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Written Answers

Volume 569: debated on Wednesday 14 February 1996

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Written Answers

Wednesday, 14th February 1996.

European Commission Overseas Delegations: British Heads

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in respect of the 126 overseas delegations set up by the European Community's Commission, they will specify the countries in which such delegations are headed by British personnel.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

Seventeen of the Commission's overseas delegations are headed by Commission personnel of British nationality.

Chechnya: Distribution Of Osce Code Of Conduct

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they know how many copies of the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security have been disseminated in Chechnya by the Russian authorities in accordance with Article 42 of the Code; and whether the OSCE Assistance Group in Grozny has a supply of copies of the code for distribution to any person who may request it.

The dissemination of the OSCE Code of Conduct is a national responsibility of each OSCE participating state, and we have no information about distribution of the code by Russian authorities in particular regions of the Russian Federation. Although distribution of the Code of Conduct is not part of its mandate, the OSCE Assistance Group in Grozny would be able to supply a copy to any person requesting it.

Council Of Europe: Costs Of Russian Accession

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the estimated cost to the Council of Europe of (a) the accession of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe and (b) the ratification by the Russian Federation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The provisional direct cost, as estimated by the Council of Europe Secretariat, is (a) 2.5 million French francs and (b) 1 million French francs for 1996. But these figures arc standard costings for acceding states. Russia will, however, additionally contribute about 31 million French francs to the Ordinary (General) Budget in 1996, which will more than offset these initial estimated costs. Future years will be the subject of budget negotiations between all member states.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the estimated cost to the United Kingdom of (a) the accession of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe and (b) the ratification by the Russian Federation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In cash terms, we cannot estimate the cost to the United Kingdom. However, in 1996, we shall contribute 15.58 per cent. of the Ordinary (General) Budget of the Council of Europe, which also finances the costs of the Human Rights institutions.

asked Her Majesty's Government:How it is proposed to cover any increase in expenditure incurred by the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights as a result of the ratification by the Russian Federation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is too early to say. We do not expect Russian ratification of the ECHR to have a noticeable effect on expenditure by the Human Rights institutions initially. But Russia is expected to contribute about 31 million French francs to the Ordinary (General) Budget of the Council of Europe in 1996, which should help to cover any additional costs that might accrue this year. Future years will be the subject of budget negotiations between all member states. But we shall continue to look to the Council of Europe to prioritise its activities before considering any increases to the budget.

Outer Space: Control Of Weaponry

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are content for space to be "weaponised" and if not, what steps they are taking to discourage the United States from pursuing this objective.

Both the United Kingdom and the United States are parties to the 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the "Outer Space Treaty"). Article IV of the Treaty contains an undertaking not to place in orbit around the earth, install on the moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise station in outer space nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction. It also limits the use of the moon and other celestial bodies exclusively to peaceful purposes and expressly prohibits their use for establishing military bases; testing weapons of any kind; or conducting military manoeuvres.

Abm Treaty

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have noted the intention of the United States Administration to "evolve", "update", "clarify" and "push" the ABM treaty, and obtain "at least the option of a national missile defence deployment that is consistent with the threat that we face from regional outlaw states" as set out in a speech by Mr. Robert Bell, Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to the President of the United States on 9 October 1995, and whether they share these intentions.

We arc in regular contact with the United States on all matters relating to strategic security. But it is for the parties to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to agree on its operation.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have noted Mr. Robert Bell's statement that "the foreign audience that has got to be taken into account [is] Moscow" and whether they are content no longer to be consulted on these issues, given that Prime Minister Thatcher was consulted.

The context of the reference makes clear that it is for the United States and Russia, as parties to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, to consult on the interpretation and operation of the treaty. Her Majesty's Government is in regular contact with the United States on all issues relating to strategic security.

Tooth Whitening

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Answer given by the Lord Chesham on 12 December 1995 (H.L. Deft, cobs. 1164–5), what progress the Department of Trade and Industry have made in discussions with the Department of Health to clarify the position of dentists and the use of tooth whitening techniques.

The answer given to my noble friend was that, if the dental profession and industry were to make a submission to the European Commission with view to a change in the legislation, assistance would be granted by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Health. No such request has been received by either department. If a submission were to be made, it would have to address satisfactorily the safety concerns identified by the Commission's cosmetics safety advisory body, the Scientific Committee for Cosmetology, and by toxicologists at the Department of Health. The initial step is therefore for the dental profession and/or industry to take.

Low-Emission Transport: Research Funding

asked Her Majesty's Government:What funding is currently available to organisations involved in research and development of emission-free forms of transport and whether the funding matches that which is currently made available to the automotive and oil industries in the form of subsidies.

There are a number of programmes to support research and development which can be made available for work on low-emission forms of transport. The Government also contribute £360 million annually to the European Union's fourth framework programme, under which British companies can engage in collaborative projects with companies in other member states. Low emission transport is one of the areas eligible for support.It is not possible to quantify separately the total amount spent on R&D in this area because of the number of different programmes concerned.There are no subsidies available to either the automotive industry or the oil industry, other than schemes generally available to all industries for regional development or similar purposes.

Civil Evidence (Family Mediation) (Scotland) Act 1995

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they propose to commence the Civil Evidence (Family Mediation) (Scotland, Act 1995.

I am pleased to announce that the Civil Evidence (Family Mediation) (Scotland) Act 1995 will come into force with effect from 19 February 1996.

Shares: Computerised Settlement Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in view of their policy to encourage wider share ownership, they consider that concern among smaller private investors about the higher costs which are expected to arise from the introduction of the new CREST (electronic share transfer) settlement system is justified.

Central settlement costs form only a small proportion of trading costs, and any increase in settlement costs compared with existing costs will itself be small. Even if the increase implied by CREST's tariff proposals (up to 90p in some cases) was passed on fully to investors. this would be unlikely to affect their investment decisions.The Government remain committed to wider share ownership. and have kept the interest; of private investors firmly in mind when considering the proposed introduction of computerised settlement. The enhancement of the London market which CREST is designed to deliver should benefit all investors, from private investors to institutions. The Government have also ensured that investors will be able to retain their share certificates if they choose, and have supported the inclusion of "sponsored membership- arrangements in CREST. Sponsored membership should provide an important new option for private investors, allowing them to gain the benefits of computerised settlement while retaining their name on the company register. The Government also support the Nominee Code designed to enhance links between companies and investors in nominees.