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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): It is of course too soon to tell what will be the consequences of the vetoes exercised by the Government in this context. We would in any case anticipate that the measures vetoed would be adopted as soon as we have agreement on a framework for the lifting of the beef export ban.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Government made it clear in 1994 that we intended to accede to UNCLOS and to ratify the Part XI Implementation Agreement after the necessary procedures had been completed. Once Ministers have decided on the timing of our accession, Parliament will be informed.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Elections for the Law of the Sea Tribunal are due to take place on 1st August 1996. Only states which have deposited Instruments of Accession or Ratification by 30th June 1996 have a right to nominate candidates and to vote in the elections.
Elections for the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf are expected to take place on 3rd March 1997. No formal deadline for accession/ratification has as yet been agreed in respect of these elections.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Yes. The United Kingdom signed the United Nations Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks in respect of certain Dependent Territories, subject to ratification, when the agreement was opened for signature in New York on 4th December 1995.
At the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 10th June 1996, it was decided that the European Community would sign the agreement. The way is now open for the United Kingdom to sign the agreement on its own behalf.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Burma Border Consortium have received grants from Her Majesty's Government totalling £285,000 over the past three years for relief distribution along the Thai/Burma border. The grant increased from £35,000 in Financial Year 1993-94 to £100,000 in 1994-95 and to £150,000 in 1995-96. No request for further assistance has been received for the current financial year. We will sympathetically consider any such request. The EU has recently announced a contribution of 700,000 ecus for the Thai/Burma border, which covers the purchase of food items and distribution.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Officials have repeatedly pressed the Burmese authorities to allow humanitarian and human rights organisations to operate freely in Burma. We were closely involved in the drafting of the recent UN Commission on Human Rights resolution on Burma, which invited the ruling military regime in Burma to "respect its obligations under the Geneva Conventions of 12th August 1949 and to avail itself of such services as may be offered by impartial humanitarian bodies".
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have already taken a number of measures along with our EU partners including an embargo on arms sales, defence links and non-humanitarian aid. However, we do not think we should cut off trade with Burma. Depriving Burma of trade will do nothing to help the Burmese people, who need economic as well as political reform. Trade can also help us reinforce our pressure on the Burmese authorities to implement democratic reforms and respect human rights.
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Under the Foreign Prison-Made Goods Act 1897, the prohibition on importation can be enforced only if evidence is supplied to Customs proving the foreign prison-made origin of goods. Customs have received no evidence to date of the importation into the UK of graphite produced in any Chinese prison. Customs do however remain willing to act upon any evidence supplied to them despite the evident difficulties of proving such origin.
Whether the provisions of the convention establishing the Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Common Fisheries Policy cover fisheries in the Rockall area.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea offers advice on the management of fish stocks in Area VIb, within which Rockall is situated. The Common Fisheries Policy covers fisheries in the Rockall area. The Government are well aware of the provisions of UNCLOS and have made it clear to Parliament that they consider that the convention is generally helpful to UK interests.
Bearing in mind this and other cases, particularly those involving the disposal of its own historic buildings, the Government issued a Guidance Note for Departments on the disposal of Surplus Historic Buildings in February 1995, which supplements general instructions in respect of the disposal of historic buildings given in Treasury letter DAO(GEN) 13/92 (Annex A).
The main points of the Guidance Note are that methods of disposal other than open market sale by auction or competitive tender may need to be considered where these will increase the chances of securing the appropriate ownership and use of historic buildings: and that professional advice should, wherever possible, be taken on the financial soundness of the prospective purchaser.
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