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Armenia: Arms Embargo

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government remain committed to the OSCE arms embargo against both Azerbaijan and Armenia, which we interpret as covering all goods and technology controlled under entries in Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994 (commonly known as the military list).

In June 2003, the Government approved an export licence application for demining equipment for the HALO Trust for demining operations in Armenia.

The decision was made in accordance with our practice occasionally to make an exemption to our interpretation of the embargo by approving exports of non-lethal military goods to humanitarian, media or peacekeeping organisations where it is clear that the embargo was not intended to prevent those exports and there is a strong humanitarian case for them. Joan

Montserrat: Medical Care

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Since 1 April 1989, the UK/Montserrat healthcare agreement has allowed Montserrat to refer up to four patients needing hospital care, for which adequate facilities do not exist in Montserrat, to the UK each year. The agreement itself has not been formally reviewed since 1989, although administrative arrangements for referrals were revisited earlier this year.

Substantial efforts have been made to restore, rebuild and maintain public health services and facilities on Montserrat since the volcanic crisis. This has included over £5 million in funding from the Department for International Development for the construction and equipping of a hospital, rehabilitation of primary care clinics, a new operating theatre and the training of health personnel. Effective basic public health services have continued on the island since the crisis supported by Her Majesty's Government's budgetary aid to the Government of Montserrat.

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Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many patients with life-threatening conditions in the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Montserrat, for whom appropriate medical care is not available on the island, are currently awaiting help under the scheme for specialist medical care outside the territory; and whether timely referrals will be achieved in each case.[HL3398]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK/Montserrat healthcare agreement allows Montserrat to send up to four patients needing hospital care for which adequate facilities do not exist in Montserrat to the UK each year. It is not a prerequisite for the acceptance of a referral that the condition requiring treatment is life-threatening, though most referrals do involve serious conditions. In the current referral year (April 2003 to April 2004) the UK has so far accepted one patient for treatment under the quota arrangements. A proposed second patient is awaiting placement for a hip replacement operation. The average waiting time in the UK for such an operation is currently 9 to 12 months and patients referred under reciprocal agreements are treated with the same priority according to their clinical need as patients resident in the UK.

Montserrat: CARICOM and OECS

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their position on the membership of Montserrat and other British Overseas Territories of the CARICOM and OECS regional organisations.[HL3449]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Government encourage Montserrat and the other British Overseas Territories to obtain maximum benefits from regional integration, including, where appropriate, through their membership of CARICOM and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The British Overseas Territories require prior British Government approval, in the form of an entrustment, before undertaking international commitments. Janice

Montserrat: Repayment of Loans

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they would consider a request by the Government of Montserrat for help with the repayment of loans owed by the Montserrat Development Bank for port expansion, mortgages and student loans.[HL3452]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Amos): DfID already has assisted Montserrat with the handling of government loans,

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and continues to do so. Since the onset of the volcanic crisis, the island government have encountered difficulty in servicing outstanding debt. We assisted initially in support of their case, which secured Caribbean Development Bank agreement to a moratorium on repayments. Since December 2001, when the moratorium ended, we have contributed to the partial write-off of a loan for port expansion and helped with full repayment of some other debts. The Caribbean Development Bank has since confirmed Montserrat's renewed eligibility for some concessional finance and has restructured some 7.2 million United States dollars of remaining debt. This includes lines of credit, managed by the Bank of Montserrat on behalf of the Government of Montserrat, some of which has been on-lent for mortgage purposes.

Montserrat: Pensions Payments

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people entitled to retirement pensions from the Pensions and Overseas Benefit Directorate of the Department for Work and Pensions reside in the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of Montserrat; what arrangements are in place for their payment and whether timely payment of these pensions has been made and is being made.[HL3399]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): To date, there are 152 people residing in Montserrat who are entitled to retirement pension (RP) from the International Pension Centre of the Department for Work and Pensions. One hundred and thirty two of these people receive their RP by order payable; 16 have their RP paid into a UK bank account; and 4 have their RP paid into a bank account in a country other than the UK. Montserrat does not have the available infrastructure to make payments directly to a bank account.

To our knowledge, payments to all of the above customers are, and always have been, issued on time. Postal delays were reported over the Christmas (2002) period due to the additional mail that the postal authorities deal with at that time of year. There were also postal delays in January/February 2003 due to some problems with the contractor responsible for delivering. This created a backlog of post that took until the end of February to clear, so temporary measures were put in place until the problems were rectified.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consultation the Department for Work and Pensions has had with agencies in Montserrat regarding complaints of late payment of pensions to people residing in Montserrat.[HL3400]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: International Pension Centre (IPC) were advised in May and June 2003 of

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delays in payment to people in Montserrat by Denise Baker, PA/Governor, Montserrat. IPC explained to Denise that normally, to the best of our knowledge, payments to our customers in Montserrat are made on time. Postal delays were reported over the Christmas (2002) period due to the additional mail that the postal authorities deal with at that time of year. There were also postal delays in January/February 2003 due to some problems with the contractor responsible for delivering. This created a backlog of post that took until the end of February to clear, so temporary measures were put in place until the problems were rectified. She was advised that we had appointed a new contractor with effect from May 2003 to deliver our post abroad and that we expected this to greatly improve our service. Janice

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Department for Work and Pensions has taken or is now considering any action to avoid late payment of pension entitlements to people residing in Montserrat.[HL3401]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The only method of payment available for the issue of retirement pension (RP) to people living in Montserrat is by order payable through the postal system. Direct payment into a bank account is only available if the person has a bank account in the UK or in a country which has the infrastructure to accept payments direct to a bank account, Montserrat does not at present have that infrastructure. To date, we have had confirmation that our new courier service is meeting the delivery target of eight working days to destinations outside of Europe. The post to Montserrat is flown direct from the courier to the postal service in Montserrat. This ensures that any postal delays in other countries are not contributing factors to any delays in Montserrat. There are currently no reported delays in Montserrat.

Although no problems are anticipated, should people in Montserrat suffer any delays in receiving their RP in the future, arrangements can be made to track the payment from when it was issued up to when it is eventually received. This will enable us to confirm where any delay in the delivery process occurs and take any appropriate measures necessary.


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