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Written Answers

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 19 March 1996

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Written Answers

Tuesday, 19th March 1996.

Sir David Hannay: Attendance At Bilderberg Conference

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the purpose of the attendance of Sir David Hannay at the Bilderberg meeting in Burgenstock, Switzerland on 8th-11th June 1995, at whose invitation did he attend and what report he filed to the Foreign Secretary.

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

Sir David Hannay attended the Bilderberg Conference at the invitation of the organisers to talk about UN peacekeeping operations.

Taiwan: Chinese Military Exercises

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they, and the European Union, will ask the Chinese authorities not to conduct missile tests or any other military operations near the coast of Taiwan contrary to Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter; and whether, if such manoeuvres continue, they will consult with the United Nations Secretary-General about additional measures of preventive diplomacy.

The European Union partners issued the following statement in Rome on 8th March:"The EU deeply regrets the firing by the People's Republic of China of missiles, beginning in the morning of March 8th, into test zones in the Taiwan Straits. The planned week-long exercises could lead to further tension in the region and increase the possibility of any miscalculation eventually leading to confrontation.The EU, recalling the pledge always made by the PRC to stick to its fundamental policy on the Taiwan issue, which is to seek a peaceful solution, calls on the PRC to refrain from activities which could have negative effects on the security of the entire region and urge early resumption of the cross Straits talks."We continue to monitor this difficult situation very closely. We do not hesitate to raise critical situations in the UN or in other international bodies, where we believe this will be effective.


asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they consider the general immunity from jurisdiction conferred by Section 1 of the State Immunity Act 1978 to be compatible with the obligations contained in Articles 5(2), 7(1) and 14(1) of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and Articles 3, 6(1) and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights; andHow the United Kingdom has fulfilled the obligation in Article 14(1) of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to ensure that, in our legal system, the victim of an act of torture committed abroad obtains redress and has an enforceable right, to fair and adequate compensation against any perpetrator within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom; andWhether they will consider introducing a measure to imbed the State Immunity Act 1978 so that a state is not immune in respect of acts done by a public official or person acting in an official capacity which constitute torture in breach of Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988; andWhether they will consider introducing an amendment to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 so as to make an act of torture in breach of Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 an actionable tort or, in Scotland, a delict.

The Questions asked by the noble Lord raise issues which, as he will be aware, are currently before the English courts.

Ukraine: Ecgd Cover

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why the Export Credits Guarantee Department does not give credit to British firms trading with Ukraine.

Under its normal market risk assessment system, ECGD has concluded that the payment risk on Ukraine is currently too high to justify the provision of cover. However, because of the potential opportunities for UK exporters in Ukraine, the position is being kept under continuing review. ECGD cover will be introduced as soon as it can be justified.

Burma: Uk Investment

asked Her Majesty's Government:What proportion of foreign investment in Myanmar comes from the United Kingdom.

According to our estimates, direct investment from the UK makes up 1 per cent. of total foreign investment in Burma (at 31/12/95).

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the United Kingdom invested more than any foreign country in Myanmar.

According to statistics released by the Myanmar Foreign Investment Commission, the UK is recorded as being the largest foreign investor from 1988 to the end of 1995. However, the statistics note that this figure includes investment from enterprises incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda. According to our estimates only 4.5 per cent. of the sum accredited to the UK has come directly from the UK.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is their policy to promote United Kingdom investment in Myanmar.

It is not our policy actively to promote British investment into Burma at the present time. However, the DTI will continue to provide information to business enquirers about investment issues and the associated risks.

Prisons: Cognitive Skills Programmes

asked Her Majesty's Government:What cognitive skills programmes are being tested in the prisons of England and Wales, and whether they will place descriptions of the programmes in the Library of the House.

Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the temporary Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Avebury from the Director of Security and Programmes of the Prison Service, Mr. A. J. Pearson, dated 19th March 1996.

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about cognitive skills programmes run by Prison Service establishments in England and Wales.

Establishments have a choice of two cognitive behavioural skills programmes which are designed to tackle the thinking and attitudes underpinning anti-social and criminal behaviour:

  • (i) the Reasoning and Rehabilitation Programme—a Canadian package
  • (ii) the Thinking Skills course—an in-house package.
  • A comprehensive description of these programmes and operating standards is currently being prepared. The intention is to complete this work by the autumn and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

    Schools Access Initiative: Grants

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of bids made to the Department for Education and Employment by local education authorities under the schools access initiative.

