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9 Jan 1995 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday 9th January 1995

HUMAN RIGHTS: DUTY OF COMPLIANCE

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Answer of 7th December 1994 (HL WA 84), whether they consider that local authorities, in discharging their public functions, have a duty to comply with the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and Further to their Answer of 7th December 1994 (HL WA 84), how, in the absence of legislation to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights into the law of the United Kingdom, victims of failure by Ministers and civil servants to comply with the terms of the treaties, in the discharge of their public functions, are able to obtain effective domestic remedies against the Crown; and Further to their Answer of 7th December 1994 (HL WA 84), whether they consider that Her Majesty's judges, in discharging their public functions, have a duty to comply with the European Covenant of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): As I stated in my Answer of 7th December, the treaties referred to, in common with treaties in general, are binding on States party to them and not individuals. The acts or omissions of public officers or authorities may engage the international responsibility of the United Kingdom in so far as they raise issues in respect of the fulfilment of the United Kingdom's obligations under the treaty. The position in international law in this regard is no different for the treaties referred to by the noble Lord than for other treaties. In the cases of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the determination whether a particular act or omission does engage the responsibility of the United Kingdom is specially entrusted (subject to the rules and procedures laid down in the treaties) to the supervisory bodies established by those treaties.

The obligation to provide an effective domestic remedy is an obligation of the State under the treaties in question. Whether the United Kingdom has complied with that obligation falls to be determined in the same way as whether it has complied with any of the other obligations under those treaties. In so far as the European Convention on Human Rights is concerned, the European Court of Human Rights has consistently held that the Convention does not lay down for the Contracting States any given manner for ensuring within their internal law the effective implementation of any of its provisions.

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BOSNIAN MUSLIMS: REPORTED MALTREATMENT

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have about: (a) Bosnian Muslims from Sanja and Bijeljina obliged to dig trenches by the Serb Army and currently used as human shields; (b) Bosnians of military age from Brcko, Bijeljina and Doboj interned in camps at Batkovic, Mackovic/Lopare and Suho Polje/Ugljevik; whether these situations are in breach of international law, and what is being done to bring them to an end.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are aware of these disturbing reports. We condemn all such acts which are in clear breach of international law. Those responsible must be held accountable to the International Tribunal established by the UN, whose efforts to secure convictions we fully support.

UNPROFOR: ARRANGEMENTS FOR WITHDRAWAL FROM BOSNIA

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Under what command would any US forces operate which might be deployed to former Yugoslavia to assist in the withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces; by whom would their rules of engagement be determined; whether, as Mr. William Perry is reported to have stated, they would be equipped and prepared to use "overwhelming force"; and whether this suggestion of war-fighting has their approval, or that of NATO or the United Nations.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: President Clinton has agreed in principle to provide US ground troops to any NATO-led withdrawal of UNPROFOR from Bosnia, should that become necessary. Detailed command arrangements and rules of engagement for such a contingency would require consideration in the North Atlantic Council, in co-ordination as appropriate with the UN. Clearly, force would only be used to the extent necessary for a successful withdrawal.

AGE OF CONSENT IN FAR EASTERN COUNTRIES

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the age of consent for lawful sexual intercourse in: (i) Sri Lanka; (ii) India; (iii) The Philippines; (iv) Indonesia; (v) Thailand; and (vi) Taiwan.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Our information is that the age of consent for lawful sexual intercourse in the countries listed is as follows: (i) Sri Lanka—12 for women. There is no specified age for men. (ii) India—although no parallel Indian law exists, for practical purposes the age of consent for women is 16. Solemnization of child marriages is punishable for a male above 18 contracting such a marriage and for anyone performing, conducting or directing a child marriage.

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(iii) The Philippines—the age of unqualified consent is 18. Between 12 and 18 qualified consent is deemed possible. (iv) Indonesia—sexual relations outside marriage are not regulated under law. The legal age for marriage is 16 for women and 19 for men. (v) Thailand—15 years of age. (vi) Taiwan—16 years of age.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION: RIGHT TO PROPOSE LEGISLATION

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they believe that the European Commission should retain its monopoly to propose European legislation.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We believe that extending the Commission's right to propose legislation to other institutions or to individual member states would result in a larger number of proposals being made than at present, some of which would contravene the principle of subsidiarity. Under Article 152 of the Treaty, the Council can already request the Commission to bring forward proposals which it wants.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION: LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many (a) new legislative proposals, (b) amending legislative proposals, and (c) other documents were deposited in Parliament by the European Commission in the year to 31st December 1994.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: According to the Commission, there were 39 proposals for principal legislation submitted to the Council of Ministers up to the end of October 1994. All of these were deposited in Parliament. In addition, a further 513 other draft legislative proposals were deposited in Parliament in 1994. The vast majority of these were either proposals to amend existing Council legislation or draft technical decisions required by the Council of Ministers. In addition, 234 non-legislative documents were deposited in Parliament in 1994.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION REGULATIONS

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many regulations or other similar instruments which do not have to be deposited in national Parliaments were issued by the Commission in the year to 31st December 1994, whether in draft form or otherwise.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: According to the Commission's CELEX Database on Community legislation and the Official Journal of the European Communities, 1,579 Commission regulations, 445

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Commission decisions and 24 Commission directives were produced in 1994. Most of these acts involved the detailed implementation of rules laid down by the Council.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many European Parliament buildings are in existence or under construction; in which countries of the European Communities; and for how many days each year the European Parliament sits in each of them; for what average length of time per sitting day and at what annual cost.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The European Parliament rents five buildings in Strasbourg costing £11.2 million a year, five buildings in Luxembourg costing £10.9 million a year, and nine buildings in Brussels costing £25.5 million a year. A further building in Strasbourg is under construction, payment for which will start in 1997.

Plenary sessions are held in Strasbourg and Brussels. In 1995 these sessions are scheduled to be held on 12 days in Brussels and 60 days in Strasbourg. The average daily sitting during the Brussels sessions in 1994 was seven hours. For the Strasbourg sessions it was six hours. In addition to the six hours spent each day in the chamber in Strasbourg, MEPs attend other meetings outside it such as committee or political group meetings. The Brussels building is also used all the year round for office accommodation, committee meetings and other purposes.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS OF MOVING BETWEEN BUILDINGS

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the annual cost of moving papers and general administration between the various buildings of the European Parliament, and how this figure is made up.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The total amount in the 1995 adopted European Parliament budget is £664 million. No figure is available for the portion to be spent on moving papers and general administration between the various buildings of the European Parliament.


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