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Software Patent Directive

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the status is of the EU software patent directive; if she will make it her policy to oppose the directive as it stands; and if she will make a statement. [212017]

Ms Hewitt [holding answer 31 January 2005]: The Government support measures to ensure common criteria for patents in this area across the EU and believes it is important to confirm the current position of permitting the patenting of certain types of software-related inventions important to many high tech
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industries, while preventing a drift towards widening the scope of patentability. We believe the current text achieves this.

The text of the draft Directive is due to be formally adopted by the Council as a "common position". Once it has been adopted it will return to the European Parliament for Second Reading.

Trade Associations

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to encourage trade associations to play a greater role in helping to regulate their industries. [209835]

Ms Hewitt: The DTI continually maintains close and regular contact with trade associations to discuss a range of policy issues, including industry regulation. Trade associations are routinely invited to participate in consultations on new policy and legislative proposals.

Unallocated Departmental Spending

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what her latest estimate is of unallocated departmental spending in (a) 2005–06, (b) 2006–07, and (c) 2007–08; and if she will make a statement. [213257]

Ms Hewitt: We are currently finalising detailed resource allocations as part of the Department's business planning. Plans for unallocated departmental spending for 2005–08 will be included in the DTI's departmental report, which will be published later this year.



Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the state of religious freedom in Bangladesh; and if he will make a statement. [211786]

Mr. Alexander: The Bangladeshi constitution recognises Islam as the state religion of Bangladesh, but emphasises that other religions may be practised in peace and harmony. However, we are concerned by the apparent increase in intolerance towards religious minorities, including Hindus and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, in Bangladesh. We regularly raise these concerns with the Government of Bangladesh, both bilaterally and in partnership with EU colleagues. I did so with the Prime Minister on 21 December during a visit to Dhaka.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports of religious persecution in Bangladesh his Department has received from (a) individuals and (b) the Bangladeshi Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council in each year since 1997; what assessment his Department has made of these reports; what discussions (i) he, (ii) members of his Department and (iii) representatives of the UK Government have had with members and representatives of the Government of Bangladesh regarding these complaints; and if he will make a statement. [211787]

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Mr. Alexander: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, we regularly receive representations on this matter from a number of sources including the Bangladesh Hindu Baudha Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC). Officials in London and Dhaka have regular contact with the BHBCUC— the British High Commissioner in Dhaka met Dr. Bhowmik, General Secretary of the BHBCUC on 22 December. We continue to be concerned about the situation of religious minorities in Bangladesh. I raised these concerns with the Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, on 21 December during a visit to Dhaka. We have regularly raised issues of religious persecution and intolerance with the Bangladeshi authorities, both bilaterally and with EU colleagues. We urge them to ensure minorities are suitably protected, that all incidents are promptly and fully investigated, that the perpetrators of crimes against religious minorities are brought to justice and that firm action is taken against incitement. We shall continue to do so.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairsif he will make a statement on what action he has taken following the bomb attacks on the British envoy in Sylhet, Bangladesh. [212270]

Mr. Alexander: Following the attack on 21 May last year, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a statement expressing shock at the attack in Sylhet in which three people died and our High Commissioner was injured. A copy of the statement is available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at Specialist officers from the Metropolitan police visited Sylhet shortly after the event to assist the Bangladeshi police with the investigation. They made a second visit to Bangladesh in July and have continued to provide assistance to the Bangladeshi authorities. In our bilateral contacts with the Government of Bangladesh, we have consistently stressed the importance of the investigation reaching a conclusion. 1 emphasised this point to the Prime Minister on 21 December during a visit to Dhaka.
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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total expenditure by his Department on external consultants was in (a) 1996–97 and (b) 2003–04; and what the estimated cost of employing external consultants will be in (i) 2004–05, (ii) 2005–06, (iii) 2006–07 and (iv) 2007–08. [211661]

Mr. MacShane: The total expenditure by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on external consultants in 1996–97 was £11.8 million and in 2003–04 was £23.2 million.

The vast majority of our expenditure on external consultants is associated with our major Information Communications Technology (ICT) and Estate Construction programmes. Consultants also advise on legal, financial and personnel issues and provide support in areas where we have skills shortages. Increasing expenditure over recent years is largely associated with the growth in our ICT programme which is being used to support change in the organisation. Expenditure on consultants from 2002–03 to 2003–04 has reduced by £0.5 million. We would therefore anticipate expenditure in future years to level out or reduce in line with this trend. Collating forecast expenditure figures for the financial years outlined could be done only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Contracts

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many contracts in his Department have been granted to (a) EDS, (b) Fujitsu and (c) EDS and Fujitsu jointly in each of the last two years; whether they were open to competition; for what they were granted; for how much; over what period of time; and if he will make a statement. [211619]

Mr. MacShane: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has had no joint EDS/Fujitsu contracts. Contracts granted to EDS and Fujitsu separately over each of the last two years are listed:

Network Storage SolutionYes (through GCAT)*500,00029 March 2004–29 March 2007
FCONet PhaseYes (through SCAT)*1,087,00028 March 2003–29 March 2007
FCONet PhaseNo—single source addition for compatibility reasons, to an earlier contract that was open to competition2,077,000
Warning Index OnLine(WIOL)No—for compatibility reasons this was an addition to a Home Office contract which was open to competition.2,400,0002001 April 2003 to 31 March 2005

The FCO seeks to award all of its contracts through open competition according to the EU Procurement Regulations, based on best value for money.

Office of Government Commerce Goods and Services Catalogues (GCAT & SCAT).

EU Grants

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under which (a) budget lines and (b) projects UK organisations may apply for money from the European Communities for (i) communications and (ii) information work relating to the Communities. [211411]

Mr. MacShane: The Institutions of the European Union are responsible for their own activities in terms of providing information to the public. Further details can be obtained from the UK Representations of the European Union's Institutions, contact details of which can be found at, and
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