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Rocket Launches and the Ozone Layer

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The World Meteorological Organisation's Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion considered the effect of rocket launches on the ozone layer in its 1991 report. It noted that while rockets have been measured to have significant effects on local concentrations around some launches for up to a day, recovery is rapid and the global effect is negligible. Research is continuing to improve understanding of the effect on ozone of emissions from rocket engines. However, the effects are still expected to be small overall.

General Pinochet

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): No Crown Prosecution Service staff or representative visited Madrid in connection with the case of Senator Pinochet prior to the issue of the first warrant for the arrest of Senator Pinochet at Bow Street Magistrates' Court on 16 October 1998.

EU Common Foreign and Security Policy

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The only restrictions on the United Kingdom's freedom of action in the areas and subjects to which the noble Lord refers are those flowing from the obligations it has entered into in international law. The Treaty on European Union commits the member states to ensure that their national policies conform to Common Positions, where these exist, and to uphold these positions in international fora. Similarly, where Joint Actions have been agreed, they commit member states in the positions they adopt and in the conduct of their activity. Common Positions and Joint Actions are agreed by the Foreign Ministers of member states in the Council and are subject to the requirements of parliamentary scrutiny arrangements for CFSP.

UK Membership of European Union

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the reply given by the Leader of the House on 14 December 1998 (H.L. Deb., col. 1138) and to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 18 January (WA89-90), why it would be "profoundly damaging" for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Common Market but to leave the rest of the Treaty of Rome.(HL1735)

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Membership of the EU is vital to our current and future prosperity. Nearly 60 per cent. of the goods we export go to our EU partners. The Single Market gives the UK the equivalent of a domestic market of 370 million customers. If we were to withdraw from the EU, there is no guarantee that we would be able to negotiate unhindered access to the Single Market. A huge number of jobs could be at risk. Our clout in international trade negotiations and our standing in the world would be severely damaged.

Membership of the EU provides many other, non-economic, benefits. For example, citizens of the EU countries have a right to choose where they want to work within the EU. European co-operation on measures against organised crime, drug smuggling, racism and illegal immigration are helping to make the UK a safer society. Participation in the Common Foreign and Security Policy gives the UK a greater influence in world affairs.

For these reasons the Government do not plan to withdraw from the EU. On the contrary, they remain convinced that active and constructive membership is in the best interests of the British people.

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Sudan

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who was responsible for the abduction of Red Cross relief workers in southern Sudan in February 1999.[HL1803]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We understand that the SPLM/A detained a number of ICRC relief workers in February and that four of them were subsequently killed at the end of March. We have called on the SPLM/A to permit a thorough investigation into this incident.

Sudan: Al Shifa Factory

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they have had with the United States Government concerning the payment of compensation to the owner for the destruction of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum.[HL1805]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The issue of compensation is not a matter for Her Majesty's Government.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have shared with fellow members of the European Union information held by the Ministry of Defence regarding the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory's alleged involvement with weapons of mass destruction and related technology; and[HL1808]

    Further to the interview with the Secretary of State for Defence published by al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper on 23 October 1998, whether they have shared the Defence Secretary's information regarding the alleged involvement with weapons of mass destruction and related technology of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan with (a) the United Nations Security Council, if so, when; and with what result; and (b) the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.[HL1840]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is established practice under Section 1(c) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information not to disclose or discuss information received in confidence from foreign governments.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reconsider their support for the American bombing of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum in August 1998, in the light of (a) the chemical tests on factory site, supervised by Prof. Thomas Tullius, chairman of Boston University's department of chemistry, which showed no evidence of chemical weapons technology; and (b) the February 1999 report by Kroll Associates, which stated that the American Government's allegations about the Al Shifa factory's involvement in chemical weapons production were unsustainable.[HL1838]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear the Government's position on the bombing of Al Shifa on many occasions. He gave his support to the US action as action against international terrorists. The US told us at the time of the strike on Al Shifa that it had compelling evidence that the plant was being used for the production of chemical weapons material.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the interview with the Secretary of State for Defence published on 23 October 1998 by the Arabic-language newspaper al Sharq al-Awsat was an accurate account of their position with regard to the bombing of the Al Shifa factory; and whether they will place a translated copy of the article in the Library of the House.[HL1839]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear the Government's position on the bombing of Al Shifa on many occasions. He gave his support to the US action as action against international terrorists. The US told us at the time of the strike on Al Shifa that it had compelling evidence that the plant was being used for the production of chemical weapons material.

A translation of the article the noble Lord refers to will be placed in the Library of the House.

US Senate NATO Observer Group

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the role and function of the United States Senate NATO Observer Group; whether it has any official relationship with, or duties concerning, NATO and, if so, whether the Government collaborate with the group in any way.[HL1841]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Senate NATO Observer Group has no official status within NATO.

Sea-based Satellite Launches: Regulation

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider a new international convention is required to regulate sea-based satellite launches from international waters; and, if so, whether they will take steps to this end.[HL1842]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The potential launching of satellites from the high seas is a recent development. However, the existing international framework for licensing of space-based activities under the terms of the UN Treaty on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is wholly applicable to launches from sea-based platforms. A separate convention is therefore unnecessary.

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Russian Weapons Grade Plutonium

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of possible proliferation risks, they will make representations to the Japanese Government about participation in the reprocessing of Russian weapons-grade plutonium.[HL1844]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The G8 is currently discussing the disposal of excess Russian weapons grade plutonium. Conversion into mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for reactors is the favoured solution. We and the Japanese are taking part in these discussions. Therefore it would not be appropriate for us to make any representations to the Japanese Government on this subject.


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