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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I have made a statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the statement has been placed in the Library of the House.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We fully support the continued efforts of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to implement the Settlement Plan and to bring peace to the region, and will continue to work for a just and durable settlement to the dispute. We encourage the parties to resolve the outstanding problems relating to the implementation of the Settlement Plan, and to work towards a mutually acceptable solution to their dispute.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The United Nations Act 1946 provides for measures to be taken in order to give effect to the United Kingdom's obligations under certain resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. An Order in Council (S.I. No. 716/1996) was made under the 1946 Act to implement Security Council Resolution 827 (1993), which established the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have over the last year funded projects in Swaziland to promote good governance and media freedom. These included a Conference on Good Governance, held in June 1999, and assistance to Swazi periodicals which regularly raise issues of governance in Swaziland.
We have regular contact with the Government of Swaziland, MPs, NGOs and the media to monitor the situation and draw attention to issues of concern. Our High Commissioner recently wrote an article for the local press publicising DfID's strategy papers on human rights and setting out how our human rights policy is to be realised.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We are happy to approve an export licence for the supply of goods needed for the repair and maintenance of military DROPS trailers used by the Irish contingent of KFOR. The goods will assist KFOR in the valuable work they are doing reconstructing a peaceful Kosovo.
The goods appear on the UK's Military List. UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1160 (1998) prohibits the sale or supply of arms and related materiel to the FRY. However, UNSCR 1244 (1999) provides that the prohibition imposed by UNSCR 1160 shall not apply to arms and related materiel for the use of the international civil and security presences in Kosovo.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Yugoslav Army (VJ) and ethnic Albanian extremist groups in Southern Serbia agreed a ceasefire brokered by NATO on 12 March. The agreement provides for the unconditional cessation of all military activities and use of force by either side. The Commander of KFOR (COMKFOR) retains his authority over the 5km Ground Safety Zone on the Kosovo/Serbia boundary. On Macedonia the situation remains tense. KFOR is providing support to the Macedonian authorities.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: A Command Paper containing the Treaty of Nice as signed on 26 February was published today as Cm 5090. Copies are available from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
For the first time in generations, there is a real prospect of uniting Europe. The Treaty of Nice brings this goal closer by reforming the EU's institutions to enable them to operate effectively after the accession of up to 12 new member states.
The treaty increases the relative weight of Britain's vote in the Council of Ministers and raises the threshold for a qualified majority. The democratic legitimacy of decisions taken by qualified majority voting is assured by the addition of a population threshold, which means that the three largest member states (including the UK) can still block decisions together. In addition a qualified majority must have the support of at least the majority of member states.
The treaty delivers a reformed Commission, with one Commissioner per member state from 2005 up to a maximum of 27. It proposes more qualified majority voting where this is in Britain's interests, and preserves the veto in areas where the Government said we would.
It allows groups of member states to move ahead faster in some areas where it is clear that not all are ready to, provided that this co-operation meets the conditions we secured to protect the Single Market, prevent discrimination in trade between member states, ensure compatibility with existing agreements and guarantee that co-operation is open to all.
A declaration to the treaty looks forward to a wide public debate about the future of the European Union. A further Intergovernmental Conference will be held in 2004 to make changes arising from this debate. Public consultation was launched on 7 March.
In making the institutional changes necessary for the accession of new member states, the Nice Treaty opens the way for enlargement of the EU. This has been the goal of successive governments for the sake of the peace, stability, and prosperity of Europe.
The Nice Treaty cannot enter into force until all member states have ratified it in accordance with their national procedures. The Government intend to introduce legislation to enable the UK to ratify the Nice Treaty as soon as it is practically possible.
Beef from European Union member states may be imported freely into the United Kingdom under the rules of the single European market. From a food safety perspective, it must have been produced in accordance with the requirements of the Fresh Meat Directive (Directive 64/433/EEC), and those of Commission Decision 2000/418/EC on specified risk material controls that came into effect on 1 October 2000. Imported beef from other member states is also subject to EU Trade Regulation 2777/2000, which bans the sale of beef from animals aged over 30 months at time of slaughter except those which have been tested negative for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). This regulation came into effect on 1 January 2001. Moreover, the Fresh Meat (Beef Controls) (No 2) Regulations 1996, as amended, (and the equivalent in Northern Ireland) prohibits the sale for human consumption of beef from any animal aged over 30 months at the time of slaughter, with exemptions only for animals from specifically identified grass-fed herds in the United Kingdom, and for animals from 14 non-European Union countries that have traditionally supplied the UK and in which there has been no history of BSE. This legislation therefore applies to beef imported from other member states as well as to home produced beef.
The recent cases of imported German beef found to have SRM still attached have been taken up with the European Commission and with the German national authorities. Two German abattoirs have had their licences to produce meat (both for their home and export markets) suspended by the relevant German authorities. In the UK, the Meat Hygiene Service (and its equivalent in Northern Ireland) has been instructed to check every single consignment of imported carcass beef from Germany which is received at licensed meat plants in the UK.
Given the EU and domestic controls that are in place and the increased level of checks on beef imported into the UK from Germany, the FSA does not consider that a ban on further imports of beef from Germany is justified or warranted on public health grounds.
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