Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

28 Apr 2003 : Column WA57

Written Answers

Monday, 28th April 2003.

High Court Judges: Judicial Robes

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the number and types of judicial robes that a High Court judge is expected to acquire upon appointment; and what sums are available from public funds for their purchase.[HL2439]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): On appointment a High Court judge is expected to acquire robes for summer and winter use and also robes for ceremonial use. A High Court judge is entitled to an allowance of £13,954 towards the cost.

I intend to publish on 8 May a public consultation paper on court working dress worn by judges, advocates and court staff. I wish to determine the views of the general public on these matters, as well as those of the judiciary, lawyers and court staff.

Illegal Meat Imports

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Crown Prosecution Service has only prosecuted three people caught importing illegal meat products; and whether they consider this a reasonable proportion of the 2,000 seizures (amounting to 27,000 kilograms) in 2002.[HL2211]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): The Crown Prosecution Service does not have primary responsibility for prosecuting people for the importation of illegal meat products. Responsibility for prosecutions currently lies with local authorities and HM Customs & Excise.

Zimbabwe and China: Human Rights

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to sponsor or support resolutions critical of human rights records in (a) Zimbabwe and (b) China at this year's annual United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.[HL2296]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The European Union attempted to table a resolution on Zimbabwe at last year's session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. The EU plans to do so again this year. The EU has no plans to table a resolution on China. If another delegation were to table such a resolution, we would in principle support it. lynne

28 Apr 2003 : Column WA58

Afghanistan: Witness Protection

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have for a witness protection programme for individuals with knowledge of the murders of prisoners of war in Afghanistan, detailed in the report by Physicians for Human Rights.[HL2303]

Baroness Amos: None. The protection of possible witnesses would be a matter for the Afghan authorities.

Unlawful Combatants

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether "unlawful combatants" are being held at the United States base on Diego Garcia or on United States vessels around the island; if so, whether they are being held under control of Her Majesty's Government or of the United States; what is the legal basis on which they are held; and whether they are being granted the legal rights appropriate to their status.[HL2314]

Baroness Amos: The United States authorities have assured us that they are not detaining anyone they regard as an "unlawful combatant" in Diego Garcia or on any vessel in the British Indian Ocean Territory. The United States Government would need to ask for our permission to bring any such person to Diego Garcia and it has not done so.

Gujarat: Freedom of Religion

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are discussing with the government of India the State of Gujarat's "Freedom of Religion" legislation and whether it infringes existing conventions on human rights; and, if not, whether they will do so as a matter of urgency.[HL2350]

Baroness Amos: We are aware of Gujarat's Freedom of Religion Bill, which we understand has now passed into law.

India is a secular country and the right to freedom of religion is enshrined in its constitution. But we are concerned that this legislation might in practice discourage Gujarati citizens from adopting the religion of their choice, and as such might limit their religious freedoms as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified.

We have had no discussions with the Government of India on this issue. But our High Commission in New Delhi will closely monitor the implementation of this law by the Gujarati authorities, and we will raise it with EU Partners. lynne

28 Apr 2003 : Column WA59

United Nations Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Amos on 24 March (WA 47) that they "do not support coercive family planning practices", whether they will cease funding the United Nations Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, which said on 20 March that "it might be worth contemplating how far a system of reward and punishment could help implement family planning strategies".[HL2359]

Baroness Amos: DfID contributed £250,000 in March 2002 to the UNEUE to help it provide information on populations at risk and identify areas of unmet need in terms of recovery and development, for the ultimate benefit of marginalised Ethiopians.

The Government do not support coercive family planning practices. All UK assistance for health programmes is provided in support of the principles of free and informed choice set out at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994, and reaffirmed at the Cairo plus 5 meeting in New York in 1999.

In a statement made following the report referred to, the UNEUE has reiterated in the clearest possible terms that it will promote the perspective that coercion, incentives or disincentive have no place in population and development programmes. The UNEUE has apologised unreservedly for the comments made in the report referred to and acknowledged UNFPA for calling its attention to the error.


Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are discussing with the Government of the Sudan the arrest on 11 March of a journalist from the English-language Khartoum Monitor; and whether it is internationally acceptable that individuals can be held without charge for renewable periods of 123 days.[HL2377]

Baroness Amos: Her Majesty's Ambassador to Khartoum raised the case of Edward Terso, the detained Khartoum Monitor journalist, on 27 March as part of the wider EU-Sudan dialogue. Mr Terso was subsequently released on 29 March. The embassy regularly raises human rights issues, including detention without charge and the freedom of the press in particular, with the Government of Sudan. bjc

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Sudan has been able to visit all areas in the Sudan that he wished to see; whether

28 Apr 2003 : Column WA60

    they are supporting the United Nations resolution to continue his mandate; and, if so, whether they will seek worldwide support for this position.[HL2379]

Baroness Amos: The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Sudan has welcomed the co-operation extended by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army during his visits to Sudan.

We take a close interest and play an active role in the promotion of human rights in Sudan. This includes our strong support for the work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights there. The UK has until now been the main contributor of funding for the Office of the HCHR in Khartoum. The UK has supported successive EU-sponsored resolutions at the UN Commission on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly. We believe that it is important to continue the mandate of the special rapporteur and shall be working for agreement to this during the current session of the CHR in Geneva.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the British Embassy in Khartoum has yet been able to complete its fact-finding visit to Darfur; and, if so, what are its conclusions.[HL2380]

Baroness Amos: Our ambassador has requested permission to travel to Darfur and will do so as soon as possible.

The embassy in Khartoum continues to discuss the situation in Darfur with a wide range of Government and National Congress party officials, in addition to Darfur MPs and other local representatives.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are supporting moves to strengthen and expand the verification and monitoring team in southern Sudan, in particular to enable it to investigate reports of abduction, rape and displacement of civilians.[HL2381)

Baroness Amos: Her Majesty's Government welcomed the establishment on 4 February of the Verification Monitoring Team (VMT). The VMT will monitor alleged violations of the Memorandum of Understanding on cessation of hostilities signed on 15 October 2002. The UK will support its important work and has pledged 500,000 US dollars towards the establishment of the Verification Monitoring Team. We are also looking to contribute personnel to the operation.

The US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) is responsible for monitoring the March 2002 agreement to refrain from attacks against civilians. On 15 March the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army agreed to extend that agreement until 31 March 2004.

28 Apr 2003 : Column WA61

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page