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Written Answers to Questions

The following answers were received between Friday 27 May and Friday 3 June 2005


Civil Servants

Gregory Barker: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the implementation of the Government's commitment to remove the disqualification of Irish nationals from senior Civil Service posts. [517]

Mr. Hutton: The Government are committed to removing the disqualification of Irish and other non UK-European economic area nationals from certain civil service posts a soon as a legislative opportunity allows.



Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on theobservations and recommendations in the OECD Phase 2 report on the United Kingdom's Application of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the 1997 Recommendation on Combating Bribery in International Business Transactions. [1035]

Ian Pearson: On its publication in March, the Government welcomed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) phase 2 report's recognition of the

which the UK showed during the review process. The Attorney-General, many Government departments, law enforcement agencies, parliamentarians and others made a great effort to ensure that the OECD examiners had access to all those with an interest in our anti-bribery framework.

Bribery of any official or 'agent' are long standing crimes under UK law and since 2002 our courts have had jurisdiction over acts of bribery by UK nationals and companies even if the acts take place entirely overseas. Against this background the OECD Bribery Working Group concluded in 2003 that

The latest report commends the UK for other aspects of our anti-bribery framework, such as employee whistleblower protection, the ability of the tax authorities to make spontaneous disclosures of suspicious information to law enforcement agencies and the wide scope of the regulated sector" in our anti-money-laundering reporting regime.
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The report also notes the support the Government have provided to a number of private sector and civil society anti-corruption initiatives, e.g. Transparency International's Business Principles on Countering Bribery, the International Business Leaders' Forum and the Commonwealth Business Council.

As is customary with these reports, it also presents recommendations for further action. These focus on areas such as awareness-raising and the prevention and detection of foreign bribery. We are considering how best to take these forward and will report on progress to the OECD Bribery Working Group in December.



Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreignand Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the counter-narcotics programme in Afghanistan. [1028]

Dr. Howells: The UK, as lead nation, remains committed to supporting the Afghan Government in the implementation of their comprehensive National Drug Control Strategy. We are working with the Afghan Government and others to increase activity in all areas of their strategy over the coming year—the principles of which were underlined by President Karzai during the first Afghan Counter Narcotics National Conference held at the beginning of December shortly after his inauguration. President Karzai has continued to make very clear his determination to tackle the drugs problem. He reinforced this determination when he met my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in February. We welcome the commitment shown by President Karzai and the Government of Afghanistan in tackling this problem.

As well as co-ordinating the activity of international partners, the UK is providing substantial financial and practical support—the UK will spend more than £50 million this year on counter narcotics work in Afghanistan, including £30 million on Alternative Livelihoods.

I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement made by my hon. Friend, the Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell), the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on 10 March 2005, Official Report, columns 121–23WS on Afghanistan: Counter Narcotics. The statement outlined increased UK support for the Government of Afghanistan's 8-pillar 2005 Counter Narcotics Implementation Plan (Institution Building, Information Campaign, Alternative Livelihoods, Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, Eradication, Demand Reduction and Regional Co-operation). Our activity in the last financial year included: the running of seven training courses on intelligence and investigation techniques for the Afghan Counter-Narcotics Police; support for over five major seizures of opiates; the provision of a mobile forensic laboratory; and help to establish regional law enforcement offices in seven provincial centres outside Kabul.
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In addition, the UK works closely with Afghanistan's neighbours, including providing assistance, to help their efforts to counter the flow of opiates from Afghanistan.

The UK is currently pressing for specific commitments from partners following a joint Foreign Secretary and International Development Secretary lobby letter campaign in February. We want to solicit funds for the Counter Narcotics Trust Fund (CNTF), in support of the Afghans' Counter Narcotics Implementation Plan.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Belarus concerning the proceedings by the state authorities against the New Life Church in Minsk. [843]

Mr. Douglas Alexander [holding answer 26 May 2005]: The Government continue to raise human rights issues with the Belarusian authorities, both bilaterally and together with EU partners. Most recently, the EU issued a statement on 19 May condemning the use of administrative regulations to restrict the activities of independent organisations such as the New Life Church. The statement called on the Belarusian Government to reconsider legislation which threatens the existence of these organisations and denies the population the right to freedom of association. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not made any separate representations concerning the New Life Church. However, our ambassador in Minsk has met with the leaders of the Church to hear their concerns.

The full text of the EU statement is available on the internet at www.eu2005.lu

EU Constitution

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings have been held between departmental staff from the (a) EU Constitution team and (b) EU Presidency team within his Department and the organisation Britain in Europe. [1175]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office meet a wide number of outside organisations in the course of their work. The EU Constitution team held meetings with Britain in Europe in October 2004 and May 2005. The EU Presidency team also held one meeting with Britain in Europe in autumn 2004 to provide background information on the work of the UK Presidency of the EU.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what requests he has made to (a) the European Commission, (b) the European Parliament and (c) other EU institutions regarding its expenditure on public information before and during the referendum on the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe. [1215]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Institutions of the European Union are responsible for their own activities in terms of providing information to the public, though they have made clear that they will consult the
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Government about any public information activities in the UK. Ministers and officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are in contact with EU institutions in order to ensure clarity of and continuing respect for the role of the institutions in providing information about the EU.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by what mechanisms information from EU institutions on the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe will be assessed against the criteria of objectivity and accuracy (a) before and (b) during the referendum on UK ratification. [1216]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: EU institutions, not the Government, are responsible for the content of their publications.

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