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5 Apr 2000 : Column WA133

Written Answers

Wednesday, 5th April 2000.

Anglo-Scottish Ministerial Meetings

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When United Kingdom Ministers last met Ministers of the Scottish Executive; what subjects were discussed; when they will meet again; and with what frequency will such meetings take place.[HL1796]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: Meetings between United Kingdom Ministers and Scottish Executive Ministers take place on a regular and frequent basis to discuss a whole range of issues of common interest and concern.

NHS Trusts: Audit Commission Fees

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Audit Commission fees payable by National Health Trusts for audits during 1999-2000 have been uprated by 4.25 per cent when the general NHS inflation uplift for that year is only 2.5 per cent.[HL1795]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The setting of audit fees is a matter for the Audit Commission itself, which operates independently of Her Majesty's Government. I have asked the Chair of the Commission to write to the noble Baroness with an explanation of the fee increases.

Hotel Registration

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the statement by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 15 March (H.L. Deb., col. 1541) that "First, we want to evaluate the voluntary approach" to hotel registration, (a) how long the evaluation period will last; and (b) what percentage take-up of the scheme will be considered by the Government to be sufficient to avoid the consideration of a statutory scheme for hotel registration.[HL1606]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is most important that we give the voluntary approach to the new quality standards enough time to make an impact. Take-up of the new standards is already approaching 50 per cent and further progress will be reviewed at next year's Tourism Summit. We support efforts by the English Tourism Council, the AA and the RAC to encourage more properties to join. These include the ETC's new "Stepping Stones" initiative, aimed at encouraging

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those establishments which do not currently participate in or meet the minimum national standard.

The new quality standards have made an encouraging start but they are in their infancy. It is too soon to predict what take-up percentage will be sufficient to improve the quality of accommodation to the competitive levels that we consider necessary.

Blind People: TV Licence Fee

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    By what legislative or regulatory procedure they will introduce a half price television licence fee for those people who are registered blind.[HL1689]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: On 31 March, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State issued a determination under Section 2(2) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (as amended), introducing a 50 per cent reduction in the television licence fee for people who are registered blind, with effect from 1 April. Copies of the determination have been placed in the Library of the House.

Irish Republic: Commemorative Celebrations

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 29 February (WA 62), what representation has been made to the Republic of Ireland Government about its annual celebration of the 1916 Rebellion in Dublin.[HL1703]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): None. The annual celebration of 1916 is a matter for the Irish Government.

Chechnya

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they have done to implement the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Istanbul Summit resolution towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Chechnya.[HL1693]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Her Majesty's Government, acting in concert with other Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) participating states, has repeatedly pressed the Russian Government to honour the language in the summit declaration on the conflict in Chechnya. The Russian Government has so far rejected calls to use the good offices of the OSCE to find a political solution to the conflict. However, it recently allowed

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the head of the OSCE Assistance Group to Chechnya to visit the region to assess whether the security conditions would permit the early return of the group. The OSCE Chairman in Office is expected to visit the region later this month.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they regard Maskhadov's government as the only legitimate authority of Chechnya.[HL1694]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We recognise Chechnya as an integral part of the Russian Federation. The UK position is shared by our international partners. President Maskhadov was elected in 1997 in a process recognised as democratic by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Foreign Secretary has met any Chechen officials since the start of the present conflict in Chechnya.[HL1695]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Foreign Secretary has not met any Chechen officials since the start of the present conflict in Chechnya.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to the intentions of the Russian Federation to hold Russian Presidential elections within the territory of Chechnya at the time of war activities within the area.[HL1696]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Russian Presidential elections, held on 26 March, were monitored by observers acting for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). An OSCE mission that visited the region prior to the elections concluded that, given the security situation, normal conditions for voting did not exist in Chechnya. The OSCE did not monitor voting in Chechnya, but preliminary results show a turn-out of 465,000 of those registered to vote in Chechnya--approximately 65 per cent of the electorate, which is close to the national turn-out.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support suspension or even exclusion of Russia from the Council of Europe due to the violation of human rights by the Russian Military in Chechnya.[HL1697]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We expect Russia, like all Council of Europe members, to meet its obligations. The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly passed a recommendation on 27 January calling on Russia to meet several conditions related to human rights in Chechnya. The Assembly will meet on 4-7 April to assess Russian progress towards meeting the conditions. It would be premature to make a judgment on Russian progress before all the evidence is presented.

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Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the face of violation of human rights in Chechnya by the Russian authorities, the principle of territorial integrity should not be applied in the case of Chechnya.[HL1718]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Both my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary have raised allegations of human rights violations in Chechnya at the highest level in Russia. We have urged a full investigation of these allegations. But the Government recognise Chechnya as an integral part of the territory of the Russian Federation. The UK position is shared by our international partners.

FCO Staff Seconded to EU Member States

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many British diplomats are on secondment in the Foreign Ministries of other European Union member states; and what is the normal length of such secondments.[HL1719]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently has one officer in each of the Foreign Ministries of the following EU member states: Portugal, Holland and Germany. These assignments vary in length, but are generally between six months and one year.

EU Member States Officials Seconded to FCO

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many nationals from other European Union member states' Foreign Ministries are working in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; from which countries; and what is the normal length of such secondments.[HL1720]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are three nationals from other European Union member states' Foreign Ministries currently working in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Two are from Germany and one is from France. The normal secondment length is one year.

CFSP Working Groups

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Common Foreign and Security Policy working groups there are.[HL1722]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are twenty-eight.

5 Apr 2000 : Column WA137


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