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9 Nov 2000 : Column WA165

Written Answers

Thursday, 9th November 2000.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Expenditure and Running Costs Limits

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any proposals to amend the Foreign and Commonwealth Office departmental expenditure limit and running costs limit for 2000-01.[HL4570]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate for Class VII Vote I, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2000-2001 will be increased by £96,723,000 from £1,113,610,000 to £1,210,333,000 and the running cost limit will be increased by £17,989,000 from £513,993,000 to £531,982,000. The increase is the net effect of:

    (i) additional provision of £73,935,000 on Section B for UK contributions to United Nations Missions in the former Yugoslavia (includes UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo) and the former Soviet Union, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Iraq), the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum on Western Sahara, the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Community Monitoring Mission and Western European Union Police Mission in Albania.

    (ii) take-up of end year flexibility of £16,264,000 for running costs and £4,799,000 for capital expenditure;

    (iii) a sucessful bid of £1,725,000 against the Capital Modernisation Fund approved by the Chief Secretary.

European Court of Human Rights

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

    What is the annual expenditure of the European Court of Human Rights.[HL4347]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The estimated annual expenditure of the European Court of Human Rights in 2000 is euro 23,082,900.

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

    What is the current case-load of the European Court of Human Rights, having regard to all registered applications.[HL4348]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: On 1 September 2000, the European Court of Human Rights had a total of 15,107 registered applications pending.

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

    Whether the budgeted expenditure for the European Court of Human Rights is sufficient to enable the Court to determine cases within a reasonable time.[HL4349]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government recognises that, despite a recent increase in the Court's output, there is an imbalance between the number of applications registered and the number of cases determined by the Court. The Government are looking at ways of helping the Court to alleviate the situation in the short term, within the constraints of our overall policy on the Council of Europe budget. The Government are also following closely the Court's consideration of long-term solutions, including changes to procedures, and participate in the Court's consultations with member states of the Council of Europe.

British Tourists in the EU: Safety

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report on the work of United Kingdom consular officials, what action they can take to reduce the number of fatal accidents to British tourists in Spain and other European Union member states.[HL4411]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We take every opportunity to warn British travellers of the possible dangers they might encounter overseas through regular liaison with travel and tourist organisations and wide distribution of consular publications and travel advice notices. Where possible, we also alert foreign local authorities to potential dangers.

Indonesia: Ministerial Visit

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What matters were discussed by the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr John Battle, during his visit to Jakarta in October; and what agreements were reached with the Indonesian authorities.[HL4404]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As Minister of State responsible for Indonesia in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, John Battle visited Jakarta and Sulawesi from 23-25 October.

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In Jakarta he called on President Wahid, Foreign Minister Shihab and Co-ordinating Minister for Politics and Security Yudhoyono, and the Indonesian Human Rights Commission (Komnasham). Among the topics discussed were West Timor, decentralisation, negotiations between the Irianese and the Indonesian Government on greater autonomy, the humanitarian pause in Aceh and Indonesian efforts to control intercommunal violence in Maluku. This was John Battle's third visit to Indonesia and helped deepen our understanding of Indonesian reform efforts. However no new agreements were reached.

Eritrea/Ethiopia Conflict: Algiers Talks

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have received from the Ethiopian Government about the reasons for its withdrawal from the proximity talks on proposals by President Abdulaziz Buouteflika of Algeria for the delimitation and demarcation of the boundary between Ethiopia and Eritrea, compensation and investigation of the origins of the conflict.[HL4480]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin, has blamed "the intransigent behaviour of the Eritrean Government" for failing to move the peace process forward, and accused the Eritreans of proposing unacceptable conditions in the Algiers talks.

Sierra Leone: War Crimes Special Court

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the terms of reference for the United Nations Special Tribunal on war crimes in Sierra Leone have yet been determined.[HL4510]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The details of the proposed Special Court for Sierra Leone are still under discussion at the United Nations.

European Charter of Fundamental Rights

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answer by the Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale on 26 October on closer political integration with the European Union (H.L. Deb., col. 480), what mechanism they will use to stop any attempt by any institution of the European Community, including the European Court of Justice, to make the Charter of Fundamental Rights or any provisions contained in it legally binding on and enforceable in the United Kingdom.[HL4493]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: In June 1999 the Conclusions of the Cologne European Council called for a Charter of Fundamental Rights to be drawn up

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to make those rights more visible. It was agreed that the charter would be drafted by a body called the Convention, consisting of 15 member states' representatives, 16 MEPs, 30 national parliamentarians and one Commissioner.

The Convention met regularly from December 1999 to October 2000. It circulated a final draft on 2 October. This was discussed by Heads of Government at the Biarritz Informal Council on 13-14 October. They agreed that the charter should be proclaimed as a political declaration at the Nice European Council in December. Copies of the charter text have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Government strongly support the charter. People need to know their rights and the EU institutions need to respect them. The charter will help on both counts. It sets out fundamental rights and principles that the EU institutions should respect when going about their daily business, and it promotes the visibility and accessibility of those rights.

The charter is not legally binding. It is addressed to the EU institutions, and to member states only when they are implementing Union law (Article 51(1)). It does not establish any new power or task for the Community or the Union or modify powers and tasks defined by the Treaties (Article 51(2)). It does not create any new powers for the ECJ. In deciding how to interpret fundamental rights, the ECJ is now, and will remain, free to have regard to relevant material. That may include the charter.

Individual charter articles should be read in the context of the declaration as a whole, including the horizontal provisions. The meaning and scope of articles derived from the European Convention on Human Rights shall be the same as that in the corresponding ECHR articles (Article 52(3)). Charter articles based on EC/EU Treaty rights shall be exercised under the conditions and within the limits defined by those Treaties (Article 52(2)). Other articles make clear that the rights they concern are given effect only to the extent that they have effect in national laws and practices.

The Government believe the charter will be good for Britain and good for Europe. Its successful negotiation is a vindication of our policy of positive engagement with our European partners. The charter cannot become legally binding unless all member states agree. We have made our opposition clear.

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