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Written Answers

Monday, 11th January 1999.

Sudan: Diplomatic Relations

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Foreign Secretary made clear at the time of announcing the withdrawal of British staff from Khartoum that he regretted having to take this action, which had been forced on him. He also said that he hoped that the necessary conditions for the return to normal relations with Sudan would be re-established before too long.

We have therefore been in contact with the Sudanese to see if we can remedy the situation and re-establish full Embassies in Khartoum and London.

Turkey: Human Rights

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We broadly support the recommendations of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy's report, adopted on 17 September, on the Commission reports on developments in relations with Turkey since the entry into force of Customs Union.

We share a number of the concerns expressed in the European Parliament's resolution of 8 October about the release of Ms Leyla Zana. We have repeatedly stressed to the Turkish authorities that the prosecution of democratically elected politicians for the non-violent expression of their views is at odds with Turkey's internal human rights obligations and damages Turkey's international standing.

We have repeatedly condemned Turkey's continuing poor human rights record, and we continue to urge the Turkish government to seek a non-military solution to the conflict in south eastern Turkey.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: According to HADEP, 200 of its supporters who were detained during the period in question still remain in custody. Of these 200 supporters, 105 have so far been charged with various offences. In addition, a further 506 HADEP supporters were taken into custody between 6 and 8 December, of whom 47 still remain in custody.

Ottawa Convention: Ratification

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In relation to the Ottawa Convention on Anti-personnel Landmines, whether they will:


    (a) urge major states who have not yet ratified the convention to do so;


    (b) pledge funds towards the cost of the system of annual reporting;


    (c) facilitate research into techniques of mine clearance, including microwave methods.[HL339]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We shall continue to urge all states who have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Ottawa Convention as soon as possible.

The costs of our reporting requirements under the convention will not be significant and will be met from within existing resources. We are also considering how we can help other states meet their commitments under the Ottawa Convention, and funds are available for this purpose.

We are already funding research into mine clearance technology, including the application of microwave technology.

General Pinochet

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or any other Government department arranged or paid for the VIP facilities for General Pinochet on his arrival at Heathrow Airport.[HL346]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: At the request of the Chilean Embassy, a VIP suite was put at the disposal of General Pinochet for his arrival on 22 September and was paid for by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as normal.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the British Embassy in Madrid gave any warning to the Chilean Embassy in Madrid about the possibility of extradition proceedings being started against General Pinochet during his visit to Britain.[HL347]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No such warning was passed to the Embassy of Chile in Madrid.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the British Embassy in Santiago were involved in the arrangements for General Pinochet's visit to Britain.[HL348]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Embassy in Santiago were told informally of a proposed visit in early September. This was a private visit and the embassy was not involved in the practical arrangements. However, as on previous occasions, it passed on a request for advice on the physical threat to his security.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any government official was present when General Pinochet first arrived at Heathrow.[HL357]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No government official was present when Senator Pinochet arrived on 22 September.

Equine Insemination and Dentistry

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that those involved in artificial insemination of horses should be properly qualified and subject to some sort of regulation.[HL244]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): We agree with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that artificial insemination of horses may be undertaken by trained and competent lay persons. This will require an exemption order to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 and separate legislation under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 1984, laying down welfare and disease control measures. This issue is still under discussion with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the regulators of the veterinary profession (the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) are in favour of legislation to regulate (a) inseminators of horses and (b) equine dentists.[HL245]

Lord Donoughue: The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has asked Her Majesty's Government to consider regulation of inseminators of horses and equine dentists. Discussions are continuing with the College.

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to protect horses from pain and suffering caused by unqualified people acting as equine dentists.[HL246]

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Lord Donoughue: Those equine dental procedures that are considered to be acts of veterinary surgery may be undertaken only by a registered veterinary surgeon or by a registered dentist at the request of a veterinary surgeon.

MoD: Defence Intelligence IT System

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What disciplinary and other action they plan to take following publication of the National Audit Office's Report criticising the Ministry of Defence for spending £34.6 million on developing a computerised defence intelligence system which never worked.[HL128]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The decision in 1988 to procure a bespoke IT system for defence intelligence was based on a sound business case. In the event, the technical risk proved greater than anticipated and the project was overtaken by technological change. In the circumstances, there are no grounds for disciplining any individual for failings in a decision process which ranged over a number of years and in which appropriate financial and technical consultation and authorisation took place at every stage.

Lessons have, however, been learnt. The deficiencies in the procurement process were very clear and the Smart Procurement Initiative launched from the Strategic Defence Review is designed to eliminate them. Smart Procurement will involve users and contractors in a more co-operative relationship in which requirements will be defined more precisely, and risk will be minimised by greater reliance on commercial off-the-shelf technology and by incremental development based on careful trialling and piloting programmes. The replacement system was successfully procured and put into service in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost, of the original, using just these principles.

RAF Heavy Lift Capability

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken to provide the Royal Air Force with heavy lift capability.[HL329]

Lord Gilbert: The Strategic Defence Review concluded that we needed to improve our strategic air transport capability, to allow us to move more powerful forces quickly to an overseas theatre. In the short term, we are planning to acquire four C-17 aircraft or their equivalent. In the longer term, we are considering a replacement for our remaining transport aircraft, for which the European Future Large Aircraft is a contender.

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Bids have been invited to meet the short-term and long-term requirements in parallel competitions, with responses due back from industry by the end of January next year. The parallel competitions will ensure that all options for both the short term and the long term are considered, and will allow us to choose the best.


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