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European Parliamentary Elections

Lord Shore of Stepney asked her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The proposal is currently under discussion in the relevant Council working group and has not yet come to the Council of Ministers for discussion or decision. As my noble

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friend the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean indicated in her previous reply (WA55), now that the Amsterdam Treaty is in force, the European Parliament must adopt a formal proposal on this issue before the Council can take a decision.

Cyprus

Lord Vivian ask Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken to establish a Cyprus confederation between North and South Cyprus; and what is their policy towards this development, particularly with regard to the power-sharing arrangements proposed.[HL3956]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We and our international partners continue to give strong support to UN efforts towards a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. The members of the G8, which met on 20 June, and the UN Security Council, which met on 29 June, have urged the UN Secretary-General to invite the leaders of the two sides on Cyprus to enter without pre-conditions into comprehensive negotiations starting in the Autumn. The precise terms of any settlement, including power-sharing arrangements, are matters to be agreed by the two sides. For our part, we continue to believe that a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation based on political equality is the best way to achieve a settlement.

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the Greek and Turkish areas of Cyprus are two sovereign, equal and democratically legitimate states. [HL3957]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: UN Security Council Resolution 541 of 18 November 1983 calls upon all states not to recognise any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus. The UK was instrumental in the adoption of this resolution.

Turkish Cypriots: Visa Regulations

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why measures were introduced some years ago whereby Turkish Cypriots have to apply for a visa to enter the United Kingdom; and why these regulations should not be rescinded now.[HL3958]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The visa-free travel concession for holders of Turkish Cypriot travel documents was withdrawn on 16 January 1998. This decision was taken on immigration grounds alone and was based on the fact that over a period of more than two years prior to that date holders of these documents had in increasing numbers submitted unfounded applications for asylum on arrival in the UK.

The responsibility for policy on the imposition of visa regimes rests with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

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Cyprus Settlement

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made towards a settlement of the Cyprus problem.[HL3940]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: G8 Heads of Government, in their statement of 20 June, and the UN Security Council, in its resolution 1250 of 29 June, have urged the UN Secretary-General to invite the leaders of both sides in Cyprus to enter without pre-conditions into comprehensive negotiations starting in the autumn, and to commit themselves in good faith to continue to negotiate until a settlement is reached. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary have assured the Secretary-General that he will have our full support in efforts to get those negotiations under way.

Insurance Premium Tax and Air Passenger Duty

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people are working in this country for the 43 organisations now exempted from the payment of insurance premium tax and air passenger duty.[HL3887]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : I refer the noble Lord to my earlier reply to his Question No. 3425.

1,980 officials work in this country for 34 international organisations currently entitled to refunds of insurance premium tax and air passenger duty.

The total number of officials presently working in this country for the 43 organisations that will be entitled to refunds is 2,626.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they have extended the exemption from insurance premium tax and air passenger duty to 43 international organisations; and which are the 17 not previously entitled to exemptions.[HL3885]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : It is established international practice that a state should not tax other states through the intermediary of an international organisation and that a host state should not derive undue fiscal advantage from the presence on its soil of an international organisation.

In accordance with that practice it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to refund insurance premium tax (IPT) and air passenger duty (APD) to all international organisations of which the United Kingdom is a member and which have headquarters or offices in the United Kingdom and to those others, although not based here, to which we are legally obliged to give relief from such taxes and duties. There are 43 such international organisations.

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The 17 organisations with which exchanges of notes were concluded as they were not entitled to refunds under the wording of their existing agreements are:


    CAB International


    Commonwealth Foundation


    Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation


    European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF)


    International Cocoa Organisation


    International Coffee Organisation


    International Grains Council


    International Lead and Zinc Study Group


    International Maritime Organisation (IMO)


    International Mobile Satellite Organisation


    International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund


    International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992


    International Rubber Study Group


    International Sugar Organisation


    International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation


    International Whaling Commission


    Oslo and Paris Commissions

The International Organisations (Immunities and Privileges) Miscellaneous Provisions Order 1999 provides for refunds of insurance premium tax (IPT-- and air passenger duty (APD) to 15 of those listed above.

The INTELSAT (Immunities and Privileges (Amendment) Order 1999 provides for refunds of IPT and APD to the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation.

The International Mobile Satellite Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1999 provides for refunds to the International Mobile Satellite Organisation.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What detailed procedures are in place to ensure that the claims of representatives of the international organisations that qualify for the exemptions from air passenger duty are made purely in connection with official duties; and how many government employees are employed on this assignment.[HL3886]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Claims must be submitted on form T“16. (Copies will be placed in the Library of the House). This form has to be signed by the head of the international organisation or, in his absence, the official designated to act for him. The head must certify that the air passenger duty (APD) and insurance premium tax (IPT) covered by the claim were incurred on official business of the organisation and that no claim for refund of APD/IPT has previously been made in respect of them. Forms must also be supported by original invoices and evidence of payment.

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Apart from the backlog payable from the introduction of IPT and APD in October 1994 and November 1994 respectively, which will also be subject to the submission of completed forms and supporting documentation, all claims must be submitted at regular intervals and must be restricted to expenditure made not more than one year prior to the date of application. All claims are subjected to sample testing in accordance with FCO accounting procedures and National Audit Office requirements.

Two officials in the FCO will verify APD/IPT claims.

UK Overseas Territories: Constitutions

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to conduct a review of each of the United Kingdom's overseas territories constitutions to ensure that it meets the needs of that territory, in the light of the fact that some territories have begun this process.[HL3927]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The territories were invited in the White Paper to submit proposals for updating their constitutions. A number of them are discussing changes with us.

DfID/FCO Ministerial Liaison Committee

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How often the ministerial liaison committee within the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office meet.[HL3928]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : The committee aims to meet twice a year.


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