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Written Answers

Monday 28th November 1994

LAW OF THE SEA CONVENTION

Lord Wilberforce asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): I announced on 20th July, in response to a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Morris, (col. WA29) our intention to accede to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We are now working on the necessary procedures; it is too early to say when we will be in a position to accede.

Lord Wilberforce asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: British negotiators played a significant role in securing an outcome which is satisfactory for British and Western interests.

HIV/AIDS PREVENTION AND CARE: FUNDING

Lord Kilmarnock asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Under the second phase of the Children By Choice, Not Chance initiative, we expect to commit £100 million over two years for better reproductive health and family planning, an increase of about 60 per cent. over 1993 expenditure. Support to programmes involving HIV/AIDS prevention and care, such as the £9 million Zimbabwe Sexual Health Project and the £1·5 million AIDS care component of the Zambia Health and Population Sector Aid package, will form an important component to this initiative.

CSCE REVIEW MEETING: HUMAN DIMENSION WORKING GROUP

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: There is no published report of proceedings so far in the Human Dimension Working Group of the CSCE's review conference. Some national delegations and non-governmental organisations have made available the texts of their interventions in the working group. Delegations are now preparing for the summit. The conclusions of the working group will be incorporated in the final documents covering all aspects of the CSCE's work which will be approved by Heads of State and Government on 5th to 6th December.

MR. KALPA RANJAN CHAKMA

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information the Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Tony Baldry MP, obtained during his visit to Bangladesh about the resignation of Mr. Kalpa Ranjan Chakma MP, as chairman of the Chittagong Hilltracts Refugee Repatriation and Rehabilitation Committee.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Baldry, discussed the Chittagong Hilltracts with, among others, Brigadier Oli Ahmed, Minister of Communications and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee negotiating with the Shanti Bahini. The position of Mr. Kalpa Ranjan Chakma was not specifically mentioned.

IRAQ: HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have about the use of amputation, mutilation and branding as punishments for certain classes of offenders in Iraq; whether they consider this to be a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, which calls on Iraq to end human rights abuses, and what new steps they propose the United Nations should take to persuade Iraq to comply with the requirements of the Security Council.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We condemn the recent decrees issued by the Iraqi regime ordering amputations on thieves, and the removal of ears and branding of army deserters. We view these measures as clear flouting of the demands of the United Nations Security Council, as expressed in Resolution 688. We will continue to press Iraq to comply in full with this and the other relevant United Nations resolutions.

PERGAU DAM JUDGMENT

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they intend to take in respect of the Pergau Dam project, in the light of the recent judgment of the High Court.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Government have yet to receive and study the written judgment. Until we do so and have decided for or against an appeal, we cannot decide on the implications for the aid programme.

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Meanwhile, the Overseas Development Administration is reviewing carefully all the projects and activities it funds, including those under the aid and trade provision, to see whether there are any others approved under our previous understanding of the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act which might also fall outside the interpretation of the Act given by the High Court recently.

COUNTER-PROLIFERATION: FOREIGN POLICY IMPLICATIONS

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has examined, or has caused to be examined, the foreign policy implications of British funding and development of counter-proliferation weapons and equipment, and of the operation of such systems under United States control; whether such examinations and analyses have been studied by Ministers; and, if so, what is their conclusion.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Work on counter-proliferation is at an early stage, both nationally and within NATO. Foreign policy considerations are naturally an important element in this work. But it is too soon to draw any conclusions.

US/RUSSIAN BILATERAL DEFENCE EXERCISE

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is the case that in October President Yeltsin agreed to President Clinton's suggestion that their two countries should conduct "a joint exercise in theatre missile defences and early warning systems"(Aviation Week, 3 October 1994); and if so, whether this proposal was discussed in NATO before Mr. Clinton made it.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Bilateral exercises between the US and Russia are a matter for the two countries concerned. The proposal was not discussed in NATO.

