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Written Answers

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 19 April 2007

Written Answers

Thursday 19 April 2007

China: Organ Harvesting

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have made an assessment of the revised report, Bloody Harvest, by David Matas and David Kilgour on allegations of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China, published on 31 January; and, in particular, whether they have assessed the claim made by the Transplantation Society that executed prisoners are the major source of organs used for transplants in China. [HL3060]

The revised report contains more detailed allegations, but we have seen no evidence to substantiate them. The Chinese Government rejected the allegations when we raised the report at the UK-China human rights dialogue on 5 February. The Chinese Government acknowledge the practice of organ harvesting from executed prisoners and introduced regulations on 1 July 2006 to ban the sale of organs. We welcome the adoption of draft legislation in March which aims to give a firmer legal status to the July 2006 regulations and further tighten controls over organ transplants in China, as well as to encourage more members of the public to become donors.

Council of Europe

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the constitution of the Council of Europe would permit the offer of membership of the council to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.[HL3059]

In accordance with Article 4 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, any European state which is deemed able and willing to fulfil the provisions of Article 3 of the statute may be invited to become a member of the Council of Europe by the Committee of Ministers following consultation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Article 3 provides that:

“Every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realisation of the aim of the Council as specified in Chapter one”.

While there is no officially recognised definition on the geographical limits of Europe, no existing definitions include Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories within its boundaries. As such, under Article 4, neither would be eligible for full membership.

Employment: Graduates

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of United Kingdom citizens who graduated from United Kingdom universities in 2004 remained unemployed by 31 December 2005; and [HL3098]

What proportion of United Kingdom citizens who graduated from United Kingdom universities in 2005 remained unemployed by 31 December 2006. [HL3099]

The available information covers the destinations of qualifiers six months after leaving university.

In 2003-04, 6.2 per cent of UK-domiciled students qualifying with first degrees from UK higher education institutions were unemployed six months after qualifying, and in 2004-05 the figure was 6.3 per cent.

However, the labour market experience of graduates six months after qualifying may not necessarily be indicative of their position in the longer term. For example, the Class of '99 report available at www. ?type=0&keywordlist1=0&keywordlist2=0&keywordlist3 =0&andor=or&keyword=Class+of+%2799 shows that just 2 to 3 per cent of those surveyed were unemployed, four years after graduation.

EU: Berlin Declaration

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the United Kingdom supports the Berlin declaration made at the European Union summit held on 25 March. [HL2995]

The EU had much to celebrate on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the treaties of Rome. The Berlin declaration is a political statement that celebrated the event, recalling the historic achievements of the last 50 years, and looking ahead to the challenges that we, the countries of the EU, need to face together. It was right that the event was marked in this way and that the UK was part of that celebration.

The declaration identifies, for example, some of the future challenges facing the EU—climate change, energy security, poverty and global terrorism. We welcome this focus on areas of real relevance to the citizens of the EU and that are at the heart of the UK's priorities. Most recently, the spring European Council demonstrated the EU's capacity for leadership on the key issues of energy and climate change. These are issues on which we can only make progress by working with our European partners.

EU: Treaty of Rome 50th Anniversary

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will provide details of the celebration meetings organised by the Government directly, or on their behalf, throughout the United Kingdom to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the treaty of Rome. [HL2904]

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the treaty of Rome, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Department for Education and Skills and British Council recently launched the Learning Together initiative to encourage more schools in the UK to take part in educational partnerships with schools across Europe. Over the next year, this initiative will make information available to schools across the UK about the range of opportunities to develop such partnerships, and help schools that have not previously taken part in international activities to get involved. My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe, Geoff Hoon, launched the initiative with a reception at Lancaster House on 21 March; an event at Edgware Junior School on 22 March attended by my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe, my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Bill Rammell) and the chair of the British Council; and an event at Eastwood Comprehensive School in Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire, on 23 March.

The FCO also hosted a conference organised by the University Association for Contemporary European Studies entitled “Reflections on European Integration: 50 Years of the Treaty of Rome”.

Israel and Palestine

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the Arab League member states' 2002 peace plan which recommends full recognition of Israel by the league in return for Israel's complete withdrawal to the 1967 green line. [HL2998]

The Arab League's re-endorsement of the 2002 Beirut declaration at the Arab summit in Riyadh is a welcome step. It offers the prospect of normal relations between Israel and the Arab world. Under phase 3 of the road map, final status issues, such as agreement on borders, are for both parties to negotiate.

Ottoman Empire: Armenians

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether legislation in (a) France, and (b) Austria, which prevents free discussion of the circumstances in which Armenians and Turks lost their lives in 1915–16, is compatible with membership of the European Union. [HL3022]

We are not aware of legislation in France or Austria preventing free discussion of the events in Ottoman Turkey in 1915-16. A Bill criminalising denial of the events as “genocide” passed through the French Parliament in October 2006, but is not yet law. As well as their undertakings under other international human rights law, all members of the EU are obliged to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10 of the convention covers the right of freedom of expression, although that right may be subject to restrictions in certain circumstances specified in the convention. An individual prosecuted under national law in a member state of the EU may challenge the legislation in the European Court of Human Rights.

Racial Discrimination

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will respond to the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, The Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (14th report, Session 2004–05, HL Paper 88), published on 31 March 2005. [HL3025]

Responsibility for legislation and policy on racial discrimination transferred from the Home Office to the Department for Communities and Local Government in May 2006. We are currently drafting the Government's next report to the United Nations under the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and we are taking account of the JCHR's 2005 report as part of that process. We intend to circulate the draft CERD report to non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders in May, for information and comment. We intend to write to the Joint Committee on Human Rights at the same time, enclosing a copy of the draft CERD report, and where appropriate addressing any issues which are not covered in the draft report.