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The Lord Chancellor: The Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct has today published its eighth and final annual report, and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Lord Chancellor: I am pleased to announce that the First Secretary and I have agreed the text of the concordat between the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Cabinet of the National Assembly for Wales. Copies of the concordat have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and the text is available on the Lord Chancellor's Department website (www.open.gov.uk/lcd--see 'What's New?').
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Although Angolan government forces appear to be in the ascendency, Savimbi undoubtedly retains the capacity to wage a prolonged guerilla war. We do not believe military action will bring about a satisfactory resolution to the conflict. Only a political solution will bring a lasting peace. But Savimbi's word cannot be trusted. We urge UNITA to replace Savimbi as leader. With a different leadership UNITA can be part of a negotiated settlement and be as much part of the solution as it has been part of the problem.
We strongly support UN sanctions against UNITA and the work of the UN Angola Sanctions Committee. We are encouraging UN member states to ensure tighter implementation of all sanctions. We are also keen to make humanitarian assistance available to all Angolans.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There have been no findings in the High Court in relation to the Government's policy on Burma. An application for judicial review to be heard on 2 December was withdrawn. The Government's policy on Burma is that we wholeheartedly condemn the human rights violations and lack of respect for democracy there; the UK continues to play a leading role within the international community in putting pressure on the Burmese regime to improve the political and human rights situation.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Our embassy has been in close touch with the Burmese authorities over James's welfare and will continue to visit him regularly. James has access to books. He is permitted the use of pencil and paper before visits so he can prepare messages to give to visitors. Prison regulations allow prisoners to write one letter a month. The embassy has been in touch with the local bishop and has asked him to seek permission for a priest to visit James.
Baroness Amos: The UN estimates that 810,000 people have been displaced in the Republic of Congo since December 1998. Of those, around 580,000 people remain internally displaced, while a further 30,000 remain as refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Gabon. Public services, such as health posts, have stopped functioning in many areas of the country. Many returnees reaching Brazzaville are malnourished, with severe malnutrition up to 30 per cent.
The only long-term solution to the humanitarian predicament of the people of the Republic of Congo lies in a negotiated political settlement leading to peace between the warring parties. We urge a fully inclusive reconciliation process leading to a return to democratic government.
What has been the estimated effect of reclassifying either-way offences as summary only offences on the number of defendants committed for trial in the Crown Court.[HL249]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): The Criminal Justice Act 1988 reclassified, from 12 October 1988, the following offences from triable either way to summary: common assault; unauthorised taking of a motor vehicle; criminal damage below a specified value (set at £2,000, and later increased to £5,000); and driving while disqualified.
It is estimated that the reclassification resulted in a 5 per cent fall (or about 5,500) between 1988 and 1989 in the number of persons tried at the Crown Court. There has been no subsequent reclassification of offences as summary only.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: We are keen to ensure that the protection enjoyed by citizens in this country applies throughout the European Union and we will support the Commission in bringing forward effective action to combat discrimination in Europe as a whole.
General Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), gave his overall battle damage assessment at a NATO press conference on 16 September. A copy of the transcript has been placed in the Library of the House and can also be obtained from the NATO web site at http://nato.int/kosovo/press/p990916a.htm.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The US Administration have not yet decided to deploy a national missile defence system. They have said that when they take a decision this will take account of wider arms control considerations. We welcome US recognition that, if national missile defence is pursued, it will be important to preserve strategic stability. We therefore welcomed President Clinton's and President Yeltsin's agreement at Cologne in June to begin discussions on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and on further reductions in their nuclear arsenals. We look forward to their outcome. We have consistently called on the Russian Duma to ratify START II.
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