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Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act: Section 55 Decisions

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): It is always open to an individual to present further evidence if their circumstances change or if they have further information which they wish to be considered in relation to Section 55 decisions.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Filkin: The Government have noted the comments of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

On the first point, the Court of Appeal judgment of 18 March reinforced the key legal points in relation to Section 55 and confirmed that the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. This has enabled the Government to continue to implement the robust but fair system of asylum support for which Parliament has legislated.

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On the second point, the Government have increased the resources targeted at reducing both the number of cases awaiting an initial decision and the time taken to reach a decision with positive results. The Government's strategy for tackling asylum decisions in a fair and timely manner has been implemented on a nation-wide basis: the place of residence of an asylum seeker in the United Kingdom has no bearing on either the timeliness or the substance of the decision. All decisions are made fairly, with due regard to the evidence presented and in accordance with policy advice relating to the country in question.

Iraq: Military Action and Humanitarian Law

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

    What is their response to the views expressed by the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in his letter published in the Financial Times on 15 March, about the manner in which military action against Iraq should be undertaken in accordance with the Geneva Convention.[HL2249]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Her Majesty's Government welcome the letter from Mr Angelo Gnaedinger.

The UK will, throughout the conflict, fully observe its responsibilities under international humanitarian law, including respecting the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which it strongly supports.

Africa: UK Diplomatic Representation

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there will be a reorganisation of the United Kingdom's diplomatic representation in Africa.[HL2332]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Changing strategic priorities require the Foreign and Commonwealth Office constantly to adapt and amend its pattern of representation overseas. In order to free resources to strengthen the UK's diplomatic network in other parts of the world now more critical for UK interests, Her Majesty's Government have decided to make the following adjustments to our diplomatic representation in West Africa. With effect from early summer, the embassy in Bamako will be closed. We intend to retain a UK office there. Given the importance the UK attaches to stability and peace in the Mano River region, we intend to open a one-person office in Monrovia later this year, and upgrade our office in Conakry to an embassy.

Cote d'Ivoire: Northbridge Services Group

Lord Carter asked Her Majesty's Government:

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    What is their position on reports that Northbridge Services Group is recruiting for work in Cote d'Ivoire.[HL2341]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government are gravely concerned at reports that Northbridge Services Group, a UK company, is recruiting British, South African, French and other ex-servicemen as military units to work in Cote d'Ivoire. The crisis in Cote d'Ivoire has caused enormous suffering for the people of that country, and threatens the stability of the wider region. The Linas-Marcoussis Agreement offers Ivorians the opportunity of a peaceful, political settlement, which addresses the key issue underlying the crisis. Ivorians are now making progress in setting up a broad-based government of national reconciliation, under the terms of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement. Any deployment of foreign military units at this time would seriously undermine the peace process and the efforts of the UK and wider international community to support a durable, political settlement. We have made it clear to Northbridge Services Group that the UK Government would deplore any intervention of this sort.

Ghana: Exemption to EU Arms Embargo

Baroness Ramsey of Cartvale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any goods subject to strategic export controls have recently been approved for export to Ghana.[HL2360]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Following consultations with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence to export antennae masts to Ghana. These masts will be used by the Ghanaian Armed Forces in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC is subject to an EU arms embargo, imposed by a Declaration of 7/4/1993. The embargo was put in place mainly to ensure the safety of international troops and civilian personnel deployed in the DRC.

The decision to grant an exemption to the EU arms embargo on the DRC was made on the basis that the equipment is needed by bona fide UN peacekeepers and is proportionate to the needs of the Ghanaian peacekeepers. It does not affect Her Majesty's Government's continued support for the EU arms embargo on the DRC.

Her Majesty's Government fully support the Ghanaian troops deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC. The decision underlines our continued support for the work being done by peacekeepers within the country.

Regulatory Impact Assessments: Compliance

Lord Burlison asked Her Majesty's Government:

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    What is the level of compliance with the regulatory impact assessment process.[HL2416]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): A baseline for measuring the level of compliance with the regulatory impact assessment is today being placed on the website of the Cabinet Office Regulatory Impact Unit (www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/regulation). An exercise in December 2002 to establish a snapshot of the level of compliance provided a figure of 92 per cent. We will keep this under six-monthly review and strive not only to maintain this level of compliance but to improve it. In addition, we recognise the need to increase the quality of RIAs and the value they add to the policy-making process. We are working closely with departments to identify ways of achieving this.

Iraq: Guidance to Civil Servants and Service Personnel

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

    Whether they will publish the guidance given to civil servants and members of the Armed Forces governing the manner in which military action against Iraq is taken, in accordance with the principles of international humanitarian law.[HL2247]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The Civil Service Code sets out the constitutional framework within which all civil servants work and the values they are expected to uphold. Under the terms of the code all civil servants are bound to comply with the law, including international law, treaty law and treaty obligations.

The rules of engagement under which British Armed Forces in Iraq operate fully reflect our obligations under the law of armed conflict to ensure minimum use of force to achieve military objectives. It has been the practice of successive governments not to disclose rules of engagement, since to do so would provide an enemy with detailed information about how our forces operate and jeopardise any operations in which they were engaged. I am therefore withholding the information in accordance with Exemption 1 (Defence, security and international relations) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

Lord Woolmer of Leeds asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).[HL2419]

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Baroness Andrews: In response to information received from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the first reported cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the Department of Health, along with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has continually monitored the threat to the United Kingdom from this as yet unidentified virus.

On 13 March, the department issued an alert to all general practitioners, National Health Service trusts, and public health professionals, with detailed information on the symptoms of this illness and advice on the management and reporting of probable cases. The Public Health Laboratory Service (as it was at the time) also issued information to professionals through its alert system. Further information has subsequently been made available to the profession and public on

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infection control, surveillance, management of patients, microbiological sampling and investigation and advice for travellers to affected areas and is updated on a daily basis via the department's and the PHLS's websites.

As a result of this timely response and high degree of vigilance among the profession and public, to date we have had only three probable cases of SARS in the UK. This is against a total number of 1,804 in 15 countries. All three of the cases in the UK have recovered from their illness. These robust public health measures currently in place have so far contained this disease in the UK.

We, along with the HPA and WHO, continue to monitor this situation very carefully and advise the public and profession accordingly.



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