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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to
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ensure there is transparency in joint projects between the UK Government and governments who are using, or whose agents are using, mercenaries. 
Mr. Rammell: There are clear guidelines for officials who come into contact with "Private Military and Security Companies", a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House pursuant to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's written ministerial statement of 12 July 2004, Official Report, column 53WS. These require transparency, both by requiring officials to gain authorisation for contacts with private military companies and by keeping records of those contacts.
Mr. Rammell: Throughout 2004, we have regularly and repeatedly drawn our deep concern about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan to senior level attention within the Uzbek Government. We have done this in ministerial and official contexts and together with EU partners.
As recently as 19 October, our acting Head of Mission in Tashkent drew attention to reports of the secret execution of prisoners who still have appeals pending with the UN Human Rights Committee. He received assurances of an immediate official response.
Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of Uzbekistan's decertification by the United States State Department for receipt of financial aid because of its human rights record. 
Mr. Rammell: The US State Department made clear on 13 July 2004 that the decision to decertify Uzbekistan was taken because of lack of progress in meeting its commitments under the Strategic Partnership Framework agreed in 2002 between Uzbekistan and the US.
We have been forthright in our criticism of the Uzbek Government's human rights record. The US Government have also expressed similar concerns. We regularly discuss human rights issues in Uzbekistan with the US. Both the US and UK Governments have a policy of constructive but critical engagement to try to improve the human rights situation in that country.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the United States about Mr. Craig Murray's reports that the (a) British and (b) US intelligence
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services were using information extracted from prisoners in Uzbekistan under torture; and if he will make a statement. 
The UK abides by its commitments under international law, including the UN Convention Against Torture. The British Government, including the intelligence and security agencies, never use torture in order to obtain information. Nor would we instigate others to commit torture for that purpose. We are active in pressing other countries to live up to their human rights obligations and to deliver on human rights commitments they have made.
Mrs. Mahon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the (a) provenance and (b) reliability of the intelligence that the UK has received on Uzbekistan from (i) the CIA and (ii) other sources. 
The UK intelligence agencies evaluate the reliability of all intelligence they receive before it is passed into the assessment process. This evaluation takes account of the possible motivation of the source as well as what kind of reporting record the source may have and the circumstances in which it was obtained.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he is having with other governments about the replacement of Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara when the UN's mandate comes to an end. 
The UK continues to support UN efforts to resolve the conflict in the Western Sahara and to urge all parties to work towards a mutually acceptable solution that provides the people of the Western Sahara with an opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination.
The UK continues to support UN efforts to resolve the conflict in the Western Sahara. The UK has no plans to recognise the Saharwi Arab Democratic Republic as a sovereign state in Western Sahara.
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The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question concerning the annual cost of administering the 52 week linking rule in each year since 1998. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.
Information specifically relating to the cost of administering the 52 week linking rule is not available. The Department now accounts for its administration and benefit expenditure by Strategic Objective, as set out in its Public Service Agreements (PSA), and by individual Requests for Resources (RfRs), as set out in the Departmental Estimates and Accounts.
I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.
Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the service standard is for the time within which calls to the national telephone inquiry lines for (a) attendance allowance and (b) disability living allowance should be answered; and what the latest figures are for performance against these standards. 
Maria Eagle: The combined disability living allowance/attendance allowance helpline aims to answer 90 per cent. of calls received within 30 seconds. Currently it is answering between 40 to 50 per cent. within this target. Additional staff are presently being trained to help move closer to the target figure.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what competitive processes were followed leading up to the sale of former Department of Social Security buildings to LandSecurities Trillium; and which other bidders were involved. 
Maria Eagle: In April 1996, the Departmental Board of the former Department of Social Security agreed a feasibility study to identify and examine a range of options for the future management of the DSS Estate. The study, known as PRIME (Private Sector Resource Initiative for Management of the Estate), concluded that greater efficiency could be achieved if both ownership and management of the Estate was transferred to the private sector.
The opportunity was advertised on 28 June 1996 in the Financial Times and in the European Journal in accordance with EEC/GATT rules. Thirty initial written response were received, and a sift exercise was completed, from which six candidates were chosen. Three consortia were selected to go forward to the final selection process. However, all three consortia had placed a lot of conditions on their tender submissions which could have had a material effect on the final price.
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It was agreed, therefore, to extend the procurement process to a fourth stage. Consequently, two consortia, Mapeley Holdings Ltd. and PPM (Partnership Property Management Ltd.), now known as LandSecurities Trillium, were invited to submit best and final offers which removed all conditions.
Following evaluation of the tenders, Trillium was chosen as preferred supplier. This was endorsed by the Departmental Board at their July meeting and, after obtaining Ministerial agreement, an announcement was made on 31 July 1997. The finer details of the contract were negotiated through to December and an agreement was formally signed at mid-day on Christmas Eve.
The evaluation process was a tightly controlled three stage procedure and included eight review groups with technical and operational representatives from across DSS, and who were independent from the project team.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions his Department is having with Land Security Trillium concerning the (a) vacation and (b) alternative use of the Department's buildings. 
Maria Eagle: DWP has established a range of forums at different levels of management, where the nature and timing of the vacation of accommodation is discussed with LandSecurities Trillium. In addition to these discussions Office of Government Commerce (OGC) is advised of the Department's intention to vacate such accommodation.
Where the property concerned is ineligible for surrender to LandSecurities Trillium, due to Contractual constraints, the department reports the available space to OGC for inclusion on their register of vacant Civil Estate. This is then circulated to those departments seeking accommodation who also register their requirement with OGC.
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