report, column 305W, we remain deeply concerned about the unsatisfactory situation. We will continue to pursue the issue as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom Government's relations with Spain regarding the freedom of movement of trade and services in relation to Gibraltar. [156132]

Mr. Vaz: When Gibraltar became part of the European Community upon the United Kingdom's accession in 1973, Gibraltar did not join the Customs Union. This is recognised by all member states. Subsequent EU legislation concerning the free movement of goods has not therefore been applied in relation to Gibraltar. EU legislation concerning the free movement of services has however been applied.

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Clemency Pleas

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to support a plea for clemency from a British national imprisoned overseas. [160352]

Mr. Wilson: Our objective is to support pleas for clemency in deserving cases, while respecting the sovereign right of foreign Governments to sentence prisoners according to their own laws. Following an internal review, we have decided to widen our existing criteria for supporting clemency pleas. We will now consider supporting clemency pleas from British nationals imprisoned overseas in the following cases:




We will also take the prisoner's family circumstances into account when considering whether to support a plea for clemency. We will examine all pleas on a case-by- case basis.

Our previous policy was to support clemency pleas in compelling compassionate circumstances, such as where a prisoner was terminally ill, or where the death of a spouse would leave young children with no one to care for them. The new policy demonstrates our commitment to protecting the human rights of British nationals.

Humanitarian Crises

Mr. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in Her Majesty's Government's consultations with international partners on UK proposals for international action in response to humanitarian crises. [160353]

Mr. Battle: We firmly believe that we have a shared responsibility to respond when confronted with massive violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity. The UK has played a leading role in this continuously evolving debate. We have spent the past year trying to build the broadest possible consensus around a set of ideas on the conditions and circumstances that make international action appropriate. We believe such a consensus could strengthen the Security Council's ability to respond effectively and promptly to humanitarian crises. Our ideas have been framed as policy guidelines to help the international community decide when it is right to act.

The key elements of our ideas are:



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Our consultations will continue, but progress has proved difficult. Many countries have reservations about the concepts involved, fearing that their endorsement would undermine the principle of state sovereignty.

Copies of our set of ideas have been placed in the Libraries of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

MV Etireno

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures were taken by his Department during the recent hunt for the MV Etireno; and what steps his Department (a) has taken and (b) intends to take, to combat the trade in child slavery. [159859]

Mr. Wilson: The UK was the first to respond to the Benin authorities' request for help to search for the Etireno. HMS Glasgow was in the area and we offered her services. This offer was declined when it became clear that the Etireno had returned to Benin.

The UK is firmly committed to eradicating slavery and bonded labour worldwide. We played a leading role in drafting and securing agreement to the International Labour Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour. We are working with international and non- governmental organisations and industry to address the problem of child slavery, and are looking at what we can do to increase these efforts.

I am meeting industry representatives, and also Ministers from the Government of Cote d'Ivoire, on 4 May.


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