• Research Briefing

    Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill [Bill 17 of 2009-10]

    The Bill seeks to limit the amount that can be recovered by any commercial creditor of those countries designated as having unsustainable external debts. The legislation would restrict the activities of so-called 'vulture funds', which buy developing countries' sovereign debt at discounted prices, then seek to recover its value in full through the courts. It would limit successful claims to an internationally agreed level and apply equally to all commercial creditors. It would cover the 40 countries in the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Debts incurred after the Bill's entry into force would be excluded.

  • Research Briefing

    Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Bill (HL)

    The main purpose of the Bill is to create criminal offences in order to enforce the prohibitions set out in Article 1 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This bans the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions on the grounds that they cause unacceptable harm to civilians, and establishes measures to minimise the harm to civilians in the aftermath of conflicts. Ninety-four states, including the UK, signed, and four states ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo on 3 December 2008. Once the Bill has passed into law, the UK will then move to ratify the Convention, which has been ratified by 30 states, and will come into force on 1 August 2010. The Government has announced that it intends to destroy all cluster munition stockpiles by the end of 2013. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have given their full support to the Bill.

  • Research Briefing

    Terrorist Asset Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Bill

    On 27 January 2010 the Supreme Court announced that it had upheld the appeal in the case of HM Treasury v Ahmed and Others, which concerned the UK's implementation of United Nations obligations to freeze the assets of terrorists by way of two Orders in Council made under section 1 of the United Nations Act 1946. The Court quashed the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 and provisions in the Al-Qaida and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006. The Government announced its intention to introduce primary legislation to re-instate the asset-freezing regime.

  • Research Briefing

    Anti-Slavery Day Bill

    This note provides an overview of the Anti-Slavery Day Bill, which would require the Secretary of State to designate a date for an annual "Anti-Slavery Day" to raise awareness of the dangers and consequences of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. The Bill is a Private Member's Bill introduced by Anthony Steen, founder of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking, who drew sixth place in the 2009-10 ballot for Private Members' Bills.

  • Research Briefing

    Ethiopia in the run-up to May 2010 elections

    The 2005 federal and regional elections in Ethiopia produced a major political crisis. Now the electoral wheel has turned and observers are waiting to see whether the May 2010 elections will be less turbulent. This note provides a brief historical and social survey of Ethiopia. It then looks at the political situation in Ethiopia since 2005. It concludes with a short update on the state of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border dispute.

  • Research Briefing

    Crime and Security Bill. Bill 3 2009-10.

    The Bill would amend the law governing the taking, retention and destruction of fingerprints and DNA data from persons arrested for, charged with or convicted of criminal offences. It would reduce the requirements on the police to record information following a stop and search. It would introduce new 'go' orders for suspected perpetrators of domestic violence, which could mean excluding them from their homes in order to protect the victim. The Bill would also, in effect, extend new injunctions for gang-related violence to 14-18 year olds, and require courts to issue a Parenting Order where a child under 16 had breached an Anti-social Behaviour Order. It would require wheel clamping companies to be licensed, and create a new offence of possessing an authorised mobile phone in a prison. It also creates a new offence of preventing a person under 18 from gaining unauthorised access to air weapons.

  • Research Briefing

    The Islamic Republic of Iran: An introduction

    This paper provides an introduction to the Islamic Republic of Iran; its politics, economy, foreign and defence policies, and nuclear programme. It examines the governmental structure of the theocratic state, analyses the key personalities and forums of decision-making and assesses Iran’s policies at home and abroad.

  • Research Briefing

    War and peace in Sri Lanka

    This paper provides a brief historical and social survey of Sri Lanka, including the origins of the conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE. It then gives an account of developments since 2002, when a ceasefire was agreed and hopes were raised – rapidly to be dashed – that there might be a peaceful negotiated resolution of the conflict. The paper also surveys the stance taken by the international community on the conflict, the military capabilities of the Sri Lankan military, and aid and development issues. It concludes by considering Sri Lanka’s future prospects, including assessing how real the Government’s military victory is and whether genuine political and constitutional reforms are likely to be introduced.

  • Research Briefing

    Russia and the West

    A year on from Dmitry Medvedev’s succession to the Kremlin, this paper analyses the evolution of Russian foreign policy under both Putin and Medvedev. It seeks to identify the main themes, interests, and objectives of Russian foreign policy, and to appraise the role of President Medvedev in the direction of Russian diplomacy and his relationship with Prime Minister Putin. In so doing, it examines, in detail, Russia’s relationship with the United States, NATO, the EU, and the UK and analyses the role of energy in relations between Russia and the West. Finally, it looks ahead at the prospects for the relationship in light of President Obama’s declared intention to press the “reset” button in US-Russian relations.

  • Research Briefing

    Photographing the police

    There have recently been a number of concerns expressed about the ability of the public and press to take photographs of the police. The issue has been highlighted by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and British Press Photographers' Association (BPPA), following the introduction of certain provisions contained in the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.