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Diamonds and Conflict

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government are at the forefront of international action to break the link between diamonds and conflict. We have placed this issue on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly, where we will seek endorsement for the development of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds in order to deny conflict diamonds access to world markets.

The United Kingdom also inspired and drafted UN Security Council Resolution 1306 (2000), which was adopted on 6 July. This imposed a ban on the import of all rough diamonds from Sierra Leone, with an exemption for rough diamonds controlled through the Government of Sierra Leone's certificate of origin regime. It also provided for an exploratory UN hearing on the role of diamonds in the Sierra Leone conflict, which was held in New York on 31 July-1 August, and for the establishment of a UN expert panel to investigate the link between diamonds and the arms trade. The panel will report to the Security Council in December.

The Government have given strong support to both the Sierra Leone Expert Panel, the UN expert panel looking into the exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the link to conflict there, and the UN Angola Monitoring Mechanism investigating violations of the sanctions against UNITA, including the UN ban on the import of all Angolan diamonds that are not controlled through the Angolan Government's certificate of origin regime.

We look forward to any recommendations these panels may make for further action.

Conflict Prevention and Resolution

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government have established two sub-committees of the Ministerial Committee on Defence and Overseas Policy (DOP). One, chaired by the Secretary of State for International Development, will address the Government's priorities and programmes for conflict prevention in sub-Saharan Africa; the other, chaired by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, will fulfil the same role in relation to the rest of the world.

We are establishing "pooled budgets" for each of these areas, based on the resources government departments currently spend on conflict prevention, plus a contribution from the Treasury. The pools will come into effect at the beginning of the next financial year.

Officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence, Department for International Development and the Treasury are continuing discussions on the joint structures for assessing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating programmes and projects to be funded from the pools.

The pooled budgets will also finance peacekeeping and other operations which will be funded at the time of the Main Estimates each year in accordance with collectively agreed forecasts of expenditure.

These new arrangements should enable the United Kingdom Government to make a more effective contribution to international efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts. We will keep Parliament informed as this initiative develops.

European Defence Co-operation

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are taking any action, and if so what, following the most recent developments on European defence co-operation to ensure that European states which are not members of the European Union or members of NATO are increasingly drawn into effective partnership for European security.[HL4722]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Feira European Council established interim arrangements for consultation and co-operation on the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) with non-EU European NATO members and EU accession candidates. The Nice European Council is expected to agree permanent arrangements for involvement of these countries in ESDP. The EU Presidency will also make initial proposals at Nice for consultation with other prospective partners on EU-led crisis management.

On 21 November 2000, Defence Ministers from the non-EU European NATO members and EU accession candidates met with EU colleagues to offer military capabilities to the pool of forces available for EU-led crisis management operations.

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South Eastern Europe Stability Pact

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest evaluation of the future role to be played by the South Eastern Europe Stability Pact in the Balkans; what interdepartmental machinery they have put in place to maximise the effectiveness of the United Kingdom's co-operation with and support for the pact; and what is the total direct and indirect expenditure by the United Kingdom on such co-operation and support.[HL4723]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Stability Pact agreed at its Regional Table meeting in June to focus on business and investment, the fight against corruption and organised crime, the elimination of ethnic discrimination, security sector reform and support for independent media. Her Majesty's Government support this approach. Next year, we expect the pact to evaluate the progress of the 2.4 billion euro quick start package of measures, announced last March, and produce a strategy for future assistance to the region, for a further regional funding conference as agreed recently by the High Level Steering Group. At the Zagreb Summit in November, countries of the region agreed to submit economic recovery and reform programmes as the basis for such a conference.

A number of departments co-operate closely over UK support for the pact's aims, notably the FCO, DfID, the Cabinet Office, DTI, MoD, the Home Office and HM Treasury. These departments are in regular contact. This arrangement is found to be fully effective.

DfID delivers the major part of the UK's non-military assistance to South East Europe. The department has earmarked £100 million for bilateral technical assistance to the region from 2000-2003. In addition, DfID provides some 18 per cent of European Community aid. At the Zagreb Summit, Community aid worth 4.65 billion euro was announced for Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia over the period 2000-2006 under the Community's new CARDS programme (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Democratisation and Stabilisation).

US National Missile Defence System

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to proposals for a United States National Missile Defence System.[HL4734]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: President Clinton announced on 1 September his decision not to authorise the deployment of such a system at the

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present time. It will now be for his successor to decide how to proceed. We look forward to engaging with the next US Administration on this and related issues in due course.

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they have held with Russia regarding the United States proposals for a National Missile Defence System.[HL4736]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government has had numerous exchanges with Russia on this issue in recent months. Most recently, the Prime Minister discussed it with President Putin in Moscow on 21 November.

Stamp Duty Exemption Areas

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of the country's housing stock they expect to be included in the Stamp Duty exemption areas mentioned in the recent Pre-Budget Report; and when the boundaries of these areas will be announced.[HL4803]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The areas of benefit from the relief have yet to be determined so it is not yet possible to provide the information requested. Further details will be announced in Budget 2001.

UK Tourism Industry and the Euro

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they believe that the British tourism industry and especially small and medium-sized enterprises have prepared actively for the advent of the euro, whose money and coins will be circulating in Britain in 15 months' time, as advised in the publication produced in 1999 by the British Tourism Authority, entitled The Euro and your Business.[HL4790]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I can do no better than refer my noble friend to what I said by way of response to his Unstarred Question on 2 May 2000, at col. 1010.

Share Dealing Costs

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the British tax regime has any part to play in the apparent threefold excess cost of share dealings in the British Stock Exchange, compared with those of the United States and Sweden.[HL4793]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The costs of dealing in the shares of UK-registered companies depend on a variety of factors.

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