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Postal Voting

Andrew Bennett: To ask the Solicitor-General what discussions she has had with the CPS on prosecution policy in respect of forging signatures on applications to vote by post at the last general election. [915]

The Solicitor-General: I have spoken to the Chief Executive of the CPS to discuss current prosecution policy.

The police are responsible for investigating any complaints of forged postal applications to vote. As this is a specialised area of law, CPS headquarters handle all cases involving breaches of election law referred to the CPS by the police. All cases are reviewed in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, to assess the sufficiency of evidence and where appropriate the public interest in bringing a prosecution.

CPS experience shows that allegations of this kind are received from a number of sources over a period of months. It is still too early to say whether the increase in postal voting has led to an increase in criminal complaints. In addition, the CPS liaises with the Electoral Commission as the Commission is required to publish a report on the conduct and administration of the recent general election.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

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-Israel Association Committee in May to review the operation of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. [824]

Peter Hain: A copy of the agenda, agreed by the EU and Israel, was deposited in the House of Commons Library on 2 July 2001.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Israeli authorities have responded to the EU post-verification requests for certificates of origin for goods alleged to be from illegal settlements. [825]

Peter Hain: The Israeli Customs Authorities have responded to a number of the post-verification requests for certificates of origin for goods exported by Israel under the preferences conferred by the EU-Israel Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement. Under the terms of the Agreement, Israel has 10 months to reply to each request. All the responses should be received within the coming weeks. The EU will consider next steps in the light of the responses received.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the EU will stop the import of suspected settlement products under preference in the absence of the necessary proofs of origin within the internationally recognised borders of Israel, as provided for in the post-verification exercise. [826]

Peter Hain: The UK supports the Commission's efforts to establish whether any infringements of the EU-Israel Association Agreement have taken place. EU member states continue to receive responses from the Israeli

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authorities to their post-verification requests, and all of these responses need to be analysed. The EC will consider next steps and will then discuss the issue with Israel at the EU-Israel Customs Co-operation Committee on 23 July 2001.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what safeguards the EU secured from the Israeli authorities that co-operation on (a) scientific and technological, (b) economic, (c) trade and (d) audio-visual and cultural matters, as discussed at the meeting of the EU-Israel Association Committee on 21 May, would give equal access to Arab, Druse and Jewish citizens of Israel and would not include any institutions operating in illegal settlements outside the international borders of Israel. [828]

Peter Hain: The EU-Israel Association Agreement provides for co-operation between the EU and Israel in a number of areas, and also allows Israel to participate in a number of EU programmes. The EU operates a non-discrimination policy in deciding which institutions can access these co-operation programmes.

The EU has repeatedly condemned settlement activity in the occupied territories (including east Jerusalem). It is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. Therefore, institutions from the Israeli settlements will not be eligible to participate in any EU co-operation or programme.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the EU proposes to monitor that co-operation between the EU and Israel under the EU-Israel Trade Association Agreement conforms with equal opportunities in benefiting Jewish, Druse and Arab citizens of Israel. [829]

Peter Hain: We take human rights issues, including equal opportunity for all, extremely seriously. Respect for human rights and democratic principles is regularly raised during dialogue at all levels, most recently at the EU-Israel Association Committee on 21 May 2001. EU Heads of Mission in Tel Aviv also regularly raise human rights concerns with the Israeli Government.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library the decisions taken by the meeting of the EU-Israel Association Committee on 21 May. [827]

Peter Hain: A report of the outcome of the meeting can be made public only with the agreement of the EU member states and of Israel.

Western Sahara

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's policy is regarding recognition of Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara; and if he will make a statement. [1437]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government do not recognise Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara. The UK fully support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General, his Personal Envoy, James Baker, and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in finding a just and lasting solution to this issue.

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Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's policy is towards the right of self- determination of the population of Western Sahara through a United Nations-sponsored referendum; and if he will make a statement. [1436]

Mr. Bradshaw: We supported United Nations Security Council resolution 1359 which was passed unanimously on 29 June 2001 and which extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 November 2001. This reiterated full support for the on-going efforts of MINURSO to implement the Settlement Plan and agreements adopted by the parties to hold a free, fair and impartial referendum for the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara.

Nice Treaty

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to renegotiate the Nice treaty to deal with the objections of the Irish people. [1558]

Peter Hain: I refer the right hon. Member to my answer to the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) of 28 June 2001, Official Report, column 167W.

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the implications for the implementation of the Nice treaty on EU enlargement of the Irish referendum result rejecting Irish ratification. [1822]

Peter Hain: I refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) of 28 June 2001, Official Report, column 167W.

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the report to the European Parliament Committee on Constitutional Affairs on the treaty of Nice and the future of the European Union, report number A5–0168/2001 Final, dated 4 May. [1764]

Peter Hain: We welcome all contributions to the debate on the future of Europe.

However, final decisions will be taken by member states at the inter-governmental conference in 2004.

British Dependent Territories

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made to ensure that all British Dependent Territories citizens have been offered British citizenship and the right of abode. [1304]

Mr. Bradshaw: The British Overseas Territories Bill, which will grant British Citizenship and the right of abode in the United Kingdom to British Dependent Territories citizens in qualifying territories, was given a first reading in the House of Lords on 21 June. The Second Reading is scheduled for 10 July. The Bill was published on 22 June. Copies, with Explanatory Notes, are available from the Libraries of both Houses.

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Africa

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to give greater priority to Africa within his Department's policy. [1821]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Prime Minister has made clear that Africa is a major foreign policy priority. The Minister for Africa, Baroness Amos, will be working to build on the solid base established over the past few years. Our aim is to promote a stable, democratic and well-governed African continent, which is increasingly free from conflict, disease and poverty and which will be able to play a full role in the global economy. We shall be working with the many African leaders whose goals are similar.


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