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Written Answers

Volume 572: debated on Wednesday 15 May 1996

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Written Answers

Wednesday, 15th May 1996.

Mr Morteza Shirazi

asked Her Majesty's Government:What information they have concerning Mr. Morteza Shirazi, a writer imprisoned on 21st November 1995 and alleged suffering torture in Iran; and concerning other scholars and writers who are followers of the Grand Ayatollah Shirazi who have been similarly imprisoned.

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

We are aware of a number of reports of the arrest of Mr. Morteza Shirazi and others. Most notably, the Special Representative of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has asked the Iranian authorities to provide information on a number of recently arrested clerics, including Mr. Shirazi. We will follow developments closely.

Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:What representations they have made during the past five years to the governments of other countries concerning their human rights records.

We have made numerous representations at different levels and in different ways, both bilaterally and together with our European partners, to other governments concerning their human rights records during the last five years. Details of such representations could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What representations they have made during the past five years to international bodies for further study or action concerning the human rights records of other countries, and what were the countries in question.

During the last five years the UK has frequently made known its human rights concerns at the United Nations and in other international bodies, sometimes by calling for further study or action. At this year's UN Commission on Human Rights, for example, we urged further detailed work by UN human rights experts on Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Colombia, Cuba, East Timor, Guatemala, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, the former Yugoslavia and Zaire.

Us Policy And Un Charter

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will now take steps, either with the European Community or the French government, to dissuade the United States government from seeking discordantly with the UN Charter to isolate, or destabilise Iran, Iraq, Syria, Cuba, Libya or South Africa.

We are not aware that US policy towards these countries is in contravention of the UN Charter.

Middle East: Disarmament

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will now take steps either with the European Community or the French Government, to revive the Middle East Disarmament Forum so that the arming of Israel by the United States need not take place.

We are not aware of an organisation of this name. If the noble Lord is referring to the Near Eastern Arms Co-ordinating Committee, there are no plans to revive this organisation.

Israel: Nuclear Status

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will now devote more resources to establishing the nuclear status of Israel.

We have no plans to do so. As we have made clear on numerous occasions, we continue to urge Israel to allay international suspicions about her nuclear activities, by acceding to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon state and concluding a fullscope safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Un Compensation Commission And Fund

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the UN Compensation Commission and Fund, established under UN Security Council Resolution 687 and 692, should now be expanded to cover claims for compensation for direct loss, damage or injury resulting from Israel's invasion and occupation of south Lebanon.

The UN Compensation Fund and Commission was set up specifically to cover claims for compensation resulting from Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Its terms of reference as set out in Security Council Resolution 687 and 692, mean that it cannot be expanded.

Utilities: Regulation

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether more or less regulation could improve service within the utilities industries, or whether this has no bearing upon their performance.

The introduction of competition is the best way to ensure that consumers receive a satisfactory standard of service and this is our aim. In the meantime utility regulators whose duties include protecting the interests of consumers in respect of both price and quality of services supplied, have imposed price caps and performance standards for the provision of services by utilities with monopoly power. In setting these, the regulators need to balance the consumers' interest in lower prices and better standards, bearing in mind that higher required standards may mean higher prices. Regulators monitor carefully the service standards provided by utilities and take action where necessary.

Gas: Competition Pilot Scheme

asked Her Majesty's Government:What has been the take-up of gas by residential customers offered by each of the gas companies in Devon and Cornwall and why.

At 10th May, some 35,900 residential customers of the 520,000 in the Domestic Pilot area had changed their supplier. Figures are only available for the whole pilot area, which consists of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. The breakdown between the eight participating companies shipping gas is commercially confidential. No survey has been conducted to ascertain the customer's reasons for changing their supplier.

Gas And Electricity Markets: Regulation

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have plans to restructure the current regulating regime of the gas and electricity markets into a combined energy regulator to govern both industries; and if so what those plans are.

The Government have no plans to introduce a regulator responsible for both the gas and electricity market, though they recognise that in the medium and longer term there may be a stronger case for such a regulator.

Muffin The Mule Postage Stamps

asked Her Majesty's Government:What royalties will be paid, and to whom, for the use of Muffin the Mule on postage stamps.

None, but the Post Office has paid £250 to the BBC to cover the copyright of the photograph to be used and a further £250 to the owner of the intellectual property rights of Muffin the Mule.

Postage Stamp Design

asked Her Majesty's Government:Who is now responsible for the design of postage stamps, and what advice is taken on the iconography and aesthetics of such design.

The Post Office. The subjects for their special stamp programme are decided in the light of the market research and wide consultation within the Post Office. The Stamp Advisory Committee (which includes members drawn from the fields of design, philately, politics and media) assists the Post Office in choosing the best designs for the subject.

Pay Review Bodies: Membership

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the current membership of the public sector Pay Review Bodies.

The current membership, with effect from 1 April 1996, is listed below:

Senior Salaries Review Body

  • Sir Michael Perry CBE (Chairman)
  • Mr. Gordon Hourston
  • Sir Anthony Wilson
  • Sir Sidney Lipworth QC
  • Mrs. Rosemary Day
  • Ms Patricia Mann
  • Mrs. Yve Newbold
  • Mr. Mark Sheldon
  • Mr. Michael Beloff QC

Armed Forces Pay Review Body

  • Mr. Gordon Hourston (Chairman)
  • Mr. Michael Bolton
  • Mrs. Dorothy Venables
  • Mr. John Cox OBE
  • Mr. John Crosby
  • Air Chief Marshal Sir Roger Palin KCB OBE
  • Mr. Guy Neely
  • Sir Gavin Laird CBE

Review body on Nursing Staff, Midwives, Health Visitors and Professions Allied to Medicine

  • Mr. Bryan Rigby (Chairman)
  • Miss Anne Mackie OBE
  • Professor Gillian Raab
  • Ms Ruth Lea
  • Mrs. Sheila Gleig
  • Mrs. Anne Dean
  • Mr. Lyndon Haddon
  • Mr. Keith Miles

Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration

  • Mr. Brandon Gough (Chairman)
  • Mrs. Carol Hui
  • Dr. Elizabeth Nelson
  • Mr. David Penton
  • Mr. Michael Innes
  • Mr. Christopher King CBE
  • Mrs. Beryl Brewer
  • Mr. Roderick Jackson

School Teachers Review Body

  • Mr. Tony Vineall (Chairman from September 1996)
  • Mr. John Gardiner (Chairman until September 1996)
  • Mrs. Brigita Amey
  • Mr. Michael Harding
  • Mrs. Julia Cuthbertson
  • Mrs. Elizabeth Drummond
  • Miss Janet Langdon
  • Mr. Peter Gelding
  • Mr. Philip Halsey CB LVO (until September 1996)

Habitual Residence Test

asked Her Majesty's Government:What information they possess on the effects on those involved of withdrawal of benefit under the habitual residence test.

It is not the Government's practice to monitor the effects of failure to qualify for social security benefits.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will collect information on the ethnic background of those affected by the habitual residence test; whether, without such statistics, they can know that the test is being even-handedly applied, and, if so, how.

We have no plans to collect information on the ethnic background of people affected by the habitual residence test. The test is neutral and there is no firm evidence to suggest that it is being applied unequally.