Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


1 Apr 2003 : Column WA113

Written Answers

Tuesday, 1st April 2003.

Small Arms Conference

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the main results of the recent Small Arms Conference, jointly sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence; and why there was no agreed communique. [HL2196]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave my noble friend Lady Golding on 20 January (WA 74).

A few states attending the conference could not agree the proposed consensus communique, despite a clear majority in favour of the recommendations and great efforts by the chair to find common ground. Therefore, the chairman, having consulted the participants, decided to issue a chairman's summary that outlined the key findings of the conference.

Her Majesty's Government are keen to build on the notable gains and momentum of the conference. In addition to a follow-up meeting, under UK auspices, to exchange information in the margins of the UN biennial meeting in July, we are also supportive of other efforts in this field, such as the Dutch-Norwegian conference on brokering in Oslo in April. Over the next few years, the UK aims to forge partnerships across regions, promoting common understanding and widening and building support for the UN process in this important area.

Europe and the Regions

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will agree with the British representatives to the European convention that (a) the new treaty should enhance the powers of the committee of the regions and give stronger recognition to the regional and local dimensions of Europe; and (b) the new treaty should contain positive and negative mechanisms enabling national parliaments to uphold subsidiarity. [HL2198]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government agree on both counts. We submitted a paper to the convention on Europe and the Regions which proposed a number of ideas for strengthening the role and recognition of regions and localities. The paper also identified the need to make the Committee of the Regions more effective. We have also pressed for a strong and credible mechanism to enable national parliaments to monitor and enforce compliance of EU legislative proposals with the principle of subsidiarity.

1 Apr 2003 : Column WA114

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to (a) the Committee of the Regions' opinion on the role of the regional and local authorities in European integration; and (b) the resolution of the European Parliament of 14 January 2003 on the same subject. [HL2222]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The work of the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament on the future role of regions in the EU are important contributions to this debate. The Government's position on the matter is set out in the paper we submitted to the Future of Europe Convention on Europe and the Regions. This is available on the convention's website at http://european-convention.eu.int.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the Committee of the Regions should be empowered to refer matters which may infringe the principle of subsidiarity to the European Court of Justice. [HL2223]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Future of Europe Convention's Working Group on Subsidiarity recommended that the Committee of the Regions be given the right to bring, ex post, actions before the European Court of Justice for violation of the principle of subsidiarity as regards legislative acts on which it was consulted. The Government's thinking on this matter is set out in our paper on Europe and the Regions, which was prepared in consultation with the devolved administrations. The paper was submitted to the convention and is available on its website (http://european-convention.eu.int).

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that membership of the Committee of the Regions should be reviewed; and, if so, what improvements they would suggest. [HL2224]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Committee of the Regions has itself expressed the desire better to reflect the diversity of local and regional governance by ensuring a better balance of regional and local representation in the composition of national delegations.

The Government acknowledged this in our paper on Europe and the Regions which we submitted to the Future of Europe Convention. There, we set out our belief that the Committee of the Regions would function more effectively if regional and local authorities selected their delegations at a senior political level.

1 Apr 2003 : Column WA115

Iraq: Breaches of International Humanitarian Law

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What legal sanctions and remedies are available under the laws of the United Kingdom and the United States for any breaches of international humanitarian law committed during the military action against Iraq.[HL2248]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Breaches of international humanitarian law can be prosecuted in the UK in accordance with the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 and the International Criminal Court Act 2001 or the International Criminal Court (Scotland) Act 2001. As a state party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the US would have its own laws and procedures to enable breaches of the conventions to be prosecuted there.

Iraq: Supply of Weapons

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any of the following companies and individuals have been responsible, since January 1991, for supplying weapons, directly or indirectly, to the Iraqi Government: Euromac Ltd UK; Endshire Export Marketing, Matrix Churchill; Ali Ashour Dagin XYY Options, Meed International, TMG Engineering, International Computer Systems, International Computers Ltd, Walter Somers Ltd, International Military Services, Terex Corporation; Sheffield Forgemasters, Technology Development Group.[HL2200]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Department of Trade and Industry's Export Control Organisation does not record actual exports. It records details of all relevant export licence applications issued and refused, which since 2 May 1997 are published in the Government's Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

Previous administrations have not considered it appropriate to publish information on individual licensing decisions. Information on export licence applications issued and refused prior to May 1997, where the end users were in Iraq, is not held centrally and a manual search of all the case files would incur disproportionate costs.

The details of export licence applications from particular companies are normally commercially confidential and exempt from disclosure under exemptions 13 and 14 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

1 Apr 2003 : Column WA116

Broadband

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 11 March (WA 179) and 19 November 2001 (WA 115), how they explain that, whereas previously they defined broadband by reference to a minimum downstream speed of 384 kbit/s, no such minimum now exists in their definition; and[HL2124]

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 11 March (WA 179), which statement of minimum data transfer speed should be relied on as their definition of broadband, 384 kbit/s (WA 115, 19 November 2001), 512 kbit/s (WA 77, 4 November 2002), or no specified minimum (HL1851).[HL2125]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Answer given on 19 November 2001 (WA115) referred to the initial assessment of a minimum data transfer speed to define higher bandwidth technologies, as made in UK Online: the broadband future, published in February 2001. Since then, we have taken advice from the broadband stakeholder group which defines broadband as "always on access, at work, at home or on the move provided by a range of fixed line, wireless and satellite technologies to progressively higher bandwidths capable of supporting genuinely new and innovative content, applications and services and the delivery of enhanced public services". [BSG Second Annual Report and Strategic Recommendations, November 2002].

The broadband statistics that Oftel collects are based on information provided voluntarily from operators such as ntl, Telewest and BT. The operators provide data relating to higher bandwidth, always-on services, offering data rates of 128kbps and above, which are targeted to the mass-market as broadband.

GM Public Debate

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the outcome of the GM public debate will be evaluated; and whether the methods suggested will be an accurate measure of public opinion.[HL2130]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The independent Public Debate Steering Board, set up to manage the GM public debate, has announced its own indicators against which it will assess the success of the debate. These include the extent to which people felt they were able to participate, their awareness of the debate, whether it was credible and innovative, and whether it improved the present understanding of public views. The methods by which the public's responses during the debate will be evaluated have yet to be developed by the steering board but every effort will be made to ensure that the reported outcome of the public debate accurately reflects public opinion.

1 Apr 2003 : Column WA117


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page