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19 Mar 1998 : Column WA213

Written Answers

Thursday, 19th March 1998.

Iraq: Relief Measures

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking to alleviate the suffering of people living in Baghdad-controlled Iraq.[HL1058]

Lord Whitty: The UK co-sponsored UN Security Resolution 1153 allows for $5.256 billion of oil to be sold over 180 days. The Department for International Development will be co-hosting a meeting with the Foreign Office to discuss how the European Union and others can help the UN to implement effectively the expanded oil-for-food programme to meet the most pressing needs of the Iraqi people.

Bilaterally, we have announced a new £7 million programme to relieve the suffering of the ordinary people in Iraq, particularly the children. This will be for humanitarian assistance in Baghdad-controlled Iraq, directed through UN agencies, international agencies and NGOs which have continued to work in the area.

This new package is in addition to the Department for International Development's (DFID) existing £3 million programme, which is concentrated in the north. It focuses on de-mining and vulnerable groups such as working children, children with disabilities and widow-headed households.

Law Commission Reports: Implementation

Lord Plant of Highfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What decisions have been reached on unimplemented Law Commission reports within the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor's Department.[HL1084]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): As previously indicated, the Government intend to bring forward legislation on Delegation by Individual Trustees (Law Com. No. 220) and the first part of Restitution for Mistake of Law: Ultra Vires Public Authority Receipts and Payments (Law Com. No. 227) when time permits. They will also bring forward legislation on Privity of Contract: Contracts for the Benefit of Third Parties (Law Com. No. 242), again when time permits. The Government's Green Paper on mental incapacity includes proposals in Mental Incapacity (Law Com. No. 231); the consultation period ends on 31 March.

The Government have decided not to implement Transfer of Land--in the Law of Positive and Restrictive Covenants (Law Com. No. 127), but will ask the Law Commission to consider, in the context of its other priorities, how future developments in property law might affect the recommendations in this report. The

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Government have also decided not to implement the remaining part of Overreaching: Beneficiaries in Occupation (Law Com. No. 188), nor Land Mortgages (Law Com. No. 204), as these proposals have not been supported sufficiently widely.

However, we will invite the Law Commission to reconsider its proposals in Law Com No. 204 after it has finished its current work on land registration. Decisions on other reports will, where possible, be reached by Easter and will be announced. All Law Commission reports, even though some remain unimplemented, play a valuable role in the clarification and development of the law. The Government are most grateful to the Law Commission for the extensive contribution it makes to producing a modern and effective legal framework for England and Wales.

Forestry Commission Land

Lord Ewing of Kirkford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to increase public access to Forestry Commission land, and what are their plans for the future of the moratorium on large scale sales of Forestry Commission land.[HL1128]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): We have made clear that we are determined to increase public access to the countryside, including woodlands. As Britain's largest landholder, and as the country's largest single provider of outdoor recreation, the Forestry Commission has an important role to play in this; one of its key objectives is the development of opportunities for woodland recreation.

We are still considering the commission's future activities as part of its Comprehensive Spending Review. Nevertheless, we have agreed that in the coming year the commission should offer to buy suitable areas of land where it can provide additional public access and recreation facilities, especially in the National Forest, the community forests and the Central Scotland Forest. In addition, we wish to ensure that as many of the commission's woods as possible are open to the public, and so the commission will also offer to buy out freeholds where the leases currently restrict access to its existing woods.

The Forestry Commission, like any large landowner, needs to be able both to buy and to sell land in order to manage its estate efficiently and effectively, and to carry out its activities within its budgetary provision.

For the coming year, therefore, while the moratorium on large-scale sales of forest land will stay in place, the commission will be able to sell a small amount of land which is surplus to its requirements. This will include agricultural land, unplantable land, and relatively small and isolated blocks of forest land which do not make a significant contribution to the commission's objectives. Areas of forest land which are important for public access will not be sold unless an access

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agreement is in place. The commission will also be prepared to sell areas for development where this is in the public interest.

BSE Infectivity in Dorsal Root Ganglia

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the published report by Det Norske Veritas on the risk of possible BSE infectivity in dorsal root ganglia, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at the request of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC). [HL856]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The report Assessment of Risk from Possible BSE Infectivity in Dorsal Root Ganglia was published by Det Norske Veritas. It is not normal procedure for the department to place in the Library of the House reports of this nature. Exceptionally the department has arranged for copies to be placed in the Library of the House. However, it is also available on the Internet at:

Argentina: Arms Embargo

Lord Grenfell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any new exceptions to the arms embargo on Argentina.[HL1103]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have recently granted an exception to the embargo relating to the sale of spare parts for the Argentine icebreaker, the "Almirante Irizar". This represents an exception but not a change to the embargo.

Afghanistan: Arms Embargo

Lord Grenfell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will continue to impose an arms embargo on Afghanistan in line with the EU's Common Position of 17 December 1996.[HL1104]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We remain committed to the EU arms embargo against Afghanistan, which the UK interprets as covering all goods and technology entered on Part III to Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods Order 1994, as amended.

Following consultation with this department and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence for the export of mine clearance equipment for use by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan in its de-mining operations. The grant of this licence is for humanitarian purposes, and is consistent with the purpose of the embargo.

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NATO Enlargement: Cost

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the cost of NATO enlargement.[HL1123]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): I have today placed in the Library of the House a paper prepared by the Ministry of Defence which describes various previous studies of the costs of NATO enlargement and explains why all NATO countries accept the official NATO assessment as a realistic estimate.

Iraq: "Sabahiyah" Incident

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the results of the investigation of the incident in which suspected Iraqi chemical warfare agent was found in Kuwait after the end of the Gulf conflict.[HL1127]

Lord Gilbert: We are today making public the results of a joint UK/US review of what has become known as the "Sabahiyah" incident, in which a large tank of liquid, initially thought to contain Iraqi mustard agent, was found in Kuwait after the end of the Gulf conflict. The review has concluded that the tank did not contain chemical warfare agent, but rather inhibited red fuming nitric acid to fuel Iraqi Silkworm anti-ship missiles.

This is the first of three reviews of events during the Gulf conflict which we pledged to carry out last July. Preparation of the case narrative, which is also being published today in the US, has involved close and detailed co-operation between MoD and the US Department of Defense. A copy of the case narrative will be placed in the Library of the House.

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