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Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Both the Commonwealth and the EU have undertaken to consider additional measures if Nigeria has not completed a credible transition to civilian democratic government by October. We are already consulting our Commonwealth and EU partners as well as the US on possible options.

Turkey: Human Rights

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government will raise the issue of the outstanding invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions to visit Turkey in the course of our bilateral contacts with the Turkish government.

The EU view, set out by the UK Presidency at the 54th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights under Item 3, that it is incumbent upon all member states of the United Nations to co-operate fully and without conditions with the procedures and mechanisms of United Nations bodies applies equally to all countries.

Armed Conflict: Recruitment of Children

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is the view of the Government that, in armed conflicts, recruiting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or, in internal armed conflict, armed groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities constitutes a war crime. At the last meeting of the Preparatory Committee on the International Criminal Court we lobbied in support of the proposal that these acts should be included among the crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court. We will continue to do so.

Estonian Nationals: Belgian Visa Requirements

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why Estonian officials travelling to Brussels need to have visas and when this restriction on one of the "five plus one", negotiating entry into the European Union will be abolished.[HL1659]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is for the Belgian Government to determine its visa requirement for nationals of third countries not on the EU Common Visa List, such as Estonia.

Estonian nationals do not require visas to visit the United Kingdom.

Europe Day

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they intend to fly the European flag from government buildings and in Parliament Square on Europe Day.[HL1749]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On Europe Day, 9 May, the European flag will fly, alongside the Union Jack, from government buildings and in Parliament Square.

Flying the European flag on Europe Day reflects the important position which the UK holds for the six months of the Presidency and emphasises the Government's confidence in its role in the EU.

Provisional Driving Licences

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On the most recent five-year period for which details are available:

    (a) how many provisional driving licences were issued; and

    (b) what was the number of Highway Code booklets sold.[HL1638]

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    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman):

    (a) provisional licences issued were as follows:

    1993-94: 836,574

    1994-95: 842,591

    1995-96: 900,334

    1996-97: 814,162

    1997-98: 852,667

    (b) Highway Code booklets sold nationwide were as follows:

    1993: 2,047,896

    1994: 887,568

    1995: 841,288

    1996: 1,117,393

    1997: 926,637 (Figures provided by The Stationery Office)

    In addition DVLA sold the following number of copies of the Highway Code:

    1992-93: 610,343

    1993-94: 438,510

    1994-95: 418,096

    1995-96: 467,160

    1996-97 April-December: 333,518

Vehicle Recall System

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the current operation and success rate of the vehicle recall system for safety checks operated by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency; and whether they have any intention of bringing together all interested bodies to review that system.[HL1743]

Baroness Hayman: Safety recall campaigns are launched in accordance with Codes of Practice agreed between the department and representative bodies of the motor industry. I am satisfied that the codes work well, but the success rate of individual recall campaigns is carefully monitored and the codes themselves are kept under review.

Climate Change Research

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their present information about circulation changes between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans; whether they accept that these changes could result in the climate of Europe becoming similar to present day Labrador; and to what they attribute these changes, revealed in recent studies by the Natural Environment Research Council.[HL1719]

Baroness Hayman: Recent work at the Southampton Oceanography Centre suggests that the amount of water

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flowing south of Greenland, part of which comes from the Arctic, has declined in the 1990s to about half its level between 1958 and 1991. This may well be part of a natural cycle, but we do not rule out the possibility that it is a longer-term change, perhaps due to human influences. The attribution of these changes is the subject of current and proposed research programmes by the Natural Environment Research Council.

My department is funding computer modelling of climate at the Hadley Centre to investigate this possibility and its effect on the climate of Europe. While climate models suggest that global warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations may weaken the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation, this seems unlikely to be sufficient to cool the climate of North West Europe; indeed, most models predict a net warming here in response to increasing greenhouse gases.

Jubilee Line Opening

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the planned opening of the entire Jubilee Line Extension in spring 1999 will involve the simultaneous opening of all stations on the line between Green Park and Stratford; and, if not, whether they will give their estimates of the date of opening of each station on the line.[HL1628]

Baroness Hayman: LT's intention is to open all the Jubilee Line stations simultaneously when the line as a whole opens in spring 1999.

Cryptosporidium in Drinking Water

Lord Borrie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have completed the review of the implications of the failed prosecution of South-West Water in relation to the outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in the Torbay area in 1995.[HL1774]

Baroness Hayman: We have concluded that there is a case for increased monitoring at water treatment plants that are most at risk of releasing cryptosporidium into drinking water supplies. We propose therefore to begin consultations on amendments to the regulations on drinking water quality to require continuous monitoring of the treated water to detect cryptosporidium at such plants. If this monitoring detects the presence of the organism at an unacceptable level, the Drinking Water Inspectorate will consider prosecution of the company. There would be a new criminal offence of failing to treat water to adequately remove cryptosporidium oocysts. On conviction in a Crown Court, the offence would carry a penalty of an unlimited fine. The intention is to encourage the operation of water treatment plants in line with best practice, which should prevent cryptosporidium in drinking water causing illness. A copy of the consultation paper on the proposals has been placed in the Library of the House.

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WTO: Precautionary Principle

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the World Trade Organisation is required to adopt the precautionary principle in all its procedures; and if not, whether they will take steps to ensure that it does.[HL1624]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (the SPS Agreement) permits WTO members to take provisional measures where relevant scientific evidence is insufficient, providing the measures are not otherwise inconsistent with the agreement. The application of the precautionary principle was confirmed recently in the WTO Appellate Body's ruling on the "beef hormones" dispute settlement case.

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