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The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The chief executive of the Water Service has written in response to the noble Lord's Question. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Prime Minister has today published the list of Ministerial Committees of the Cabinet together with their Chairmen, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The Prime Minister will make an announcement on full membership and terms of reference in due course.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Yes. The Government have decided to acquire a new residence for the Consul General in San Francisco at Presidio Heights, and to sell the existing residence. This decision was taken on the basis that the existing residence is larger and more expensive than we need. The new residence will meet well the operational requirements of the post, offer better value for money and will make a net contribution to the FCO's stretched capital fundsrequired for Estate, IT and security modernisation.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No government Minister has visited San Francisco or Los Angeles on estate matters. The Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Sir Michael Jay, visited San Francisco in October 2001 and concluded that sale of the present residence was the right decision. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Mr Rammell), has recently examined the papers, held a series of meetings with officials and concluded that the sale should proceed.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It was never the intention to replace the present residence with one of equal size. That is not necessary; and there is no realistic possibility of the FCO finding the funds to renovate and maintain the present residence as it should be. I am satisfied that the new residence at Presidio Heights will offer the Consul General the opportunity to host functions of the size and style needed to achieve his objectives at a cost that the taxpayer can afford.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The case for the sale was based on current property valuations and the best available projections about the future course of the San Francisco property market. The team concluded that sale of the present residence and its replacement by a smaller building was financially advantageous, and would make a net contribution to FCO resources.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Kingdom played an active role in this year's session of the Commission on Human Rights. As in previous years, there was progress in some areas but setbacks in others. We were pleased that the commission passed important resolutions on issues such as the death penalty, torture, the right to education and the protection of human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS as well as on the human rights situations in a number of countries including Burma, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba and, for the first time, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Belarus.
We were, however, disappointed that the commission failed to adopt resolutions on Zimbabwe, Chechnya and Sudan. We welcomed the increased time allotted to interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteurs and the equitable distribution of speaking time to non-governmental organisations. While we did not endorse the election of a representative of Libya as chair of this year's session, she conducted proceedings in a competent and objective manner for much of the commission.
On 29 April, the UK was re-elected to serve on the commission for a further three years. We will continue to use our membership to press for the commission to fulfil its mandate to set and promote human rights standards and address human rights violations around the world.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The 54 members of the United Nations Economic and Social Council elected 24 members to the Commission on Human Rights on 29 April 2003. As there were only six candidates for the six available places in the Latin America and Caribbean Group, a vote was not required. Cuba was re-elected by acclamation along with Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government responded favourably to the European Union Committee's recommendation that Explanatory Memorandums on proposed European Union legislation should provide a statement on compatibility with the Human Rights Act 1998.
The Convention on the Future of Europe's proposals on the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was presented to Heads of State and Government at the Thessaloniki European Council on 19 and 20 June and will be discussed in detail at the inter-governmental conference which will begin later this year.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Prison Service will produce an action plan for each inspection report based on the Chief Inspector's recommendations. Action plans list every recommendation and progress towards implementing each one. My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State responsible for Correctional Services (Paul Goggins MP) sees the original action plan and subsequent progress reports.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have today published a summary of the Home Office strategic framework. This document provides the context for the work of the Department, now and in the future. It sets out emerging challenges and opportunities and the role of the Home Office in contributing to the wider priorities of Government. The document shows that as we strive to build a safe, just and tolerant society, two themes run throughout all the Home Office's workeffective enforcement of law, order and our borders; and civil renewal, social inclusion and active citizenship.