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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government remain concerned by reports that Israel may have a nuclear weapons programme. We continue to urge Israel to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in order to allay international suspicions about her nuclear activities. Israel has signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We are aware that Israel possesses theatre anti-ballistic missile systems. But these are designed to defend Israel against missile attack--as was demonstrated during the Gulf War--and pose no offensive threat to her neighbours.

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the course of its attempt to insert into the revised NATO Strategic Concept the conditions laid down by the United States Senate, the United States Government is seeking from its NATO allies a commitment to the deployment and funding of strategic or theatre anti-ballistic missile systems.[HL741]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United States Government has sought no such commitment from NATO allies in discussions on the revision of the alliance's strategic concept.

There have from time to time been discussions within NATO on the subject of theatre anti-ballistic missile systems.

British Citizens Detained Without Trial

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the factors taken into consideration by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in deciding whether to intervene at ministerial level on behalf of British citizens detained without charge or trial in foreign prisons; and after what length of detention would they first assess the desirability of any such intervention.[HL615]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Each case has to be decided on its individual merits. The FCO takes all relevant factors into account in deciding whether to make representations at ministerial level on behalf of British nationals detained without trial in foreign prisons. These include:


    the provisions of the local legal system;


    the provisions of any relevant treaty obligations or international minimum standards;


    the health of the person detained;


    the detaining country's response to any representations made at official level.

Sierra Leone

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they have had with James O. C. Jonah, Sierra Leone Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, concerning the Sierra Leone Government's intention to raise a 15,000 interim civil defence force; whether the Sierra Leone Government has asked Britain to provide training, and to consider providing weapons supplies for the militia; and what their response was.[HL692]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Lloyd, met the Sierra Leone Minister of Finance, Development and Economic Planning, Dr. James Jonah, on 18 January to discuss recent events in Sierra Leone. Dr. Jonah explained the importance which the Government of Sierra Leone attached to strengthening

4 Feb 1999 : Column WA234

and reforming the country's defence forces. A reformed army under proper democratic control is central to sustaining democracy in Sierra Leone and to promoting lasting peace and stability. We are already in close touch with the Government of Sierra Leone over how the UK can assist in this process.

Hong Kong

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to publish the fourth of the reports to Parliament on Hong Kong and the implementation of the Joint Declaration.[HL893]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The fourth report in this series, covering the period July-December 1998, was published today and a copy of the report has been placed in the Libraries of the House. The report includes a foreword written by the Foreign Secretary. I commend the report to the House.

Zinoviev Letter: Memorandum

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they propose to publish the memorandum on the Zinoviev letter which was commissioned from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office historians.[HL894]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The memorandum is being published today and I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Isokon Flats, Hampstead

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take to ensure protection of the Isokon Flats, Lawn Road, Hampstead; and what future they envisage for this building.[HL619]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am aware of the poor condition of this grade I listed building, owned by the London Borough of Camden. Its listing means that it is protected by the provisions of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. These provisions are designed to ensure that a building's special architectural quality or historic importance is fully recognised, and that care will be taken over decisions affecting its future. The Government look to local authorities to deal with their own listed buildings in ways which will provide examples of good practice to other owners. I understand that the council has had discussions with English Heritage on the building and is now drawing up options for its future use.

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Oliver Cromwell: Quatercentenary

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Oliver Cromwell.[HL617]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have no plans to commemorate the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Oliver Cromwell. The noble Lord may be aware, however, that a number of events to mark the occasion are already taking place throughout the country.

Castle Urquhart

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) On what date the Reporter's report on Castle Urquhart was received by the Scottish Office; and (b) when the Secretary of State's findings following on from this report will be published.[HL684]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The Reporter's report was received by the Scottish Office on 4 September 1998. The Secretary of State announced his decision to allow Historic Scotland to proceed with the development proposals on 1 February 1999.

Scottish Parliament: Use of Gaelic

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to make arrangements for the Scottish Parliament to be bilingual; and what would be the estimated costs.[HL635]

Lord Sewel: The all-party Consultative Steering Group which is chaired by my honourable friend the Minister of State and which has been charged with making recommendations on how the Parliament might operate, considered the issue of Gaelic in its report to the Secretary of State, Shaping Scotland's Parliament. The group recommended that the normal working language of the Parliament should be English but that members wishing to make a speech in Gaelic should give prior notice so that arrangements could be made for interpreting facilities. Speeches made in Gaelic will be published in the Official Report in the original Gaelic, with an English translation. It is also proposed to produce public information material in Gaelic, as well as in other non-English languages spoken in Scotland.

Options for the provision of this service are currently being examined. Cost estimates are not yet available.

BBC: Scottish Headquarters

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Where the headquarters of the BBC in Scotland will be located once the new Parliament is in session.[HL636]

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Lord Sewel: The location of their headquarters in Scotland is a matter for the BBC itself; I understand that the headquarters will continue to be in Glasgow. However, there are plans to provide facilities in Edinburgh to ensure comprehensive coverage of the new Parliament.

Scotland: Shotgun Use

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is lawful to fire a shotgun from a boat in the middle of a river in Scotland, such as the River Forth; and, if so, which Act would be relevant.[HL723]

Lord Sewel: A person may fire a shotgun from a boat on a river in Scotland provided it is done in accordance with the terms of a shotgun certificate issued to him under the Firearms Act 1968, as amended, by the chief constable for the area in which he resides. However, Section 5(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prohibits the use of boats powered by engines to pursue wild birds (including wildfowl) for the purpose of killing or taking them.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the ancient right to shoot on the foreshore in Scotland extends to any other person than the certificated owner of a shotgun; and[HL720]

    In which Act the ancient right to shoot on the foreshore in Scotland is enshrined.[HL722]

Lord Sewel: The ancient right to shoot on the foreshore in Scotland is a common law right. A person may shoot on the foreshore provided it is done in accordance with the terms of a certificate issued to him under the Firearms Act 1968, as amended, by the chief constable for the area in which he resides.


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