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EU: Bilateral Relationship with Austria

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The President of the European Commission issued a statement on Austria on 1 February in support of the Portuguese Presidency statement of 31 January which served to limit the bilateral political relationship with Austria. The Portuguese statement was issued after consultations between the Portuguese Prime Minister and Heads of Government of the 13 other EU member states.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will impose sanctions similar to those they have imposed on Austria against any country whose leader or leaders have expressed sympathy, support or understanding for the national socialist or communist regimes in the former Soviet Union, in China, or in Cuba; and, if not, why not.[HL1955]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have not imposed sanctions on Austria. The measures implemented by us and our 13 other EU partners serve to limit our bilateral political relationship, as a signal of our concern over the inclusion of a far right party in the new Austrian Government. Austria's history makes this an especially serious cause for concern at this time.

Min Ko Naing

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they know the whereabouts and health of Min Ko Naing, the Burmese pro-democracy activist.[HL1884]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Our Embassy in Rangoon has obtained confirmation that Min Ko Naing is in Sittwe prison. He is said to be in reasonable health, is allowed outside exercise and regular family visits. He is one of an estimated 1,500 political prisoners in Burma. We take every opportunity to press for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience--for example, through ambassadorial representations in Rangoon and United Nations resolutions.

Zimbabwe

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received information from the British High Commission in Zimbabwe on the alleged role of the ruling Zanu-PF party in Zimbabwe in a campaign of violence, intimidation and lawlessness in that country.[HL1895]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We receive regular reports about developments in Zimbabwe from our High Commission at Harare. We are deeply concerned at the violence accompanying occupations of farms and have urged the Zimbabwe authorities to ensure that law and order is maintained.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reviewed the possibility of President Mugabe declaring a State of Emergency in Zimbabwe; and, if a military coup with popular backing and a clearly defined timetable for new elections should be announced, whether they would then consider there to be sufficient grounds to call for the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth.[HL1896]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: President Mugabe has assured us that the elections in Zimbabwe will be held on time.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received reports that, following the compulsory purchase of land from white farmers in Zimbabwe, government ministers, members of the judiciary and members of the armed forces have received farms from the state.[HL1905]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Yes.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received reports that public servants and members of the armed forces have taken advantage of the Ordinary Tenant Farmer Scheme as "ordinary tenants" in Zimbabwe; and whether land reform there was initiated as a policy to help the poor.(HL1906)

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Yes, we have received such reports. We will only consider supporting land reform when it generally helps the poor.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Zimbabwe Government's farm policy undermines the Commonwealth's fundamental political values.(HL1908)

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It does not undermine Commonwealth values. But we are deeply concerned about the current farm invasions and their implications for law and order, stability and economic development.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they share the concern expressed by Human Rights Watch over the recent crackdown on press freedom in Zimbabwe.(HL1909)

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are concerned about any threats to the freedom of the press or expression, wherever they occur, and we make our views known.

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Zimbabwe and DRC: Defence Equipment

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the sale of spare parts for Hawk aircraft in use in Africa from the Congo to Zimbabwe is consistent with the ethical dimension of their foreign policy and with the statement by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr Hain, at Wilton Park on 13 September 1999 that Britain must not supply defence material where this could start, sustain or stoke internal or external oppression.[HL1898]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government's policy on licence applications to export defence equipment to Zimbabwe and other countries intervening in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is set out in the statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 9 February 2000, Official Report, cols. 184-185W.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have about the causes and possible consequences of the attempted assassination and wounding of Mr Arkady Ghukasian, the elected president of Nagorno-Karabakh, on 22 March.[HL1921]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Samvel Babayan, a political rival of Arkady Ghukasian, has been arrested along with his brother and at least 28 other individuals on the instructions of the "Public Prosecutor" of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, in connection with the assassination attempt on Ghukasian. It is too early to say what effect, if any, the assassination attempt will have on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. But the situation inside Nagorno-Karabakh appears to be calm for the present.

Yugoslavia: Financial Sanctions

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made to the implementation of European Union financial sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[HL2079]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: EC Regulation 723/2000 amending EC Regulation 1294/1999 concerning a freeze on funds and a ban on investment in relation to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was adopted by the Council of the EU on 6 April. The regulation, which enhances the implementation of the existing financial sanctions against the FRY, came into force on 8 April. Among other changes, it clarifies the scope of the freeze of funds by tightening the definition of "the Government of the FRY" and "the Government of the Republic of Serbia".

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Community Safety and Partnership: Report

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the recommendations of the report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary on Community Safety and Partnership.[HL2153]

Lord Bach: Yes. I have today placed in the Library a note of the recommendations from the report, together with the Commissioner's responses and the police authority responses, which take into account the advice my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton) have received from the Metropolitan Police Committee.

Commission for Racial Equality

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce further appointments to the Commission for Racial Equality.[HL2154]

Lord Bach: My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, Mr O'Brien, is pleased to announce that he has appointed Beverley Bernard as Deputy Chair for the Commission for Racial Equality. The appointment is initially for three years on a part-time basis.

BSE: Progress Report

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make publicly available the latest progress report prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on bovine spongiform encephalopathy. (HL2081)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): A further Progress Report on BSE in Great Britain was placed in the Library of the House.

The report outlines the measures which have been taken to protect public health since June 1999, including legislation to establish the Food Standards Agency and to lift the retail ban on beef on the bone and beef bones. It summarises the results of action to enforce existing public health measures. An update on the number of cases of vCJD is included.

There is also a section on the protection of animal health which covers controls on animal feed.

The epidemiology section shows that the epidemic of BSE in the UK continues to decline. The number of clinically suspect cases of BSE reported in Great Britain has continued to fall and for the year to 31 December 1999 was 26.3 per cent less than for the same period in 1998, and 46.2 per cent less than for the

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same period in 1997. A continued improvement is expected for the future. The report shows that 63 per cent of UK herds with adults breeding cattle have never had a case of BSE, including 84 per cent of beef suckler herds. Reported incidence also shows that herds with more than four cases of BSE account for three-quarters of all BSE cases, but represent less than one-eighth of all herds.

The section on the European perspective reports the first exports of UK beef produced under the Date-based Export Scheme, which started in August 1999. It also covers the Commission's latest proposal for regulation to control and prevent animal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.


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