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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The oil embargo came into force on 1 May. Many non-EU countries including all NATO members, EU Associate States and EFTA states have joined the EU oil embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The original mission of the EU forensic experts was authorised to investigate sites of alleged killings of civilians in Kosovo, including Klecka and Volujak. The investigations are still in train.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Section 1 of the Geneva Conventions Act of 1957, as amended by Section 1 of the 1995 Act, provides that any person who commits a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions or of the First Additional Protocol of 1977 commits an offence under UK law. The relevant provisions of the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol apply to all cases of armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The responsibility for controlling platforms on the high seas lies initially with the flag state. In the absence of evidence that flag states and other states legitimately involved are failing in their responsibilities in this respect, it would seem premature to raise the issue.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government are determined to deliver an immigration and asylum system which is fairer, faster and firmer. The Immigration and Asylum Bill is key to achieving this goal. The new arrangements contained in the Bill will provide a coherent national support system for asylum seekers, including families with children.
The Bill has been carefully scrutinised by a Special Standing Committee which took evidence as well as considering it clause by clause. We are very grateful to all the honourable Members who took part in this Committee. In the light of issues raised, we are making the following changes:
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today tabled amendments to the Immigration and Asylum Bill to make clear that the Home Secretary will be under a new duty to meet the accommodation and essential living needs of destitute asylum seeker families. The assistance they receive in this way will be comparable to what would otherwise be available under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. All the other safeguards for children contained in that Act will continue to apply. Linked with the commitment we have already made to provide 24-hour emergency cover for such families, these measures will ensure that the children of asylum seekers receive the same kind of protection as other children enjoy.
In the White Paper, Fairer, Faster and Firmer, the Government set a target of delivering, by April 2001, most initial asylum decisions within two months and most appeals in a further four months. In respect of families with children, we have decided to bring forward this target to April 2000. From that date, our aim will be to deliver initial decisions on new asylum applications in such cases in an average of two months. Average waiting times for appeals are already below four months. Our intention is to maintain this for the future for all categories of cases. If we cannot achieve these targets for families with children, we will not bring these applications into the new support arrangements in April 2000. We will only do so when we are satisfied that the targets for these cases can be met. For those people who remain on the support arrangements for more than six months through no fault of their own, we shall be introducing an additional discretionary payment to assist with the cost of any replacement items they may need.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): A contract for the final development and production of extended range barrels and a new Modular Charge System for the AS90 self-propelled gun has been placed with Marconi Electronic Systems. This programme will extend the range and increase the effectiveness of AS90, and will provide a significantly enhanced artillery capability for the British Army. The contract will sustain about 50 jobs with Marconi at Barrow-in-Furness and at the Royal Ordnance factory in Nottingham, which will manufacture the extended range barrels. The Modular Charge System will be supplied by Somchem of South Africa. The total value of the contract with Marconi is around £75 million.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No. The Greening Government Initiative does not require the production or publication of formal environmental impact assessments in relation to short-term events, such as the summer concerts planned for the Royal Parks this year. Nonetheless, the Royal Parks Agency of course takes environmental issues into account in seeking to minimise any disruption to the public or damage to the fabric of the park which might arise from events. Furthermore, the Royal Parks Agency will carry out a review of the environmental effect of this summer's programme of events.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The 25 May ECOFIN agreed to a draft text of the Broad Economic Guidelines for Italy that reflected the possibility of lower than forecast growth in 1999 impacting on Italy's deficit. Article 99 of the Amsterdam Treaty authorises the Council to formulate a draft of the Broad Economic Guidelines. No vote was taken by the Council.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): A report on progress by departments and their key agencies is being published today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House and it will be published on the site www.citu.gov.uk. The report contains information supplied by departments on a sample of key dealings between the citizen and business and government.
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