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Portable Humanitarian Mine Detector Development

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency has considerable expertise in mine detection. We are investigating options for funding research and development of a low cost portable humanitarian mine detector, including the possibility of funding from the central Capital Modernisation Fund, as part of our drive to exploit the use of defence resources for wider public benefit. We expect to make a decision shortly.

Kosovo: Postal Service

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: The postal service to Kosovo has not yet been fully restored. UNMIK are hoping that it will be restored in the near future.

UNMIK: Salaries and Expenses

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: The salary levels and expenses of UNMIK staff are set in accordance with established UN methodology, at levels required to attract suitably qualified staff. UN salary rates are set by the International Civil Service Commission and are endorsed by the General Assembly.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Electoral Law

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the proposals from the Balkan Action Council of Washington DC, dated 22 December 1999, for improving the electoral law of Bosnia-Herzegovina.[HL1301]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: We fully support the efforts of the Office of the High Representative and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to produce an election law which furthers the cause of democratic electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), within the limits of the BiH constitution. The revised draft law (presented to the BiH Parliamentary Assembly 25 January), which the UK supports, addresses some of the Balkan Action Council's concerns. We continue to urge the parties in the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH to pass the revised election law.

Albanian Prisoners in Serbia

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations on behalf of up to 2,000 Albanians, including Dr Flora Brovina and Mr Albin Kurti, currently held in Serbian prisons, many without charge; and in particular whether they will seek access for the International Committee of the Red Cross.[HL1302]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: The UK does not have diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) so is unable to make effective representations to the FRY authorities on behalf of the Albanian prisoners (believed to be some 1,540) held in Serbia. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as an impartial body, has access to the Kosovar prisoners. Through its contacts with the authorities, the ICRC is making strenuous efforts to ensure that those facing prosecution benefit from the legal safeguards laid down in international law. We strongly support their important role in this matter. The UN representative in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner, has frequently made public calls for the release of the Albanian prisoners in Serbia.

ABM Treaty: US/Russian Discussions

Lord Jenkins, of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they share the reported doubts of other NATO countries as to the legality of the proposed United States National Missile Defence system.[HL1310]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: The reported doubts to which my noble friend refers have been raised in relation to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The interpretation of that treaty is a matter for the parties

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to it. The United Kingdom is not a party to that treaty, but we hope that the discussions now in progress between the United States and Russia will ultimately reach a successful conclusion.

Burma: Genocide Charges

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are giving consideration, under Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to the institution of genocide charges against the Burmese military leadership.[HL1332]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: We are deeply concerned about human rights violations in Burma and are at the forefront of international action to press the military regime to improve the situation. But no international criminal tribunal exists at present which has competence to hear genocide charges against the Burmese military leadership. It is because of the need to end impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide wherever they occur that the UK strongly supports the establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court.


Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the staff complement at the British Embassy in Sudan is up to the number and rank that it was prior to the withdrawal of Embassy personnel following the American missile attack on the al-Shifa medicine factory in August 1998.[HL1372]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: We now have a fully operational Embasssy in Khartoum, back to the complement we had in August 1998. It is active, not least, in promoting peace in the Sudan.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide details of the dialogue between the European Union and Sudan, the basis for this interaction, dates and details of any meetings that have taken place as part of this dialogue, and the results to date of this process.[HL1375]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: The EU/Sudan Dialogue was resumed on 10 November 1999. Further meetings took place on 16 January and 30 January with EU Heads of Missions.

The objective of the dialogue is to promote a constructive debate on issues of concern to the EU, including peace, human rights and regional stability.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of the November 1999 political and peace agreement signed between Sadiq

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    al-Mahdi's Umma party and the government of Sudan.[HL1340]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: We welcome any agreement that helps progress towards a comprehensive peace settlement in the Sudan. We hope that this agreement will do that. Only a comprehensive peace settlement will allow the Sudanese to rebuild their lives. We encourage all parties to the conflict there to work towards that end.

Sudan/Eritrea/Uganda Agreements

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of the friendship and co-operation agreements recently reached between Sudan, Eritrea and Uganda; and what they are doing to support these agreements.[HL1341]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: We have welcomed the agreements reached by Sudan with Eritrea and Uganda which have the potential to improve significantly regional stability. The key to their success will be their implementation. We shall do what we can to encourage full implementation.

Gambling Review Body

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to announce the membership of the Gambling Review Body.[HL1505]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): Further to the reply my right honourable friend the Home Secretary gave in another place (House of Commons Official Report, col. 537W on 16 February), my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr O'Brien) appointed on 10 March the following people to be members of the Gambling Review Body:

    Mr David Bishop

    Mr Mihir Bose

    Professor Jeffrey Gray

    Mr Peter Dean CBE

    Sir John Hoddinott QPM

    Mr Anthony Mackintosh

    Ms Phillipa Marks

    Ms Sara Nathan

    Ms Anesta Weekes QC

    Mr Jonathan Wolff

Between them, the members will bring a wealth of experience in many areas relevant to the review, such as business, law, economics, psychology, accountancy and law enforcement.

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Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will wind up the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.[HL1506]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Under the original criminal injuries compensation scheme established in August 1964, compensation was assessed by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) on the basis of common law damages. That scheme was superseded from 1 April 1996 by a tariff-based scheme administered by two new bodies, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel (CICAP). The board was then left with the residual task of dealing with all outstanding claims lodged before 1 April 1996. There were some 110,000 such cases.

By the end of the current financial year, the board will have resolved over 100,000 of those cases and its work will largely be done. The board will accordingly be wound up on 31 March 2000. Any residual old scheme cases still outstanding at that time will be transferred for resolution by legally qualified members of CICAP in accordance with the transitional provisions of the 1996 scheme. Present estimates are that around 6,000 cases will be transferred. The panel will be set the target of clearing them within two years. The panel is being strengthened considerably to ensure that it can cope with this additional workload without prejudicing its capacity to deal with appeals made under the 1996 scheme.

I am sure that Ministers in previous administrations would wish to join me in extending a sincere vote of thanks to all board members, past and present, for the care and dedication with which they have dealt with claims over the past 35 years.

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