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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The Department for International Development provides funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for its annual programme budget. It believes that the UNHCR is best placed to decide how and where to deploy this funding.
The Department for International Development also responds to direct appeals from UNHCR for assistance with specific short-term refugee emergency situations and long-term reintegration programmes. To date, there have been no such appeals for North Korean refugees in China.
Baroness Amos: We raise a wide range of individual cases of concern, including North Korean border crossers, with the Chinese authorities. If more information on the five aid workers can be provided (incuding their names) we will consider how best to raise them with the Chinese authorities.
We and our EU and other major western partners share a common approach of critical engagement and dialogue with China on human rights. We believe this is the best way to promote human rights improvements in China.
In May 2002, the Chinese State Family Planning Minister told my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development that China's new population and family planning law, introduced in September 2002, would enshrine citizens' rights and the responsibilities of family planning officials. He indicated that the United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) human-centred reproductive health programme, in which birth targets and quotas have been abolished, would be expanded beyond the 32 counties included in UNFPA's current programme. The Minister added that China's eventual aim was to end the system of birth targets and quotas.
We do not question China's right (or need) to implement family planning policies but we have emphasised our view that this should be based on free and informed parental choice and not on coercion. We have condemned family planning abuses.
Baroness Amos: The question of the status of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay under international humanitarian law is complex and has to be considered in the light of the facts relating to each individual detainee. Their treatment under the Geneva Conventions would depend on their precise status. We have made clear our position that, whatever their status, the detainees are entitled to humane treatment, and, if prosecuted, a fair trial.
Baroness Amos: We are conscious of the importance of safeguarding the detainees' welfare and have visited them on four occasions to check on this. The physical conditions of their detention appear to be satisfactory in broad terms. However, we have raised with the US authorities a number of issues of concern which the detainees or their families have asked us to. The International Committee of the Red Cross has access to the detainees and can, if necessary, raise any issues with the US authorities.
The issue of the detainees' rights under international law is linked, at least in part, to the question of their status. It is not possible to determine the detainees' status without access to all the facts of the individual cases. We believe that, whatever their status, the detainees are entitled to humane treatment and, if prosecuted, a fair trial. We have made this clear to the US. The US has assured us it will treat the detainees humanely and consistently with the principles of the Geneva Conventions.bjc
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Her Majesty's Government will seek to meet all their obligations under the agreement, including those relating to equality of opportunity, as we believe will the Irish Government.
The position in relation to GAA premises, and indeed other sports clubs such as soccer, cricket, rugby etc, is different, as relief for certain properties used for recreation is available under Article 31 of the Rates (Northern Ireland) Order 1977. A reduction of 65 per cent of rates liability is allowed in respect of all, or part, of properties used for purposes of a recreation, specified by the Department of Finance and Personnel. The property has to be occupied by a club or society that is not established or conducted for profit and, broadly speaking, does not employ professional players.
The review of rating policy launched by the Executive in 2000 is reaching its final stages and I can confirm that existing reliefs including sport and recreational relief and that which allows exemption from rates for properties used for public, charitable and certain other functions such as "public religious worship" are currently under consideration. No decisions have yet been taken. It is intended that these issues will be addressed in a policy paper to be published later in the year. bern
Lord Williams of Mostyn: This is a matter for the Government of the Republic of Ireland. I would advise the noble Lord to write directly to the Department of Finance at Government Buildings, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2. The Department of Finance is the relevant authority for personnel matters in the Civil Service within the Republic of Ireland.
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