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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have followed with concern recent press reports that such legislation is under consideration by the Government of Zimbabwe. However legislative proposals have not yet been published. We have no plans at present to make representations to the Government of Zimbabwe. The British High Commission at Harare will continue to monitor the situation actively.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We strongly support the goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons. We believe that adequate verification and mutual and balanced reductions are necessary elements in that process. We remain to be convinced, therefore, of the wisdom of a pre-set timetable for nuclear disarmament.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We fully support the establishment of an international criminal court to try war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. We will take an active part in the negotiations on a statute for the court.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We recognise that there has been a difference of emphasis amongst our European Union partners on the right tactical approach to China on human rights. However, we are all agreed on the importance of this subject and we shall remain in close touch with our partners on future policy.
We have specifically asked the review team to consider the issue within the context that surrogacy should not be commercialised and that any woman who has a baby as part of a surrogacy arrangement should not be compelled to give it up if she changes her mind. We also want to know whether there is, realistically, any practical way in which surrogacy arrangements could or should be regulated and, if so, how.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is currently undertaking research into the biological control of bracken with the aim of achieving effective long-term control of bracken and the successful re-establishment of more desirable vegetation.
The Ministry is funding a project on the development and field testing of a mycoherbicide for bracken control. The research, undertaken by the University of Strathclyde, involves the development of a mycoherbicide formulation consisting of spores of a native disease-producing fungus specific to bracken. The aim is to develop a biological control product that can be sprayed on to the bracken plant as an alternative to using pesticides. The project focuses on field trials of the most promising formulations. It is due to be completed in September 1998.
What consultations are taking place and with whom on the introduction of proportional representation for European elections; and
What is the last date for introducing legislation on proportional representation to enable it to be effective for the 1999 European elections; and
Whether, in accordance with the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty, which stipulate that there should be a common electoral procedure in different member states, they will implement the de Gucht Report in time for the 1999 European elections.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government's election manifesto contained a firm commitment to introducing a proportional system for electing Members of the European Parliament. No decision has yet been taken on the timing for this change and, accordingly, it would be premature to speculate on the type of proportional system that would be most suitable or to begin consultations on the subject.
In order to give time for proper consultation and preparation it would be preferable for the necessary legislation to have been enacted some 9-12 months before the elections took place under a new system. We have no present plans to introduce legislation on proportional representation for European elections this session but if an opportunity to legislate arose we would consider taking it.
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