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Medical Devices Agency

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): We have agreed the agency's key targets for 1999-2000, and copies have been placed in the Library.

Armagh-Portadown Rail Link

Lord Eames asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): There are no plans to consider reopening the rail link between Armagh and Portadown.

Strategic Review Joint Initiatives

Baroness Scotland of Asthal asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made on the implementation of the Strategic Defence Review Joint Initiatives.[HL1825]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Joint Rapid Reaction Forces, JRRF, concept builds on the Joint Rapid Deployment Force to provide a pool of highly capable force elements, maintained at high and very high readiness and trained to undertake short notice force projection operations of all kinds. We plan to have this larger, much improved and more balanced capability in place by October 2001. The forces that are needed to meet the JRRF requirement have already been identified and an initial operational capability will be achieved on 1 April 1999.

The Joint Force Headquarters, which is co-located at Northwood with the Permanent Joint Headquarters in peacetime, will be expanded to enable it to command two simultaneous operations. It will be provided with a dedicated signals squadron drawn from 30 Signal Regiment based at Bramcote in Warwickshire.

The authority of the Chief of Joint Operations, based at Northwood, will be increased and he will assume greater responsibility for joint training, standards and exercises. To assist him in this task, a new 2* post, that of Chief of Joint Force Operational Readiness and Training, CJFORT, will be created from 1 April 1999.

To meet the need for increased deployability and flexibility in ground based air defence, a Joint Rapier Training Unit will be formed at RAF Honington on 1 April 1999.

Recognising that the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons programmes presents a continuing threat to our deployable forces, a Joint NBC Regiment will be established from 1 April 1999, initially at RAF Honington for at least four years. The regiment will consist of Army personnel mainly from 1st Royal Tank Regiment and RAF personnel from the RAF Regiment. It will also include elements of the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

A Defence NBC HQ will be established at Winterbourne Gunner on 1 April 1999. It will control both the Joint NBC Regiment and the Defence NBC Centre, command responsibilities for which will transfer from the Army Training and Recruiting Agency to RAF Strike Command on 1 April 1999.

A Joint Doctrine and Concepts Centre will be formed, located at Shrivenham. An Implementation Team will form at the beginning of April in London and will establish an Initial Capability at Shrivenham from September this year. It is planned to achieve a full capability from April 2000.

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Chemical Defence Programme

Baroness Scotland of Asthal asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish information about the UK's chemical defence programme.[HL1827]

Lord Gilbert: The UK's chemical defence programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In accordance with the Government's commitment to openness, a copy of the summary, outlining the UK's chemical defence programme for 1998, which has been provided to the organisation, has been placed in the Library of the House.

Global Positioning System Disruption

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the recent disruption of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation signals off the coast of North Carolina was deliberate; whether it was part of a NATO exercise or of a purely United States Atlantic Command exercise; what warning was given to GPS users of the disruption; and how long did it last.[HL1566]

Lord Gilbert: The recent planned disruption of the Global Positioning System in an area off the east coast of the USA was part of the NATO Joint Fleet Exercise 99-1. As such, it was carefully co-ordinated between the US Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration. Maritime and aviation communities were warned in advance through the normal channels and given the times and dates of the planned disruption, the area affected, and the likely effect on GPS users. Such planned disruptions are not unusual; at the same time there were five other similar warnings in effect within the US due to GPS trials and exercises. The disruption for the NATO exercise took place at the following times:


    (a) 1300-1700 EST on 22 February 1999


    (b) 1300-1700 EST on 23 February 1999


    (c) 1230-1630 EST on 24 February 1999


    (d) 0900-1300 EST on 25 February 1999


    (e) 0900-1300 EST on 25 February 1999


    (f) 0900-1300 EST on 27 February 1999.

