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Fire Dispute: Attorney-General

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): I have the power to apply to the court for an injunction to prevent threatened breaches of the criminal law. This power is to be exercised in the public interest, which I exercise in my independent judgment in my role as Attorney-General rather than as a member of government. Such an application is always exceptional and is instituted only where there is the prospect of genuine, serious and irreparable harm and I judge that it is in the public interest to make the application.

It is my duty to keep under constant review the question whether to exercise this power. In order to determine where the public interest lies I may consult, as I have been doing, with my ministerial colleagues to ensure that I am properly informed as to the public interest consultations arising. I have been informed also of the views of fire authority representatives in relation to the potential threat to public safety. But the power to apply for an injunction is one for me as the Attorney-General to exercise in the public interest and the decision is for me alone.

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Turkey: EU Accession Negotiations

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they anticipate that a start date will be given to Turkey for accession negotiations to the European Union; and whether the new United Kingdom-Turkey Action Plan will advance such negotiations. [HL470]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Copenhagen European Council agreed that "if the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission, decides that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, the European Union will open accession negotiations with Turkey without delay". Her Majesty's Government welcomes this and encourages the Turkish Government to continue with its eocnomic and political reforms in preparation. The UK Action Plan for Turkey, formally launched by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in Ankara on 3 December, includes a wide range of bilateral reform initiatives, aimed at helping Turkey to prepare for EU membership.


Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response, as guarantor power, to the fact that the settlement for Cyprus proposed by the United Nations does not provide for input by the United Kingdom to the stationing of troops from foreign powers in Cyprus.[HL599]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As a guarantor power, the UK Government fully support the UN proposals for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem, including security arrangements. It is, of course, for the two sides in Cyprus to agree a settlement, but we believe the UN proposals to be workable and fair.

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as guarantor power, they have no input or responsibility for minority religious groups in both northern and southern Cyprus. [HL600]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I understand that the United Nations Secretary-General's proposals make provisions for religious groups in both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. I belive that the proposals are comprehensive, workable and fair. A settlement to the Cyprus problem remains the best basis for ensuring that all Cypriots enjoy the full range of civil and human rights.

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the present United Nations proposals for a Cyprus resettlement recommend that there be two police services operational in northern Cyprus: (a) one under the control of the "component state" in North Cyprus and (b) the other under the control of the "common state" of Cyprus.[HL601]

19 Dec 2002 : Column WA138

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Nations Secretary-General's proposals for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem provide for police forces in both the component states and the common state. They would have equal numbers of personnel and there would be extensive co-operation between them. The UK Government fully support the proposals as the basis for a settlement. However, it is for the two sides in Cyprus to agree on the details.

China: North Korean Refugees

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action has been taken by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or Her Majesty's Government's representatives in China on behalf of North Korean refugees.[HL588]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The UNHCR visited China in September to discuss how they might be able to help deal with North Koreans who cross into China. Officials from the British Embassy in Beijing visited the border region in June to assess the situation. The issue of North Korean border crossers was raised at the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue in May in Beijing. The Embassy raised individual cases of detained North Koreans with the Chinese authorities in May and August. hp

President Al-Assad of Syria: Visit to UK

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek assurances from President Assad of Syria that he will (a) take all measures within his power to shut down terrorist bases and training camps in Syria and (b) curb the terrorist activities of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah; and [HL612]

    What consultations they have had with President Assad of Syria to bring about peace in the Middle East. [HL613]

Barones Amos: My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and President Al-Assad discussed international efforts towards peace in the Middle East, including progress with the Quartet's Roadmap. The Prime Minister made clear his commitment to a solution based on two States, Israel and Palestine, living alongside each other in peace and security.

The Prime Minister reiterated his total condemnation of acts of terrorism, including suicide attacks. He strongly urged a change in Syrian attitudes to the presence of Palestinian rejectionist groups in Syria. The Foreign Secretary also discussed the presence of these groups in Syria with Foreign Minister Shara'a, asking what Syria proposed to do to change the behaviour of these groups.

19 Dec 2002 : Column WA139

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current state of British-Syrian relations in the light of President Assad's visit to the United Kingdom. [HL614]

Baroness Amos: UK/Syrian relations are important. Both sides are willing to invest time and effort in improving them. While we would not pretend to agree on every issue, we cannot attempt to resolve disagreements without dialogue. A candid dialogue is better than no dialogue at all.

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why President Assad of Syria will meet (a) Her Majesty the Queen in Buckingham Palace and (b) the Prince of Wales.[HL615]

Baroness Amos: it is customary for a head of state, on an official visit to the United Kingdom, to have an audience with the Queen if Her Majesty is available. On this occasion a call on the Prince of Wales also seemed appropriate. President and Mrs Al-Assad have an interest in the Prince of Wales' charitable works, in particular the Prince's Trust.

International Centre for Prison Studies: Dissemination of Handbook for Prison Staff

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide copies of the Handbook for Prison Staff, recently published by the International Centre for Prison Studies, to British missions overseas, asking them, wherever possible, to bring it to the attention of prison authorities in those countries.[HL627]

Baroness Amos: Copies of the new International Centre for Prison Studies Handbook for Prison Staff have been sent to all British missions overseas. They have been asked to disseminate the publication to appropriate senior officials in ministries of justice, prisons and other relevant government administrations. The handbook is currently being translated into Russian, Spanish and Turkish. A French version is also planned in the next financial year. Once printed, UK missions in Russia and Russian-speaking countries, Turkey and South America, as well as Francophone Africa will circulate many hundreds of copies more. I have also arranged to have a copy placed in the Library of the House.

Middle East

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Quartet engaged in the Middle East peace process has accepted the Taba proposals of January 2001 as a starting point, if not, which members of the Quartet rejected them; and on what grounds.[HL640]

19 Dec 2002 : Column WA140

Baroness Amos: We believe that the international community broadly shares our view that ideas discussed in Camp David and Taba provide a valuable framework for handling some of the issues which divide the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The Quartet is working on a roadmap leading to a final settlement within three years, implementing the vision expressed by President Bush in June 2002. The Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended through a settlement negotiated between the parties and based on UN resolutions 242 and 338, with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognised borders and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

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