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8 Dec 1998 : Column WA75

Written Answers

Tuesday, 8th December 1998.

Indonesia: Elections

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    If they will make a statement on assistance given for elections in Indonesia.[HL217]

Baroness Amos: Indonesia is planning to hold parliamentary elections next year. Elections that are free, fair and inclusive will be essential in helping restore political and economic stability and in reversing the recent increase in poverty. We shall work towards this end with the United Nations Development Programme, which has been asked to co-ordinate donor assistance. We shall contribute up to £1 million--some of it immediately--linked to satisfactory progress with preparations for the elections.

Development Council, 30 November

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the outcome was of the Development Council held in Brussels on 30 November.[HL215]

Baroness Amos: During the morning session, the Council adopted conclusions on Burundi reflecting Ministers' discussions at dinner the previous evening. The conclusions welcome the progress achieved in the "Arusha process" so far and thank Mwalimu Nyerere for his invaluable contribution. The Council said that it was prepared to continue to support the process and welcomed the intention of Mwalimu Nyerere to suspend sanctions, which would pave the way for the resumption of increased development co-operation. The Council asked the Commission to pursue its discussions with the Burundi government, with a view both to rapid implementation of the support already envisaged for refugees and rehabilitation, and to additional support for human rights and strengthening of democratic institutions and the judicial system.

The Council also adopted conclusions on the Role of Development Co-operation in Strengthening Peace-building, Conflict Prevention and Resolution. These recognise that development assistance needs to be designed and implemented in a way that helps to address the root causes of violent conflict in a targeted manner. The Council recommended that an expert group be established to take forward work in this area.

On Hurricane Mitch, the Council adopted Conclusions calling on the Commission to prepare an Action Plan on medium to long term reconstruction efforts in Central America which should be discussed in the next few months at a ministerial meeting in the San Jose Group. The Council stressed the role of debt relief and the importance of donor co-ordination in the

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reconstruction effort. The UK congratulated the UN on its efforts to co-ordinate relief during the immediate emergency. The UK pointed out that the next phase was to link emergency aid to rehabilitation and longer term construction. The UK hoped donors would share ideas and co-ordinate not compete. The UK urged all partners to contribute to the French/UK Trust Fund initiative to assist with multilateral debt relief.

On Private Sector Development in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, the Commission presented its strategy, the aim of which is to contribute to poverty elimination and foster the integration of the ACP into the world economy. The presentation was followed by an exchange of views. The UK welcomed the paper but noted that it would have to be taken forward after discussions had taken place with the ACP countries, and that work was needed on putting the strategy into operation. The Council passed a Resolution on Sustainable Tourism. The UK explained that it was important to ensure more of the benefits of tourism remained in local communities, in particular the poorest and women.

The Commission updated the Council on progress in the post-Lome negotiations. The joint EU-ACP Central Negotiating Group had already identified areas of agreement between the EU and ACP sides and issues where more discussion was needed. There was broad consensus on the major objectives of the new convention. A number of member states, including the UK, urged the Commission and member states to honour the EU mandate commitment on improving preferential access to the EU market for Least Developed Countries under the Generalised System of Preferences from 2000.

Over lunch, I led a discussion on the external assistance aspects of the Financial Perspectives. I stressed the importance of increasing the proportion of EC official development assistance going to low income countries in the years 2000-2006. I was broadly supported by a majority of member states.

Other items discussed at lunch included a report on the outcome of the Brussels Conference on Disarmament, on the situation in Angola, and the need for the early release of the third tranche of funds to the UN Reliefs Works Agency (UNWRA). There was a brief discussion on EC development assistance to Togo, and future aid to the Palestinians. On the issue of Commission financing of UN organisations, Commissioner Pinheiro agreed that the current situation, where the Commission is obliged by financial control procedures to audit UN and other multilateral agencies receiving EC funds, should be re-examined.

Sir Stephen Wall represented the UK during the afternoon session. The first item after lunch was a progress report from the Commission on the implementation of the guidelines on Operational Co-ordination. The UK welcomed proposals for greater exchange of strategy papers, the practical application of enhanced co-ordination at country level, more jointly

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funded projects, sharing of staff and joint missions. We and others stressed that co-ordination procedures should cover all donors and take full account of the central role of the partner country. We also stressed that streamlining procedures was important.

The Council discussed progress on the Global Evaluation of EC development assistance. This is to be completed under the German Presidency and will be one of the main subjects for discussion at the next Development Council in May 1999. The UK called on the Commission to implement the recommendations contained in the Court of Auditors' report on aid to South Africa.

On humanitarian aid, the Council discussed the security of humanitarian aid workers and the situation in Kosovo and Sudan.

A number of issues were discussed under any other business. The Commission responded to the allegations of fraud within ECHO. The Italian Minister reported on the recent Inter Governmental Authority on Development Partners Forum on Somalia held in Rome. The Finnish Minister raised the issue of climate change in developing countries. The Dutch Minister, supported by the UK, urged the Commission to respond positively to the proposal for an independent WTO Legal Advisory Centre to help developing countries use the dispute settlement system that lies at the heart of the WTO.

The Council adopted a Resolution on Indigenous Peoples, Conclusions on Micro-finance and Poverty Reduction, and Conclusions on Democratisation, the Rule of Law, Respect for Human Rights and Good Governance, without discussion.

Miners' Respiratory Diseases

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 16 November (H.L. Deb., col. 1115), what is the Department of Trade and Industry's provision for compensation in respect of miners' respiratory diseases in each of the years 1999-2000, 2000-2001 and 2001-2002.[HL16]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The gross level of provision agreed in the CSR for the British Coal health liabilities assumed by the Department on 1 January 1998 is:

£274.8 million£490.3 million£507.5 million

Due to a number of continuing uncertainties--not least an agreed tariff of damages and because each claim for special damages in particular has to be assessed individually--it is not possible to say how much will be required to meet the specific cost of miners' health claims for respiratory disease. The Government has however made clear that it will provide the funds necessary to meet the cost of legitimate claims.

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Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 16 November (H.L. Deb., col. 1116) regarding miners' respiratory diseases and the issue of medical assessments, what procedure is proposed if the plaintiff is too weak or ill to be moved to a specialist.[HL19]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Medical Assessment Process, to be agreed with the Plaintiff Solicitors Group, will make provision for domiciliary visits in those cases where a plaintiff is considered too weak or unfit to visit a testing centre.

Renewable Energy: Task Force

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What role the United Kingdom is taking in establishing the European Task Force on Renewable Energy; and when the task force is expected to have its first meeting; and [HL87]

    How many United Kingdom representatives will be appointed to the European Task Force on Renewable Energy; and how they will be selected.[HL88]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: At the Energy Council on November 13, the UK stressed the importance of maintaining the momentum created by the Commission's 1997 White Paper (Energy for the Future: Renewable Sources of Energy) and the Council Resolution on renewables adopted under the UK Presidency in May. The Minister for Energy and Industry, Mr Battle, suggested to the Council that the establishment of a Commission-led "task force" of senior experts of renewables could contribute to this.

This suggestion builds on an idea in the White Paper that a working group involving Commission and member states be established to monitor measures undertaken and evaluate the impact of policy decisions with regard to the use of renewable energy sources. This group has met only once in 1998.

The Commission has not yet responded on the idea of a task force, but I understand that it plans to hold a further meeting of its working group early in 1999.

If the idea of a task force on renewables is taken forward, it will be for the Commission to decide how this is to be constituted. Most Commission chaired committees have two representatives per member state.

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