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Lord Razzall: I am happy to do so, and I shall read with interest the Minister's remarks in Hansard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Triesman: I know that it is earlier than our target time, but it has been a very hot and, I think,
 
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difficult afternoon. I thank all noble Lords, and indeed everyone present, for putting up with an extremely uncomfortable afternoon. Although it is early, I think this may be a convenient moment to adjourn until 3.30 p.m. tomorrow.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (The Countess of Mar): The Committee stands adjourned until Wednesday 16 June at 3.30 p.m.

Written Statements

Tuesday 15 June 2004


 
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Iraq: Service Police Investigations

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): Further to my Statement of 14 June (Official Report, cols. WS 22–24) three of the four soldiers accused were informed of the charges against them on 14 June. I can therefore confirm that their names are: Corporal Daniel Kenyon; Fusilier Gary Paul Bartlam; and Lance Corporal Mark Paul Cooley and that the charges relate to incidents which allegedly took place on or about 15 May 2003 in a camp just to the west of Basra.

I will give the name of the fourth soldier by Written Answer once they have been informed of the charges against them.

British Indian Ocean Territory

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): I would like to inform the House of developments in relation to the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

In 1965, prior to Mauritius achieving independence in 1968, and with the agreement of the Mauritius Council of Ministers, the islands of the Chagos Archipelago were detached from Mauritius to form part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The territory was created to provide for the defence needs of both Britain and the United States of America. Subsequently, the plantations on which the population of the islands had depended for their livelihood were run down and closed and the inhabitants—the Chagossians—were in due course relocated to Mauritius and Seychelles, from where they or their families originated. The vast majority of them automatically acquired Mauritian or Seychelles citizenship when those countries respectively achieved independence. In addition, the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 gave a large number of them British citizenship. This carries with it the right of abode in this country, which some of them have already taken up, and freedom of access to other EU countries. Following the relocation, Britain made £650,000 available for the express purpose of assisting resettlement. And in 1982 Britain made a further ex gratia payment of £4 million for the benefit of the Chagossian community in Mauritius.

In November 2000 the High Court in the UK held in judicial review proceedings that a provision of the territory's immigration law which had previously precluded the Chagossians from returning to the territory without a permit was invalid. In the circumstances which then obtained, it was decided not to appeal against that ruling, and the immigration law was amended to reflect it.
 
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Following the departure of the Chagossians in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the economic conditions and infrastructure which had supported the community of plantation workers ceased to exist. While the judicial review proceedings were still pending, the Government therefore commissioned a feasibility study by independent experts to examine and report on the prospects for re-establishing a viable community in the outer islands of the territory. The latest report of the study was delivered after the November 2000 judgment and it was then placed in the Library of the House. It concluded that,

Specifically with reference to climate change, the report advised that,

The report also highlighted the implications for resettlement on such low-lying islands of the predicted increase in global sea levels as a result of climate change.

In effect, therefore, anything other than short-term resettlement on a purely subsistence basis would be highly precarious and would involve expensive underwriting by the UK Government for an open-ended period—probably permanently. Accordingly, the Government consider that there would be no purpose in commissioning any further study into the feasibility of resettlement; and that it would be impossible for the Government to promote or even permit resettlement to take place. After long and careful consideration, we have therefore decided to legislate to prevent it.

Equally, restoration of full immigration control over the entire territory is necessary to ensure and maintain the availability and effective use of the territory for defence purposes, for which it was in fact constituted and set aside in accordance with the UK's treaty obligations, entered into almost 40 years ago. Especially in the light of recent developments in the international security climate since the November 2000 judgment, this is a factor to which due weight has had to be given.

It was for these reasons that on 10 June 2004 Her Majesty made two Orders in Council, the combined effect of which is to restore full immigration control over all the islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory. These controls extend to all persons, including members of the Chagossian community.

The first of these two orders replaces the existing constitution of the territory and makes clear, as a principle of the constitution, that no person has the right of abode in the territory or has unrestricted
 
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access to any part of it. The second order replaces the existing immigration ordinance of the territory and contains the detailed provisions giving effect to that principle and setting out the necessary immigration controls. These two orders restore the legal position to what it had been understood to be before the High Court decision of 3 November 2000. I am arranging for copies of the orders to be placed in the Library of the House.

Regional Planning Guidance for the West Midlands

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Regional Planning Guidance 11 (RPG11) sets out the spatial strategy for the sustainable development of the region, with a framework for the land use aspects of housing and transport infrastructure and economic development. The strategy gives priority to the regeneration of the major urban areas and the regeneration zones identified in the regional economic strategy. RPG11 also sets out proposals for the conservation, management and enhancement of the region's natural and cultural environment.

I am pleased that the vision, objectives and core strategy of RPG11 are largely as proposed in the draft RPG submitted by the West Midlands Regional Planning Body (RPB) in November 2001. This reflects the effective partnership working which was led by the RPB and involved local authorities and a wide range of other stakeholders. Many of these stakeholders have continued to make valuable contributions through the consultation process. Many of the comments received through the consultations have made a very positive contribution to the strategy.

The West Midlands Regional Assembly, now the regional planning body, will continue to work with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure that RPG11 is effectively implemented, monitored and reviewed.


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