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Lord Rea: My Lords, it is hard to follow the noble Lord's lightweight approach without seeming heavy-handed. Does the noble Baroness agree that the efforts of the Government to achieve the target under the proposals in Health of the Nation to reverse the steady increase in obesity have so far proved ineffective or, to use the vernacular, a fat lot of use? To use the analogy of the task force that captured Port Stanley, if that is not too gross a metaphor, in terms of reducing people's weight would not the Government get useful advice from the proposed WHO task force?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that we set up the nutrition task force. It has made firm recommendations which the Government are considering. The Government will reply quite shortly and will publish the findings. The noble Lord will also be aware that there is an exercise campaign. Obesity is very complex; it concerns not only nutrition but also exercise.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, if the noble Baroness has communication with the World Health Organisation on this problem, will she ask it to concentrate its efforts on the hundreds of millions of people in the world who are starving rather than those who, perhaps for their own enjoyment, eat more than they should?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, we do not wish to tell the World Health Organisation what to do. However, the noble Lord is right. This is a condition of countries which are extremely well off; there are others where considerably more suffering occurs through starvation and lack of food.

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Nuclear Materials: Illicit Trade

2.48 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will investigate reports that nuclear weapon material, including enriched uranium, from ex-Soviet countries is being sold in Afghanistan to illegal traders from India, Pakistan and Iran; and, if there is substance in the reports, whether they will initiate international action with a view to stopping such trade.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, the Government are concerned about all reports of illicit trade in nuclear materials. But we have seen no authoritative corroboration of trafficking through Afghanistan; nor have any incidents been reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency. International co-operation is essential in the fight against illicit trade of this sort. The issue will be on the agenda of the Nuclear Safety Summit in Moscow this week.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer which is an example to us all. Can she give a little more detail about the meeting in Moscow? I have been given to understand that the summit will specifically examine this subject. Is that the case?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, what I have just intimated is that nuclear smuggling will be high on the agenda of the Nuclear Safety Summit to be held in Moscow on 19th April. We have been actively involved for some time in international efforts to confront the problem, but it is the first time that the issue will have been addressed at such a high level. The evidence of the seriousness that we, the G7 and our Russian partners attach to the question is clear from the real efforts everyone is making to resolve the problem.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind the evidence that we have that nuclear material has been smuggled, or attempted to be smuggled, into Germany from the former Soviet Union, is it not likely that nuclear material is being smuggled into those countries named in the Question on the Order Paper? Can the House be assured that the Government are deploying what might be described as secret service or intelligence resources to detect the smuggling that common sense tells us is probably going on?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, there is a great deal of difference between people's perceptions of this and the facts. We have always taken the question of nuclear smuggling seriously, but we must keep it in proportion. In nearly all the reported cases, the amounts of nuclear material that have been found are absolutely tiny--only small fractions of what would be needed to make a nuclear weapon. There is no way in which we should try to pre-empt the summit outcome. We have for some time had contacts with officials and scientists in nuclear institutions in other countries, including the

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former Soviet Union. We are using all those contacts to address the issues of accountability for and security of nuclear material. That is what the conference in Moscow will do. The noble Lord may call it evidence, but I have to say that much of it is circumstantial, and a great deal of it is unproven. Even so, we are going to some considerable lengths to ensure that all countries exercise proper control over their nuclear material.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, while I of course accept that we must keep reports of this kind in proportion, and not exaggerate them, does the Minister agree that if there is any truth in them, it would be a matter of the utmost gravity? Not only could the material be purchased by irresponsible governments, as has been claimed, but it could also get into the hands of terrorists. Will the Minister tell the House why only a tiny part of the 1 billion dollars authorised by Congress for the dismantling of Russia's nuclear weapons has so far been spent?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot answer in your Lordships' House for what happens in the American House of Representatives. I can answer for things for which we are responsible. When I talk of keeping this matter in proportion, the one thing I should point out to your Lordships is that it may be easier than any of us would like to smuggle some small amounts of fissile material, but it needs a great deal of knowledge and facility to turn that into the dangers of which the noble Baroness spoke. We are alive to the problem. We are working on the problem, and we shall leave no stone unturned in ensuring that nuclear smuggling is stopped.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, does the Minister agree that as the Americans are taking the lead in negotiating with the Russians about this problem, it is perfectly reasonable to ask a question in this House about expenditure on the problem that has been guaranteed by the Americans? I was rather surprised by the way in which the Minister answered my question at the outset.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I understand that the noble Baroness is interested in the matter. So am I. But I have no influence over Congress directly, although we try to put the British point of view to individuals in Congress through the embassy in Washington. We seek to ensure that the American Administration live up to their duties. In this matter, as in many others, there is a difference between the White House and Congress, but we shall go on working away at it.


2.55 p.m.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they are making to the Russian Government through the Council of Europe and through diplomatic channels to cease the

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    systematic destruction of towns and villages in Chechnya and to end the imprisonment of males from 12 years old and upwards in "filtration" camps.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we and our EU partners have regular contacts with Russia on the situation in Chechnya. In particular, EU Foreign Ministers made clear on 25th March their deep concern at recent reports of unprovoked attacks on Chechen towns and at the deterioration in the human rights situation.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Can she confirm press reports that the chain of command in Russia has broken down, which would account for the fact that the recent ceasefire ordered by President Yeltsin did not take place? Can she give the House any details of the "filtration" camps I mentioned in my Question, which, according to information I have, are the same as concentration camps with torture and inhuman treatment regularly taking place? Can she confirm or deny that?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, we are obviously concerned about reports concerning the chain of command within the Russian forces. It is a matter of considerable discussion within the OSCE to try to ensure that the peace plan proposed some weeks ago is put into operation. But that plan requires, as my noble friend said, a chain of command to make it work. As to what my noble friend said about "filtration" camps, we are obviously deeply concerned at reports of all human rights abuses in Chechnya. We have repeatedly called on all sides to restore respect for human rights and to support the efforts of the OSCE and others who continue to investigate reports of violations. I am glad to say that the efforts of the OSCE in this work have improved considerably from a few weeks ago.

Lord Rea: My Lords, does the Minister feel that the IMF lost an important opportunity to influence Russia towards a peaceful settlement of this expensive and destructive war when it agreed to the first tranche of a further 10.5 billion dollar loan to Russia last month? Cannot further tranches be tied to the withdrawal of Russian troops and the start of talks, without preconditions, so that the loan is not spent largely on continuing the war as the previous IMF loan was?

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