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6 Jul 1995 : Column WA89

Written Answers

Thursday, 6th July, 1995.

Consular Fees

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to increase consular fees.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): An Order in Council (The Consular Fees Order 1995), made on 28 June, provides for increases between 17 per cent. and 100 per cent. in certain consular fees with effect from 20 July 1995. A new entry clearance fee for multiple entries, valid for one year, will be introduced on the same date. It is government policy that the cost of the Consular Services should be borne by users as far as possible.

Rohingya Refugees: Repatriation Safeguards

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will discuss with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees the allegation by Médécins Sans Frontieres ("MSF") that repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Burma is being organised without the informed consent of the refugees, and whether they will state their position on the five recommendations made by MSF.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We drew MSF's recent report to the attention of the UNHCR following its publication in May. Subsequently Mrs. Ogata met the Directors of Operations of MSF (France) and MSF (Netherlands) on 12 June at which the UNHCR safeguards to ensure the voluntary nature of repatriation were explained. MSF representatives are understood to have been reassured by the UNHCR procedures.

Sri Lanka

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest analysis of the economic, social, political and human rights situation in Sri Lanka and what bilateral and multilateral policies they are consequently pursuing.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: I refer the noble Lord to the statement of our policy towards Sri Lanka given by my honourable friend the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Tony Baldry, in another place on 9 June, Official Report, col. 474.

African Great Lakes Region

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest analysis of the interrelationship of economic, social, ethnic, political, and human rights issues in Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Great Lakes Region of Africa as a whole and what bilateral and multilateral policies they are consequently pursuing.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We recognise that developments in one country can have far-reaching consequences for others in the Great Lakes region. Our efforts, both bilateral and multilateral, have therefore been directed to meeting the humanitarian needs of those displaced within the region, supporting efforts to resolve existing conflicts and preventing the outbreak of further conflicts. To that end we support the efforts of the UN Secretary General to convene a conference on Regional Peace and Security in the Great Lakes Region.

Cambodia

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest analysis of the economic, social, political and human rights situation in Cambodia and what bilateral and multilateral policies they are consequently pursuing.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The economic, social, political and human rights situation in Cambodia has greatly improved since the comprehensive political settlement brought to power a democratically-elected coalition government in 1993. But Cambodia is still a new democracy and a poor country with a weak economic infrastructure. There are a number of social and human rights problems, as well as continuing security concerns caused by the Khmer Rouge.

We are contributing, both through bilateral and multilateral aid, to programmes designed to improve economic and social conditions, which we hope will in turn lead to better security. We also take every suitable opportunity, both bilaterally and in conjunction with our international partners, to impress upon the Cambodians the importance of safeguarding democracy and protecting human rights.

Cameroon

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their analysis of the economic, social, political and human rights situation in Cameroon and what bilateral and multilateral policies they are consequently pursuing.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Cameroon has faced a number of problems of political adjustment since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1991, and difficulties over economic reform. We support Cameroon's efforts to continue the reform process both bilaterally and multilaterally.

Nigeria

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest assessment of the economic, social, political and human rights situation in Nigeria and what action they are taking bilaterally and multilaterally to speed the restoration of democracy.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his statement issued on 28 June, we continue to be

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deeply concerned by the situation in Nigeria. We and our European Union and Commonwealth partners continue to press the Nigerian Government for a return to civilian democratic rule and to respect human rights.

Burma

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest analysis of the economic, social, political and human rights situation in Burma and what bilateral and multilateral policies they are consequently pursuing.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We remain concerned about the lack of progress in Burma. The ruling military regime, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), has made no substantive reforms to improve the political and human rights situation.

The political process remains far from democratic. Suppression of all opposition continues, including censorship, political arrests and detentions. Many remain in custody, notably Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose detention without charge is indefensible. We continue to receive reports of human rights abuses, such as forced labour, military portering and involuntary displacement.

The SLORC have instituted some economic reforms, but the country remains desperately poor, in part due to the SLORC's economic management.

The policy we share with our European partners is one of critical dialogue. We make it clear to the SLORC that improvements in key areas, including human rights, political and economic reform, are prerequisites for the normalisation of relations with the European Union. We have pressed in particular for the early and unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We apply pressure both bilaterally and in relevant international fora. We suspended non-humanitarian official aid in 1988, imposed an arms embargo in 1991 and severed all remaining defence links in 1992.

China: Birth Control Policies

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any evidence that during the last sixteen years during which the United Nations Population Fund have been involved in China, they have been able in any way to change the policies of the Chinese Government on coercive sterilisation and abortion, and if so, whether they will specifically list such changes.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We understand that advice from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was a factor in the Chinese Government's decision to review the then draft Maternal and Child Health Law, which now specifically requires a woman's written consent for an abortion carried out under the terms of that law. We would expect that any proven instances of forced sterilisation and abortion would be attributable to the way in which national family planning

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policy has been interpreted and implemented at local level in China. Authenticated data on the instances of such coercive practices are not available and it is not possible to prove any particular trend, or attribute such a trend to specific influences. We expect that the UNFPA's training in counselling and interpersonal skills of service delivery staff at the grass-roots level will have had some impact on the instance of coercive abortion and sterilisation, but we have no proof of this.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assistance if any, they have given, or plan to give, to The Dying Rooms Trust.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have not given any assistance to the Dying Rooms Trust.

ABM Treaty

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in their view, the deployment of anti-ballistic missiles intended to provide a defence for the territory of a country (as indicated in paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty), whatever the range of the missiles in question, could usefully be discussed in the appropriate international forum.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was concluded in 1972 between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. It is for the parties to the treaty to determine the arrangements for discussion of issues relating to the treaty's operation.


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