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Kashmir

John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the recent visit to Kashmir by the Prime Minister of India. [199822]

Mr. Alexander: The British Government welcome Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir, and his announcement in Srinagar of a significant economic package for the State. We also welcome the Indian Government's decision to withdraw a number of troops from Kashmir. The British Government hope that the improved dialogue between India and Pakistan will, in time, lead to a durable settlement of all the outstanding issues between the two countries, including Kashmir.

Mr. Nick Baker

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking in relation to Mr. Nick Baker who is in prison in Japan; whether he or his officials are in discussions concerning this case with Japanese Government Ministers or officials; and if he will make a statement. [200723]

Mr. Mullin: We are monitoring Mr. Baker's appeal against his conviction, which is continuing in the Japanese courts. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) raises Mr. Baker's case at ministerial and official level at every appropriate opportunity. The FCO remains in touch with Mr. Baker and his family about his case and will inform them immediately of any developments.

Overseas Visits

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many visits have been made by (a) Ministers and (b) hon. Members to each of the UK posts in the EU since 2001. [200937]

Mr. MacShane: Identifying the number of visits by Ministers from all Government Departments and by hon. Members to all our EU posts would incur disproportionate cost.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers have, however, made a total of 172 bilateral visits since 2001 to the 24 other member states of the EU.

Sudan

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason the UN Security Council has withdrawn reference to further measures to be taken against the Sudanese Government over their actions in Darfur in its latest resolution; and what position the British Government took with regard to this resolution. [200563]


 
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Mr. Mullin: UN Security Council Resolution 1574, adopted unanimously in Nairobi on 19 November, reiterates the threat of further measures set out in resolutions 1556 and 1564. Operative Paragraph 12 of the resolution states the Council's decision,

The UK has been closely involved in the Resolution, which reiterates the need for the Government of Sudan and the Rebels to fulfil their obligations in resolving the problems in Darfur peacefully.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the signing of the peace treaty in Nairobi between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement based on the Naivasha protocols. [200564]

Mr. Mullin: We welcome the commitment made to the Security Council in Nairobi on 19 November by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement to conclude a comprehensive peace agreement by 31 December.

Technical talks under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development resumed in Nairobi on 26 November, and the Principals reconvened on 6 December with a view to resolving outstanding political issues before the end of the year.

Sustainable Timber

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the refurbishment projects that (a) are in progress and (b) will start in the next six months; what action is being taken to ensure that these will procure timber from legal and sustainable sources; and whether guidance will be issued to contractors on each of these projects to ensure that the timber used on site during refurbishment also comes from legal and sustainable sources. [200573]

Mr. Rammell: A refurbishment project valued at over £250,000 1 is presently in progress at the Sao Paulo Residence. We expect to start refurbishment projects valued at over £250,000 at the Kingston and Buenos Aires offices in the next six months. All Foreign and Commonwealth Office refurbishment and construction contracts require contractors to procure timber from legal and sustainable sources.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans his Department has to fund the establishment and maintenance of a central point of expertise on timber. [200574]

Mr. Rammell: In August 2004 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wrote to all Government Departments requesting assistance with
 
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funding to establish and maintain a Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET). At that time, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was unable to identify funds to support this Defra initiative.

However, following a further request from Defra, we are now reconsidering this decision, and will be writing to Defra shortly to clarify the situation. We support the objectives of the CPET, which will make a crucial contribution to UK efforts to procure legal and sustainable timber, as part of our wider policy addressing illegal logging.

UK Embassies

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff there were in each of the commercial departments of UK embassies in European countries in each of the last 10 years. [199937]

Mr. Alexander: This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

United States

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the compatibility with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of a renewal of the Mutual Defence Agreement with the United States. [202005]

Mr. MacShane [holding answer 6 December 2004]: There will be no removal of the Agreement between the UK and the US for Cooperation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defence Purposes/Mutual Defence Agreement with the US. However, there will be a renewal.

I can confirm that the Government are satisfied that the extension of the Agreement between the UK and the US for Cooperation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defence Purposes for a further 10 years is compatible with the UK's obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Video Conferencing Units

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many video conferencing units are installed in (a) the Department and (b) each agency of the Department; what percentage of offices have these facilities in each case; and what plans there are to increase the number. [200575]

Mr. Rammell: There are nine room-based video conferencing units and two smaller desktop facilities installed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK, and none in our agency, Wilton Park. Overseas, there are approximately 90 units, mostly room-based systems. Overall, around 40 per cent. of FCO offices world-wide have access to video conferencing facilities.

We are considering upgrading the technology used for video-conferencing and how best to increase its use, but these have not yet been translated into formal implementation plans.
 
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NORTHERN IRELAND

Agenda for Change

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the extra costs that will result from the implementation of Agenda for Change in the Province. [202046]

Angela Smith: The cost of implementing the Agenda for Change agreement in Northern Ireland has been calculated using an approved UK Treasury Costing Model, and as such the same model has been applied the NHS within the other three UK countries. Additional funding, ranging from 1.43 per cent. on the pay bill in the first year (2004–05 for six months) to 6.25 per cent. on the non-medical staff pay bill in year five (2008–09) will be made available to Health and Personal Social Services (HPSS) employers to meet the cost of Agenda for Change.

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he has taken to address the concerns of radiographers in the Province regarding the impact of Agenda For Change on their profession. [202048]

Angela Smith: I am aware that the radiography profession recently voted to reject the new Agenda for Change pay system. However, the wider trade unions ballots indicated overwhelming acceptance of the new pay system and implementation of Agenda for Change has now commenced. It will include all radiography staff within the HPSS moving to the new pay arrangements.

There are ongoing national discussions between the four UK Health Departments and radiography trade union representatives to try and resolve the profession's concerns. We will continue to work with the profession's representatives to ensure their continued engagement with Government's plans to modernise the service.

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the starting salary is of radiographers in the Province; and if he will estimate the starting salary for radiographers in the Province after implementation of Agenda For Change. [202049]

Angela Smith: The current starting salary for basic grade Radiographers is £18,240. However, graduate radiographers who have completed four years training have a starting salary of £18,915. Under the implementation of the Agenda for Change Pay System, all Radiography jobs will be subjected to a job matching or job evaluation process prior to the determination of salary. The process of job evaluation is designed to measure the job weight and ultimately recognises equal work of equal value. Accordingly, it would be unwise to try to estimate the starting salary for this post under Agenda for Change as this would negate the job matching and evaluation process.


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