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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, perhaps the Minister can give us some guidance in terms of Amendment No. 278. When does he think the commencement date order might be?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not sure when we intend to do it. However, I can give the noble Baroness a categoric assurance, in the usual words Ministers use, that it will be "As soon as we possibly can".

On Question, Motion agreed to.


COMMONS AMENDMENTS
128Clause 62, page 39, line 41, at end insert:
'( ) Regulations may provide that this section does not apply to trust schemes falling within a prescribed class or description.'.
129Clause 63, page 40, line 29, at end insert 'or'.
130Page 40, line 31, leave out from 'scheme' to end of line 34.
131Clause 66, page 41, line 39, after 'made' insert 'in respect of a scheme other than a public service pension scheme'.
132Clause 67, page 42, line 25, leave out from 'benefits' to first 'the' in line 26 and insert 'which, in the opinion of the trustees are derived from'.
133Page 42, line 27, leave out from 'contributions' to end of line 29.
134Page 42, line 30, leave out paragraph (b) and insert:
'(b) where a person's entitlement to payment of pension or other benefits has arisen, liability for that pension or benefit and for any pension or other benefit which will be payable to dependants of that person on his death (but excluding increases to pensions)'.
135Page 42, line 33, after 'accrued' insert 'to or in respect of any member of the scheme (but excluding increases to pensions)'.
136Clause 68, page 43, line 25, leave out from 'the' to end of line 26 and insert 'member'.
137Page 43, line 33, leave out 'on account' and insert 'in respect'.
138Clause 70, page 45, line 7, after 'scheme' insert 'in any circumstances'.
139Page 45, line 11, leave out from beginning to 'to' and insert 'in those circumstances power is conferred on the employer or the trustees'.
140Page 45, line 13, leave out subsection (2).
141Page 45, line 16, leave out from '(1) (c)' to 'unless' in line 18 and insert 'cannot be exercised'.
142Page 45, line 27, leave out paragraph (c).
143Page 46, line 4, leave out from '(1) (c)' to 'without' in line 5.
144Clause 71, page 46, line 15, after 'scheme' insert 'in any circumstances'.
145Page 46, line 25, leave out paragraph (f) and insert:
'( ) the scheme prohibits the distribution of assets to the employer in those circumstances'.
146Page 47, line 2, at end insert:
'( ) Regulations may modify this section as it applies in prescribed circumstances.'.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 128 to 146. I have already spoken to the amendments in earlier debates.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 128 to 146.—(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Srebrenica

4.28 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, with permission I should like to repeat a Statement being made in another place on events in Srebrenica.

    "Srebrenica was established as a safe area by UN Security Council Resolution 819 on 16th April 1993. This was followed by an agreement on its demilitarisation between UNPROFOR, Bosnian Government and Bosnian Serb military commanders signed on 17th April.

    "In June 1993, the UN suggested that up to 36,000 troops could be necessary to implement the safe areas concept. The UK, France and the Netherlands responded well, but many others did not. The total committed amounted to only 7,500—a significant shortfall. This has had significant implications for the safe areas policy. A Dutch contingent of UNPROFOR troops was deployed to Srebrenica to replace the original Canadian contingent.

    "The reality is that neither side properly observed these provisions on demilitarisation. It is this that lies at the root of events over the past few days. For three months there have been sporadic attacks by each side against the other. Some 450 Dutch troops were in Srebrenica when fighting escalated over last weekend during which one Dutch soldier was killed by Bosnian Government forces on 8th July, and 30 Dutch soldiers were taken by the BSA as they withdrew from outlying OPs to a blocking position 1½ kilometres to the south of the town. On the evening of 10th July Bosnian Serb troops launched an infantry attack against this position; the Dutch returned fire and the attack was abandoned.

    "At around midday on 11th July, however, Bosnian Serb forces launched a further attack, using mortars and tanks. Srebrenica town came under fire with shells hitting the hospital and the Dutch compound. The Dutch commander requested NATO close air support. Two missions were launched, resulting in the destruction of two Bosnian Serb army tanks. Meanwhile, Dutch troops helped to evacuate the hospital and withdrew from the compound as it was under heavy shelling and undefendable.

    "The Dutch blocking position was bypassed and, at around 1800 hours, Dutch UNPROFOR troops withdrew northwards to their compound at Potocari. They took with them some 2,500 displaced persons, and some 80 to 100 are wounded. Latest reports indicate that some 30,000 displaced persons are now in the Potocari area—several thousand of them in and around the Dutch compound—and that Bosnian Serb forces now effectively control the whole of the Srebrenica enclave.

    "I have spoken this morning to the Dutch Foreign Minister, Mr. Van Mierlo. He confirmed that the Dutch troops remain in their Potocari compound. He has no reports of casualties. The compound is not presently under attack. But food and water supplies are running low. Dutch commanders are in touch with General Mladic, who is now in Srebrenica, about getting relief to the displaced persons.

12 Jul 1995 : Column 1718

    "We are in close touch with our allies and friends about the next steps and I have instructed our chargé in Belgrade to speak today to President Milosevic. Our immediate priorities are to get food, water and medical help to the displaced persons in the Potocari area and to offer any help to the Dutch that they may need; secondly, to safeguard the other enclaves and in particular the British forces in Gorazde; and thirdly, to pursue action in the United Nations Security Council in response to this Bosnian Serb aggression. Our overall objective should remain, despite the difficulties, to restore Srebrenica as a safe area, but on the basis of a genuine implementation of the demilitarisation agreement of April 1993.

    "On the humanitarian situation, I spoke to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees last night. I understand that UNHCR are seeking to negotiate access to provide help to the displaced persons and assistance to those who expressly wish to leave. We have offered technical assistance to UNHCR from ODA experts in the area.

