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8 May 1996 : Column WA11

Written Answers

Wednesday, 8th May 1996.

Hong Kong: Payments to Public Servants

Lord Geddes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements have been made in respect of new expenditure sought through the Hong Kong (Overseas Public Servants) Act 1996.

Lord Chesham: The Hong Kong (Overseas Public Servants) Act 1996, which received Royal Assent in February, provides for a compensation and pension package involving compensation and resettlement payments to Hong Kong HMOCS Officers.

Parliamentary approval of this new expenditure is being sought in the 1996-97 Main Estimate for ODA's Overseas Superannuation Vote (Class II, Vote 6). Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £3 million is being met by a repayable advance from the Contingency Fund.

Israel: Foreign Workers

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the context of any new Sharm al-Shaik terrorism summit or conference, they will raise the matter of Israel recruiting 16,500 foreign workers into Israel in place of Palestinians and what are the implications for Palestinian unemployment and a growth in terrorism.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Israel has the right to employ foreign workers if it chooses to do so. We believe, however, that in the interest of the Peace Process, Israel should be promoting Palestinian economic well-being. We therefore encourage it to take steps in this direction.

Lebanon: Israeli Occupation

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their attitude to the occupation of part of Lebanon by Israeli forces.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We fully support UN Security Council Resolution 425. We call for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon, as envisaged in the Taif Agreement of 1989. We believe that the Middle East Peace Process provides the best chance for a lasting settlement in the region, and will continue to work actively in support of it.

UN Human Rights Committee: Membership

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what states the 18 elected experts serving on the UN Human Rights Committee belong.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The experts serving on the Human Rights Committee are from Australia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Mauritius, UK, Venezuela, Chile, Germany, Ecuador, Egypt, France, India, USA, Israel and Japan.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the elections for the 18 experts to serve on the UN Human Rights Committee took place, how many nominations there were and what states were unsuccessful in obtaining a place.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The 18 experts of the Human Rights Committee are elected for a term of four years. Elections for half the seats are held every two years, most recently in 1992 and 1994. September 1994--28 nominations for 9 seats

Unsuccessful nominations:



















    Zimbabwe September 1992--19 nominations for 9 seats

Unsuccessful nominations:











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Housing: UN Special Rapporteur's Report

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the report which has been made by Mr. Rajindar Sachar, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on promoting the realisation of the right to adequate housing, as a result of the two-year study on this issue requested by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in its Resolution 1993/103; and whether they will outline the work done by the Special Rapporteur since then.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Special Rapporteur produced two progress reports and a final report, which have been submitted to the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. The Sub-Commission has urged the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat), to take full account of the views contained in his final report. The progress reports and the final report will be placed in the Library of the House.

St. Helena: Air Service

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to make known the responses to the survey of opinion in St. Helena on the introduction of an air service.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The St. Helena Government expect to complete their analysis of the Airport Questionnaire Survey by the end of June. An announcement of the results will be made shortly thereafter by the St. Helena Government.

Rolling Stock Safety Assessment Procedures

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the safety assessment procedures applied by Railtrack mean that £400 million-worth of new rolling stock is still awaiting approval, and whether these procedures can take up to two years; and what changes are proposed to these procedures.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Information on the value of trains built but not yet approved by Railtrack is not held by British Rail, Railtrack or the department, as this is a matter for the vehicle owners. I understand that some of the trains awaiting safety approval are not yet ready for operational use because of other engineering reasons. The safety assessment procedures are therefore not delaying the introduction of these trains at present.

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Railtrack has advised me that the timescales for preparation of safety cases are driven by manufacturers and operators. Where the builder has developed the safety case in parallel with vehicle design, acceptance by Railtrack has proved relatively simple. In other cases where the safety case is being developed retrospectively, timescales for production are proving long. Acceptance of a well-reasoned safety case can be achieved in weeks.

Railtrack has commissioned an independent review of the safety appraisal process for rolling stock, and will discuss this matter with vehicle builders, owners and operators shortly.

Access to Work Programme

Lord Clark of Kempston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What help is to be made available from the Access to Work programme to disabled people who are self employed.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): In my statement on 26th March, Lords Official Report col. WA 129-131, I announced an increase in the budget and the operational arrangements for the Access to Work programme in 1996-97. I also said that particular factors applied in the case of the self-employed, and that the help to be provided to them would be considered further.

From 1st June, Access to Work will meet up to 90 per cent. of approved costs over a threshold of £100 per year for all new applications. This means that a greater proportion of costs will be met than for employees generally. The programme will also provide 100 per cent. of all approved costs in excess of £10,000 over three years. In addition to this, existing commitments for the self employed will continue to be met for a transitional period of three years.

All other arrangements will be in line with the announcement made on 26th March.

Self-destruct Landmines

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For how long self-destruct landmines remain dangerous.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The length of time that a self-destruct mine remains active before it is destroyed varies according to the type of mine and its operational role. At the United Nations Weaponry Convention Review Conference, which concluded on 3rd May 1996, agreement was reached on the duration and reliability of self-destruct mechanisms fitted to anti-personnel mines. This requires that any

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anti-personnel mine which is activated should self-destruct within 30 days with a reliability of 90 per cent. Of those activated mines which fail to self-destruct within 30 days, 99.9 per cent. must become de-activated within a maximum period of 120 days.

The United Kingdom does not currently have any anti-personnel mines with this capability, but if it becomes necessary to procure future stocks, these would comply with the minimum requirement set at this conference.

Anti-tank mines are not covered by the convention in this respect.

Defence against Ballistic Missiles

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have studied Baroness Thatcher's speech at Fulton and whether they agree that threats of missile attack on this country are now so plausible that it would be right to pass control over British defences to the President of the US and to the automatic equipment etc., to which he might choose to delegate his war-making decisions for purposes of "boost-phase intercept" of incoming missiles.

Earl Howe: We have studied my noble friend's speech at Fulton and we share her concern about the emerging risks posed by ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. As the noble Lord is aware, we are considering how we should respond to these risks, including whether we should acquire a ballistic missile defence capability.

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