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Russia: Parliamentary Elections

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We share the concerns raised by the preliminary report of the International Election Observation Mission that the Russian parliamentary elections were well organised but failed to meet many international standards.

We welcome and support the work of the OSCE and Council of Europe to assist the authorities and civil society of the Russian Federation in continuing to improve its democratic process. We look foward to seeing the detailed report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and will use appropriate bilateral and/or multilateral opportunities to encourage the Russian Federation to follow up any recommendations made by ODIHR before the presidential elections scheduled for March 2004.

UK and Russia: Academic, Cultural and Sporting Exchanges

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government's primary agency for promoting academic and cultural exchanges overseas is the British Council, which receives a grant of around £170 million per year from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The British Council has regional offices throughout Russia, including in Moscow, St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. Among other services, it provides an information and consulting service for those wishing to study in the UK, a cybercentre with access to British Internet resources and English language teaching and examinations. In addition the council runs projects in Russia covering education, science, the arts and development and training services. Full details of the work of the British Council in Russia can be found on the Internet at

The Public Diplomacy Challenge Fund considers bids, primarily from our overseas posts, for funding for projects linked to public diplomacy; including those with an academic, cultural or sporting theme. Current or recent projects in Russia include: the UK/Russia forum on genetics, which promotes greater understanding of issues arising from advances in biosciences; UK fashion week in Yekatrinburg, which promoted cutting edge UK design ideas; and a range of projects such as a Manchester week and a Damian Hirst exhibition showcasing the UK in St Petersburg.

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Last year the FCO also funded 37 places for Russian scholars under the Chevening Scholarship Scheme.

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

Lord Alli asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was agreed at the meeting of states parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva on 27 and 28 November. [HL491]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: At the meeting of states parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva on 27 and 28 November, a new legally binding Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) was adopted. The new Protocol (the 5th to the CCW) sets out obligations and best practice for the clearance of post-conflict ERW (munitions used during an armed conflict that should have exploded but failed to do so or munitions which have been abandoned during an armed conflict.) The principal obligations in the new protocol are:

    The state in control of the affected territory shall mark, clear, remove or destroy the ERW as soon as feasible and prioritise those affected areas posing a serious humanitarian risk;

    The user of munitions which have become ERW undertakes to provide assistance, where feasible, to the party in control of the affected territory to facilitate marking and clearance, removal or destruction of such ERW;

    The user of munitions which may become ERW undertakes to provide information on the use of such munitions (subject to legitimate security interests) to the party in control of the territory and to organisations undertaking clearance operations on the affected territory. The content of this information is provided on a voluntary, best practice basis;

    Feasible precautions should be be taken to warn civilians of the risks and effects of ERW;

    States shall take steps, to the extent feasible, to protect authorised humanitarian missions operating in the area under their control from the effects of ERW;

    States may provide assistance to deal with the threat posed by existing ERW;

    Preventive measures, such as good practice in managing munitions to reduce the chance of their becoming unexploded, may be undertaken on a voluntary basis.

This protocol is an important step in reducing humanitarian risks associated with ERW and fulfils a long-standing UK objective to secure agreement on a legally binding Instrument. The Government are looking into the necessary steps that may need to be taken to enable the Government to proceed to ratification of this protocol.

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Biological Weapons Convention

Lord Alli asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the recent discussions in Geneva on national measures to reinforce the implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention.[HL492]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On the concluding day of the meeting of states parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which took place from 10 to 14 November, there was agreement by consensus on a politically binding final document which enjoins all states parties to the following actions:

    To review and, where necessary, enact or update national legal, including regulatory and penal, measures which ensure effective implementation of the prohibitions of the BWC and which enhance effective security of pathogens and toxins;

    Co-operation between states parties with differing legal and constitutional arrangements. States parties in a position to do so may wish to provide legal and technical assistance to others who request it in framing and/or expanding their own legislation and controls in the area of national implementation and biosecurity;

    Comprehensive and concrete national measures to secure pathogen collections and the control of their use for peaceful purposes. There was a general recognition of the value of biosecurity measures and procedures, which will ensure that such dangerous materials are not accessible to persons who might or could misuse them for purposes contrary to the BWC.

There was also agreement that these measures are essential effort in facilitating more effective implementation and enforcement of the convention, as well as providing the basis for an assessment of progress at the 2006 Review Conference.

As with the earlier meeting of BWC experts in August, which had prepared the way for political decision-making, there was an impressive level of participation. Some 92 states parties were represented and a total of 32 national statements were delivered, including one notably from Iraq which for the first time showed an open and positive engagement with its obligations under the convention.

The United Kingdom was grateful to the Chair, Ambassador Toth of Hungary, for the efforts he made to achieve consensus on a final document that reflects the commonality of views and approaches that were demonstrated throughout. The commitment to assess progress at the Sixth Review Conference in 2006 on the extent of which states parties have put in place the necessary legislation is, in our view, particularly important.

The outcome of the November meeting represents a very positive start to the work programme that lies ahead of us. Success was particularly important this year, as it is to be hoped that a precedent has now been set for agreement on effective action to emerge from

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the further meetings under the Biological Weapons Convention, scheduled to take place in 2004 and 2005.

The United Kingdom believes that the success of the meetings in 2003 has also helped to prove to the wider arms control community that this new process can be made to work. It has delivered a shared international analysis and a readiness to adopt practical measures. Most important, a co-operative spirit continued to prevail throughout the discussions in Geneva, which also augurs well for the future.

South Africa will chair the meetings next year on suspicious outbreaks of disease and the need for improved international surveillance. The UK takes over in 2005 with the task of examining a possible code of conduct for scientists. Work has already begun on our preparations for both of these meetings. I will keep the House informed of developments and outcomes in 2004.

Military List

Baroness Lockwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are introducing new controls to license the activities of those who trade in military goods between overseas countries.[HL526] simone

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government are introducing new controls to license the activities of those who trade in military goods between overseas countries (also known as trafficking and brokering); transfer technology for military goods by electronic means (e-mail, fax, etc.); transfer technology, by any means, for use in connection with WMD; and provide technical assistance for use in connection with WMD.

These controls are contained in the Export of Goods, Transfer of Technology and Provision of Technical Assistance (Control) Order 2003 (SI 2003/2764) and the Trade in Goods (Control) Order 2003 (SI 2003/2765) and will come into force on 1 May 2004. Section 9(3) of the Export Control Act 2002 requires the Secretary of State to give guidance about the general principles to be followed when exercising licensing powers.

My right honourable friend the then Minister for Europe (Mr Peter Hain) made a statement to Parliament on 26 October 2000 (Official Report, col. 200W), setting out the criteria that the Government will use in considering all individual applications for licences to export goods on the Military List, which forms Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994; advance approvals for promotion prior to formal application for an export licence; and licence applications for the export of dual-use goods as specified in Annex 1 of Council Regulation (EC) 1334/2000 where there are grounds for believing that the end-user of such goods will be the armed forces or internal security forces or similar entities in the recipient country, or that the goods will be used to produce arms or other goods on the Military List for such end-users. On 8 July 2002, my right

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honourable friend the Foreign Secretary set out how the Government approach export licence applications for goods where it is understood that the goods are to be incorporated into products for onward export (Official Report, cols. 652W–654W).

The Government have decided that they will continue to use these criteria, in the same way, in considering all individual applications for licences as set out in the new orders made under the Export Control Act 2002, taking account of the circumstances prevailing at the time and other announced government policies.

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