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7 May 1999 : Column WA113

Written Answers

Friday, 7th May 1999.

Government Communications Headquarters

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Where the future location of the Government Communications Headquarters will be.[HL2398]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Foreign Secretary has agreed with Treasury colleagues that the project overall offers good value for the taxpayer, and has authorised the Director of GCHQ to continue to negotiate with GSL through to contract signature. He has selected the current GCHQ site at Benhall in Cheltenham as the location for the new GCHQ building, subject to final agreement on a number of outstanding matters. He has made the decision having regard to the Government's sustainable transport policies. He is very pleased that the long-standing association between GCHQ and Cheltenham is to be maintained.

Kosovo Liberation Army

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the NATO allies were informed of the commitments entered into by the United States to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) at Rambouillet and whether these were at any time agreed by either all the Contact Group or all the NATO allies; whether the KLA now has representatives in Washington and whether NATO representatives are now operating with the KLA; whether the nature of the funds available to the KLA has been fully examined; and whether the decision to use KLA cooperation for targeting purposes was a military or a political decision.[HL2103]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: What was on offer to the Kosovo Albanian negotiating team at Rambouillet is well known. The Rambouillet accords, which included provision for the disarmament of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), were signed by them on 19 March. We are aware of no specific US commitments to the KLA.

On NATO links to and co-operation with the KLA, I have nothing to add to my Answer to the noble Lord's Question of 20 April. The question of KLA representatives in Washington is a matter for the government of the United States. I have also previously explained our understanding of the funding of the KLA, in answer to the noble Lord's question of 1 March (11 March, WA 48).

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Kosovo Liberation Army are or have been receiving weapons from Croats and/or Bosniaks who have been equipped and trained by American mercenaries.[HL2225]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On the assumption that the noble Lord is referring to the Train and Equip programme run by the US-based firm MPRI, we have seen no information to suggest that weapons supplied under this programme have reached the KLA.

Use of Military Force

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 16 November 1998 (WA 140), whether the doctrine of "overwhelming humanitarian necessity" has now been fully set out in international law.[HL2161]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The position set out in the Answer I gave to the noble Lord on 16 November (WA 139) remains unchanged.

Jerusalem: Development Project

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their reaction to the Israeli Government's announcement on 24 March of a major development project in Jerusalem, and to the current demolition of houses there; and whether they consider that this forms part of an ethnic cleansing policy.[HL2163]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We understand that the Israeli Cabinet announced on 24 March a three-year plan to improve infrastructure in Jerusalem that will provide NIS 75 million (£12 million) in 1999. The development will focus on improving facilities available to all communities in West and East Jerusalem.

We are concerned at the recent increase in the number of house demolitions in Jerusalem, as noted in an FCO statement on 21 April. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv raised the matter with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 22 April. We have consistently made clear our opposition to attempts to alter the demographic balance in East Jerusalem, which is in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention and which prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations. We have condemned and will continue to condemn such policies.

Turkey: Election Irregularities

Lord Hylton asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

    Whether they have received reports of alleged irregularities in the conduct of the recent general and municipal elections in Turkey; and in particular whether they have information about--(a) official insistence on open voting and refusal of secret

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    ballloting in districts of the south east; (b) denial of access for candidates to their constituencies; (c) attacks on journalists covering the elections; and (d) threats to and harassment of political parties representing minorities, including the cancellation of HADEP's rally in Diyarbakir at short notice; and, if so whether they will discuss these matters with the Turkish Government and raise them in the Council of Europe and the OSCE.[HL2205]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are aware of a number of reports alleging irregularities in the run-up to and during Turkey's recent general and local elections. We will raise these reports and allegations with the Turkish authorities.

We are aware of the following information on the points the noble Lord has raised:

    (a) Our Embassy in Ankara has received credible reports from south east Turkey of security personnel viewing ballot papers;

    (b) We understand that the (successful) HADEP mayoral candidate in Lice was prevented from entering his constituency;

    (c) We have received reports that a journalist from the daily newspaper Evrensel was attacked while reporting on the elections in south east Turkey. There are also some reports of attacks by extreme nationalists on journalists;

    (d) We are aware that the HADEP election rally planned for 13 April was cancelled at short notice by the authorities in Diyarbakir. A British Embassy official was in Diyarbakir at the time and witnessed large-scale arrests of HADEP supporters and officials.

Sudan: Al Shifa Pharmaceutical Factory

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether officials of Her Majesty's Embassy in Sudan have advised British businessmen to visit the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum; and if so, on what occasions.[HL2207]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I am not aware of any occasion on which Embassy officials specifically advised British business people to visit the Al Shifa factory.

Sudan: Landmines

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What estimate they have of the number of active landmines in Sudan.[HL2210]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are aware that landmines are a significant problem in some areas of Sudan but we do not have a figure.

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EU Enlargement Negotiations

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will enumerate the seven chapters of the Acquis Communautaire that are already the subject of enlargement negotiations with the applicant countries and the eight on which negotiations are to open during the German presidency.[HL2250]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The enlargement negotiations with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia began in November 1998 on the following seven chapters of the Acquis Communautaire:

    -- Industrial policy

    -- Small and medium-sized undertakings

    -- Science and research

    -- Education and training

    -- Telecommunications and information technologies

    -- Culture and audiovisual policy

    -- Common foreign and security policy.

Poland: EU Membership

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the riots in Poland between January and March 1999 have altered their view that Poland is ready for admission to the European Union.[HL2251]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Polish farmers blockaded roads throughout the country between January and March this year. These events do not change Her Majesty's Government's view of Poland's preparations for membership. The UK remains committed to a successful and early enlargement of the EU.

Nevertheless, Her Majesty's Government has been concerned by some of the measures taken by the Polish Government to resolve the crisis, including raising import duties on wheat, pork, poultry and dairy products from 1 April. We are working towards resolution of these issues through the Association Agreement procedures.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that Parliament should be consulted about the appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration; and, if not, why not.[HL2218]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Government have no plans to change the way in which the Parliamentary

7 May 1999 : Column WA117

Ombudsman is appointed. On 30 March 1999, the Minister for the Cabinet Office announced the start of a review of the organisation of public sector ombudsmen in England. The review team will give consideration to any points made during the course of the review.

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