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10 Nov 1999 : Column WA151

Written Answers

Wednesday, 10th November 1999.


Viscount Brentford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to assist the Government of Pakistan with the restoration of the Pakistan economy.[HL4509]

Baroness Amos: Following the military coup on 12 October, the Government announced a freeze on all direct development assistance to the Government of Pakistan. Assistance which directly benefits the poor of Pakistan has been maintained.

The Government are presently looking for a commitment by the military authorities to transparent, accountable rule by a democratic civilian government, in addition to economic reform and poverty reduction and combating corruption. We are monitoring developments closely and, if and when appropriate, we will consider any requests to assist this process.


Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What humanitarian assistance they have offered to the 180,000 Chechens estimated to have fled their homes since the Russian attacks began on Chechnya on 5 September.[HL4593]

Baroness Amos: We have contributed £0.5 million to the ICRC's appeal for assistance to the region. We also support and are contributing to the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) provision of 1.2 million euro of assistance through internationally recognised aid organisations.

Kosovo: De-mining

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What if their latest assessment of progress on de-mining in Kosovo; what is their estimate of the size of the remaining task; and what action they are taking together with others to make the country safe from mines.[HL4526]

Baroness Amos: Clearance of mines and other unexploded ordnance is co-ordinated by the United Nations Mine Action and Co-ordination Centre (UNMACC) in Pristina.

UNMACC reports clearance of 3.24 million square metres, nearly 12,000 houses, 558 schools and over 9,000 items of ordnance since July 1999. This work will continue until December as part of the emergency phase of survey, marking and high priority clearance.

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UNMACC estimates the majority of clearance could be completed within three years. Its objectives for the year 2000 include complete clearance of high risk areas.

My department has committed over £7 million to UNMACC's Mine Action Programme for 1999. We are now considering the size and content of a commitment to the programme in 2000.

Serb Yugoslavia:Energy Supplies

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of the level of risks to vulnerable people in Serb Yugoslavia as the result of inadequate heating during the coming winter; and what action they are taking together with others to alleviate distress.[HL4527]

Baroness Amos: Our current assessment is that, although many vulnerable people in Serbia will experience hardship this winter, a major humanitarian crisis is unlikely. According to reports from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, energy shortages are not expected this month. Serbia continues to receive natural gas from Russia, and 40,000 tonnes of oil has reached the country under humanitarian exemptions to the oil embargo applied by the US and the EU. Collective centres for internally displaced people and refugees are receiving energy supplies from non-governmental organisations; other agencies including European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are targeting schools and hospitals. We are monitoring developments closely for their potential impact on the most vulnerable, and will consider carefully targeted funding proposals from reputable agencies based on verifiable assessments.


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their priorities for the United Kingdom in responding to the continuing crisis in Angola with special reference to the United Nations special appeal, the targeted and effective delivery of humanitarian aid, the protection of humanitarian workers, the upholding of human rights, the role of civil society, the work of the United Nations Sanctions Committee and the development of a comprehensive peace plan.[HL4529]

Baroness Amos: Our priority is to secure a lasting peace in Angola. In order to do this UNITA must resume dialogue in good faith with the Government of Angola on the basis of relevant UN Security Council resolutions with a view to the demilitarisation of UNITA and extension of state administration throughout the country. We also have to stop the funds which fuel the war. We fully support the efforts of the UN Angola Sanctions Committee and its expert

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panel in its endeavours. DFID has offered to contribute to the cost of the panel's investigations. Until peace is ensured, our aim is to help ensure that urgent humanitarian needs are met. We have committed about £7.25 million this year to this end. But help cannot be provided unless there is a safe environment for relief workers. We have supported and encouraged UN calls for safe and unrestricted humanitarian access by relief agencies to Angolan civilians. We have also supported calls for both sides in the conflict to ensure full respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

Roma People

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of displaced and refugee Roma people in the Balkans, including Montenegro; and what specific action they are taking to relieve their plight.[HL4531]

Baroness Amos: Information on the numbers of displaced and refugee Roma people in the Balkans is not comprehensive. The situation varies from country to country. According to the Yugoslav Red Cross, there were 11,580 registered Roma refugees on 2 November in Podgorica and Montenegro.

Displaced and refugee Roma groups benefit from humanitarian assistance provided by the UN agencies, to which the UK contributes. During the influx of Kosovar refugees to Albania and Macedonia, we encouraged United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide specific attention to Roma refugees. We are supporting various projects in Kosovo to assist minorities. We are also developing a programme to protect minority groups in the Balkans, in partnership with the Minority Rights Group.

South-east Europe: Reconstruction

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In which projects the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Agency for Reconstruction are involved in south-east Europe (notably in Kosovo, Albania and Bulgaria); and whether they are working on the team.[HL4507]

Baroness Amos: The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are not involved in reconstruction projects in Kosovo at present. The immediate priority is for humanitarian assistance. This is being met by bilateral and multilateral donors, including the European Commission Task Force in Pristina.

The European Agency for Reconstruction will be established when the European Council adopts the regulation that defines its remit. There are no plans at present for it to fund projects beyond Kosovo.

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Co-ordination of the international effort for the reconstruction of Kosovo is carried out by the High Level Steering Group, established by EU leaders at the European Council meeting in Cologne in June. This is taken forward through meetings at official level and through a series of donors conferences, the next of which will be held in Brussels on 17 November.

In Albania, the EIB has invested some 22 million euro for telecommunications and transport projects. The EBRD has invested some 90.7 million euro in support to small and medium sized enterprises, strengthening the financial sector, tourism and infrastructure projects to improve power production, telecommunications and road transport.

In Bulgaria, the EIB has invested some 225 million euro in telecommunications, water management and support to industry. The EBRD has invested some 380 million euro in support of privatisation programmes, support to the banking sector and infrastructure projects to improve the safety of nuclear power stations and to support municipal and environmental services.

AWE, Aldermaston: Safety

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

    Whether the health, safety and environmental standards observed at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston, are satisfactory having regard to the report published in the Observer on 24 October.[HL4389]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Safe operation is of prime importance at the Atomic Weapons Establishment and media claims that AWE had been at risk of a "catastrophic nuclear accident numerous times" in the past year are inaccurate. MoD has staff permanently located at AWE to monitor the safety performance of Hunting BRAE Ltd which manages the site on a government owned, contractor operated basis) who provide quarterly reports on all such issues. These reports have been mostly of very minor incidents.

In addition, both Aldermaston and Burghfield are nuclear licensed sites and are subject to independent regulation by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII). The NII also have full time inspectors based at Aldermaston, who carry out regular inspections of the site and have the power to shut down operations.

None of the incidents reported represented any threat to the general public.

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