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Kosovo: Theft of Computer Records

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Office in Pristina discussed this case with United Nations Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), which is responsible for the law and order in Kosovo, on 16 January. At that time the investigation into the robbery was still ongoing. The British Office is currently arranging a follow-up visit to ascertain the latest position.

The British Office also called on Mrs Sevdije Ahmeti, the founder of the Centre for the Protection of Women and Children, after the incident.

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Bosnia: Export Approval

Baroness Thornton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any goods subject to the European Union arms embargo have recently been approved for export to Bosnia.[HL2266]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government have approved the export of four military-listed portable explosive detectors to the NATO Stabilisation Force (SFOR) headquarters in Sarajevo. Bosnia and Herzegovina is subject to an EU arms embargo, from which only demining equipment and the transfer of small arms to the police are specifically exempt. The embargo was put in place to ensure the safety of international troops and civilians deployed locally. SFOR requires this equipment for the protection of its premises and personnel.

This decision was made in accordance with our practice occasionally to make an exemption to our interpretation of the embargo by approving exports of non-lethal military goods to humanitarian, media or peacekeeping organisations where it is clear that the embargo was not intended to prevent those exports and there is a strong humanitarian case for them.

Her Majesty's Government fully support SFOR and recognise its legitimate need for the right equipment to carry out its job safely and effectively. The decision underlines Her Majesty's Government' continued support for the work being done by SFOR in maintaining security and devleopment in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Iran: Export Licences

Baroness Thornton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made to their procedures for processing export licences for Iran.[HL2267]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Previous Statements to this House have indicated that all export licence applications for strategically-controlled goods to Iran are considered at a regular meeting of specialist officials, the Iran Working Group. The recommendations made have then been given ministerial consideration within each relevant department. Ministers in the relevant departments, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, have decided they no longer need routinely to consider these recommendations. The routine meeting will no longer convene to consider export licence applications.

Officials will now consider any export licence applications for Iran within their relevant government departments, meeting and submitting to Ministers only where necessary. This is in common with processing for other countries, including those of weapons of mass destruction concern.

This is a solely procedural change in order to streamline the export licensing process and to reduce

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delays for UK exporters. The Government will continue rigorously to assess Iran export licence applications on a case-by-case basis against the UK's national restrictions, with special attention paid to the risk of weapons of mass destruction proliferation, and against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

Iraq: Protection of Cultural Property

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they plan to implement, in the event of military intervention in Iraq, to prevent the looting of archaeological sites and museums and to safeguard the rich historic, archaeological and cultural heritage of Iraq.[HL1826]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Paragraph 53 of Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits any attack against a cultural property unless that property is used to support a military effort. In our military planning, very careful attention is applied, in accordance with our responsibilities under international law, to ensure that we minimise the risk of damage from any quarter to civilian populations and infrastructure, including sites of historic, archaeological and cultural heritage.

We are confident that our servicemen and women will respect the rich heritage of the Iraqi people. Any form of indiscipline by United Kingdom Armed Forces will be taken very seriously and will be dealt with accordingly.

Iraqi military and civilian individuals will be held personally accountable for actions taken by them in the event of military action, including criminal offences.

Depleted Uranium

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Bach on 13 March (WA194–96), what is their assessment of the consequences for enemy forces and civilian populations of the deployment and use of depleted uranium munitions; what are the implications in terms of the conventions of war to which the United Kingdom is party; and whether they will now undertake an urgent review of policy on their use.[HL2192]

Lord Bach: We accept the assessment of the health consequences of depleted uranium (DU) which was made by the Royal Society Depleted Uranium Working Group (The Health Hazards of Depleted Uranium Munitions) (2001, 2002)). This concluded that the health consequences would be minimal except for a small number of extreme cases. Such extreme cases would involve being in a vehicle when it is struck by DU or entering a vehicle immediately after it has

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been struck. In such unfavourable circumstances, the Royal Society predicts that the lifetime risk of fatal lung cancer could be about twice that in the general population, although the extra lifetime risks of other fatal cancers would be substantially lower and extra lifetime risks of fatal leukaemia would be too small to be detectable. Small effects on kidney function would be a possibility for a few soldiers exposed to the highest levels of DU.

Only within 50 metres of a DU penetrator strike would DU levels possibly be significant enough to necessitate precautions to prevent or reduce possible intakes. Elsewhere, health risks are deemed to be negligible. The independent research by the Royal Society DU Working Group and other eminent scientists, for example within the United Nations Environment Programme, supports this view. With regard to civilians, the aforementioned Royal Society reports state that, "For those returning to live in areas where DU munitions were deployed, including peace-keepers, the inhalation intakes from resuspended DU are considered to be unlikely to cause any substantial increase in lung cancer or any other cancers".

Depleted uranium munitions are not illegal under any convention to which the United Kingdom is party. They are used discriminately and proportionally in accordance with the provisions of international law.

We are prepared to use DU tank munitions where necessary because they are currently the most effective anti-armour weapons. At present, we are not reviewing this policy because we have a duty to provide our troops with the best available equipment with which to protect themselves and succeed in conflict. Should future research identify a more effective alternative, the policy would be reviewed at that time.

Defence Fair, Amman

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why an official British delegation, including Lord Bach from the Ministry of Defence and a member of the Royal Family, was present at a recent defence fair in Amman, Jordan.[HL2199]

Lord Bach: The fourth Special Operations Forces Exhibition (SOFEX) and conference was held in Amman, Jordan, in October 2002. As Minister for Defence Procurement, I, along with government officials, attended the exhibition in line with the Government's policy of supporting legitimate United Kingdom defence exports. The Duke of York attended by personal invitation of HM The King Abdullah.

Illegal Meat Imports

Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish their risk assessment and draft action plan for 2003–04 in relation to illegal meat and meat product imports.[HL2278]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The Government have published a draft revised action plan on illegal imports for 2003–04. A core element of the action plan reflects the transfer of responsibility for anti-smuggling controls to HM Customs and Excise, which will take effect from 11 April. These new arrangements will make a significant difference, as Customs will bring to bear its resources, skills and experience in intelligence, prevention and detection of prohibited goods to help reduce the flow of illegal imports of meat.

The draft action plan takes account of experience gained in implementing the action plan in 2002–03 and of insights gained from the risk assessment for the import of illegal meat and meat products contaminated with foot and mouth disease virus into

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Great Britain and subsequent exposure of GB livestock, which we are also publishing today.

The report on the risk assessment makes clear that there were significant deficiencies in the data available and therefore there are large uncertainties associated with the results. We are therefore publishing the report as work in progress and inviting further expert comment or data which might help refine the risk assessment.

These developments reaffirm the Government's commitment to strengthened controls on illegal imports. We have shown that we are willing to play our part. But it remains the case that those who use the countryside also have a responsibility to help prevent the spread of pests and diseases.

Copies of the revised draft action plan and the risk assessment report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Defra Illegal Imports website (

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