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Departmental Website

Mr. John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total cost of his Department's website was in the last 12 months; and how many hits it received in the same period. [104202]

Mr. MacShane: For the past two years the FCO has been implementing a major Internet infrastructure project to enhance its global web presence. This includes a new FCO website (www.fco.gov.uk), a new UKVisas website (www.ukvisas.gov.uk), separate websites for all British missions worldwide, and a new portal site about the UK (www.i-uk.com). The latter joins up the online work of our key public diplomacy partners:

British Council, British Tourist Authority, InvestUK and Trade Partners UK.

The total cost of the project is £10 million funded by the Treasury's Capital Modernisation Fund. It is not possible to separate out the cost of the FCO site alone.

The number of page impressions for the FCO site over the past year is 26.4 million, although during the last fortnight page impressions have peaked at 700,000 per day.

Diplomatic Representation (Africa)

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his written statement of 31 March 2003, Official Report, column 43WS, on Diplomatic Representation (Africa), if he will set out the (a) qualitative and (b) diplomatic difference in status between the embassy in Bamako he intends to close and the office he intends to retain there; and if he will make a statement. [106871]

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Mr. Rammell: At present the United Kingdom has a resident Ambassador in Mali. From the early summer, the accredited Ambassador to Mali will be based in another regional capital. We plan to retain locally-engaged staff in Bamako, but the exact nature of the office there is still under consideration. We intend to use the presence of our staff in Bamako, and visits by the Ambassador and other British officials, to maintain our valuable bilateral relationship with Mali. My noble Friend the Baroness Amos will visit Bamako in April 2003 for bilateral discussions. This visit is a clear signal of our continuing commitment to Mali.

Eritrea

Mr. Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's relations with Eritrea. [105498]

Mr. Rammell: The bilateral relationship with Eritrea is good. We opened an Embassy in Asmara in March 2002. We have played an active role in pushing forward the Ethiopia/Eritrea peace process during the last few years. My noble Friend the Baroness Amos met the Eritrean Ambassador most recently on 19 March to discuss progress on the peace process and to raise concerns about the constitutional problems in Eritrea. We do have concerns about the human rights situation there which we raise regularly with the Eritrean government. We are also concerned at the humanitarian situation and have contributed £2 million for relief purposes since January 2003.

Extractive Industries

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many reports he has received of breaches of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Voluntary Charter for Extractive Industries since December 2000. [105585]

Mr. MacShane: The UK and US Governments jointly launched the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in 2000, with the participation of several UK and US energy and mining companies and NGOs. The Principles provide practical guidance to companies seeking to ensure that respect for human rights is central to the arrangements they make for protecting the security of their operations in areas of conflict.

Participants are encouraged to share their experiences and expertise with each other as part of a learning process. We also discuss the Principles with the companies and NGOs concerned when particular human rights issues arise. It is through this dialogue that the process is carried forward, not on the basis of complaints or reports of specific breaches of principles.

Horn of Africa

John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the leaders of the states in the Horn of Africa on (a) violent crime and (b) small arms proliferation. [105426]

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Mr. Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had meetings in February in London with the Foreign Ministers of Kenya and Ethiopia. He discussed with them our concerns about terrorism and the general level of violence in the Horn of Africa.

Small arms proliferation is also a significant problem in the region. The UK is active and works extensively in Africa with Governments, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and NGOs on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) issues. We have committed significant resources from our Global Conflict Prevention Pool for SALW to assist the secretariat that supports the 2000 Nairobi Declaration. We also support the Experts Panel established by UNSCR 1425 (2002) to monitor the arms embargo on Somalia.

India

Rob Marris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make representations to the Government of India regarding access to Punjab by international human rights groups; [105476]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I discussed India's position regarding the Convention Against Torture (CAT) with Mr. I. D. Swami, the Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs, on 17 October 2002 during my visit to India. We understand that India is planning to start the process of ratifying CAT, although a bill has not yet been brought before the Indian Parliament. We continue to encourage India to ratify CAT.

We have made and will continue to make official level representations to the Government of India for greater general access to India of UN Special Rapporteurs and international human rights NGOs. Save in exceptional circumstances, our general policy is not to make state-specific representations. We have in the past carried out project work under the Human Rights Project Fund in co-operation with the Punjabi State Police.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will announce the name of the next British High Commissioner for India. [105647]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 3 December 2002, Official Report, column 644W.

Kenya

John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Kenyan authorities regarding small arms proliferation in the northern pastoral regions of Kenya that border Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. [105424]

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Mr. Rammell: There have been no recent ministerial discussions with the Kenyan authorities on small arms proliferation, but we have supported their efforts to tackle the problem, both regionally and nationally. Following the signing of the Nairobi Declaration on Small Arms in March 2000, the UK committed significant resources to support the Nairobi Declaration Secretariat. We have also provided the Kenyan police with equipment to help destroy weapons. On 15 March there was a public destruction of 1,000 illegally held weapons.

Middle East

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government has received from (a) Syria and (b) Iran on the firing of coalition missiles into (i) a bus carrying Syrian nationals from Iraq to Syria on 23 March and (ii) Iranian territory. [105589]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Our embassies in Damascus and Tehran have been in contact with the Syrian and Iranian Governments about these incidents. Under no circumstances would the Coalition deliberately target a civilian bus. This is a tragic accident, for which the US have already issued an apology. The Coalition is taking the utmost care to minimise civilian casualties. There are strong indications that the munitions that landed in Iranian territory were in fact Iraqi but the matter is still being examined.

Rwanda

Mr. John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had on the political situation in Rwanda. [105420]

Mr. Rammell: My noble Friend the Baroness Amos visited Rwanda on 29–30 January 2003 and held extensive discussions with key Rwandan Government figures on a wide range of issues, including the situation in the Great Lakes, the election process, human rights and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Western Sahara

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress in implementing UN mandates on Western Sahara. [105663]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1429 of 30 July 2002 extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for a Referendum on Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 January 2003. Among other things, this invited James Baker, the UN Secretary-General's (UNSG) Personal Envoy, to pursue his efforts to find a political solution to the dispute, taking into account the concerns expressed by the parties, and expressed the readiness of the Security Council to consider any approach that provides for self determination for the people of Western Sahara.

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MINURSO's mandate has since been extended twice: by UNSCR 1463 to allow the parties time to consider the latest proposal presented to them by the UNSG's Personal Envoy; and most recently by UNSCR 1469 to allow consideration of the responses of the parties to the proposal.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met representatives of (a) Morocco and (b) the Polisario to discuss the future of the Western Sahara. [105664]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I met Mohammed Benaissa, Moroccan Foreign Minister in November 2002 and Lehbib Breica, the Frente Polisario representative to the UK and Ireland in December 2002.


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