Criminal Justice System Plans

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish their criminal justice system plans.[HL1800]

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The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My right honourable friends the Home Secretary and the Attorney General and I will be publishing jointly a strategic and business plan for the criminal justice system in England and Wales at 12 noon on 31 March 1999. The plans describe the aims, objectives and performance targets which the Government expect the criminal justice system as a whole to deliver. Copies of the plans will be placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Peter Clarence Foster: Extradition Proceedings

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the public interest in their continued efforts to extradite Peter Clarence Foster from Australia when the offences for which he stands charged have already been dropped or dismissed against a colleague with costs.[HL1577]

The Lord Chancellor: It would be inappropriate for me to comment directly or indirectly on the merits of a criminal case where proceedings are pending in the courts of Australia with a view to the return of the alleged offender to face trial in the United Kingdom.

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the National Audit Office will be asked to examine the costs of the extradition proceedings against Peter Clarence Foster to establish whether the costs to date are justified.[HL1578]

The Lord Chancellor: No.

The Prince of Wales: Legal Proceedings in Argentina

The Marquess of Ailesbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether press reports that legal proceedings were instigated in Argentina with the object of detaining the Prince of Wales were correct.[HL1593]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have been advised by the Argentine authorities that, during the visit of HRH the Prince of Wales to Argentina, a lawsuit was presented by a lawyer to a federal judge in an Argentine provincial city accusing his Royal Highness of genocide and human rights abuses during the Falklands conflict. The case was rejected immediately by the judge on the grounds that there was no case to answer.

Taiwan and Chinese Missiles

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the number of Chinese missiles targeted on Taiwan has risen from 30-50 in March 1996 to 150-200 at present; and what increase is forecast.[HL1628]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: China has reportedly deployed about 150 to 200 short-range ballistic missiles within range of Taiwan over the last five years. We have no evidence of a rapid build-up in recent months.

Sierra Leone

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they will use the £10 million-worth of new assistance for Sierra Leone which was announced on 2 March; and what is their policy with regard to arms sales to Sierra Leone.[HL1799]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Foreign Secretary announced on 2 March a new UK commitment of £10 million to promote stability in Sierra Leone. The objectives are to help the West African Peacekeeping Force, ECOMOG, push back the rebels, to encourage the rebels to lay down their arms and return to civilian life; and to create a professional and democratically accountable Sierra Leone Army.

Access to this new £10 million package of assistance is conditional upon matching pledges of support from other international donors. I am pleased to report that we have now received the full amount of £10 million in matching donations as a response to our lead in the promotion of lasting peace in Sierra Leone.

Our new package of £10 million will be used as follows:


    we have already given substantial logistic support to ECOMOG to enable it to consolidate the security situation. We have decided that £5 million will now be made available to provide further equipment for ECOMOG. Deliveries of equipment for ECOMOG will be arriving shortly;


    £4.5 million will be used to fund a UK programme to train and equip a new Sierra Leone Army. A small UK military advisory team has been deployed to oversee basic training of the new Sierra Leone Army and to assess its longer term training requirements. As part of this train and equip programme, we will be providing boots and uniforms. We will also be providing rifles and ammunition. We will be delivering this equipment shortly.

As a condition for proceeding with this programme we have sought and secured assurances from President Kabbah that he will pursue a twin track--diplomatic and military--approach to obtaining a lasting political peace; that recruitment for the new Sierra Leone Army will take place without ethnic discrimination; that children will not be used by the Sierra Leone Armed Forces or the Civil Defence Force; and that equipment supplied by the UK to the Government of Sierra Leone will be used only in accordance with international human rights standards and international humanitarian law.

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President Kabbah is also in the process of consulting ECOWAS to ensure that the supply of arms by the UK does not breach the ECOWAS small arms moratorium of October 1998.

UN Security Council Resolution 1171 prohibits the sale or supply of arms and related material to Sierra Leone, other than to the Government of Sierra Leone through named points of entry. There is also an

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exemption to allow the sale of arms for the sole use in Sierra Leone of ECOMOG or the United Nations. The United Nations Arms Embargo (Amendment) (Sierra Leone) Order 1998 implements the United Nations Arms Embargo on Sierra Leone in the UK. Applications for licences under the Order in Council relating to the sale or supply of arms and related materiel to the Government of Sierra Leone or ECOMOG or the UN are considered on a case by case basis.

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