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31 Jan 2005 : Column 715W—continued

Lost IT Resources

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what IT resources have (a) gone missing and (b) been stolen from his Department in the last three years. [210579]

Mr. Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) maintains an inventory of its IT items with the relevant custodians using a barcode system. The records held centrally only record items worth £3,000 or more which meets the threshold for recording FCO assets and meets FCO fixed assets policy and follows government guidelines.

Only custodians hold full inventories detailing all items held by the missions/FCO buildings, including loss and/or theft records. The National Audit Office and Internal Auditors ensure FCO property is properly accounted for by regularly visiting overseas missions. We would therefore need to undertake a global audit of overseas missions and FCO buildings in order to obtain a full list of the items that are either missing or stolen. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Middle East

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Palestinian authorities to establish the whereabouts and fate of missing Israeli service personnel; and if he will make a statement. [201493]

Mr. Rammell: We have not made any representations to the Palestinian Authority regarding missing Israeli service personnel. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has stated that it is in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians to put an end to the bloodshed and to return to the Roadmap.

With regard to the disappearance of Ron Arad, shot down over Lebanon in 1982, we have not raised this with the Palestinians because we have no reason to believe they have any knowledge of what happened to him. However, the Foreign Secretary discussed Mr. Arad's disappearance with the Iranian Foreign Minister in January 2000. Officials in our Embassies in Beirut and
 
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Damascus have also sought information on Mr. Arad's case; most recently with the Lebanese Government in February 2004.

Pakistan

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to authorities in Pakistan regarding their decision to re-instate the death penalty for child offenders; and if he will make a statement. [208615]

Mr. Alexander: In December 2004 the Lahore High Court annulled the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 which, if implemented, would effectively reinstate the possibility of the death sentence for juvenile offenders in Punjab province of Pakistan. On 17 December 2004 the EU made a demarche to the Pakistan authorities to raise their concerns on this and other human rights concerns. Officials from our high commission in Islamabad have also raised this bilaterally with Pakistani officials. The UK is entirely opposed to the death penalty, which it considers to be a cruel and inhuman punishment, and notes that the imposition of the death penalty on those under 18 at the time of the crime is contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Pakistan is a signatory. We hope that steps can be taken by the relevant Pakistani authorities to ensure that the death penalty for juvenile offenders is not reinstated as a result of this recent annulment by the Lahore High Court.

Translation Contracts

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many tenders have been put out for (a) translation and (b) interpreting contracts for international events hosted by the UK in 2005. [207783]

Mr. Rammell: One call for tender has been issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the Official Journal of the European Union for a contract to provide translation services (approximately 1,200,000 words) for the EU Presidency website. Other smaller-scale translation assignments will be handled by the FCO's in-house translation and interpreting service.

Large-scale interpreting requirements for the UK Presidency of the European Union will be covered by the European Commission's own interpreting service. Smaller-scale interpreting requirements will be administered by the FCO's in-house translation and interpreting service using teams of individual freelance interpreters. No calls for tenders have therefore been issued in respect of contracts for interpreting services.

United Nations

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what requests for assistance he has received from United Nations authorities investigating the provenance of surveillance devices discovered at the Geneva headquarters in December 2004. [208403]

Mr. Rammell: We are not aware of any requests for assistance.
 
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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the report of the high level panel on reform of the United Nations. [209063]

Mr. Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister strongly welcomed the report in his statement on 1 December. A copy of the Prime Minister's statement is available on the No. 10 website: www.primeminister.gov.uk/speeches/2004speeches. We believe the report is an impressive contribution to the debate on UN reform. The report sets out a vision for a proactive UN addressing the broad range of threats to the modern world which matches UK priorities. We believe it is particularly important that the report has recognised that sustainable security and sustainable development are linked and cannot be achieved independently.

We will also launch a public debate on the report, which will be published as a command paper.

Uzbekistan

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights about the possibility of a visit to Uzbekistan to study the human rights situation there. [208139]

Mr. Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had a general discussion with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR), Louise Arbour, shortly after she had taken office last autumn. The specific case of Uzbekistan did not arise in that context.

We are unaware of any plans on the part of the UNCHR to visit Uzbekistan.

The former Deputy UNCHR, Bertrand Ramcharan, visited Uzbekistan in March 2003 as part of an official trip to the five Central Asian states to enhance dialogue and technical cooperation. The visit came also as follow-up to the Secretary-General's visit to the region in October 2002.

In addition, we have told the Uzbeks that we stand ready to assist the Uzbek Government in their efforts to meet the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. We recently received an update on activities implemented under the Uzbek National Action Plan on Torture. We are looking at this latest update with our EU partners to consider how we can work with the Uzbek Government to achieve further progress.

Vietnam

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what discussions he has had with the EU Commissioner for External Affairs on the treatment of Pastor Nguyen Quang in Vietnam; and if he will make a statement; [208396]

(2) what representations he has made to the Vietnam Government about the treatment of Pastor Nguyen Quang; and if he will make a statement; [208397]
 
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(3) what representations he has made to his European counterparts concerning an EU-wide demarche to the Government of Vietnam on the case of the imprisoned human rights activist Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang. [208479]

Mr. Alexander: We and our EU partners regularly discuss human rights issues with the Vietnamese Government. These discussions include religious freedom issues. With EU partners, we raise our concerns in the EU's regular formal human rights dialogue with the Vietnamese Government. We also regularly raise our concerns bilaterally.

The most recent meeting of the EU-Vietnam dialogue on human rights issues was held on 17 December 2004 and was attended by our ambassador in Hanoi. Freedom of religion, restrictions on religious organisations, the situation of protestant groups, and fair trial procedures were among the concerns raised by the EU side. We will continue to press the Vietnamese Government to adhere to its international human rights obligations at every suitable opportunity.

We also participate in regular EU political and human rights working groups in Hanoi. We are aware of Pastor Quang's case and will continue to monitor it with our EU partners.


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