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Israeli/Palestinian Peace Negotiations

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We believe strongly that Israelis and Palestinians want peace, and that they recognise that a negotiated settlement is the only means of achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. The Government continue to urge Israeli and Palestinian representatives to put in place measures to end the violence and to return to the negotiating table. Britain will remain actively engaged, doing all it can to help both parties achieve these aims.

Kuwaiti Prisoners of War in Iraq

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Her Majesty's Government are extremely concerned that the whereabouts of the 605 Kuwaitis and other nationals missing since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait remains unknown. The UK plays an active role in the Tripartite Commission process, chaired by the

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International Committee of the Red Cross, which seeks to resolve these cases. That process has, however, been hampered by continued Iraqi obstruction. Iraq currently refuses to attend commission meetings. At a consultation meeting of the other commission members on 31 October, the UK called on Iraq to return to the process and restated our commitment to support the commission's work. We have also discussed this issue with the Foreign Minister of Kuwait, and others, over recent weeks.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Atrocities

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of atrocities in the Congo in the last two years; whether the level and nature of these atrocities constitute genocide or crimes against humanity; and what initiatives they have taken to raise the situation in the Congo at an international level.[HL4752]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We strongly condemn all acts of violence committed by both sides in the conflict in DRC. We regularly raise these issues with all parties and in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1291 have urged an international investigation into all such events with a view to bringing all those responsible to justice.

Sudan: Human Rights

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have to suggest that the policy of critical engagement with Sudan has improved Sudan's human rights record.[HL4826]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have many human rights concerns in Sudan and our policy of critical engagement with the Sudanese Government has put us in a far better position to pursue these. We have seen some improvement in their record. For example, over 300 abductees have been returned since the setting up of the Committee for the Eradication of Abductions of Women and Children last year. Our Ambassador regularly attends the committee's meetings to urge further progress. The Sudanese are also now allowing greater numbers of visits by monitors such as UN Special Rapporteurs, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They have also agreed to review the "Public Order" law and continue the process of legal reform. Nevertheless, we continue to have serious concerns at continued human rights violations.

Our Embassy in Khartoum has regularly lobbied the Government of Sudan at ministrial level on human rights concerns and will continue to do so.

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River Danube: Clearance

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific assistance they propose to offer the new government of Serbia in the clearing of the Danube following the restoration of diplomatic ties between Yugoslavia and the United Kingdom.[HL4732]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The UK fully supports the European Union's decision to fund 85 per cent of the Danube Commission project to clear the river Danube at Novi Sad. This project is now at the stage of tendering. In recognition of humanitarian need and following a needs assessment visit by the Department for Trade and Industry, the UK will also be meeting the costs of laying a replacement water pipeline across the new, permanent road bridge at Novi Sad.

Human Rights: Measurement Criteria

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific criteria they use to measure human rights improvements in a country.[HL4827]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Our policy is to promote British interests and pursue British values by supporting democracy and human rights, wherever we can, however we can. That means responding to human rights challenges in the way most likely to help the people whose freedoms are being restricted. In assessing the human rights situation in a country, we weigh information available from a wide range of sources, such as governments, NGOs and international bodies, against factors such as relevant international standards and the policies of the government in the country concerned.

UN/China Technical Co-operation Agreement: Human Rights

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the agreement on technical co-operation with the Chinese Government signed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, on 20 November commits China to any specific improvements in its human rights practices.[HL4828]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The MOU signed on 20 November in Beijing by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Wang Guangya, and Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, commits the Chinese Government to implement a programme of technical co-operation which will cover specific areas including rule of law, human rights education, and progress towards the ratification of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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UK Veto and the European Commission

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the categories of policy where Britain's veto may be suspended by the European Commission by the Treaty of Nice.[HL4650]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I will write to the noble Lord shortly and place a copy of the letter in the Libraries of the House.

EU Single Market Issues: Use of Veto

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many times the veto has been used by the European Union member states, including the United Kingdom, on single market issues in the last 10 years; and by which member states.[HL4791]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Council Secretariat does not hold figures on the number of times member states have used the veto on single market issues, and the figures sought could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

However, few single market measures are now subject to unanimity, and the threat of the veto in this area is rare.

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to counter the use by other European Union member states of the national veto on single market legislation when the effect is to handicap British firms in the single European market.[HL4792]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Most single market legislation is subject to qualified majority voting rather than unanimity. We support this, since QMV helps prevent other countries from blocking single market measures which benefit UK businesses.

The use of the veto on legislation relating to the single market is rare.

Specified Risk Materials (Amendment) Regulations 2000

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Specified Risk Materials (Amendment) Regulations 2000 will have the effect of weakening, from 1 October, the previous controls on specified risk materials; and, if so, whether European Union rules do not permit the United Kingdom to do otherwise; whether the French authorities will offer a greater level of protection; and whether the Government will review the regulations.[HL4738]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I will write to the noble Lord.

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NHS Powered Wheelchairs and Vouchers

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have had from the Mobility Trust on the provision of National Health Service powered wheelchairs and vouchers; what reply they are sending; and what action they are taking.[HL4712]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Mobility Trust has written asking about the provision of NHS powered wheelchairs and vouchers and its letter is currently receiving attention. Our reply will include information about the £14 million recurring funding, made available from April 2000, for powered wheelchairs and voucher schemes. This funding is now free of distinctions in what should be spent on either scheme. Health authorities have been advised to consult with service users and take a flexible approach to ensuring that this money meets local needs and priorities in wheelchair services.

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