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Guantanamo Bay: British Detainees

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is not the practice or policy of the Government to comment on whether an extradition request may be made in any individual case. Exemption 4A of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information applies.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have been engaged in regular discussions with the US authorities about the British detainees at Guantanamo Bay. We are not prepared to go into the details of these discussions.

It is not our practice to comment on evidence against any individual, which may or may not be used in criminal proceedings (Exemption 4A of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information applies). Any evidence received would be passed to the prosecuting authorities as appropriate.

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British Nationals in Foreign Prisons: FCO Policy

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are changing their policy on visits to British nationals in prison overseas.[HL3983]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: As part of a wider review of how we make the most effective use of our Consular resources to help British nationals in distress overseas, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has considered the issue of visiting British nationals in prison overseas.

The welfare of British nationals in foreign prisons is one of the key concerns of consular staff. Our staff seek to ensure that prisoners' rights are respected in accordance with international standards. This includes ensuring that they have access to legal representation and that their welfare needs are met during their detention.

Once a British national has been given a custodial sentence, our aim has been to visit them once a year, or more frequently if possible.

This approach does not however take account of the wide variation in prison conditions and practices between different countries. In European Union countries, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, North America and Australasia, we are satisfied that, in general, prison conditions meet international standards and are comparable to those in the UK. From 1 September this year, our aim will therefore be to visit prisoners in these countries once after sentencing, and thereafter, only if the real need arises. In addition, consular staff can maintain contact with prisoners by telephone and fax and encourage local prison volunteer groups to visit them.

In all other countries, where prison conditions give us more cause for concern, the aim of consular staff will be to continue to visit prisoners on a regular basis. This is likely to be at least once a year, and as often as once a month where circumstances warrant it. The new policy will allow us to provide our consular services on the basis of greatest need and to concentrate on countries where our consular assistance can be most beneficial.

US Alien Tort Statute: British Companies

Lord Alli asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their position on the cases that have been brought under the United States' Alien Tort Statute against British companies in relation to their activities in third countries.[HL3984]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Government oppose all unwarranted assertions of extraterritorial jurisdiction in commercial cases. Such assertions infringe on the sovereign right of states to regulate activities within their own territory, interfere with the freedom of states to conduct their own

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economic policies, place an unwarranted burden on businesses, and can create a climate of uncertainty which may affect the trading and investment conditions of British companies.

A number of cases have been brought under the United States' Alien Tort Statute against British companies and others in relation to their activities in third countries. Of particular concern are cases brought in the US against British companies in relation to their activities in South Africa during the Apartheid era, alleging that their presence in South Africa at the time made them complicit in human rights abuses.

The British Government have expressed to the US Government their concerns over the extraterritorial use of the Alien Tort Statute in these commercial cases. The US Government have filed an amicus brief in a related case brought under the statute, seeking to address this issue among others.

The British Government remain committed to combating impunity for human rights violations wherever they occur. We believe that the most effective means of achieving this goal is the strengthening and developing of credible national justice mechanisms that conform to international human rights standards. We believe that, in the first instance, legal remedies in the country where the act allegedly took place should be exhausted. In the apartheid cases this does not appear to have happened.

Moreover, South Africa is engaged in an ongoing post-apartheid reconciliation process, the complexities of which should not be underestimated. We believe that the South African Government are best placed and best capable of dealing with the issue of reparations for crimes under apartheid.

Cayman Islands: Appointment ofAttorney-General

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a new Attorney-General for the Cayman Islands has been appointed.[HL4037]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Following an open competition, Mr Sam Bulgin has been appointed as the new Attorney-General for the Cayman Islands. He is currently the Cayman Islands' Solicitor-General, and has been acting as Attorney-General since the early departure of David Ballantyne in March 2003.

Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the next report to Parliament on Hong Kong and the Sino-British Joint Declaration.[HL4038]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The 13th report on the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong was published on 16 July and copies have been placed in the Library of the House. A copy of the report is also available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk). The report includes a foreword by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. I commend the report to the House.

Iraq: Prisoners Captured by British Forces

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 30 June (WA 63), whether they will give an assurance that no prisoners captured by British forces in Iraq, and transferred to the United States authorities, either have been or will be transferred out of Iraq.[HL3802]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): No prisoners captured by British forces in Iraq and transferred to the United States authorities have been transferred out of Iraq. The British Government have an agreement with the United States that prisoners of war captured by United Kingdom forces will not be transferred out of Iraq without UK consent.

Iraq: Action to Incapacitate Weapons

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) What action they or their allies took in Iraq before the outbreak of war to incapacitate all known scud missiles, similar weapons or other weapons of mass destruction; (b) how successful this action proved to be; (c) how many such weapons were incapacitated; (d) how many such weapons remained operational; and (e) by what date such action was completed.[HL3943]

Lord Bach: As an integral part of the wider combat operation against Iraq, the coalition undertook a variety of operations in order to neutralise the threats posed by the Iraqi regime. I am withholding further details under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which covers defence, security and international relations.

Iraq: Refrigerated Containers

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the first order for refrigerated containers for British military use in Iraq on operation TELIC was placed; whether it was fulfilled; and, if not, why not.[HL3925]

Lord Bach: The first order for refrigerated containers for British military use on operations in Iraq (Operation TELIC) was an order for the lease of commercial

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containers which was placed and met on 13 January 2003. In addition, a business case was produced for the purchase of 200 containers from Pentalver Transport Ltd in late January 2003. The department's formal contract offer was accepted on 3 April 2003, by which time the first 20 containers were ready for delivery with the balance following at 15 per week until the order was completed on 16 June 2003.


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