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16 Mar 1995 : Column WA51

Written Answers

Thursday 16th March 1995

Lockerbie and the Montreal Convention

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Montreal Convention provides appropriate legal procedures for dealing with the Lockerbie case, and if not, in what respect it is deficient.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The Montreal Convention was clearly not designed to deal with a situation in which organs of the state holding the accused are themselves alleged to be implicated in the crime.

Libyan Citizens: Trial Location Claim

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what grounds in natural justice the British and US governments have claimed it would be proper for the Libyan Government to transfer Libyan citizens to another jurisdiction.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We believe that it is right and fair for the two accused persons to be tried in Scotland where the crime was committed and from where the criminal investigation has been carried out rather than in a state whose organs are alleged to be implicated in the crime.

Extradition and the Russian Constitution

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have noted Article 61 of the new Russian Constitution which reads "1. A citizen of the Russian Federation cannot be . . . extradited to another state".

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: This is not an unusual position to take; indeed many of our EU partners have similar provisions in their constitutions.

Extradition: US Law

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is open in American law for the United States Administration to convey an American citizen against his will to the jurisdiction of another country with which it does not have an extradition arrangement, and if any United States Administration has ever done so.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: It is not for us to advise on the laws of another country.

Abkhazia: Return of Ethnic Georgians

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What attempts have been made to verify systematically the estimates of the numbers of refugees from Abkhazia in Georgia and elsewhere

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    and of these the number wishing to return if their security can be guaranteed.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No reliable estimates exist of the number of ethnic Georgians who have fled the secessionist region of Abkhazia into Georgia or elsewhere. UNHCR do not consider them as refugees but as internally displaced persons. The Georgian Government estimate that there are some 250,000 such persons in Georgia and that all are ready to return. It has proved impossible to verify this. UNHCR report that some 25,000 have returned spontaneously.

Angola Cease-Fire: Alleged Breaches

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What complaints have been made to UNAVEM III about alleged breaches of the cease-fire in Angola; and whether they will place copies of any available reports on this matter in the Library of the House of Lords.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The UN Secretary General's First Progress Report on UNAVEM III notes that although the cease-fire continued "in general" to hold, both the Government of Angola and UNITA were alleged to have committed violations. A copy of the report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Fisheries Dispute: EU and Canada

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current position in the fisheries dispute between the EU and Canada in the north-west Atlantic.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The dispute is about allocating the Total Allowable Catch for Greenland Halibut amongst the contracting parties in the North West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO)—in particular the EU and Canada. The goal of all involved must be to conserve fish stocks so as to allow fishermen from both the EU and Canada a viable future. This requires proper conservation measures, including an equitable division of the agreed Total Allowable Catch. It also requires strict enforcement to ensure that the rules are obeyed by all. We are pleased to hear that the Spanish vessel detained last week has been released. All concerned can now concentrate on resolving the wider issues through negotiation in a way acceptable to the members of NAFO. The UK has been using its position as a member of both the Commonwealth and the EU to promote solutions to the immediate difficulties and to contribute to an outcome in the longer term which is satisfactory to all. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs yesterday spoke to his Canadian and Spanish opposite numbers as part of these efforts. The way ahead must be through negotiations undertaken in a calm and co-operative spirit and by avoiding actions which might make a solution more difficult.

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Official Residences: Source of Articles

Lord Craig of Radley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have investigated the source of articles in the Daily Telegraph of 9th February 1995 which gave details of confidential audit reports into the refurbishment of Haymes Garth and other official residences before the Ministry of Defence paper on Official Service Residences was released to Parliament on 10th February 1995; whether the person or persons responsible were identified and what further action has been taken with the Ministry of Defence to stop unauthorised information from being leaked to the media.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): My department is investigating whether confidential information on these matters was released by unauthorised means. If the results of the investigation show that management action is necessary, it will be taken.

Habitual Residence Test

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have yet received any representations from other governments of the Commonwealth about the introduction of the habitual residence test.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Her Majesty's Government has not received any representations from Commonwealth governments about the introduction of the habitual residence test.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have yet received any representations from other governments of the European Union about the introduction of the habitual residence test.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The Government of the Irish Republic made representations in 1994.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will grant to women who have been victims of domestic violence, on a short-term basis if necessary, an exemption from the habitual residence test for means tested benefits, and whether they will promote consultations between the Home Office and the Department of Social Security on this subject.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The habitual residence test has to be applied to all claimants impartially without any discrimination in accordance with the provisions of British law.

Environment Council, 9 March

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Environment Council on 9 March.

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The Minister of State Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Environment represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council held in Brussels on 9 March. During the lengthy discussion on the proposed Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) my honourable friend made clear that the UK continued to welcome this proposal. My honourable friend indicated that we wished to see a directive which achieved a high level of protection for the environment whilst providing a level playing field for industry in the UK. The subsequent debate assisted in resolving a number of issues but an overall agreement was not reached.

The Council agreed conclusions setting out the EU's position for the first Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention, building on those agreed at its meeting in December. The conclusions call for the negotiation of a protocol to the convention, setting out new targets and timetables beyond 2000 and for the agreement by all developed countries of policies and measures aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

There was a useful initial discussion of the proposals for an Ambient Air Quality Framework Directive in which my honourable friend indicated UK support for measures to tackle the problems of air pollution. Discussions also took place on the proposals for the Ecological Quality of Water and on the revision of the Seveso directive.

The Council also agreed a paper setting out the current EU position on the preparations for the third meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Environment Bill: Drafting of Amendments

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether officials in the Department of the Environment have been helping Members of the House other than the Viscount Ullswater, the Earl Howe and the Earl of Lindsay to draft amendments to the Environment Bill; and, if so, whether this is proper use of civil service time and taxpayers' money.

Viscount Ullswater: Officials routinely support Ministers on the handling of non-Government amendments, including with matters of drafting where Ministers wish to put proposals to another member. However, officials have not provided any assistance with drafting direct to Members of the House other than Ministers with respect to the Environment Bill. Correction

In the first supplementary question asked by Lord Callaghan of Cardiff on his Private Notice Question on Nigeria reported at col. 851 of the Official Report for Wednesday 15 March, the words ''constitutional government'' which appear at line 4 should read ''Constitutional Conference''.

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