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FCO Diplomatic Missions Abroad: Media Reports of Closures

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The document described in media reports on 23 October was a working level options paper, with no formal status, on which no decisions have yet been taken. Human error led to its reaching the media: there was no intention on anyone's part to publish it in advance of any formal decisions.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

19 Nov 1998 : Column WA211

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The 1997-98 figures for the total cost to public funds of the posts listed in The Times on 23 October are:

£
Aden58,000
Casablanca954,500
Chiang Mai114,600
Cleveland422,200
Kuching85,500
Port Moresby804,700
PusanNot Available
Seville201,800
Adelaide81,900
Alexandria526,600
Brisbane713,500
Florence339,700
Kingstown229,900
Lyons776,900
Managua528,800
St. George's239,900
Tegucigalpa431,600
Bonn8,309,600
MonterreyNot Available
Naples1,053,000
Nuku'alofa288,100
Ulaanbaatar702,000
Victoria803,700
Vila512,000
Antananarivo500,900
Castries259,800
Honiara387,200
Minsk735,600
Nassau985,600
San Salvador582,300

These figures do not represent the potential saving to the FCO of closing these posts, as some of the tasks they currently perform would have to be carried out by neighbouring posts, which would then incur additional costs. Most of the costs attributable to Bonn will be transferred to Berlin when the Embassy is relocated there in 1999-2000.

Labour Party Manifesto Commitment to Support NATO

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Labour Party Manifesto commitment to support NATO and the United States took into account any downgrading of United States support for the United Nations and any upgrading plans to expand NATO's "mission" and its area of operation.[HL3752]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government are accountable for delivering the commitments contained in the Labour Party's Election Manifesto. The commitment to provide strong defence through NATO is being met. The Government cannot provide interpretation of non-government documents.

19 Nov 1998 : Column WA212

Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Spicer

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the meetings held between the Foreign Office officials and Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Spicer in 1997 and 1998, giving the date, length of meeting and the names of officials in each case.[HL3759]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Prior to 24 July 1998, there was no general requirement for Foreign Office officials to record contacts with private military companies. It would be impossible to list meetings prior to this date with accuracy. However, as far as we have been able to ascertain, the following contacts took place. As noted in paragraphs 5.25 and 5.31 of the Legg Report, the British High Commissioner in Sierra Leone met Lt. Col. Spicer on 23 December 1997 and on 23 January 1998, on each occasion for about one hour. On 19 January 1998, officials dealing with Sierra Leone met Lt. Col. Spicer for approximately 40 minutes. On 17 July, officials dealing with drugs and international crime met Lt. Col. Spicer for about 45 minutes. This meeting was held to warn Sandline about the character of one of their contacts in Russia.

Since 24 July, Foreign Office officials have been required to record all contacts with private military companies. On 22 September 1998, officials met Lt. Col. Spicer for about 45 minutes. This meeting was held in order to make clear to him the terms of UNSCR 1160, the Order in Council giving effect to this SCR and the EU Common Position of 19 March 1998 covering the supply of arms to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The most recent contacts with Lt. Col. Spicer have been in relation to a consular case in Angola.

Strategic Exports

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the first annual report on strategic exports for the year ended 31 December 1997 will be published. [HL3777]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Gevernment had hoped to publish this report during the current Session, but it has not proved possible to do so. We will publish the report as soon as is possible.

UNSCOM: Disclosures by Iraq

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Nations Special Commission stated in August, after the missile attack on the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory, that it had no evidence to indicate transfer of weapons or technology of mass destruction from Iraq to Sudan.[HL3802]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) has reported no evidence of any transfer of weapons of mass

19 Nov 1998 : Column WA213

destruction or of associated materials or expertise by Iraq to any other country since the Gulf conflict and the imposition of sanctions in 1991. Nevertheless, we remain concerned about substantial gaps in Iraq's disclosures to UNSCOM. We cannot be sure that such transfers have not occurred.

Israeli Settlement of Ariel

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take to help prevent the Israeli settlement of Ariel near Nablus from building 3,000 new houses and becoming a city, in contravention of international law.[HL3811]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The decision to give Ariel city status was announced on 11 June and this was formally conferred by Prime Minister Netanyahu on 7 October. Belated action at this sensitive stage of the peace process would be counter productive. But our position on settlements is clear and well known to the Israelis. Settlements in the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. The Israeli Cabinet ratified the Wye River Memorandum on 11 November. We expect Israel to abide by the letter and spirit of this agreement and refrain from any unilateral or provocative acts.

UK-based Companies: Health and Safety Responsibilities

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure that companies based in the United Kingdom fulfil their responsibilities for health, safety, environmental and other employment and social standards in their operations overseas.[HL3812]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Companies based in the United Kingdom but operating overseas are encouraged to comply with local regulations regarding health, safety, environmental and other employment and social standards. Breaches of any of these regulations would of course be a matter for the local authorities.

Turkey: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are discussing the following matters with the Government of Turkey:


    (a) police attacks in Istanbul on peaceful demonstrations by the "Saturday Mothers", and connected arrests;


    (b) recent prison sentences on persons for expressing their political opinions;


    (c) recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights for example, that of Mr. Cengiz Ciraklar;


    (d) the internal exile lately imposed on five members of the Turkish Teachers Union (Egitim Sen).[HL3822]

19 Nov 1998 : Column WA214

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Embassy in Ankara regularly discusses human rights issues, including the conviction of individuals for freedom of expression crimes, with the Turkish authorities. The Embassy will raise the case of the "Saturday Mothers" demonstrations with the Turkish authorities shortly. They are currently investigating reports that five members of the Teachers trade union have been internally exiled.

Kuwaiti Prisoners in Iraq

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their most recent information on Kuwaiti prisoners held in Iraq; what action they have taken in support of the Government of Kuwait's effort to secure the release of their prisoners; and what further action they will be taking.[HL3867]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government plays an active role in the Tripartite Commission which considers all evidence relating to the 600 Kuwaitis believed to have been detained in Iraq since the Gulf War. The Iraqis have so far only produced sufficient information to close three of the files. We will continue to insist that Iraq provides full information on the whereabouts of the others.

Abu Ghraib Prison, Baghdad

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have received about the alleged massacre of 122 Iraqis and three Egyptians in Abu Ghraib Prison, Baghdad, on 1 October; and whether they will ask the United Nations Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, M. Bacre Waly Ndiaye, to submit a report on this atrocity to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.[HL3874]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Iraqi Communist Party has reported allegations of a massacre in Abu Ghraib prison in which 122 Iraqis and three Egyptians were killed. We have taken steps to ensure that the UN Commission on Human Rights is aware of these allegations.


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