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15 Oct 1996 : Column WA175

Written Answers

Tuesday, 15th October 1996.

European Union Enlargement

Lord Renton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether at the next meeting of the Inter-Governmental Conference at Dublin Castle, they will seek a fundamental revision of the Rome Treaty, which although suited for the original six nations, is not suitable, even as amended, for the enlarged Community of 15 nations.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The Government's approach to the Intergovernmental Conference was set out in the White Paper A Partnership of Nations in March. This covers the changes which the Government think are needed, at this stage, for an enlarged and enlarging Union.

Armoured Water Cannon

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether armoured water cannon are treated as "conventional arms" within the meaning of the Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers agreed by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in November 1993; whether the export of these devices is subject to any government control; whether they consider that these devices, are likely to be used for the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Indonesia; whether they are likely to be used for the purpose of oppression in Indonesia; and to which other countries armoured water cannon have been sold.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Armoured water cannon are controlled under heading ML6 and PL5001 of the Military List of the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994. As such, we would consider any application to export them in accordance with the Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers agreed by the then Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe and the other international guidelines to which the Government are committed. All export licence applications to all destinations, including Indonesia, are considered in the light of internationally agreed guidelines. Under these criteria, we take into account, inter alia, the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the recipient country. We do not issue licences for the export of any equipment which is likely to be used for internal repression.

I shall write to the noble Lord shortly in answer to his question on other countries to which armoured water cannon have been sold, taking into account the Answer by the noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence. (col. WA 109-111, 23rd July).

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The Gambia

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are now recommended by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to bring The Gambia into compliance with the Harare Declaration.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: A Commonwealth Ministerial Mission visited The Gambia from 12th-13th June to review progress on the transition to democracy. At its 24th-25th June meeting, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group recognised that key elements of the transition process were not in place, urged the lifting of the ban on political activity and encouraged donors to provide resources for the election and to foster good governance.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps, if any, they will recommend to the Commonwealth concerning the decision of the Provisional Independent Election Commission in The Gambia to go ahead with the referendum on the draft constitution on 7th August 1996 in the absence of any national debate and while the ban on political activity continues.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The decision to proceed with the referendum on 7th August rests with the Provisional Independent Electoral Commission. The draft constitution has been the subject of much debate in The Gambia. We and our Commonwealth partners nevertheless share the noble Lord's concern that the ban on political activity will not now be lifted before the referendum.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the timetable for the elections in The Gambia announced by the Provisional Independent Election Commission can be adhered to in view of the failure of the authorities to lift the ban on political parties and political activity.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are concerned at the failure of the Gambian authorities to lift the ban on political activities following the completion of voter registration on 22nd June. But it is for the Provisional Independent Electoral Commission to decide whether it is possible to adhere to the election timetable now that the ban will not be lifted until after the 7th August referendum.

Northern Iraq: Irbil Shelling

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reports they have received about the shelling of Irbil in Northern Iraq over the weekend of 20th and 21st July 1996, and of casualties resulting from this operation; and whether they have made any representations to those responsible for the attack.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We understand there was some shelling by the KDP of PUK suburbs at Irbil

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on 21st July. The PUK returned fire. There were several minor injuries. We understand the area is now quiet. We have made representations to the parties concerned.

Legislation and Human Rights Obligations

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

    What are their procedures to ensure that the measures which they introduce are in accordance with the international human rights treaties to which the United Kingdom is party.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Where legislation is contemplated, Government departments should ensure that it is compatible with the international human rights obligations of the United Kingdom, and the European Convention on Human Rights in particular. Every proposal for legislation should be accompanied by a statement that this has been done. Legal advice should be obtained in the first instance from departmental lawyers, who consult as necessary the Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal advisers.

Torture: Right of Individual Petition

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

    Why they refuse to permit the right of individual petition to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, under Article 22 of the Convention Against Torture.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We consider that the existing means through which allegations of torture or other inhuman, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment may be pursued are satisfactory. These include action in domestic courts and, in appropriate cases, recourse to the European Commission on Human Rights and European Court of Human Rights, under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Ballistic Missile Defence: US/Israeli Agreement

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recent United States/Israel agreement on ballistic missile defence co-operation and surveillance and targeting technologies has been declared to the Wassenaar Group.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No.

NATO Enlargement: Costs

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether in their forthcoming examination of the costs and benefits to the United Kingdom, to the European Union, to NATO, and to the whole CSCE

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    of the expansion of NATO, with increased weapons procurement expenditure falling on both present and future NATO countries, they will take into account as opportunity costs the clearing of transboundary ecological problems such as dangerous nuclear power plants and abandoned chemical works.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: In examining the costs and benefits of NATO enlargement, all the relevant factors will be taken into account.

International Planned Parenthood Federation

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House the International Planned Parenthood Federation Annual Report Supplement 1995-96, together with any publications dealing with its budget, activities and abortion lobbying.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The 1995-96 edition of the International Planned Parenthood Federation's Annual Report is not yet ready for publication. Copies of IPPF's Vision 2000 Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

IPPF does not promote abortion as a method of family planning. Copies of IPPF's Annual Report and Annual Report Supplement for 1993-94 and 1994-95 can be found in the Libraries of both Houses.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list those countries which have ceased funding the International Planned Parenthood Federation for each of the last seven years together with the reasons given for their decisions.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: No countries have ceased funding the International Planned Parenthood Federation over the last seven years. During this period of time, the European Union, Belgium and Switzerland have all become new members of IPPF.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House any documentation they have--other than annual reports--on the specific uses to which the core funds of the International Planned Parenthood Federation have been put over the last year for which figures are available.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Copies of the International Planned Parenthood Federation's Financial Statement will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


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