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Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government do not believe that the proposals contained in the draft European Union constitutional treaty will lead to fundamental changes in the relationship between the EU and the member states, or alter the position of the member states as the fundamental basis of the Union.

A full-time chair of both the European Council and a "Union Minister for Foreign Affairs" would be new appointments, but their functions will correspond to existing functions of (a) the rotating President of the European Council, and (b) the Commissioner for External Relations and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

The Government support the promotion of qualified majority voting as the general rule for legislative proposals. But the Government will insist that unanimity remains for treaty change, and in other areas of vital national interest.

Colombia: Human Rights

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: A working group of 10 representatives of the governments who attended the London Meeting on International Support for Colombia has been set up in Bogota to oversee follow-up action on the London Declaration. The group will work with civil society, the UN and the Colombian Government on preparatory work for a donors' co-ordination conference. The group will also monitor the Colombian Government's implementation of the UN recommendations.

There are no plans to attach formal conditions to the provision of aid to Colombia, but we have made clear that our continued support was dependent on complete respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. I also refer the noble Lord to the Answer that my honourable friend the then Minister for International Development (Hilary Benn) gave on 26 June 2003, (Official Report, Commons, col. 940W). The Department for International Development is phasing out its bilateral programme to Colombia with the last project due to finish this year, but the department does provide support through the European Commission.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What public statements have been made by Foreign Office Ministers during visits to Colombia or at international meetings about violations of human rights in Colombia.[HL5043]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: During his visit to Colombia in May, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Bill Rammell) spoke at the Euroamerica Foundation Conference. In his speech he raised our concerns about the human rights situation in Colombia. The London Declaration, which was issued following the London meeting on international support for Colombia on 10 July, reflected such concerns. The Minister also raised these matters with the Colombian Foreign Minister in the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September, after which he issued a press statement.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consult their European Union partners on a visa ban against Colombian officers implicated in human rights violations.[HL5044]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Any EU action would be taken on the basis of Article 15 TEU, and would therefore need to be agreed by unanimity among all member states. There are no plans for the UK to pursue this at this time. All visa applications for the UK are considered on their own merits and on the applicant's circumstances at the time. Proven involvement in criminal activity, including human rights abuses/violations, would have a bearing on the outcome of the application.

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British Nationals Overseas

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

    What is their estimate of the number of citizens of the United Kingdom who are normally resident:

    (a) elsewhere in the European Union, including the accession states; and

    (b) outside the European Union.[HL5123]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: According to the latest information available to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, there are approximately 15.5 million British Nationals living overseas, of which 2.3 million reside in the European Union, including the accession states.

Turkey: Human Rights

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they agree with the resolution adopted by the Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union at their meeting in Geneva on 3 October, in which they regretted the decision of the Turkish Court "not to grant bail to the four former MPs . . . who have already spent seven years in prison owing to an unfair judgment"; and if so, whether they will seek to ensure that this case is mentioned in the forthcoming report of the European Commission's Regular Report on Turkey's Progress towards Accession, in connection with Turkey's compliance with Copenhagen Principles.[HL5166]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: FCO officials raised the case of the four former MPs with their Turkish counterparts as recently as 23 October 2003, at the latest round of the UK-Turkey Human Rights dialogue. It was clear from those contacts that the Turkish Government are determined that justice should be done in this important case, but that their own direct role also shows due regard for the independence of the judiciary in Turkey. Given the significance of these issues, we would expect them to receive appropriate coverage in the European Commission's next Regular Report.

Bermuda: Constitution

Lord Morgan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether progress has been made in consulting the people of Bermuda on the procedures to be adopted for considering future proposals for amending Bermuda's constitution.[HL5326]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Pursuant to my reply on 3 March 2003 to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours (Official Report, col. WA 78), the Governor of Bermuda has, on 2 November 2003, initiated a public debate in Bermuda on this subject, by publicising and distributing widely a consultation

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document seeking comments from political parties, organisations and interested individuals by 31 December 2003. Copies of this document have been placed in the Library of the House.

Gulf War 1990–91 Vaccines

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bach on 9 October (WA 67), whether the Ministry of Defence is satisfied that the current study into the administration of anthrax vaccine, now being carried out at Porton Down, accurately replicates the intervals between doses as used in 1990–91 and the conditions under which the vaccine was given.[HL5111]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): An independent panel of experts oversees the Ministry of Defence funded Vaccines Interactions Research Programme being undertaken by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), Porton Down. I assume this research programme is the study to which my noble friend refers. The purpose of this research is to establish whether combinations of vaccines, including anthrax, administered with and without pyridostigmine bromide, give rise to adverse health effects. The vaccinations Gulf veterans received, their timing, the environmental and other conditions pertaining at the time of administration varied and to replicate all of the different scenarios would be impractical. The research vaccination schedule attempts to reflect a valid "worse case". This research does not address the numerous other factors that have been suggested as possible causes or contributors to Gulf veterans' illnesses. To do so would have increased the size of the research programme considerably and confounded the interpretation of the results. The independent panel is responsible for ensuring that this complex, carefully controlled scientific research programme, conducted under laboratory conditions, is carried out to the highest scientific standards and that the aims of the research programme are fully addressed.

Defence Systems and Equipment Exhibition

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Russia and Syria refused invitations to the Defence Systems and Equipment International Exhibition; and, if so, what reasons they gave for not attending.[HL5235]

Lord Bach: The official overseas defence delegations from Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Russia and Syria declined an invitation to attend the exhibition. There is no requirement for delegations to provide reasons for not accepting invitations and no reasons were given.

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