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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): European Foreign Ministers agreed at the General Affairs Council on 20 November that the EU arms embargo against Croatia should be lifted with immediate effect.
This is in recognition of Croatia's continuing progress towards implementing her Dayton responsibilities. These include the removal of discriminatory legislation against Croatian Serbs and assistance in war affected areas, the adoption of legislation encouraging refugee return, the establishment of a transparent relationship with the HVO (Bosnian Croat army) in Bosnia and civilian oversight of the Defence Ministry. Croatia joined Partnership for Peace in May 2000 and will soon begin negotiations with the EU on a Stabilization and Association Agreement.
On 20 November the Council of the EU adopted a new Common Position amending 96/184/CFSP so that Croatia is no longer subject to the EU arms embargo against states of the former Yugoslavia. Applications for licences to export defence equipment to Croatia will be considered on a case by case basis against the consolidated EU code of conduct and national arms export licensing criteria.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has confirmed that Judge Lallah, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma, resigned on 2 November. We have not seen his letters of resignation to the High Commissioner and to the Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which are confidential.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Special Court in Sierra Leone is being set up with the co-operation and support of the Government of Sierra Leone and consensus among Security Council members. Similar circumstances do not apply in the case of Burma.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence to export four diaphragm vacuum pumps, controlled under the Dual-Use and Related Goods (Export Control) Regulations, to the World Health Organisation in Iraq under the United Nations Oil for Food Programme. The export of these goods to Iraq has been approved by the UN Sanctions Committee.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Following consultations with this Department and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently issued a licence for the export of Military Listed mine-clearance equipment for use by OMAR International, a UN funded NGO, to aid their demining activities in Afghanistan. This licence was granted for humanitarian purposes and it does not affect the Government's continued support for the EU Common Position on arms exports to Afghanistan.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Over the last six months, military experts of the EU member states, assisted by NATO planners, have carried out a detailed assessment of the forces and capabilities required by the EU to enable it to carry out by 2003 the full range of crisis management ("Petersberg") tasks envisaged in the Headline Goal set at Helsinki. The UK has identified a pool of forces and capabilities which would enable it to make a powerful contribution to such operations in support of the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy, where NATO as a whole is not engaged. UK participation in any particular operation, and the nature of our contribution, would be matters for decision by the UK Government in the light of circumstances at the time.
In the maximum scale operation envisaged at Helsinki--a corps level deployment of up to 60,000 troops--the UK component could be around 12,500 strong. Maritime and air deployments of up to 18 warships and 72 combat aircraft could be made in addition.
The pool provides for an element of choice in order to cater for differing operational, political or geographical circumstances. The full details of the forces identified are confidential, but the major elements are as follows:
Either an Armoured or Mechanised brigade, each of which could be sustained for at least a year; or an Air Assault brigade which would be deployed for up to six months. Combat Support enabling capabilities such as Artillery, and Short Range Air Defence, and Attack Helicopters could be deployed in addition, supported by the appropriate complement of logistic enablers and national support troops.
Maritime forces comprising one aircraft carrier, two nuclear powered submarines, deployment of up to four destroyers/frigates, support vessels; and an amphibious task group, including one helicopter landing platform and an amphibious brigade. The aircraft carrier, helicopter landing platform and submarines could not necessarily be sustained continuously for a whole year.
Up to 72 combat aircraft (including Sea Harriers), with associated support aircraft, including strategic transport. This number would be available for six months to cover initial theatre entry. For a longer-term commitment the total would reduce.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The "sum of sectors" policy, which was agreed by the UK and the US in 1978, covers transatlantic air fares for journeys which include one or more additional domestic sectors. It provides that the total fare must be no lower than the sum of the published fares for all the sectors flown on that journey. The policy was adopted to reduce the advantage that US airlines enjoy as a result of the exclusion of UK carriers from the US domestic market. Such an advantage, if it had been allowed to persist, could have resulted in even more passengers connecting at US gateways being channelled onto US carriers for the transatlantic sector.
In October, British Midland sought to offer promotional fares from UK regional points to the US via Manchester, which breached the sum of sectors policy. These fares were automatically disallowed by the CAA. However, following advice from the CAA, we decided that the operation of this 22 year-old policy needed to be reassessed. In particular, we wished to be satisfied that the right balance existed between the need to protect UK carriers from unfair competition and the need to promote healthy competition which would bring benefits to consumers and to the regions.
We have concluded that the policy should no longer be applied to transatlantic journeys serving UK regional points. Such a change of policy would mean that journeys from a range of "behind" points to points in the US via regional UK gateways would no longer need to cost the sum of the fares of the two individual sectors. The effect will be to encourage keener competition on transatlantic routes to and from UK regional points, with the prospect of lower transatlantic fares and commensurate benefits for the regions.
In arriving at this conclusion, we have had regard to the advice of the CAA, the industry and those honourable Members who have written to us on the subject. Whereas we recognise that there is no consensus, we are satisfied that the consumer benefits are sufficient to warrant this change in policy.
Given the potential consumer benefits and the even-handed application of the policy as between UK and US carriers, and while the US is considering our proposal, we have asked the CAA not to intervene on tariff filings by carriers of either side for services to UK regional points if they contravene the "sum of sectors" policy.
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