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Albania: UN Weapons Collection Programme

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Weapons Collection Pilot Programme for Albania was set up in Gramsh in February 1999. The project is a success and it has been extended to two more districts, Elbasan and Diber. Over 9,500 weapons and 182 tons of ammunition have been collected, of which about half the weapons have been destroyed already.

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The programme also has other important additional benefits: it has helped to reinforce the rule of law and role of the police, fostered greater community dialogue and co-operation, reduced crime rates, and encouraged a significant handover of surplus and privately held ammunition.

DFID has provided over £1.365 million so far, this includes £610,000 through UNDP for the development aspects of the programme and funding two technical specialists to verify safety standards. We will complete our technical support in mid 2001. Other donors include the United States, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Women

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to ensure that plans, whether bilateral or multilateral, to reduce worldwide poverty include prevention of trafficking in women and sexual abuse of young people, whenever this is appropriate.[HL4786]

Baroness Amos: Through our programmes to promote sustainable development and poverty elimination DFID is helping to reduce the circumstances which give rise to trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children. This is an international problem which requires co-ordinated international action. DFID is supporting national governments and international bodies in such efforts.

In the Greater Mekong Sub-region we are supporting the International Labour Organisation's project to reduce trafficking of women and children in Loas, Thailand, China (Yunnan), Cambodia and Vietnam. In the Balkans we are working with the International Organisation for Migration to train agencies dealing with trafficking, such as police, social workers and the legal profession. We hope to create models of best practice which can be adopted elsewhere.

European Union Development Policy

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they will ensure that poverty reduction becomes the main focus of the European Union's development policy.[HL4805]

Baroness Amos: On 10 November European Union Development Ministers agreed a new development policy which states that poverty reduction--and its eventual eradication--is the overarching objective of the European Community's development policy in all developing countries. The Commission has prepared a programme of action for implementation of the new development policy which contains key actions required to translate this objective into results on the ground. The Secretary of State for International

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Development and her European Union colleagues will monitor progress against the programme of action at the bi-annual Councils of European Development Ministers. This is a major step forward for the EC's development policy.

European Development Assistance

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the average interval between commitment and disbursal of European development assistance; and how this compares with practice in the United Kingdom.[HL4806]

Baroness Amos: According to European Commission figures, the average interval between commitment and disbursal of European development assistance in calendar years 1995 to 1999 was four and a half years. Comparable figures for the UK are not available without disproportionate cost. As an indication of practice in the UK, in financial years 1997 to 1999 funds were disbursed within a year of commitment for 83 per cent of projects.

Bailiff Law

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have had from the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust in regard to the execution of warrants against vulnerable people; and what action they are taking.[HL4711]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The Zacchaeus 2000 Trust has contributed to Professor Beatson's Review of Bailiff Law, published in July 2000. I am grateful to all who contributed to this independent review and I am currently considering Professor Beatson's recommendations.

In addition, on 23 October the trust responded to proposals for secondary legislation that will transfer responsibility for warrant execution from the police to magistrates' courts committees. The trust's recommendations go far wider than the draft regulations in question, and I shall therefore want to consider them, where possible, in the broader context of the review of enforcement of civil court judgments which my department is currently undertaking.

Takeovers Directive: European Parliament Reaction

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the report in the Financial Times of 22 November headlined "Euro MPs threaten to stymie hostile takeovers" is accurate; and, if so, whether they can resist the European Parliament's proposals in the Council of Ministers.[HL4810]

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The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The common position on the Takeovers Directive adopted by the Council of Ministers in June this year is being considered by the European Parliament under the co-decision procedure. Under this procedure the Parliament, acting by an absolute majority of its members, may propose amendments to the common position. It is expected to vote on possible amendments at its plenary session beginning on 11 December. At this stage, it is not clear whether the Parliament will vote in favour of any proposed amendments to the common position. If it does so, it is not clear what those proposed amendments might be. Under the co-decision procedure the Parliament cannot unilaterally make amendments to the text of a draft directive--they must be agreed by the Council. If the Council does not agree amendments proposed by the Parliament, a conciliation procedure between the Parliament and Council begins with a view to reaching agreement on the text. The Government, in consultation with the Takeover Panel, and together with the other member states, will consider any suggested changes to the text of the common position arising from this process, in order to reach a mutually acceptable outcome.

Miners' Compensation

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the cost to date of the operation of the scheme of compensation of miners or former miners suffering from bronchitis and emphysema, excluding any payments to applicants.[HL4808]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Costs, including the amount paid to solicitors, are £31.6 million.

Late Payments: Research Findings

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the working of the Late Payments of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998, which sought to tackle small and medium-sized enterprises being paid late, especially by big firms and institutions, is satisfactory.[HL4794]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Since its introduction in November 1998, we have consistently monitored the effect of the Act on payment times in the UK. We recognise that we are still at an early stage and the UK still has some way to go before we meet the example set by countries such as Sweden and Denmark but we welcome the findings from recent research.

Research undertaken by the Credit Management Research Centre in October 1998, prior to the introduction of the legislation, reported that 45 per cent of customers were paying at or near the due date without being reminded. A more recent survey published in July 2000 shows that this figure has now

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risen to 60 per cent, identifying a reduction in the number of late payers in the UK since the introduction of the legislation.

In addition, recent research published in the Grant Thornton European Business Survey confirms that the average payment period for sales invoices in the UK now stands at 45 days against an EU average of 54 days, identifying a continuing downward trend in UK payment times in recent years.

European Security and Defence: Access to NATO Assets

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any British troops committed to action under the proposed European Defence Force would have available the support and protection of those electronic intelligence and surveillance capabilities of the United States which would be made available to NATO under similar conditions.[HL4766]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): At the Washington Summit in April 1999, NATO Heads of State and Governments welcomed the impetus being given to the strengthening of a common European policy in security and defence. They announced that they stood ready to develop arrangements to provide the EU with ready access to the collective assets and capabilities of the Alliance for operations in which the Alliance as a whole is not militarily engaged. Work is in hand to develop these arrangements.

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