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Written Answers

Monday, 19th May 2003.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response they have made to the latest United Nations Relief and Works Agency appeal for the West Bank and Gaza; and how this compares to the contributions of other European Union member states and the United States. [HL2798]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Amos): The UK has contributed 2.9 million dollars to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's (UNRWA) fifth emergency appeal, covering the period 1 January to 30 June 2003. This brings the total UK support for UNRWA's emergency appeals to 35.5 million dollars since December 2000.

Current contributions from other EC member states and the USA to UNRWA's fifth appeal are:

$ million

Figures as of 30 March 2003

Occupied Territories: Shootings of Britons

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Government of Israel are offering compensation to the next of kin or personal representatives of the unarmed British citizens Thomas Hurndall, who was shot on 12 April near Gaza, and Iain Hook, United Nations employee, who was shot in October 2002 in Jenin; and whether they have received information about comparable cases of United States citizens.[HL2580]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Any offer of compensation by the Israeli Government would be a private issue between them and the families concerned.

We deal with any consular case on an individual basis, and would not normally speak to US colleagues about comparable cases.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their position on the recent shootings of Britons in the Occupied Territories.[HL2866]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I am deeply shocked that three British nationals have been shot in the Occupied Territories in recent months. Since the shooting of Iain Hook by the Israel defence forces on

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22 November 2002, Thomas Hurndall was seriously injured on 11 April and James Miller was killed on 2 May. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims.

Her Majesty's Government welcome the co-operation the Israeli Government have provided in investigating the death of Mr Hook and hope for similar co-operation into the incidents involving Mr Hurndall and Mr Miller also. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has asked the Israeli Government for full and transparent investigations into these incidents.

Her Majesty's Government are deeply concerned about the number of incidents in which civilians, both Palestinian and foreign, have been killed or injured as a result of encounters with the Israel defence forces. We have urged the Israeli Government to take steps to revise their tactics in the Occupied Territories in order to reduce the likelihood of such incidents happening again.

Iraq: Prisoners of War

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Iraqi prisoners of war are now held; how many persons are in long-term detention; and whether it is intended to bring some arrested persons to court.[HL2495]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): As at 15 May, 58 enemy prisoners of war are being administered by United Kingdom forces and held in US theatre internment facilities.

UK forces are holding some 90 Iraqi citizens who are assessed to pose a threat to security or who are suspected of having committed a criminal offence pending a formal investigation and possible trial under Iraqi law.

Iraq: Looting

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why coalition forces failed to protect the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad against looting despite the earlier warning given to the United States Defense Department by Professor McGuire Gibson of the University of Chicago in a meeting with officials on 24 January, and to the Prime Minister by officers of the All Party Parliamentary Group in a letter dated 11 February.[HL2641]

Lord Bach: Throughout the military campaign, coalition forces have taken great care to ensure that damage to sites of historic, archaelogical or cultural importance has been minimised. However, at the time of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, coalition forces were engaged in other higher priority tasks, including warfighting operations and activity to stabilise the security situation throughout Iraq.

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Justice and Home Affairs Council

Lord Donoughue asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Justice and Home Affairs Council held on 8 May and what their stance was on the issues discussed, including their voting record. [HL2952]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): I represented the United Kingdom at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in Brussels on 8 May.

The A points were approved as in document PTS A 21 (8922/03) (a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House). This included adoption of the protocol amending the convention on the use of information technology for customs purposes as regards the creation of a customs files identification database (known as FIDE) which Ministers subsequently signed in the margins of the Council.

Ministers discussed the directive on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third-country nationals and stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection with a view to resolving the outstanding reservations. However, one member state in particular maintained reservations on the text, including the definition of a refugee and on the rights and benefits to be accorded to those with subsidiary protection status. The presidency reiterated its intention to seek agreement to the directive at the June JHA Council.

The Council agreed to exclude refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection from the scope of the directive concerning the status of third country nationals who are long-term residents. This followed confirmation by the Commission that it would table by early 2004 a separate proposal for a directive addressing the needs of those groups.

The presidency summarised progress on the follow-up to the Seville European Council in view of the report to be submitted to the Thessaloniki European Council. The Commission reported on the implementation of the Afghan Returns Programme and the feasibility study on the Visa Information System which would be discussed at the June JHA Council. The Commission also confirmed that a communication on international protection regimes would be prepared in time for that meeting. I urged member states to consider future priorities, asylum (including recent UK ideas); reduction in flows of illegal migrants into the EU; more effective co-operation with source countries on returns; and better financing for JHA external action, including proper integration of JHA needs into other EU programmes.

The presidency and Commission reported on the negotiations with Switzerland on participation in the Schengen acquis and asylum measures, noting that they would be remitted to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and then discussed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council.

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The presidency reaffirmed its intention to seek adoption at the June JHA Council of the Council decision authorising signature of the agreements between the EU and USA on extradition and mutual legal assistance, with signature to take place at the EU-US Summit on 25 June. However, it noted that domestic parliamentary scrutiny was ongoing for several member states, including the UK. A number of member states, including the UK, also indicated that they were considering the need to make constitutional statements in accordance with Article 24 TEU. One member state sought further amendments to the Extradition Agreement.

The Council reached a general approach on the framework decision on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties. The presidency said that the European Parliament would need to be re-consulted on the text and further discussions were required on the recitals and accompanying certificate. Five member states, including the UK, maintained parliamentary scrutiny reservations.

The Council agreed the appointment of two Europol deputy directors, including a UK candidate.

Under any other business, Ministers also took note of the Commission's proposals for a common position on notifying the Council of Europe of the forthcoming application of the framework decision establishing the European arrest warrant between the member states. The Council received an update on recent discussions in the G8 which had reviewed progress made in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. Finally, the Netherlands drew the Council's attention to its contribution to the discussions on judicial co-operation in the Future of Europe Convention.

Home Office Departmental Report 2003

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Home Office will publish their annual report for 2002–03. [HL2929]

Lord Filkin: The Home Secretary has today, with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, laid before Parliament the Home Office's departmental report 2002–03 (Cm 5908). Copies are available in the Vote Office, Library and on the Home Office website. The report describes the work of the Home Office to build a safe, just and tolerant society. It sets out our public service agreement targets and describes performance against them. The report explains how we are delivering better public services, sets out how the Home Office is organised to deliver and provides performance information. It provides financial data for the years 1998–99 to 2005–06 and summarises the Home Office's response to PAC reports over the past year.

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