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Written Answers

Monday 13th February 1995

Belarus

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they recently received, or invited, the leader of the Popular Front, an opposition party in Belarussia, and, if so, what did they commit themselves to if the Popular Front does well in the May election and makes arrangements for Belarussia to leave CIS; and whether they have promised any funds to this party or procured anyone else to do so.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Mr. Poznyak visited Britain at the invitation of the FCO. His programme, which was designed to give him an understanding of British democratic structures, included a call on my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Hogg). We made no commitments in the event of Belarus making arrangements to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States, nor did we undertake to provide funding to the Belarussian Popular Front, nor have we asked anyone else to do so.

Croatia: Discussions with Senator Dole

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they are aware of the content of the "constant contact" between Senator Dole and the Croatian Government which the Croatian Foreign Minister announced on Croatian television on 17th January in the context of the embargo and the expulsion of UNPROFOR from Croatia.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are not able to comment on the content of private discussions between the Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Senator Dole.

Kashmir

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they have asked the Government of India why they will not allow either the Parliamentary Human Rights Group or Amnesty International to visit Kashmir and inquire into allegations of human rights violations there.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have consistently encouraged the Indian Government to allow international human rights groups to visit Kashmir.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they will raise at the UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva the matters dealt with in the Amnesty International report Torture and deaths in custody in Jammu and Kashmir, published today; and whether they will ask the Indian Government to tell the commission which of the recommendations they accept.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We regularly express our concern about reports of human rights abuses in Kashmir in bilateral discussions with the Indian Government. We will follow closely any debate on these issues in Geneva, including any response by the Indian Government to the Amnesty International report.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government: What information they have now received concerning the charges against members of the armed forces and the paramilitaries in Kashmir in respect of alleged human rights violations; the number of convictions; the sentences passed; and, in the case of custodial sentences, the name and rank of each offender, the charges on which he was convicted and the length of imprisonment to which he was sentenced.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have received no further information from the Indian Government on these questions since my answer of 17th October 1994, (col.1 of the Official Report) to the noble Lord.

Turkey: Suryiani Minority

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they will discuss with the Government of Turkey fully adequate protection for the Suryiani (Syrian Orthodox) minority of some 5,000 persons living in south-east Turkey; and whether they will draw their plight to the attention of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) High Commissioner for Minorities and of any other relevant authorities.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We take a close interest in the Christian communities in Turkey in the context of our wider concerns on human rights. Our Ambassador in Ankara has discussed the concerns of the Suryiani community with the Turkish authorities and stressed that it is their duty to investigate and stamp our cases of harassment and kidnapping. The human rights situation in Turkey, including the position of minorities, is expected to be discussed at the session of the UN Commission for Human Rights under way in Geneva. We shall continue to consider actively with other OSCE members how the organisation can help bring about improvements in the human rights situation in Turkey.

Turkey: Ankara Metro

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: Which British firms have received contracts to work on the Ankara Metro and what is the value of such contracts.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Coppee UK has been awarded a contract valued at £51 million. It has subcontracted some of this work to:


    Crown Agents — £4.2m


    GEC Alsthom — £17.1m


    NEI Control Systems — £3.2m


    Balfour Beatty — £5.7m

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    Brecknell Willis — £4.7m


    Thorn TTSI — £1.9m


    Cegelec — £8.9m.

A separate contract valued at £8.15 million has been awarded to Westinghouse Brakes Limited.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: How much United Kingdom aid has been paid to the Ankara Metro project, how much was as loans and how much as grants; and whether any loans are on "soft conditions".

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: To date, £10.6 million has been expended in support of the project. This has all been on grant terms, linked to an export credit guaranteed by ECGD.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: On what grounds the Ankara Metro project in Turkey was deemed suitable for United Kingdom aid; and whether internal conflict in Turkey and the human rights abuses by persons responsible to the Turkish Government and others were taken into account in reaching that decision.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Ankara Metro project was designed to reduce chronic road congestion and pollution. The scale of internal conflict and associated human rights abuses were not central to the decision to fund the project.