    Local Education Authorities (LEAs) are today being notified of supplementary credit approvals totalling £7.8 million in 1996–97 to enable them to improve access to mainstream schools for pupils with disabilities, and are being notified that capital grant of £974,000 (grant to voluntary aided schools is paid at the rate of 85 per cent. of eligible expenditure) will support work in 1996–97 at voluntary aided schools. Together with partnership funding in many cases the total value of the projects concerned is £10.6 million.I am delighted that this will enable many more schools to admit pupils with disabilities. It will improve facilities in over 700 mainstream schools, not only for pupils with physical disabilities, but also for those with, for example, visual or hearing impairments. The result will be greater access to the curriculum and to the social life of school for these pupils.LEAs and schools are planning a wide variety of projects. Just a few examples of the many worthwhile and imaginative improvements which will be made are:

    • providing ramps, lifts, handrails and walkways to improve access to buildings;
    • adapting accommodation for particular curriculum areas or relocating this accommodation to make it accessible;
    • purchasing specialist equipment such as teaching aids for the visually handicapped (for example, Braille microcomputers), or portable transmitter/receiver systems for profoundly deaf pupils.

    To maximise the benefits of the Schools Access Initiative, LEAs and schools have secured partnership funding totalling some £1.8 million. This has come from private contributions, business sponsorship, voluntary aided school governors' contributions and schools' own resources. It is a marvellous achievement.

    Channel Tunnel Rail Link

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What legislative provision is proposed to ensure that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will be built to accommodate standard continental rolling stock sizes.

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport
    (Viscount Goschen)

    The design of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link accommodates standard continental rolling stock, both passenger and freight. The CTRL Bill reflects this, and the contracts with London and Continental Railways require the link to be constructed in accordance with these standards.

    Acts Of Parliament: Internet Publication

    asked Her Majesty's Government:How, if at all, publication on the Internet by HMSO of the full texts of all new Acts of Parliament will affect the future policy and operation of the Statutory Publications Office in respect of the Statute Law Database project.

    Irish Republic Ec Funding: Uk Contribution

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the latest annual figure for the net financial benefit received by the Irish Republic from the European Community, and what proportion of that is met through the net contributions of United Kingdom taxpayers to the European Community budget.

    According to the Court of Auditors' Report on 1994, the net financial benefit to the Irish Republic from the EC was 1,752 million ecu (some £1,360 million) in that year.There is no widely recognised methodology which produces a simple answer to the second part of this Question. On the assumptions, however, that member states contribute to all expenditure categories according to their share of Community revenue, and the Community funding and expenditure are, as far as possible, scored to the budget to which they relate, the proportion of the Irish Republic's net receipt since 1994 financed by UK taxpayers was some 6 per cent. This is a somewhat smaller percentage share than in the two previous years, when the share was in the range 13–14 per cent., due to the substantial underspending in 1994 affecting the UK's relative share of contributions with respect to the other contributing member states.

    Armed Forces: Ethnic Minority Recruitment And Promotion

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will introduce measures to encourage the recruitment and promotion of members of ethnic minorities within the Armed Forces, and, if not, why not.

    We already employ a range of measures to recruit more ethnic minorities to the Armed Forces. These include better representation of ethnic minority Service personnel in recruiting literature and advertisements, advertising in the ethnic minority press, production of brochures in ethnic minority languages for the benefit of parents, and development of personal contacts between the three Service Directorates of Recruiting and local ethnic minority communities. An independent consultant is currently conducting a review of our equal opportunities policies. Promotion in the Armed Forces is solely on merit, regardless of ethnic origin. The Armed Forces are subject to the Race Relations Act 1976, and are fully committed to a policy of non-discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Ministry of Defence will make an assessment of the attitudes of members of the Armed Forces towards the recruitment and promotion of members of ethnic minorities.

    Paramilitaries: Resettlement

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the resettlement of former paramilitaries is on their agenda for discussion with the Government of Ireland.

    Prisoners Convicted Of Terrorism: Release During Ira Ceasefire

    asked Her Majesty" s Government:Whether they will list by name those prisoners convicted of terrorist offences who were released from Her Majesty's prisons during the period of the IRA ceasefire, showing in respect of each the date and nature of the offence, the date of conviction and the length of original sentence and the date of release.

    Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Northern Ireland Prison Service under its Chief Executive, Mr. Alan Shannon. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

    Letter to Lord Marlesford from the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Mr. A. D. Shannon, dated 14th March 1996.

    I have been asked to reply to the parliamentary Question you tabled relating to the numbers of prisoners convicted of terrorist offences who were released from Her Majesty's prisons during the period of the IRA ceasefire.

    Since September 1994 more than 2,000 prisoners have been released from prisons in Northern Ireland and the information you are seeking could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. In any case, it is not our policy to release details about individuals.