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12 Jun 1996 : Column WA167

Written Answers

Wednesday, 12th June 1996.

EU Measures: UK Vetoes

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the consequences for the eradication of poverty in the Third World of the vetoes so far exercised by the Government in the context of the BSE crisis in the European Union.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): It is of course too soon to tell what will be the consequences of the vetoes exercised by the Government in this context. We would in any case anticipate that the measures vetoed would be adopted as soon as we have agreement on a framework for the lifting of the beef export ban.

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to accede to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and, if so, when.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Government made it clear in 1994 that we intended to accede to UNCLOS and to ratify the Part XI Implementation Agreement after the necessary procedures had been completed. Once Ministers have decided on the timing of our accession, Parliament will be informed.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    By what date they have to deposit British ratification papers in New York for them to be able (i) to nominate to the Law of the Sea Tribunal and (ii) to take part in establishing the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Elections for the Law of the Sea Tribunal are due to take place on 1st August 1996. Only states which have deposited Instruments of Accession or Ratification by 30th June 1996 have a right to nominate candidates and to vote in the elections.

Elections for the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf are expected to take place on 3rd March 1997. No formal deadline for accession/ratification has as yet been agreed in respect of these elections.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to adhere to the straddling stocks, etc., agreement that expands the rules set out in principle in UNCLOS.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Yes. The United Kingdom signed the United Nations Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks in respect of certain Dependent Territories, subject to ratification, when the agreement was opened for signature in New York on 4th December 1995.

At the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 10th June 1996, it was decided that the European Community would sign the agreement. The way is now open for the United Kingdom to sign the agreement on its own behalf.

Burma

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

    Whether they will increase the aid presently administered through the Burma Border Consortium to the Karen people suffering as refugees along the Thai/Burmese border.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Burma Border Consortium have received grants from Her Majesty's Government totalling £285,000 over the past three years for relief distribution along the Thai/Burma border. The grant increased from £35,000 in Financial Year 1993-94 to £100,000 in 1994-95 and to £150,000 in 1995-96. No request for further assistance has been received for the current financial year. We will sympathetically consider any such request. The EU has recently announced a contribution of 700,000 ecus for the Thai/Burma border, which covers the purchase of food items and distribution.

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

    Whether they will seek to persuade the Government of Burma to allow access by humanitarian and human rights organisations to all parts of the territory of Burma to monitor the situation, and to take supplies to those in need.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Officials have repeatedly pressed the Burmese authorities to allow humanitarian and human rights organisations to operate freely in Burma. We were closely involved in the drafting of the recent UN Commission on Human Rights resolution on Burma, which invited the ruling military regime in Burma to "respect its obligations under the Geneva Conventions of 12th August 1949 and to avail itself of such services as may be offered by impartial humanitarian bodies".

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

    Further to the Answers given by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie on 19th March 1996 (WA94 and WA95) and Baroness Chalker of Wallasey on 23rd May 1996 (WA106), whether they will take steps to impose

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    sanctions (including the discouragement of British investment under current conditions) upon the Government of Burma to secure its compliance with international human rights standards and to encourage it to implement democratic reforms.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have already taken a number of measures along with our EU partners including an embargo on arms sales, defence links and non-humanitarian aid. However, we do not think we should cut off trade with Burma. Depriving Burma of trade will do nothing to help the Burmese people, who need economic as well as political reform. Trade can also help us reinforce our pressure on the Burmese authorities to implement democratic reforms and respect human rights.

Graphite Imports: Alleged Prison-made Origin

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the result of the investigations of the Department of Customs and Excise into allegations of contravention of the Foreign Prison-Made Goods Act 1897 by British companies purchasing graphite from the Beishu graphite mine, also known as Beishu Prison, China.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Under the Foreign Prison-Made Goods Act 1897, the prohibition on importation can be enforced only if evidence is supplied to Customs proving the foreign prison-made origin of goods. Customs have received no evidence to date of the importation into the UK of graphite produced in any Chinese prison. Customs do however remain willing to act upon any evidence supplied to them despite the evident difficulties of proving such origin.

Police Search Warrant: National Sporting Club

The Marquess of Ailesbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer given by the Lord Chancellor on 5th June (WA125), whether the warrant issued to the police before the raid on the National Sporting Club authorised persons to accompany any constable who was executing it; and if so, which persons.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Details of individual warrants issued to the police are not held centrally.

Legal Services: Ombudsman's Annual Report

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Legal Services Ombudsman intends to publish his fifth Annual Report.

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The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The Legal Services Ombudsman has today published his fifth Annual Report, and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: Rockall

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are concerned with the implications of acceding to UNCLOS for fishing in the Rockall area; and

    Whether the provisions of the convention establishing the Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Common Fisheries Policy cover fisheries in the Rockall area.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea offers advice on the management of fish stocks in Area VIb, within which Rockall is situated. The Common Fisheries Policy covers fisheries in the Rockall area. The Government are well aware of the provisions of UNCLOS and have made it clear to Parliament that they consider that the convention is generally helpful to UK interests.

Battersea Power Station

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they regard the present condition of the Battersea Power Station, a listed building, following the insolvency of the original purchaser, as relevant in deciding on the suitability of potential buyers for other environmentally sensitive public properties.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): The present state of Battersea Power Station is most regrettable.

Bearing in mind this and other cases, particularly those involving the disposal of its own historic buildings, the Government issued a Guidance Note for Departments on the disposal of Surplus Historic Buildings in February 1995, which supplements general instructions in respect of the disposal of historic buildings given in Treasury letter DAO(GEN) 13/92 (Annex A).

The main points of the Guidance Note are that methods of disposal other than open market sale by auction or competitive tender may need to be considered where these will increase the chances of securing the appropriate ownership and use of historic buildings: and that professional advice should, wherever possible, be taken on the financial soundness of the prospective purchaser.

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