China: Fourth World Conference on Women

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether, in view of Chinese government policies on abortion, sterilization and contraception, they consider it appropriate that the Fourth World Conference on Women should be held in Beijing and whether they will withdraw the British delegation until another venue is found.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Peking was nominated as the venue for the Fourth World Conference on Women in accordance with the United Nations principle of geographical rotation. We believe that there is more to be gained by participating in the conference than in withdrawing from it.

St. Helena: Transport Links

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government: What progress has been made or can be expected soon in improving physical transport between St. Helena and the rest of the world.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: With the agreement of the Government of St. Helena, consultants have been engaged by ODA to carry out a review of the sailing schedule of the RMS St. Helena. The main objective of the study is to examine the opportunities for rescheduling the service so as to maximize the vessel's

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time in southern waters. This would improve the frequency of calls at St. Helena and improve the service between the island, Cape Town and Ascension. The consultants have just begun work. Their report and recommendations are expected to be available in two or three months.

Mental Health Act 1993

Lord Mottistone asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they intend to amend Sections 7(2)(b) and 136(1) of the Mental health Act 1983 in their new Mental Health Bill specifically to conform to the 1993 code of practice and to accord with relevant points made in a recent Department of Health guardianship discussion paper and the Ritchie Report.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The main purpose of our Mental Health Bill will be to introduce a new power of supervised discharge to ensure that formerly detained patients who most need support in the community receive the after-care services provided for them. Supervised discharge will incorporate some of the features of the existing guardianship powers. We hope that its direct link with the care programme approach and more clearly defined legal powers will make it more readily acceptable to health care professionals. We are at present analysing the comments received on the discussion paper on guardianship and will publish the results in due course.

The recommendations in the Ritchie Report about Section 136 procedures are being followed up by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Lord Mottistone asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they intend to amend Section 72 of the Mental Health Act 1983 in their new Mental Health Bill specifically to meet the criticisms of the operation of the mental health review tribunals made on 16th January 1995 in a ministerial statement on the Georgina Robinson Inquiry.

Baroness Cumberlege: The main purpose of our Mental Health Bill will be to introduce a new power of supervised discharge to ensure that formerly detained patients who most need support in the community comply with their after-care plan. Section 72 of the Act will be amended to allow for appeals against supervised discharge, but we have no plans for any other legislative change to mental health review tribunal procedures. We attach great importance to effective management of the tribunal service and have taken initiatives to reduce delays and extend training and the provision of information for tribunal members. We co-operate closely with the Council on Tribunals on these matters and this is fully recorded in its latest annual report.

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Airlines: Carriers' Liability

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government: To list, by airline—(a) the total amount each airline has been fined under the provisions of the Immigration (Carriers Liability) Act 1987 since it came into force; (b) the total amount each airline owes in unpaid fines to date; (c) the date on which the first unpaid fine was incurred.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): It is not the policy of the Government to disclose the amount of charges incurred by individual carriers. Since the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Act 1987 came into force the total amount incurred at 31st December 1994 was £75,700,000. The total amount remaining outstanding was £24,500,000. The earliest charge still outstanding dates from 13th July 1987.

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Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government: What steps they are taking to recover unpaid fines imposed on airlines under the Immigration (Carriers's Liability) Act 1987; what penalties are being imposed for non-payment; and whether any terms have been offered to non-payers to achieve a settlement of unpaid fines.

Baroness Blatch: We actively pursue all carriers who have outstanding charges, including through the courts where necessary. There are currently 11 writs outstanding covering charges amounting to £5.2 million.

There is no provision within the Act to impose any extra penalty on carriers who do not pay charges promptly.

The statutory amount charged for each inadequately documented passenger is not negotiable; the Home Office does not offer terms in order to achieve a settlement. Carriers are, however, able to make representations on whether charges should have been levied in individual cases.

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