DEFAMATION PROCEEDINGS

Lord Campbell of Alloway asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they will do to reduce the cost and complexity of defamation proceedings.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): In December 1992, I announced my intention to introduce a number of reforms which I believe will be of great assistance to parties seeking speedy and economic disposals of defamation claims, and the reforms which could be achieved by amending rules of court have already been implemented. Also, we have made considerable progress in developing a precise framework for the further reforms foreshadowed in that statement and on which I intend to introduce legislation as soon as I have a suitable opportunity. These reforms include a new defence, recommended by a working group under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Neill, which will avoid the need for a trial if the defendant is

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prepared to offer amends and pay damages assessed by a judge.

In addition, there will be a new summary procedure, under which every defamation claim will come before the judge at an early state. He will assess whether the claim is suitable for summary disposal, or whether it should go for trial, with or without a jury. He will have power on summary disposal to award damages up to a fixed ceiling. I believe that the procedure will help the parties to clarify the real issues much earlier, and encourage sensible settlements, as well as providing a fast track for the disposal of straightforward claims.

INCAPACITY BENEFIT: MEDICAL TEST

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the delays in issuing copies of The Medical Assessment for Incapacity Benefit, they will consider extending the consultation period beyond the alloted month.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): I regret that there were delays in issuing some copies of the report on The Medical Assessment for Incapacity Benefit. The report was not a consultation document. Its purpose was to set out the results of the development work on, and the detailed proposals for, the new all work test before the regulations on the test were laid before Parliament. Over 10,000 copies of the report have been issued. We have received 97 responses.

Regulations setting out details of the medical test were laid before Parliament today.*

CHILDREN AND VIOLENCE: DEPARTMENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which government departments have responsibilities relevant to the reduction and prevention of inter-personal violence involving children and young people up to the age of 18; and what are those responsibilities; and

    What inter-departmental committees or bodies have responsibilities relevant to co-ordinating research and action to reduce and prevent inter-personal violence involving children and young people.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): There are several inter-departmental committees which deal with violence involving children. The Department of Health takes the lead on the Inter-Departmental Group on Child Abuse which was set up in 1987 in recognition of the need for a permanent mechanism to facilitate inter-departmental co-operation in the field of child protection. Inter-personal violence involving children is among the matters considered by the group. * For correction, see Official Report, 6/12/94; col. WA.82

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The Home Office has established a ministerial group on crime prevention which is supported by an inter-departmental group of officials. The ministerial group seeks to ensure that the policies of various government departments which have a crime prevention potential are co-ordinated and that departments pursue crime prevention objectives in the implementation of their policies and programmes. The ministerial group has previously looked at various aspects of tackling crime by and against young people. A Home Office Minister also chairs the ministerial group on domestic violence, the work of which is supported by an inter-departmental group of officials. The work of the ministerial group in tackling domestic violence between partners may be of relevance where children within a relationship are at risk of being adversely affected by such violence.

The Department of Health has responsibility for the child care aspects of youth justice and takes the lead on the development of family support services. The Department of Health child care research liaison group considers matters relating to violence involving children when planning its research programme.

Several government departments are responsible for or involved with a range of programmes that contribute to juvenile crime prevention.

The Home Office has responsibility for crime prevention; the law on violent and sexual offences against children, and the sentencing powers available to the courts in dealing with young offenders. The Prison Service works with prisoners to help them address their offending behaviour and to prepare them for release into the community. As part of its responsibility for the care of prisoners, the Prison Service launched an anti-bullying strategy in July 1993. Social services departments and the probation service supervise young offenders convicted of offences serious enough to justify a community sentence. In doing so, the supervision service seeks to encourage and assist the child or young person in their development towards a responsible and law abiding life. The Home Office also commissions research on inter-personal violence, including that involving children and young people.

The Department for Education has responsibility for policy on pupil behaviour and discipline in schools, including action against bullying.

The Scottish Office, the Welsh Office and DHSS, Northern Ireland have similar responsibilities and are represented on inter-departmental groups which consider the subject of inter-personal violence involving children.


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