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Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the noble Baroness convey to her ministerial friends how much I appreciate their determination not to split up Kosovar families? Will she also convey to her colleagues that it is important, when it comes to temporary admission, that this country should be seen to be no less generous than our friends and partners in the rest of western Europe?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that we are concerned to try to keep Kosovar families together. In fact, we funded the Red Cross which has put in place a family-tracing service. With respect to refugees entering the United Kingdom, the noble Lord will be aware that over the weekend a number of people entered the United Kingdom. We have set up a clear process with UNHCR. We have set up a range of criteria against which UNHCR assess the basis on which it recommends that people should come to the UK. But we are firm in our resolve that refugees should be kept to the region as much as possible to expedite their return to Kosovo.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, with reference to the tail-end of the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, does not the noble Baroness agree that we must not appear to be less generous than the other countries of Europe in providing the temporary accommodation required? Surely all the refugees cannot be accommodated near Kosovo. There must be a case

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for temporary accommodation in the rest of Europe. We heard that Germany is providing accommodation for 20,000. What are this Government going to do about it?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, your Lordships may be aware that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has stated very clearly that we are prepared to take some thousands of refugees here in the UK. However, a specific number has not been identified. We have agreed with UNHCR, which is co-ordinating refugees in the region, criteria against which it will assess whether or not refugees want to come to this country; but we will not do that against the will of the refugees themselves. We think that it is extremely important that refugees have some choice in the matter. Therefore, evacuation from the region to the UK must be voluntary.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, the Minister made an extremely important statement this afternoon when she stated in response to an earlier question that the use of ground troops in Kosovo has always been envisaged. That is a radical and remarkable change in policy. Therefore, why did the Prime Minister categorically rule out the use of ground troops at the beginning of the military action in Kosovo?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am surprised by what the noble Lord has said. There has been absolutely no change in this Government's policy. In the Rambouillet accord it was agreed, as part of a peace-keeping process and to ensure and secure peace in the region, that ground troops would be considered. There has been no change in policy.

Lord Ahmed: My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister agree with me that the arrangements made at Leeds Bradford Airport over the weekend were excellent? I have in mind the services provided by the Immigration Service, social services, the Refugee Council and the police. Indeed, all the authorities performed excellently. Will my noble friend also join me in thanking the people of Leeds and Bradford who came to receive the refugees and agree with me that the services provided for the refugees were the very best?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for those questions. He has given me the opportunity to join with him in thanking not only the people of Leeds and Bradford but also all the authorities who so very positively responded to the refugees who arrived over the weekend. We have put the arrangements for the receiving of refugees in the UK into the hands of the Refugee Council, which has been tasked by the Home Secretary with putting in place a special reception service for refugees who are arriving here under the UNHCR humanitarian evacuation programme.

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Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty

2.52 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consulted the Government of the Republic of Finland and the three Baltic states before they agreed to adapt the 1996 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty between NATO and the Russian Federation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) was signed in 1990 by the states of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The treaty's Flank provisions were revised in 1996. The previous government discussed the issues with the Baltic states and Finland beforehand. Treaty adaptation continues, and our aim remains that CFE should enhance the security of all, including those states not party to it. We have, therefore, continued to consult regularly with the Baltic states, Finland and other non-parties to the treaty.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Although I welcome the recent statement made in Washington that NATO remains open to all new members who wish to join after negotiations, does the Minister agree that the Baltic states are in no man's land at present? Therefore, will the Minister ensure that we continue to inform and consult the Baltic states long in advance of our agreeing to various matters with the Russian Federation? Further, will Her Majesty's Government also insist on the most vigorous and thorough site inspections when the treaty comes into effect on the 31st of next month, especially in the Oblasts of Pskov, Leningrad and Kaliningrad, to ensure that the Russian Federation complies with the treaty? That will demonstrate its goodwill and enhance security in the Baltic region.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I can assure the noble Earl that there was informal discussion in the margins in Vienna between the Baltic states and officials representing Her Majesty's Government. There were also discussions between the Baltic states and Norway, Denmark and Poland, which also have a great interest in the matter. I can give the noble Earl the assurance that he seeks that such discussions will continue.

The noble Earl may also be interested to know that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has written to the Presidents of Latvia and Estonia regarding the agreement reached on 30th March, setting out some of the improvements in the arrangements to be made. He said:

    "There will also be greater opportunities to verify that Russia complies with this"-- that is to say, the improvements--

    "as the Treaty provisions for military transparency have also been enhanced".

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    It means that we will be able to send in arms controls inspectors to verify that the terms of the arrangements reached on 30th March are complied with.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, can the Minister say what assurances the Government have received from Russia to substantiate her statement yesterday that the Kosovo crisis does not negate any of the principles underpinning the NATO/Russian Founding Act 1997? I ask that question in the light of the recall last month of Russia's chief military representative at NATO.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Russia has not renounced the NATO/Russia Founding Act, which created the framework for co-operation. Indeed, co-operation is still continuing on important practical issues, as I believe the conclusion of the framework agreement for the adaptation of the CFE treaty on 30th March shows. I hope that the noble Lord will also be pleased to know that co-operation is continuing on a number of other related issues, including those surrounding the millennium bug. Therefore, the discussions on these important issues are continuing.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her most reassuring reply to my Question. However, can she give the House any more detail of the new membership action plan for countries such as the three Baltic states--namely, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania--which aspire to join the alliance?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the NATO summit decided that NATO would maintain an active relationship with those countries which have applied for membership. One way of doing so was to put into place the membership action plan to which the noble Earl refers. The measures include: first, the submission by aspiring members of individual annual national programmes; secondly, a feedback mechanism from NATO on progress on those individual programmes; thirdly, a clearing house to help to co-ordinate military assistance; and, fourthly, a defence planning approach which will include elaboration and review of planning targets. Therefore, those four areas are contained within the action plan mentioned by the noble Earl.

Viscount Craigavon: My Lords, I am genuinely grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, for including Finland in his well-known concerns on the Baltic states. I also fully support the principle that the Finns and the other Nordic countries are fully entitled to be concerned about the stability and health of the Baltic nations. However, as far the Question on the Order Paper relates to border controls, especially as regards the Finnish/Russian border, will the Minister confirm that the Finns are entitled and correct to be perfectly happy with the existing system of consultations which they have with Her Majesty's Government?

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