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24 Jun 1996 : Column WA45

Written Answers

Monday, 24th June 1996.

Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the present status of the agreements, etc., reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The UK remains committed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Declaration, to supporting the Middle East Peace Process, and to the struggle against terrorism.

Kazakhstan: Dismantling of Nuclear Test Site

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they, and the International Atomic Energy Authority, or any other international body, have been informed of the dismantling of the infrastructure of the former nuclear test site in Kazakhstan by the United States, and of the nature of a contract reputedly signed by the United States Nuclear Defence Agency and Kazakhstan's National Nuclear Centre, worth 4 billion dollars; and what international verification procedures are in place.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We exchange information and views on a regular basis with our NATO allies on the various national programmes which are in place to assist the process of denuclearisation in the former Soviet Union.

AEA: Detection of Clandestine Nuclear Activities

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the International Atomic Energy Authority's efforts to detect clandestine nuclear activities, referred to in the Answer of 3rd April 1996 to Mr. Flynn (HC Deb., col. 280) cover Israel's nuclear weapons programmes, and, if not whether they will now take steps to ensure that they are covered.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: I have nothing further to add to my reply of 29th April.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their lack of information about Israel's nuclear weapons programmes limits their ability to support the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Authority to improve its ability to detect clandestine nuclear activities referred to in their Answer of 3rd April 1996 to Mr. Flynn (HC Deb., col. 280).

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No.

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Lebanon: Withdrawal of Foreign Forces

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that Israeli forces occupying South Lebanon need not withdraw from that country until the Syrian forces in the country at the invitation of the Lebanese Government also withdraw.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We support the implementation of UN Security Resolution 425, which calls for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon. We also support Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and would like to see a situation where there is no need for any foreign troops to be stationed in Lebanon: the withdrawal of all foreign forces was envisaged in the Taif agreement of 1989 that ended the civil war. We believe that the best hope for a durable settlement is through the Middle East Peace Process.

Lebanon: Reconstruction Assistance

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans are being made by the international community to rebuild what was destroyed in Lebanon during Israel's "Grapes of Wrath" campaign against that country; at whose expense will the rebuilding take place, and, in particular, whether compensation is to be paid to the families of those killed in the shelling of Cana and to those who were expelled from their homes in south Lebanon.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Lebanon is eligible for assistance from the EU in the form of grants and European Investment Bank loans. This includes reconstruction assistance. The World Bank recently agreed a 50 million dollars loan to Lebanon specifically for emergency reconstruction and rehabilitation. Other donors are also contributing. The uses to which these funds are put are determined by discussions between donors and the Government of Lebanon.

Culture Council, 11th June

Baroness Rawlings asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Culture Council on 11th June, and what was on the list of "A" points.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): The Culture/Audiovisual Council on 11th June, which I attended, made significant progress in a number of areas, with the UK's interests defended in all the agreements which were reached.

The council achieved a common position on the revision of the 1989 Broadcasting Directive ("Television Without Frontiers"), and in so doing, secured all the key UK objectives-retention of the existing quota arrangements, clearer jurisdiction criteria, and updating of provisions on advertising, teleshopping

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and self-promotional channels. Common positions were also achieved on amendments to Regulations 3911/92 on the export of cultural goods and Directive 93/7/EEC on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a member state, so that these instruments now apply to watercolours, pastels and gouaches valued at 30,000 ecu or more. Agreement on these items was in line with UK objectives and was reached by Qualified Majority Voting.

The council also reached agreement on the substance of the Ariane programme on books and reading, the Raphael programme in the field of cultural heritage, a resolution on access to culture, and a resolution on electronic publishing and libraries. However I blocked adoption of these items in accordance with the policy announced by the Prime Minister on 21st May in another place in response to the "BSE crisis".

Three "A" points were considered. An agreement to allow Andorra to enter goods into free circulation on its own behalf instead of through member states of the EC, and a procedural item relating to a proposed regulation concerning novel foods and novel food ingredients were approved. In accordance with the policy to which I have referred, I blocked the adoption of a council resolution on industrial co-operation with other regional areas and third countries which was subject to unanimity decision.

Sports Council: Services to Angling

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reasons have been given to the Salmon and Trout Association and the governing bodies in angling to explain why the sport has not been recognised as one of the top 22 sports.

Lord Inglewood: The policy which the Sports Council announced on 8 May is to provide a wide range of high quality services, including specialist advice, to all recognised sporting activities while identifying a number of activities for which an enhanced service can be provided. The Sports Council has assessed each activity against a set of criteria related to the development potential of the sport and governing body, and their particular relevance to the two main emphases of the new English Sports Council, young people and the development of excellence. The Sports Council has informed angling governing bodies, including the Salmon and Trout Association, that, while angling will continue to receive a wide range of services from the Sports Council, there are other activities which ranked higher against the criteria and should receive an enhanced service.

Sports Council: Resource Allocations

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish in the Official Report a list of protests made to the Sports Council since they agreed their resource allocations to the various sports.

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Lord Inglewood: The Sports Council has received representations about resource allocations in respect of angling, ice skating and volleyball since it announced its new focus on the provision of services and support for governing bodies. These activities will continue to receive a wide range of high quality services and support from the English Sports Council but are not included on the list of activities that will receive the Sports Council's enhanced service.

DSS: Male/Female Staff Ratio

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer given by Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish on 4th June 1996 (WA 113) concerning the absence of a communication from the Equal Opportunities Commission to the Department of Social Security (DSS) on the low proportion of men employed by the DSS, whether they will enquire into the possibility that sexual discrimination may exist in the DSS and, in the light of the fact that male unemployment in the United Kingdom is 2.5 times that of female unemployment, whether they will consider action to raise the percentage of men employed by the DSS to a figure higher than 33 per cent.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The department and its agencies have policies which lay down their commitment to equal opportunities and affirm their opposition to discrimination on the grounds of race, gender or disability. Measures have been introduced to combat both direct and indirect discrimination. All personnel practices, including recruitment and promotion are monitored to ensure that they are fair. All staff responsible for recruitment and promotion receive equal opportunities awareness training. Through the implementation of these policies, the department aims to ensure that the best person, regardless of race, gender or disability, is recruited for the job.

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