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European Court of Human Rights: Costs

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The estimated annual expenditure for the European Court of Human Rights was given in euros rather than pounds sterling because the Council of Europe budget is determined in euros. Answers given in the Official Report should of course be as clear as possible to Members of both Houses of Parliament and the British public. The answers should also be as accurate as possible and due to fluctuations in exchange rates it is more accurate to state the estimate of annual expenditure for the European Court of Human Rights in euros rather than in pounds sterling.

EU-Israel Association Agreement: Possible Infringement

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The European Commission is reponsible for enforcing the trade provisions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. They have not informed member states of any verified infringements, nor has Her Majesty's Government received conclusive evidence of infringements from any other source. The UK is currently participating in a Commission-led verification exercise in respect of goods imported from Israel.

Ethiopia/Eritrea Conflict: Displaced Persons

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Precise figures are not available. But there has been some progress. The UNHCR have assisted the return of 25,000 Eritreans from Sudan and estimate that at least 5,000 have returned of their own accord. The Eritrean Government estimate that 600,000 displaced persons have returned home since the fighting stopped. The ICRC, UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations continue to assist the return of displaced persons from both countries.

European Charter of Fundamental Rights

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With respect to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, what are their reasons for not approving incorporation of the Charter in the Treaties of the European Union; and what they consider to be the main differences in practice between a Declaratory Charter and a Treaty Charter. [HL4682]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government believe that incorporation of the charter in the EU treaties is neither necessary nor desirable. It is not necessary because most of the substantive charter articles are based on existing law in the EU treaties or the European Convention on Human Rights. It is not desirable because a text incorporated into the treaties requires legal precision. The charter uses a breadth of language well suited for a political declaration enhancing the visibility of rights, freedoms and principles recognised within the EU.

The differences between a declaratory charter and one incorporated in the treaties would depend on the terms of the incorporation; at present the European Court of Justice is not obliged to have regard to the charter.

UN Information and Communications Advisory Group

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they endorse the appointment of Jose Maria Figueres to the United Nations' Information and Communication Technologies Advisory Group; and what plans they have to assist the ICT Group in its work.[HL4668]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We fully endorse the appointment of Jose Maria Figueres to the United Nations' Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Advisory Group. We believe the UN has an important role to play in addressing ICT issues and the global "digital divide", in co-operation with other international bodies, including the G8 and the Commonwealth. Mr Figueres and other members of the Advisory Group met senior officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the

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Department for International Development on 17 November to discuss their work. The discussions were useful and we remain keen to play an active role in helping the group take its work forward.

Strategic Communications Unit and the European News Grid

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the operations of the Strategic Communications Unit in producing the Eurogrid are consistent with their policy towards freedom of information.[HL4769]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Yes. The operations of the Strategic Communications Unit are in agreement with the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will name the staff of the Strategic Communications Unit responsible for the Eurogrid.[HL4770]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The European News Grid is produced by staff at the FCO, No 10 and Cabinet Office, in consultation with other government departments. It is not our practice to name individual officials.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To whom or to which authority the Strategic Communications Unit is accountable for the operation of the Eurogrid.[HL4771]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Minister for Europe is responsible for the European News Grid.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the annual cost of running the Eurogrid.[HL4772]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There are no specific costs associated with work on the European News Grid, which is compiled as part of normal working practices.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To what extent the Eurogrid contains "lines to take" on potential news stories emanating from the European Union.[HL4773]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The European News Grid does not include "lines to take".

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Treaty Compliance

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether signatories to an international agreement may implement only those parts of the agreement that they select and ignore others.[HL4755]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Under Article 17 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and without prejudice to the provisions of the Vienna Convention concerning reservations, the consent of a state to be bound by part of a treaty is effective only if the treaty so permits or the other contracting states so agree.

The Irish Republic and the Commonwealth

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What their response would be if the Irish Republic were to apply to rejoin the Commonwealth.[HL4756]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Membership is a matter for all Commonwealth members to decide but we welcome expressions of interest in joining the Commonwealth from all suitably qualified countries.

Kosovo

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on the future final status of Kosovo; and whether they would support independence for Kosovo.[HL4733]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: UNSCR 1244 makes it clear that Kosovo is currently part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), but leaves its final status open. It will be up to the representatives of the residents of Kosovo, and the authorities in Belgrade, to agree on final status in due course, with the support of the international community.

US National Missile Defence System: UK Facilities

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether upgrades to radar stations in Yorkshire would be necessary for a United States National Missile Defence System; and, if so, what is their policy towards such upgrades.[HL4735]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I refer the noble Lord to the memorandum on these questions submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee's recent inquiry into Weapons of Mass Destruction. This can be found in the appendices to the committee's report, which was published on 2 August and is also available on the Internet (www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/fachome.htm).

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As the Government have repeatedly made clear, any US request to use facilities in the UK for NMD purposes would be considered carefully in the light of the circumstances in which is was made.


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