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The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group discussed developments in Fiji at its meeting in London on 20 December. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State represented the United Kingdom. The group welcomed the holding of broadly free and fair elections in Fiji in August and September 2001. In recognition of this and the fact that the Fiji Government were now addressing the current uncertainty over their own constitutionality in a responsible manner, the group decided that the conditions were now right to readmit Fiji to the councils of the Commonwealth. However, in view of the remaining uncertainty over the government's constitutionality, the group also decided that Fiji should remain on its agenda and that the Secretary General's Special Envoy, Justice Pius Langa of South Africa, should remain engaged.
In view of this, we decided on 20 December to lift the targeted package of measures that the then Minister of State, my honourable friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr Battle) announced on 21 July 2000. We will once again consider applications for funding for small projects from the Fiji Government in the areas of good governance, human rights, conflict prevention and the environment. We have also ended our blanket ban on joint military exercises and visits to Fiji by Royal Navy ships. Possible co-operation in this area will be considered on a case-by-case basis. And in keeping with national and EU criteria, we will continue not to issue export licences for military or security equipment where there is a clear risk that it will be used for internal repression. We will not hesitate to reimpose these measures, and even consider extending their scope, in the event that the Government of Fiji fail to meet their constitutional obligations to all of Fiji's citizens.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Export Credits Guarantee Department's (ECGD's) annual report and resource accounts for 200001 were laid before the House this morning. I am pleased to say that they demonstrate once more that British capital goods exporters and investors have been successful in winning valuable overseas orders with government insurance and guarantee support worth £5.6 billion. Furthermore, they show that ECGD is in a good financial position from which to continue supporting further business while protecting the interests of the taxpayer in what is a difficult period for the global economy.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): When my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Commons (Mr Elliot Morley) announced the completion of the first stage of the review of the Forest Enterprise executive agency on 10 May 2001 (HC Deb col. 301W), he said that we intended to review the options for further decentralisation of forestry policy and management. The Scottish and Welsh forestry Ministers and I have decided that the review will start shortly and report to us in the spring. It will consider the current administrative arrangements for delivering sustainable forestry policies in England, Scotland and Wales and the UK's international forestry commitments, including options for further devolution of these arrangements. The review will be undertaken by officials from the Forestry Commission, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales, the Cabinet Office and the Treasury. The Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will also be involved in the review. Views will be sought from interested parties during the course of the review.
Lord Whitty: In January 2001 the State Veterinary Service (SVS) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food comprised a Veterinary Policy Unit together with the SVS Field Service. Both were under the command of the Chief Veterinary Officer. The Veterinary Policy Unit, located at Page Street Headquarters in London and with outstationed wildlife units in the West Country, liaised with HQ units in Edinburgh and Cardiff. The SVS Field Service comprised HQ in Page Street, London and a network of five regional and 23 divisional animal health offices throughout Great Britain. The SVS became part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with the creation of Defra in June 2001. In July 2001 the National Scrapie Administrative Centre was launched at Worcester as part of the SVS Field Service.
As from 3 December 2001, the Chief Veterinary Officer, as Director General of Animal Health and Welfare, has taken command of the Veterinary Policy Unit (now known as the Veterinary Directorate), together with the Animal Health Group and the TSE Directorate. The SVS Field Service has transferred to the command of the Director General of Operations and Service Delivery. The structure of the SVS Field Service is currently the same as in July 2001 but a new animal health divisional office is being created at Newcastle. This will bring the total number of animal health divisions to 24.
The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): To determine whether value for money has been assessed properly a cost-benefit analysis will be applied where the cost and risks of the proposal will be considered against the perceived benefits. The analysis will be carried out in accordance with the guidance that the Treasury has issued for departments to follow.
Which groups the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is consulting with respect to its internal review; how those groups have been selected; whether they consider that six days' notice for such consultation is adequate; and whether they think that it would be appropriate for Members of Parliament and Peers to be consulted.[HL1767]
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Section 69(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to make recommendations to the Secretary of State on ways in which its effectiveness could be improved. There was no requirement for these recommendations to be based on an independent review. The Government intend to publish their draft response for consultation early next year and at that stage will be keen to hear the views of, among others, Members of Parliament and Peers on what is proposed.
Separately from this, the commission applied, as part of its recent in-year bid for an increase in funding, for support for an independent evaluation of, among other things, its internal organisational structure. The Government welcomed this and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland agreed to make funding available subject to certain conditions, including that the proposed review be split into three strands (covering the commission's strategic planning, its internal organisation structure and its communications strategy), to enable each element to be analysed by experts in the relevant field.
Whether to accept this and the way in which the reviewer conducts the evaluation, including its timescale, is a matter for the commission and the reviewer concerned. The chief commissioner has been asked to reply direct to the noble Lord on this point. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Library of the House.
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