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2 Nov 1995 : Column WA169

Written Answers

Thursday, 2nd November 1995.

Hong Kong: Entrenchment of International Covenants

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

    Further to the Answer of the Baroness Chalker of Wallasey on 23 October 1995 (WA 101), whether the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and of the International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights, as applied to Hong Kong, will remain in force after 1997 in terms of the reporting obligations imposed by each covenant to ensure international supervision of the observance of the rights recognised by the covenants.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The last paragraph of Chapter XIII of Annex I to the Joint Declaration (JD 156), reflected in Article 39 of the Basic Law, obliges China to ensure that the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as applied to Hong Kong, remain in force. The British Government firmly believes that the continued operation of the provisions of the Covenants, as prescribed by JD 156 and BL 39, necessarily entails continuing reporting to the UN Human Rights Committee as required by the covenants.

We have described to the Chinese Government reporting procedures under the covenants and how the United Kingdom fulfils its obligations in respect of Hong Kong under the covenants. We have also made our views known to China as to how it may fulfil its obligations under JD 156. We will continue to work for a satisfactory resolution of this question.

Turkey: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of continuing reports from Turkey of extra-judicial killings, political murders and deaths following torture, whether they can state that any, and if so which, of the legal safeguards recommended by the UN Committee against Torture or the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture have been put in place there.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture's report on its most recent visit to Turkey in 1994 has yet to be made available. We have not been informed of the extent to which the committee found its earlier recommendations had been implemented. We are not aware of any new measures in Turkey designed to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture

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in its report to the General Assembly in 1994. We have consistently made clear to the Turkish Government that we expect them to co-operate fully with all human rights mechanisms established under international treaties and conventions to which they are parties.

National Security: Lords Debates

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as stated on 25th October by the Baroness Chalker of Wallasey (H.L. Deb. col. 1108), it is their policy that the House of Lords should not debate matters of national security.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We would not expect matters, the disclosure of which could adversely affect national security, to be debated in this House.

"Mental Health and Stress in the Work Place": Booklet

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

    Whether the Department of Health pamphlet Mental Health and Stress in the Work Place was withdrawn immediately prior to its anticipated publication on 4 September and, if so, whether they will explain the reasons for this withdrawal.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The booklet Mental Health and Stress in the Work Place is not, and was never intended to be, a Department of Health publication. The booklet has not been withdrawn, and will be published in due course.

Secondary Care Agency for the Armed Forces

Lord Ironside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they propose to establish the Secondary Care Agency for the Armed Forces and whom they have appointed to be chief executive.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The Secondary Care Agency is to be launched on 1 April 1996. Mr. R. G. Smith, formerly Chief Executive of the Lincolnshire Health Authority, has been appointed chief executive designate.

Lord Ironside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What secondary care facilities are available to servicemen and women, particularly those attached to 24 Air Mobile Brigade and their dependants now based at the Colchester Garrison.

Earl Howe: Service personnel will have full access to the facilities of the Secondary Care Agency, including

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the newly established Ministry of Defence Hospital Unit at Peterborough. The health care of dependants is the prime responsibility of the NHS, although they may receive treatment at Service medical facilities, subject to spare capacity being available.

Lord Ironside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many beds will be maintained by the Secondary Care Agency in the UK for service personnel at the planned core hospital at Haslar, at the support hospitals elsewhere and at the three MoD hospital units.

Earl Howe: Healthcare services equivalent to some 750 beds are being planned for the Secondary Care Agency in the UK.

WEU: Satellite Systems

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Western European Union is currently examining the need for western Europe to have its own intelligence satellite systems, given the uncertainty West European Governments have experienced in the provision by the United States of space-derived and other intelligence in former Yugoslavia, and the veto that country retains over the use by NATO allies of US-provided NATO infrastructure; and if so what are the next steps to be taken by WEU and/or its member states.

Earl Howe: The WEU is currently assessing the need for western Europe to have its own satellite systems. Recommendations on the approach to be taken on future WEU satellite imagery requirements will be put to Ministers at the WEU ministerial meeting in mid November.

Listed Buildings: VAT Liability

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will now answer Lord Kennet's recent letter to Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, in response to the latter's claim that while zero-rated VAT on alterations to listed buildings contributed to their long-term usability, zero-rating on repairs to them would have no such effect, asking him to review the logic of these claims; and whether Lord Mackay's recent remarks (H.L. Deb., 19 October, col. 822) indicate that progress is being made towards answering his letter.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My reply on 4 October to the noble Lord's letter agreed that repairs are obviously conducive to the conservation of listed buildings but emphasised that the Government have no plans to change the current position whereby repairs to listed buildings are liable to VAT at the standard rate.

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EC Treaty: Article 73(b)

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which of the member states of the European Union have not yet complied with Article 73(b) of the treaty establishing the European Community.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: All member states comply with Article 73(b). However, in conformity with the treaty, Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden retain restrictions on the acquisition of real estate. Article 73(c) also allows member states to maintain restrictions on capital movements which existed on 31 December 1993 against third countries. Only Luxembourg has no such restrictions.

European Space Agency: Activities

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the peaceful uses to which ESA's activities are restricted are all those which are permitted under the space treaty of 1967.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): While all activities carried out under the convention of the European Space Agency are consistent with the 1967 treaty on principles governing the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, the treaty itself does not define those activities which are permitted.

European Space Agency: Budget

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have been correctly reported as wishing to cut the European Space Agency's (ESA's) budget by 25 per cent., if so, whether they will give reasons, given the industrial return and benefit British firms derive from ESA research activities; whether their wish for this cut has been discussed with British firms; and whether they consider such a cut would improve the commercial and other prospects of those firms.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: The ESA Ministerial Council decided unanimously at Toulouse on 19 October to set a flat five year level of resources for the science programme. This will run at 347 million accounting units (ecu equivalent) a year from 1996 to 2000 and will be indexed only for inflation exceeding three per cent. The level is some 15 per cent. below earlier proposals. The Government maintain a regular dialogue with companies in the space sector and welcome the decision as providing a stable basis for the continued pursuit of excellence in ESA's space science programme and encouraging cost-conscious mission hardware and equipment procurement along the lines the UK has consistently advocated. Changes to ESA procurement, which were also agreed at the Ministerial

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Council, can be expected to enhance opportunities for competitive suppliers in the UK and elsewhere.


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