    "On the position in the other enclaves, there is continued sporadic shelling around Zepa, which is guarded by Ukrainian UNPROFOR forces. There are no reports of increased activity by Bosnian Serb forces around Gorazde. Members of this House will nevertheless share my concern about the safety of British troops there. I can assure the House that we are in constant touch with UNPROFOR commanders on the ground about developments; and we shall take appropriate measures to safeguard the security of our troops. Part of the Rapid Reaction Force is deployed in theatre, where it will be able to support UNPROFOR's political and humanitarian objectives.

    "At the UN, we, the United States, France, Germany and Italy are co-sponsoring a draft resolution which was circulated yesterday evening. This condemns the Bosnian Serb offensive; demands that Bosnian Serb forces withdraw immediately from the Srebrenica safe area; that the Bosnian Serbs immediately release all detained UNPROFOR personnel; and that all parties allow unimpeded access for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian agencies to the safe area to alleviate the plight of the civilian population; and requests the Secretary-General to use the resources available to him to restore the safe area status of Srebrenica. I look to see a resolution along these lines in New York today.

    "Beyond these immediate priorities, we have to consider the implications of these events for the political process and for the future of UNPROFOR. I am seeing Carl Bildt, the new EU negotiator, immediately after this Statement. He has already travelled extensively in the region and has had three lengthy negotiating sessions with President Milosevic. I will be discussing with him how he can use his channels to the parties to help stabilise the situation in Srebrenica, as well as his broader objective of a negotiated settlement to the Bosnian conflict and mutual recognition between the republics of former Yugoslavia. Later today, Mr. Bildt will

12 Jul 1995 : Column 1719

    meet the contact group of the UK, France, Germany, the United States and Russia to discuss these developments.

    "On the future of UNPROFOR, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister told the House yesterday that the continued fighting in Bosnia was putting the future presence of United Nations forces at risk and that the warring parties had to indicate soon that they were prepared to return to the negotiating table to reach a political solution. This remains the position. There is no question about the value of UNPROFOR's work. This is the largest peacekeeping operation in the history of the UN: 40,000 troops are involved, drawn from almost 40 countries. They have saved tens of thousands of lives: casualties in the Bosnian war have fallen from 130,000 dead in 1992 to 2,500 in 1994. They have contained the conflict, which threatened a wider Balkan war. They are providing support for more than 2.7 million people in Bosnia who have been affected by the war.

    "But to operate, they require co-operation from the parties. UNPROFOR is not configured to fight a war. We must rely on the judgment of UN commanders on the ground as to whether they remain able to carry out their mandate. So withdrawal must remain an option. The structure for a political solution is there if the parties choose to use it; but they have to recognise that negotiating time is running out".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.37 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. The news that the safe haven of Srebrenica fell to the Serbs earlier today is yet another terrible turn of events in Bosnia. The people of Srebrenica can be not only frightened but angry and betrayed by this latest development. Even if their lives are not immediately threatened there are reports of only enough food and water for one day for the 30,000 or more refugees who have been created. If that is true, we need to ensure that urgent action is now taken to alleviate the situation. I was glad to hear the Minister refer to such action.

From the very first day the safe havens' policy was announced, it was never meaningful. Safe for whom? And safe for how long? Those questions were asked in the House when the policy was first announced over two years ago. Despite all the warnings of the deficiencies in the policy, no heed seems to have been taken. As the Government appear to accept, at least implicitly in today's Statement, enough troops and back-up have never been made available to make the enclaves remotely safe. Surely the international community must not continue to make commitments of this kind without providing the necessary resources to fulfil them. The failure to do so, allowing Srebrenica to fall and civilian areas in Sarajevo and elsewhere to be shelled with impunity, is a serious blow to the credibility of the international community.

12 Jul 1995 : Column 1720

At the same time, we on this side of the House join the Government in condemning both sides for failing to observe demilitarisation in Srebrenica and elsewhere. In particular, we condemn the Bosnian Serbs in the strongest terms. Yet again they have refused to accept the authority of the United Nations, wilfully ignoring its resolutions. The aggressive action they have taken in Srebrenica is utterly unacceptable.

Why was no ultimatum issued at the weekend when the Bosnian Serb troops started to move in on the enclave? Should not an ultimatum now be issued demanding their immediate withdrawal? I note that the Minister referred to a draft resolution in New York. Perhaps she will tell the House when that will be discussed in the Security Council. It has also been suggested that the French Government have put forward proposals for the use of UN troops to back an ultimatum. Will the Minister tell the House what consultations have taken place on that proposal? Could we have some more details of the French plans?

Will the Minister also tell the House why the Rapid Reaction Force was not deployed to try to prevent the fall of Srebrenica? Where are those troops? What are they currently doing? Surely their deployment should now be speeded up. What happened in Srebrenica cannot be seen in isolation. The Minister mentioned Gorazde and the British troops in the UN force there. Will the Minister give the House some further reassurances that the RRF will be used to protect them if necessary? The Minister made no reference to Zepa, the other enclave in eastern Bosnia. Perhaps we could hear what is the situation there.

On the wider goals we all share of achieving a political settlement, it is now well over a year since the contact group met the warring parties. What progress is now being made to get them around the table again? I note that contact is now being made with Carl Bildt, the European Union negotiator. But can the Minister throw any more light on his latest discussions with President Milosevic? Is President Milosevic prepared to put pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to withdraw from Srebrenica immediately and to sit down with the contact group and the other parties?

Finally, we share the Government's view that UNPROFOR has saved many lives in Bosnia. We understand also that withdrawal must remain an option. However, no one should underestimate the possible consequences of withdrawal, not just in Bosnia but well beyond it. I hope therefore that everything will be done, first, to reinforce existing UN mandates; and, secondly, to work for a political solution before such action is taken.


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