Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Iran: Human Rights

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): As in previous years, the European Union will sponsor a resolution on Iran at the Commission on Human Rights. The report of the UN Special Representative on Iran has now been issued, and the resolution will reflect it and other available information. The draft resolution is still the subject of discussion with EU partners in Geneva.

Turkey: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Further to the oral Answer I gave the noble Lord on 5 March 1998 (H.L. Deb., col. 1299), I can confirm that the British Embassy in Ankara has raised the case of the seven directors of HADEP (People's Democracy Party) in discussions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and expressed our concern at their continued detention.

We understand that the directors of the Istanbul branch of HADEP arrested in the first week of April have all been released.

Kyrgyzstan: Relations

Lord Razzel asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government have good bilateral relations with Kyrgyzstan and our staff in Almaty visit Bishkek regularly. We have had a small, locally-staffed office for projects funded by the Department for International

21 Apr 1998 : Column WA202

Development through the Know-how Fund in Kyrgyzstan since June 1997. But the low level of bilateral trade with Kyrgyzstan does not at present justify opening an embassy in Bishkek.

There are, however, opportunities for British companies, particularly in the mining, energy, agriculture and construction sectors. The Kyrgyz Prime Minister will address the first ever Doing Business in Kyrgyzstan conference in London on 14-15 May. The Minister for Small Firms, Trade and Industry will make the welcoming address on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Human Rights

Lord Goodhart asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made or intend to make representations to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo concerning the enforced dissolution of the Congolese human rights organisation AZADHO.[HL1447]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Our Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo made clear to the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Justice our concerns over the action taken against the human rights organisation AZADHO. We will continue to monitor closely the actions of the Congolese authorities in respect of AZADHO and similar organisations.


Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the International Court of Justice Opinion given by Mr. Rupert Ticehurst that, "At the very least the United Kingdom must accept that the legality of its Trident programme is brought into considerable doubt by the ICJ Opinion. Its continued deployment raises very important legal and military issues which must as a matter of urgency be addressed".[HL1428]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The ICJ did not consider nuclear weapons, as such, to be unlawful. The legality of the use of nuclear weapons would depend on all the circumstances at the time. The Opinion does not require a change in the United Kingdom's entirely defensive nuclear deterrence policy.

Treaties: Explanatory Memoranda

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

    Whether, before ratifying international conventions and treaties on the United Kingdom's behalf, they will publish explanatory memoranda containing the Government's reasons for, and the benefits and costs of, such ratification, so as to facilitate effective parliamentary scrutiny.[HL1425]

21 Apr 1998 : Column WA203

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Since 1 January 1997, all treaties which have been concluded subject to ratification or to which we intend to accede, and which are laid under the Ponsonby Rule, have been accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum.

The Explanatory Memorandum contains a description of the subject matter of the treaty and an account of the reasons why it is proposed that the United Kingdom should become a party to the treaty. It further highlights the benefits for the United Kingdom from participation as well as any burdens on the United Kingdom which would result.

So far, 21 Explanatory Memoranda have been laid before Parliament. They are published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Internet site at

Algeria: Violence

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they and their partners in the European Union have taken to show that violence on the scale seen recently in Algeria is unacceptable; and whether they consider that independent and impartial investigation of its causes is urgently needed.[HL1392]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government have condemned the atrocities which have taken place in Algeria at every available opportunity. During the EU Troika Mission to Algiers, led by the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Derek Fatchett, in Janaury 1998, EU Ministers expressed these concerns to the Algerian Foreign Minister and Prime Minister and encouraged the Algerians to accept a visit by UN Special Rapporteurs. We continue to use every opportunity to remind Algeria of the value of such visits.

Environmental Resource Depletion: Measurement

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What environmental resource assessment methods, other than the "willingness to pay" method, are being developed within the United Kingdom or elsewhere to enable environmental resource depletion to be measured more accurately. [HL1529]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): Trends in environmental resource depletion are measured by monitoring changes in a wide range of variables which are important for sustaining the quality of life, ranging from the earth's stock of mineral resources to levels of air quality in the United Kingdom.

21 Apr 1998 : Column WA204

Motor Neurone Disease

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to improve research into the diagnosis and treatment of motor neurone disease; and what were the mortality figures for the last convenient period.[HL1422]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The main agency through which the Government support bio-medical and clinical research is the Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC is an independent body which receives its grant-in-aid from the Office of Science and Technology, which is part of the Department of Trade and Industry. In 1995-96, the MRC spent £170,000 on research which specifically addresses the pathology or treatment of motor neurone disease. The MRC funds a considerable amount of basic underpinning research on nerve function and damage. The MRC spent £53.6 million on neurosciences and mental health in 1995-96.

The number of deaths certified as being due to motor neurone disease in the United Kingdom in 1996 (the latest year for which data are available) was 1,286.

Voluntary Work

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in using the word "work" (as in "welfare to work"), they are taking into account all and any "unwaged" work which is socially and economically significant but not paid or recorded, such as that to which the Office for National Statistics has recently been drawing attention.[HL1433]

Lord Whitty: We believe that the best form of welfare is work. Our Welfare to Work programme is designed to improve people's employability so that they are able to compete effectively in the labour market and so move away from benefit dependency. We recognise the important role that voluntary work can play in improving employability and providing a stepping-stone into employment. This is reflected in: the voluntary sector and Environment Task Force options in our New Deal for 18-24 year-olds; the concessions that exist for volunteers in the Jobseeker's Allowance rules; and the changes which were announced in the Budget which allow people on Incapacity Benefit to undertake unlimited amounts of voluntary work.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page