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Written Answers

Monday, 29th November 1999.

OSCE Summit, 18-19 November

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Summit in Istanbul.[HL65]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary represented the United Kingdom at the summit meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe on 18-19 November in Istanbul. The meeting agreed a Charter for European Security, an adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, and a revised Vienna Document on confidence and security building measures. Copies of these documents and the Summit Declaration will be placed in the Library of the House.

The Charter for European Security sets out principles for future security co-operation in Europe and improves the operational capabilities of the organisation, particularly in response to crises. It also reinforces the immediate and legitimate interest of all participating states in the implementation of their commitments undertaken within the organisation.

The summit welcomed the signature of an adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. The adapted treaty will provide a greater degree of military stability through strict limitations, increased transparency and lower permitted levels for conventional forces in its area of application. My right honourable friend made it clear that UK ratification would depend on the level of compliance of all states within the agreed limits.

The revised Vienna Document incorporates various decisions taken since 1994. The Forum for Security Co-operation also agreed to study the contribution that the organisation might make to the international effort to curb the spread of small arms and light weapons.

The situation in Chechnya was a key concern at the summit. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the issue intensively in a range of meetings with other Ministers, including the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation. The Russian delegation eventually accepted a passage in the summit declaration saying that a political solution to the situation in Chechnya was essential and that the assistance of the organisation would contribute to achieving that goal. The declaration also welcomed the agreement of the Russian Federation to a visit by the Chairman in Office to the region and reaffirmed the existing mandate of the Organisation's Assistance Group to Chechnya.

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The summit also welcomed the separate bilateral agreements between the Russian Federation and the Republics of Georgia and Moldova under which all Russian forces will withdraw from Moldova by the end of 2002 and two of the four Russian bases in Georgia will be closed by 1 July 2001.

The summit declaration draws attention to the organisation's important role in early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in its area, including particularly the work of the High Commissioner on National Minorities and the organisation's missions in the field. The declaration confirms that the organisation will continue to play an important part in the consolidation of peace in Kosovo.

Austria will assume the Chairmanship-in-Office of the organisation in year 2000. The summit agreed that Romania would succeed Austria in year 2001.

River Danube and Black Sea: Toxic Wastes

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessments they, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe have received concerning toxic wastes and other pollutants in the Danube and their impact on the Black Sea.[HL3]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have received an assessment from the joint UN Environmental Programme and UN Centre for Human Settlements Balkans Task Force on the pollution of the Danube and its impact on the Black Sea. The European Commission also commissioned a report on the same issue from the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe. The OSCE has not requested any separate assessment and we are not aware of any activity by the Council of Europe in this field.

Turkey: Human Rights Violations

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will discuss the following matters with the Government of Turkey in its capacity as a NATO member and European Union applicant:

    (a) the killing by soldiers of 12 prisoners in Ulncanlar Prison, Ankara, on 26 September;

    (b) the killing in Adana of Mr Murat Bektas and Mr Erdinc Aslan and the wounding of Mr Mustafa Koklu, by police on 5 October;

    (c) the sentences imposed on defendants aged 15 to 18, in early November by Adana State Security Court, ranging up to 16 2/3 years of imprisonment; and whether they will ask what rights of appeal these young people have.[HL5]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The British Embassy in Ankara has been following these cases closely.

I can confirm that it will be raising the deaths of

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10 prisoners in Ulncanlar Prison in September and the deaths of Mr Bektas and Mr Aslan with the Turkish Government. I assume that the noble Lord is referring to the two teenage girls in Iskenderun. The Embassy will also be raising this case.

In our discussions with the Turkish Government, we regularly raise the issue of human rights. We also advise that Turkey's application for EU membership will be judged against the criteria agreed at the Copenhagen summit in 1993, including full respect for human rights. We continue to give prominence to human rights both in our bilateral relationship with Turkey and in contacts with our EU partners.

Hereditary Peers: Computer Equipment

Lord Marlesford asked the Chairman of Committees:

    How he has determined the price at which departing hereditary Peers have been offered the opportunity to buy computer equipment on loan from the Computer Office; and what he intends to do with those computers which are handed back to the Computer Office.[HL88]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The arrangements for sale of equipment to departing hereditary Peers were agreed by the Library and Computers Sub-Committee.

Any equipment returned by departing hereditary Peers will be re-used or disposed of depending on its age and condition.

Policing in 2000-01: Objectives

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What objectives they will be determining for policing in 2000-2001.[HL143]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Police Act 1996 allows my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to set objectives, or Ministerial Priorities, for policing. The objectives for 2000-2001 will be:

    To reduce local problems of crime and disorder in partnership with local authorities, other local agencies and the public; and

    To increase trust and confidence in policing amongst minority ethnic communities.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has reduced the number of Priorities from four to two. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary believes this helps to focus attention on two key areas of policing--reducing crime and rising to the challenges of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report.

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Flood and Coastal Defence

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in producing high level targets for improving flood and coastal defence operating authorities.[HL66]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): On 22 November my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary (Mr Morley) announced a publication of more comprehensive targets for flood and coastal defence operating authorities and a further elaboration of the Environment Agency's supervisory duty. We have placed a copy in the Library of the House.

The targets are designed to assist in developing a seamless and integrated service of flood forecasting, warning and response as well as a more certain delivery of government policy towards flood and coastal defence. They follow recommendations, which the Government accepted, in last year's Agriculture Select Committee report on flood and coastal defence and in the independent report on the Easter 1998 floods. The targets take effect from 1 April 2000, building on and developing the interim targets which we published in May.

The targets will, among other things, require flood and coastal defence operating authorities to produce policy statements on their plans for achieving the Government's policy aims and objectives, flood and coastal defence assets to be recorded and inspected, and flood and erosion risk assessed. There are targets for the Environment Agency to develop its flood warning service, for emergency exercises to be held, and in relation to development control in areas at risk of flooding or erosion. There are also targets for taking forward initiatives on shoreline management plans, water level management plans and coastal habitat management plans, and for monitoring the impact of flood and coastal defence on habitats covered by biodiversity action plans.

These targets, and elaboration of the Environment Agency's supervisory duty, have been developed in full co-operation with the agency, the Association of Drainage Authorities and the Local Government Association and in consultation with a wide range of relevant organisations. We have been impressed by the strong support we have had both for the overall approach we have adopted and for the particular measures we are introducing.

The Government attach great importance to these targets. We will be monitoring achievement and keeping them under review. There are significant reporting requirements and we shall ensure that Parliament is kept informed of relevant developments.

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