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12 Feb 2004 : Column 1652W—continued

Comoros Islands

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit the Comoros Islands; and if he will make a statement. [154083]

Mr. Mullin: I have no present plans to visit the Comoros Islands.

EU Advertising (Slovakia)

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what advertising the Government paid for on Slovak television concerning enlargement. [154480]

Mr. MacShane: None.

EU Presidency (UK)

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what preparatory unit has been established for the next UK Presidency of the EU; and what venues have been booked for British Presidency meetings. [154614]

Mr. MacShane: A small team is being set up within the European Union Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Other Government Departments are establishing their own Presidency units. The Cabinet Office European Secretariat will play an overall policy co-ordinating role.

During our Presidency we will hold two European Councils in Brussels. Other formal Ministerial Councils and meetings of officials will take place in Brussels and Luxembourg.

Some informal ministerial meetings will take place in the UK during the UK Presidency. Planning for these and other official level events is at an early stage, and neither dates nor venues have yet been finalised.

12 Feb 2004 : Column 1653W

Government Payments

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his answer of 3 February 2004, Official Report, column 844W, if he will list payments made by the United Kingdom Government to the Governments of (a) Uzbekistan, (b) Turkmenistan, (c) Kazakhstan, (d) Kyrgyzstan, (e) Pakistan, (f) Georgia and (g) Azerbaijan since 1999–2000, broken down by purpose; and if he will make a statement. [154546]

Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) only holds information about payments made to the Governments mentioned through FCO accounts.

The following sums have been paid to the High Commission of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in London in respect of refunds of VAT paid on items purchased for official use:

26 October 1999Computing equipment214.82
30 November 1999Furniture8,483.71
22 March 2001Electrical/wiring materials1,810.36
22 March 2001Electrical/wiring materials1,957.41
19 June 2001Electrical/wiring materials708.77
25 November 2003Building materials50,027.77
22 January 2004Building materials115,105.00

Refunds of VAT on purchases of British manufactured goods (over £50) are made to Commonwealth missions, the Embassy of Ireland and the Commonwealth Secretariat. The concession dates back to the 1940s, at that time applying to Purchase Tax. It continued after the introduction of VAT in 1973 on the grounds of preserving customary practice.

The FCO has not made any payments to the other Governments listed during this period.

Payments will have been made at UK posts overseas to the Governments of these countries. However, this information is not held centrally, and can be obtained from posts only at disproportionate cost.

This answer covers only expenditure incurred by the FCO and not by HMG as a whole.


Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of Iraqi women who will be elected to the first Iraqi Parliament. [154118]

Mr. Rammell: We cannot estimate the number of women to be elected to the Transitional National Assembly. This is a matter for the Iraqi people to decide. The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) is overseeing the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) to be completed by the end of February 2004. We are encouraging the IGC to promote in the TAL the fair representation of women in the Transitional National Assembly.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many people in custody in Iraq have proven links to al-Qaeda, broken down by nationality; and how many of these are believed to have entered Iraq since 20 March 2003. [154279]

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Mr. MacShane: Detainees in Iraq who may have links to al-Qaeda are being investigated by the Coalition Provisional Authority. It is the practice of successive governments not to comment on intelligence matters.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to (a) the UN and (b) the United States on (i) the future structure of the Iraqi Administration and (ii) self-determination for each of the main ethnic groups. [155182]

Mr. Rammell: We have regular discussions with the UN and the US about all aspects of Iraq's future. The structure of Iraq's Administration will be a matter for the Iraqi people to determine, with the assistance of the UN and the Coalition Provisional Authority, as laid down in Security Council Resolutions 1483 and 1511. We strongly support the territorial integrity of Iraq and the right of the Iraqi people freely to determine their own political future, as reaffirmed in those resolutions.

IT Contracts

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list information technology contracts in his Department with a value of above £20 million in each of the last 10 years; what the inception date for each system was; when it became fully functional; when it became fully debugged; and what the cost of over-runs has been. [146193]

Mr. Rammell: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 26 February 2003, Official Report, column 588W. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Telecommunications Network (FTN) has now been successfully rolled out to 192 posts. Beyond the contracts for FTN and "Prism", the only ICT project which has cost the FCO collectively in excess of £20 million in the last ten years has been our global IT infrastructure, Firecrest. The Firecrest project was led by our principal internal service provider, FCO Services, and was completed in October 2003. The internal costs of the project are considerably greater than original 1997 estimates, reflecting the FCO's decision to expand Firecrest from a limited deployment to some 71 posts into a single, global IT platform for over 200 posts. The replanned project stages were completed on time and budgets were subject to proper internal approvals.

Technical issues have delayed the implementation of the Prism programme (providing financial and human resources systems) by some months. Final preparations are now under way to introduce elements of the programme in the coming weeks, with the full package being introduced at the start of the next financial year.

All systems have required some adaptation and thorough testing before being released, so no significant de-bugging has been required once the systems have been rolled out.

Kalahari Bushmen

Mr. Best: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Botswana regarding the forced resettlement of the Kalahari Bushmen. [153770]

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Mr. Mullin: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no recent discussions with the Government of Botswana on the relocation of the Basarwa from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

I raised the subject of the Basarwa with President Mogae at CHOGM in December 2003. The British High Commission in Gaborone also discuss the issue regularly in their contacts with the Government of Botswana.

Tristan da Cunha

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much financial support has been given to (a) St. Helena, (b) Tristan da Cunha and (c) the Ascension Islands in each of the last five years. [154200]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: I have been asked to reply. DFID bilateral disbursements for St. Helena in the Financial years 1998–99 to 2002–03 were as follows:


These figures include some modest support for Tristan da Cunha, totalling less than £200,000 annually. We do not provide any direct bilateral assistance to Ascension Island.

St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island also receive some assistance from the FCO Good Governance Fund and Economic Diversification Programme. Those figures for the same period are as follows:

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St. HelenaAscension IslandTristan da Cunha

Since 1995, St. Helena has also been allocated a total of 14.35 million euros from European Union funds.

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