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Written Answers

Monday, 11th March 1996.

Mr. Mark Higson

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they can give an assurance that when Mr. Mark Higson left the Foreign and Commonwealth Office he did not suffer any penalty for voluntary unemployment.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): I can confirm that Mr. Mark Higson did not suffer any penalty for voluntary unemployment when he left the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in February 1990.

East Timor: Hawk Jets

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they believe the denial of the Indonesian authorities that Hawk jets overflew Dili on Friday 10th November rather than the assertion by the British journalist Mr. Hugh O'Shaugnessy, that he saw aircraft of that type on that day; and what investigations are being made into the claim made by Mr. O'Shaugnessy in the Independent on Sunday, apart from inquiries of the Indonesian authorities.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: As I said in my previous Answer of 12th December, we have no evidence to support allegations that Hawk aircraft overflew Dili on Friday 10th November.

Various enquiries were made of confidential sources which it would not be proper to disclose.

Asia-Europe Meeting: Human Rights Undertakings

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

    What the Asia-Europe Meeting in Bangkok has achieved in promoting greater respect for human rights.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The concluding statement of the Asia-Europe Meeting re-affirmed participants' "strong commitment" to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1993 Declaration of Vienna and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights. The statement also specified that dialogue between the participants should be conducted on the basis of, among other principles, "promotion of fundamental rights".

The meeting established the framework for developing relations between the two regions. This will provide further opportunities for exchanges on human

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rights between the countries of the region. This was exemplified by the important meeting between President Soeharto and Prime Minister Gutteres in Bangkok itself, which we hope will lead to progress over the issue of East Timor.

Iranian Civil Airliner Destruction by USS "Vincennes"

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Nations Security Council issued any declaration on the occasion when the USS "Vincennes" shot down an Iranian civilian Airbus on a scheduled flight over Iranian territorial waters in 1988.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 616 on 20th July 1988, expressing its deep distress at the accidental shooting down by the USS "Vincennes" of an Iranian civilian airliner.

Bosniac-Croat Federation: Assistance with Equipment and Training

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they now have concerning the US Inter-Agency Task Force under Mr. James Pardew (International Herald Tribune, 21st December 1995) which was charged with interesting "other countries in joining and financing" the United States Government's project to equip and train the Bosnian armed forces in Turkey; and whether it is their intention to take part in this exercise, or fund it.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The US is leading an effort to identify critical training and equipment needs for the Bosniac-Croat Federation, to design a programme to address those needs, and to build a coalition of contributors to support that programme through funds and in-kind contribution of equipment and training.

Cuba: Shooting Down of Civil Aircraft

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the relevant article in the International Civil Aviation Agreement of December 1944 and the Montreal Protocol of 10th May 1984 to which the United Nations Security Council Declaration refers is in effect; whether either the United States or Cuba have ratified it and are bound by it; and whether it is expected that the International Civil Aviation Organisation will examine the overall context of the events off Cuba, including earlier incursions and warnings and communications.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Article 3 bis of the International Convention on Civil Aviation of 7th December 1944 added by the Montreal Protocol of

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10th May 1984 is not yet in force. Neither the United States nor Cuba has ratified it. However, the provisions of Article 3 bis, which state that weapons must not be used against civil aircraft in flight, reflect a general principle of international law.

In addition, Annex 2 to the Chicago Convention, which deals with the rules of the air, has an attachment which sets down the specific actions to be followed by a state if it decides that it has to intercept a civil aircraft. Those actions do not include the use of weapons.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council adopted a resolution on 6th March directing the Secretary General of ICAO to initiate immediately an investigation of the incident in its entirety to determine all relevant facts and technical aspects in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they knew of two previous incursions in the morning of 24th February (reported by the Cuban Press Agency, SWB AL/2546 L/1+) by aircraft belonging to the Miami-based Cuban emigre organisation, Brothers to the Rescue (see SWB AL/2545 L/8 and SWB AL/2547 L/6.7), which were then (according to the Cuban authorities) warned not to enter Cuban airspace, but (according to the Cuban authorities) returned to do so, when the two were shot down; or of several earlier incursions by Brothers to the Rescue, of which the United States authorities had been informed.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Her Majesty's Government were aware that incursions, both on the morning of 24th February and on earlier occasions, had been reported in the US and Cuban press. However, we have had no independent information to substantiate these reports.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they welcome President Clinton's orders to the Miami-based Cuban exiles, intend to approach Cuba to protest on Saturday 2nd March, not to enter Cuban airspace or waters, and his decision to order the United States Coastguard to accompany them on their protest flight.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Her Majesty's Government support calls for moderation and restraint from all involved in the handling of this matter.

The deployment of the United States Coastguard is a matter entirely for the United States authorities.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they discount Cuban reports that the United States Coastguard immediately asked, and was granted permission to search Cuban territorial waters for remains of the aircraft, which the United States later claimed had been shot down in international waters in which, on a later search, the coastguard found no remains (SWB AL/2547 L/5).

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Her Majesty's Government are not in a position either to substantiate or discount such reports, but strongly supported the statement by the President of the Security Council requesting that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) investigate this incident in its entirety. A resolution to this effect was adopted by the ICAO Council on 6th March.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it was at the insistence of Mrs. Albright, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Security Council and its President for the month of February, that the Security Council issued a Declaration (S/PRST/1996/9) on the shooting down of two Cessna aircraft by the Cuban authorities on 24th February; whether they were aware that the Cuban foreign minister was not granted a visa by the United States authorities to enter the United States to provide the United Nations Security Council with the Cuban authorities' account of events until an hour after the Security Council had issued its declaration (SWB AL/2546 L/1+); and whether they concurred in these actions.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Presidential statements require the concurrence of all 15 members of the Security Council. Her Majesty's Government supported the issuing of a statement by the President of the Council strongly deploring the shooting down by the Cuban airforce of two civil aircraft on 24th February.

The question of a visa to allow the Cuban Foreign Minister to enter the United States is a matter for the United States authorities. However, the Cuban Permanent Representative to the United Nations addressed the formal session of the Security Council on 27th February before the Presidential statement was issued.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link Contracts

Baroness O'Cathain asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make public the terms of the contracts they have signed with London and Continental Railways Ltd., the private sector promoter of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and whether they will provide a breakdown of the benefits of the CTRL project to the nation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Further to the undertaking given in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport on 29th February, we have today placed in the House Library copies of a memorandum which summarises the most significant obligations of both London and Continental Railways and the Government under the terms of the contracts which were signed last week. Some aspects of the contracts are, and will remain, commercially confidential and have therefore been

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excluded. The memorandum provides further details of the benefits of the CTRL project to the nation.


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