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Title IV of EC Treaty

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

5 Mar 2001 : Column WA9

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I refer to the reply given to a Question from the Baroness Harris of Richmond (WA 152), on 1 March 2001.

Proceeds of Crime: Draft Bill

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the draft Proceeds of Crime Bill.[HL1062]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: We have today published a Command paper, CM 5066, entitled Proceeds of Crime Bill: Publication of Draft Clauses. Copies have been placed in the Library. It is also available on the Home Office website, www.homeoffice.gov.uk.

The draft clauses we are publishing provide for the establishment of an asset recovery agency; the introduction of civil recovery; the application of taxation powers to suspected criminal assets; the creation of new specific powers for the tracing and investigation of criminal assets; the restraint of assets of suspected persons during a criminal investigation instead of only at the point of charge; improvements in the United Kingdom's ability to assist foreign jurisdictions; and the reform and updating of confiscation procedures and money laundering offences. The Bill, the work on which has been undertaken on a collaborative basis, will introduce equivalent measures in Scotland and Northern Ireland, adjusted for the legal systems of those jurisdictions.

The Government will take account of the responses to the Command paper before finalising the Bill for introduction. We are asking to receive replies before the end of May.

UK/China Human Rights Dialogue

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What matters were discussed, and what individual cases were raised, with the Chinese authorities at the United Kingdom-China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing, which took place between 12 to 14 February. [HL844]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The sixth round of the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue was held in China between 12-14 February. This comprised two days of talks in Peking and a one-day mission to Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province.

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The formal talks were held with representatives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, National People's Congress Legislative Affairs Commission, United Front Works Department, Supreme People's Court, Prisons Administration Bureau and the State Religious Affairs Bureau. We discussed China's co-operation with international human rights mechanisms; the ratification of the two human rights covenants; Tibet; Xinjiang; Falun Gong; Rule of Law issues; the use of the death penalty; and freedoms of religion, expression and association. We also called on the Ministry for Civil Affairs to discuss the Village Democracy programme, and on the All China Federation of Trade Unions.

We also raised 28 individual cases of concern: Chadrel Rinpoche, Chen Gang, Gao Xiaoliang; Gedhun Choekyi Nyima; Kang Yuchun, Liu Jingsheng, Ngawang Choepel, Ngawang Sangdrol, Abidjan Obulkasim, Zha Jianguo, Gao Hongming, Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai, Qin Yongmin, Li Dexian, Jiang Qisheng, Rebiya Kadeer, Wang Ce, Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Jelil Turdi, Zhang Shanguang, Jiang Shurang, Bishop Jame Su Zhimin, Huang Qi, Zhao Ming, Wenjiang Liang and Abdulhelil Abdumijit.

During the visit to Wenzhou the British delegation was able to examine and discuss with the Wenzhou authorities the background to the reports of destruction of churches and temples as part of an urban redevelopment programme.

Sudan

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to allegations that 700,000 Chinese soldiers have been deployed in southern Sudan.[HL929]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have no evidence of the presence of any Chinese soldiers in Sudan, let alone the figure of 700,000 alleged in one press report.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any evidence that Sudanese oil revenues are being spent on arms procurement.[HL930]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Sudanese Government have recently restated their commitment to use oil revenues for infrastructure investment, capacity building and social services. There is evidence to suggest that military expenditure has remained stable, but we continue to press for greater clarity in this regard.

Lord Ahmed asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any evidence that Osama bin-Laden either owns or has previously owned drug farms in Sudan.[HL931]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have no evidence of this.

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Depleted Uranium: Records of Use

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they are making to ensure that while depleted uranium remains in service in NATO the time and exact locations of its use are invariably recorded.[HL753]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): This is not a matter for NATO, but for each NATO nation. In respect of the UK, depleted uranium munitions are used by the Royal Navy and the Army.

Royal Navy units are required to submit a signalled report to Flag Officer Surface Flotilla on completion of all firings, noting what ammunition and in what quantity and where fired. The ship will also note its latitude and longitude in the ship's log.

In the case of land-based depleted uranium munitions, test firings of depleted uranium rounds are conducted under controlled conditions at our ranges at Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway. Depleted uranium rounds are not used by the Army for training purposes. On operations, when such munitions are fired from Challenger 2, the tank may well be under attack and on the move and it would therefore be impossible to establish with any certainty the exact location where any rounds land. The tank commander will know how many rounds he has fired and he will be able to work out retrospectively into what general area he fired a DU round.

BFPO Addresses: Creditworthiness Checks

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether credit rating agencies or companies must recognise BFPO addresses when ascertaining the creditworthiness of members of HM Armed Forces; and, if not, why not.[HL894]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Credit rating agencies do not have to recognise BFPO addresses when ascertaining the creditworthiness of Service personnel. There are practical problems in doing so arising both from the software programs used and the frequent changes that would be necessary as personnel move around the world. The Post Office market the unique post code system operated for all United Kingdom addresses. This is used by most commercial organisations but is not compatible with the BPFO numbering system.

The initial rejection of a credit application by the software program will normally be followed by a manual check. However, it is recognised that some companies will not undertake manual checks for small value orders.

This issue has been raised with Ministers by the Service Families Federations. The Service Families Task Force is now discussing the matter with the British Bankers' Association, the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Finance Leasing Association.

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European Rapid Reaction Force: Command and Planning Structures

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on agreement between NATO and the European Union on the chain of command and planning structures for the European Rapid Reaction forces following the Prime Minister's statement (HC Deb., 11 December 2000, col. 349-350) that, "The next step is for the two organisations to agree on the necessary arrangements. Any significant operation will require NATO assets and any such operation will be planned at NATO by the planning staff at SHAPE".[HL902]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: NATO Foreign Ministers on 14-15 December 2000 welcomed the decisions and proposals made at the Nice European Council on European crisis management. It reaffirmed determination to reinforce NATO's European Pillar, and to share the goals endorsed by EU Member States at Nice.

In order to create an EU security and defence dimension without duplicating capabilities that we have built up in NATO, we are continuing to develop detailed arrangements through which the bulk of the military resources needed for planning and conducting European-led operations (eg planning staffs, command structures, key assets) could be drawn from resources already available to NATO. This is ongoing work.

The EU proposed at Nice that for any EU-led operation that has recourse to NATO's assets and capabilities, operational planning will be conducted at SHAPE, under the supervision of the Deputy SACEUR. DSACEUR will often, in such cases, also act as the Operation Commander at the head of a command chain drawn from NATO command structures, but under the political control and strategic direction of the EU. The EU has no plans to establish separate operational planning structures.


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