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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 3 December 2002


British Indian Ocean Territories

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total volume of fish, by type, landed from the British Indian Ocean territories was in each of the last five years. [84052]

Mr. Rammell [holding answer 2 December 2002]: The total volume of fish in tonnes in each type of commercial fishery caught in the British Indian Ocean territory in the last five years is as follows:

SeasonBritish Indian ocean territory Tonnes
Purse seine2,173
Purse seine6,275
Purse seine3,415
Purse seine1,064
Purse seine5,795

No figures are as yet available for the inshore fishery for 2002. It is not possible to list fish catches by individual species.

EU Commission (Infraction Proceedings)

Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what infraction proceedings against Her Majesty's Government are being taken by the EU Commission; and when they commenced. [84994]

Mr. MacShane: At any given time, the European Commission will have a number of infractions proceedings against any member state. They will be at different stages of the proceedings.

As of 31 December 2001, the last date for which the Commission has comprehensive public figures, the Commission had 220 infractions cases under examination against the United Kingdom. These cases were opened following a complaint or at the own Commission's initiative. Those cases will have commenced over a variety of years, some even dating back to 1978.

We are working with the Commission to resolve the outstanding cases.

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Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will name the successor to HM High Commissioner to India. [84836]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: New High Commissioners to India are publicly announced once approval from the Indian Government is received.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the Foreign Minister of India; and if he will make a statement. [84903]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 7 November 2002, Official Report, column 626W.


Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from Medact about the effects of a military conflict on civilians in Iraq. [84864]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: None. No decision has been taken to launch military action against Iraq. Unlike Saddam Hussein, we have always tried to minimise the adverse effects of our actions on the Iraqi people, and we will continue to do so.


Mr. Wiggin : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the British Government has made to the Government of Nigeria on the stoning to death of those convicted of adultery. [84433]

Mr. Rammell: We remain extremely concerned about these sentences. During her visit to Nigeria in September the Minister responsible for Africa, my noble Friend the Baroness Amos, raised with President Obasanjo HMG's concerns about the harsh sentences imposed under the Sharia penal codes, including that of stoning for adultery. She emphasised the strength of feeling against them in the UK and reiterated HMG's opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances.

The British High Commission in Abuja, together with EU partners, follows all such cases closely and keeps in close contact with local human rights organisations. The High Commission regularly raises our concerns about the sentences with the appropriate authorities.

The Federal Government has made clear its opposition to the extreme Sharia penalties. It has declared them discriminatory and unconstitutional. Exercise of the Sharia penal code is, however, entirely under the control of the relevant States. The Federal justice system only comes into play if the defendant appeals to the Federal Appeal Courts.

Referendums Protocol

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how he defines an intervention in Irish public and political affairs in

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connection with the referendum on the Nice Treaty, with reference to the requirements of Her Majesty's Ambassador and embassy staff. [84662]

Mr. MacShane: The duty imposed upon diplomats by Article 41(1) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is not to interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving state. This duty is not further defined in international or UK domestic law.

Shakeela Siddique

Andy King : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations were made by the High Commission in Islamabad to the Pakistani Government after 17 July concerning the rape victim Shakeela Siddique and her treatment at the hands of the authorities. [84407]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: We take all human rights violations seriously and regularly raise our concerns with the Pakistani authorities. We are working with our EU partners on a comprehensive demarche to the new Pakistani administration on the human rights situation in Pakistan. Experience suggests that concerted action is the most effective way of putting pressure on the Pakistani authorities. We have meanwhile been working with our partners to collate the facts on this and other cases with a view to their inclusion in the demarche. As a result, no formal representations about Ms Siddique have yet been made.

Sustainable Development

Sue Doughty: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the sustainability strategy is for his Department; and if he will make a statement on how it has changed since the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg. [83500]

Mr. Rammell: The FCO has a long-standing commitment in promoting international sustainable development based on the outcome of the earth summit held in Rio in 1992. The FCO has been very actively involved in the WSSD process and is now working intensively with our international partners to ensure that the impressive range of commitments agreed at the summit are effectively implemented. WSSD outcomes and first views on follow-up will be reflected in the annual report on UK progress on sustainable development for 2002.

The FCO is focused on achieving high levels of sustainability in its own operations. It has had a programme in place for some time that is designed to respond to the sustainable development challenges confirmed at WSSD. The FCO is therefore committed to meeting the targets being set out in the XFramework for Sustainable Development on the Government Estate". This framework is designed to ensure Government operations contribute positively to the UK's sustainable development headline indicators. These targets are being applied to the whole of the FCO's UK estate, although timescales may vary depending upon the location and nature of the site. We have a specific SDA target of achieving efficiencies from the existing energy target of reducing carbon emissions by an ongoing 1 per cent. per annum.

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Our overseas posts are required to apply the framework targets as far as possible in their individual circumstances.

The FCO raises awareness of operational sustainable development issues using both informal methods eg Intranet discussion group, and formal training.


Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what discussions his Department has had with (a) the Russian Government, (b) the Turkish Government and (c) the United States Government, regarding restrictive regulations on registration of religious groups and religious persecution in Turkmenistan; [84553]

Mr. Mike O'Brien [holding answer 2 December 2002]: We are concerned at Turkmen Government actions aimed at restricting the activities of religious groups. We regularly monitor reports from Turkmenistan and meet representatives of religious groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, to discuss the situation in the country.

Senior UK officials have discussed the repression of human rights in central Asia with representatives from other countries (including Russia and Turkey). Together with EU and US colleagues, we use every opportunity to raise cases of religious persecution with the Turkmen Government, and we believe our representations helped to secure the release of the Baptist, Atakov. Most recently, our Ambassador wrote to the Turkmen Foreign Minister on 1 November requesting the release of religious and other prisoners.

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