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Sandline International: Ownership

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: At a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 19 January 1998, information on the ownership of Sandline was sought from Lt. Col. Tim Spicer. No clear information was obtained.

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HM Customs and Excise also interviewed Lt. Col. Spicer during their investigation into the supply of arms to Sierra Leone. Any information received would have been solely for the purpose of the criminal investigation. We are therefore unable to comment on whether Customs and Excise sought or received such details.

NATO

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Foreign Office's evidence to the House of Lords European Communities Committee on 11 November 1997 that "European Union and NATO enlargement are separate but complementary processes" means that comprehensive cost benefit comparisons between the two processes and their interactions are going on within the Government (and, if so, in which departments) and within the European Union; and, if not, why not.[HL3749]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No cost benefit comparisons between the processes of EU and NATO enlargement are being conducted. It is not possible to make such comparisons between the economic benefits of EU membership and the benefits of belonging to a collective defence organisation like NATO.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is an expectation within NATO that the reluctance of the electorates of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to accept increased spending on NATO at the expense of increased spending on education and health (United States Information Agency surveys, 1996-97) will affect the funding of NATO enlargement by those countries; and, if so, what they expect that effect will be.[HL3751]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Opinion polls (and in the case of Hungary a referendum) established clear support among the people of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for NATO membership. Their governments are fully committed to membership and to paying their share of NATO's common funded budgets. NATO membership and collective defence will be cheaper for them than national defence policies.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United States, through the consensus rule of the NATO Council, would in practice maintain a veto over the activities of NATO's European members acting together in an operation other than in association with the United States, as recently proposed by the Prime Minister in Vienna.[HL3780]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: NATO agreed in Berlin in 1996 that European operations through the WEU could draw on NATO assets if necessary. NATO would decide by consensus to loan assets for such an operation.

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the remit of the Secretary General of NATO and other NATO officials for their journeys into (a) the Baltic States and (b) the Caucasus and Central Asia; and whether their statements and the negotiations they carry on there are examined in advance and in retrospect, and cleared, by the NATO Council.[HL3781]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The NATO Secretary General visits countries that have Partnership agreements with NATO to strengthen co-operation and understanding between those countries and the Alliance. He travels and negotiates with the approval of the Council and reports to the Council on his activities.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United States-funded exercises described as being "in the spirit of partnership for peace" that are carried on in the Baltic States, in the Caucasus and in Central Asia, outside the NATO Partnership for Peace Programme and the NATO area, are always examined by, and always subject to the informed approval of, the NATO Council.[HL3782]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Exercises in the spirit of PfP are bilateral exercises between one or more NATO and/or Partner countries. However Partners can, and generally do, include details of "in the spirit of PfP" activities in their Individual Partnership Programmes, which are submitted to the NATO Council for approval.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why NATO is engaged with environmental issues in Europe and Central Asia; with privatisation in Eastern Europe; and with financial fraud and crime (other than smuggling and the breach of United Nations embargoes); and whether NATO is funding research into biotechnology or bioethics by the Challenges of Modern Science programme or some other means.[HL3788]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: NATO's Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society promotes consultation and joint research between scientists in member states and partner countries on social and environmental issues. Its main focus in recent years has been on defence related environmental issues. It runs a small fellowship programme, but does not fund research.

NATO's Science Programme has a budget to fund fellowships, meetings and seminars which promote research across the spectrum of scientific activity, including biotechnology. Half of its budget is now used to promote scientific exchanges between Allies and Partners.

The Economics Directorate of NATO has in the past reported on privatisation in Eastern Europe as part of its wider economic reporting, but has not been directly involved in the process itself; and NATO has also looked at aspects of financial fraud and crime, in the context of implications for the security of the Alliance.

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the NATO-Russia Joint Council has agreed to discuss the "forthcoming changes in NATO's strategic concept", as stated by Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov on 28 October.[HL3792]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The NATO/Russian Founding Act excludes from the scope of consultations in the Permanent Joint Council internal business of NATO, its member states, or Russia, but does provide for exchange of information on strategic issues. NATO will brief the Russians and other Partners on its new Strategic Concept when appropriate.

Caspian Oil Pipeline Routes

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the United States that the Baku-Ceyhan route is the most desirable for the main export pipeline for oil from the Caspian oil province; that the exclusion of Iran and Russia from decisions concerning the exploitation of the resources of the Caspian Sea is politically sustainable; and that the Montreux Convention establishing free passage through the Straits from the Black Sea should be abrogated.[HL3783]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We believe strongly in the development of multiple pipelines to export Caspian oil and gas but also that decisions on pipeline routes are essentially for the companies concerned. They will provide the funding to build them and must therefore ensure they are commercially viable and competitive. The exploration, development and export of oil and gas from the Caspian requires co-operation between the states of the region, energy companies, neighbouring countries, and other interested countries such as the United Kingdom. The sheer scale and cost of the task are beyond the resources of any one government or company. We have no plans to abrogate the Montreux Convention.

UNITA: Embassy Contacts

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the British Embassy in Luanda is permitted to maintain contact with UNITA officials in Angola.[HL3900]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Our embassy in Luanda may continue to have contacts with UNITA officials in areas of Angola to which State Administration has been extended. This is in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1173 (1998), which prohibits certain official contacts with UNITA.

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Human Rights Covenants: Ratification Records

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

    Whether they will authorise the publication before the end of the year of the official records relating to the United Kingdom's ratification in 1976 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights.[HL3806]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The texts of the covenants and of the declarations and reservations made by the United Kingdom on signature and on depositing its instrument of ratification are published in the Treaty Series of Command Papers (Treaty Series No. 6 (1997) Cmnd. 6702).

Official records in FCO files relating to UK ratification in 1976 will be made available at the Public Record Office in 2007 at their due date under the 30-year rule. We have no plans to accelerate their release at the present time.

Intellectual Property, Scotland

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the purpose and scope of the reservation of "intellectual property" in the Scotland Bill.[HL3913]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The purpose of the reservation is to ensure the continuation of uniform intellectual property laws across the UK. This will avoid difficulties for owners of intellectual property rights arising from, for example, difference in what can be protected, the extent of the protection and remedies for breach of rights. Indeed, the benefits of harmonisation in this area are becoming increasingly recognised with the ever wider harmonisation of intellectual property rights and related matters across Europe and the rest of the world.

Patents, designs, registered trade marks and copyright are well known examples of intellectual property rights and are reserved. The reservation also embraces all other existing and future analogous rights and matters, such as rights in performances and semi-conductor topographies, moral rights, the law of passing off and trade secrets, and the new database right. Moreover, rights such as those in utility models and matters such as technical measures for the protection of copyright works and information relating to the management of rights, all of which are included in recent draft EC Directives on intellectual property, fall within the scope of the reservation. Furthermore, all matters relating to the Patent Office are reserved, as are current and future ancillary matters.

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The existing major legislation on intellectual property, namely the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, the Patents Act 1977, the Trade Marks Act 1994 and the Registered Designs Act 1949, exemplifies but does not limit the range of provisions relating to "intellectual property" which falls or may in the future fall within the reservation.

There is just one exception from the reservation: that is, UK plant breeders' rights within the meaning of the Plant Varieties Act 1997. Agricultural Ministers--that is, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland--are jointly responsible for UK plant breeders' rights. Devolution in this one area of intellectual property is therefore consistent with the joint responsibility which already exists for plant breeders' rights.

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