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24 Nov 1997 : Column WA97

Written Answers

Monday, 24th November 1997.

Sudan

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the decision of the United States Government to impose wide-ranging economic sanctions on the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime in Sudan, they will support a stronger line against the NIF within the forum of the United Nations Security Council.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We will look at any proposal for further UN Security Council action against Sudan on its merits, taking into account the Government of Sudan's non-compliance with Security Council Resolutions 1045, 1054 and 1070 and the likely attitudes of other Security Council members.

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure access to human rights monitors under the direction of the United Nations Special Rapporteur into every area of Sudan to investigate the allegations of slavery and other gross violations of human rights.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have consistently supported UN resolutions calling for UN human rights monitors for Sudan. We are in touch with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva about an appeal for funding of monitors, which they hope to launch in due course.

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in the peace process in Sudan; and what support they are giving to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in this context.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Talks between the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan were held under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development in Kenya from 29 October-11 November. The next round of talks is scheduled for April 1998. We welcomed the talks and urged both sides to approach them constructively. We are also in touch with the National Democratic Alliance, of which the SPLM is a major part, but we are not providing them with material support. We urge both sides to continue progress towards a comprehensive negotiated settlement and to allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need.

Japan: UN Convention against Torture

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Japan has yet signed the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading

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    Treatment or Punishment; and, if not, whether they will use their best endeavours to persuade Japan to sign and ratify.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Japan has not yet done so. At the last session of the UN Commission on Human Rights the United Kingdom co-sponsored a resolution urging all states to become party to this convention.

Former Yugoslavia: Arrest of War Criminals

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Antonio Cassese, who told the United Nations General Assembly on 4 November that "our most crucial and urgent problem is the need for more arrests of military or political leaders"; and, if so, what additional power or resources they believe S-FOR should have to enable them to speed up the arrests.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We fully support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and have always stressed the importance of bringing to justice all those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia. We demand that the responsible authorities surrender all indictees to The Hague.

Sierra Leone

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose to the Security Council of the United Nations that the Conakry Accord of 23 October between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Committee of Five and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) regime in Sierra Leone be endorsed.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I refer the noble Lord to the statement issued by the President of the Security Council on 14 November 1997. This statement makes clear that the Security Council welcomes the Conakry Communique of 23 October 1997 and gives its full support to ECOWAS' efforts to seek a peaceful settlement.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose to the Security Council of the United Nations that the Nigerian troops in Sierra Leone be replaced by a multinational force made up of troops from other ECOWAS states.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is for ECOWAS to decide the composition of the ECOMOG forces in Sierra Leone. A United Nations assessment

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team is currently visiting Conakry and Monrovia, and is considering what support the United Nations should offer ECOWAS.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose to the Security Council of the United Nations that the United Nations Secretary-General, in consultation with ECOWAS and the OAU, should facilitate the convening of a national conference in Sierra Leone to decide the structure and composition of the transitional government which is to replace the AFRC at the end of the six-month period agreed under the Conakry Accord.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No. The Conakry Communique, which was signed by ECOWAS and the AFRC and is supported by the UN Security Council, provides for the restoration of the democratically elected government of Sierra Leone by 22 April 1998, not a transitional government.

Abidjan Peace Accords and UN Monitors

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose to the Security Council of the United Nations that the United Nations fulfil its earlier promise under the Abidjan Peace Accords of 20 November 1996 to provide neutral monitors to ensure effective disarmament of all combatants apart from state forces.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Nations Security Council is already giving this matter its full consideration. A United Nations assessment team is currently visiting Conakry and Monrovia, and is considering what support the United Nations should offer ECOWAS.

UN Security Resolution 1132

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose to the Security Council of the United Nations that the embargo under Security Council Resolution 1132 be confined to weapons and ammunition only.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1132 stands as adopted on 8 October 1997.

International Criminal Court

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House copies of all documents to be discussed or referred to at the meeting to be held from 1 to 12 December of the Preparatory Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court; a note on the matters

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    to be decided at this meeting; and a statement of the United Kingdom's position on each of them.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Copies of the relevant UN documents and a copy of the preparatory committee's work programme have been placed in the Libraries of the House. The UK delegation will be working with others to consolidate the proposals to be placed before the Diplomatic Conference in June 1998, with the aim of ensuring a successful conference. Our policy on a number of the detailed issues due to be discussed at the preparatory committee is still under consideration.

Traffic Islands

Lord Higgins asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they favour the recent increases in the height of traffic islands in the centre of main roads; and what studies they have made to establish whether this increases the risk of damage to vehicles, injury and loss of life if an island is accidentally hit.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): There are no statutory requirements requiring kerbs to be at a specific height. It is for the local highway authority to determine the appropriate height according to the circumstances of the location.

British Standard 7263: Parts 1 and 2: 1990 provide advice on the specification for precast concrete kerbs, and a code of practice for laying. The code of practice shows a typical section through a paved footway and kerb, which indicates a kerb height above the adjacent carriageway of 125mm. However, in older street layouts it is not uncommon to have kerb heights much greater than this.

We have received no evidence that the use of higher kerb heights has increased the severity of accidents, and consequently have not undertaken any studies of the accident implications.

RMC Group plc, "Bowbelle" and "Sand Kite"

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether RMC plc is the parent company of South Coast Shipping Company of Southampton, which was the owner of the sand dredger "Bowbelle" and is the current owner of the "Sand Kite", formerly the "Bowknight".

Baroness Hayman: I have asked Mr. Robin Bradley, the Chief Executive of the Marine Safety Agency, to write to the noble Lord.

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Letter to Lord Spens from the Chief Executive of the Marine Safety Agency, Mr. R. M. Bradley, dated 24 November 1997.

The Deputy Prime Minister has asked me to reply to your Question as to whether RMC plc is the parent company of South Coast Shipping Company of Southampton, which was the owner of the sand dredger "Bowbelle" and is the current owner of the "Sand Kite", formerly the "Bowknight".

As the parentage of companies is not an issue with which the MSA can deal, I have contacted the Department of Trade and Industry to seek the information which you require. Companies House has confirmed that RMC Group plc (not RMC plc) is the ultimate parent company of South Coast Shipping Company of Southampton.

Having made enquiries in relation to the ownership of the "Sand Kite", it should be noted that, according to the Register of Shipping and Seamen (RSS), the registered owner of the "Sand Kite" is actually East Coast Aggregates Ltd of Canute Road, Southampton and not the South Coast Shipping Company.


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