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19 Oct 2005 : Column 1066W—continued

Dr. Gomez de Martinez

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the UK has been asked to participate in the investigation into the death of Dr. John Gomez de Martinez. [19216]

Ian Pearson: Following the death of Dr. John Garang, First Vice President of Sudan, in a helicopter accident in Southern Sudan on 30 July, the international community was asked to assist in investigating the cause of the accident. The UK offered assistance and worked closely with international partners to ensure that a fully effective and well equipped investigation team was formed. In light of partners' assets and expertise already in the region, a UK contribution was not in the end required. The investigation team are currently evaluating data and will report when its findings are complete.

Malaya and Borneo Campaign Medals

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations have been received from the Malaysian Government on awarding a medal to the British veterans involved in campaigns in Malaya and Borneo; and what his response was. [18761]

Mr. Straw: The Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak initially raised the matter of the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) medal with me in March. In
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reply, I was sympathetic, and agreed to pursue the matter with the appropriate authorities. I subsequently requested a review of the Government's rules on the accepting and wearing of non-British awards. The review, which is being co-ordinated by the Cabinet Office, the lead Department on Honours Policy matters, has not yet been completed. We are very conscious of how much the PJM medal means to veterans, and hope that the review will be completed soon.

Since March, the Malaysian Agong (King) has referred to his Government's wish to present the PJM medal in conversations with my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson), and with my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and Foreign Affairs (Ian Pearson) in August. My hon. Friend explained to the Agong that the matter was under study.

The question of the PJM has also been raised by the Chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces and senior officials in the Malaysian Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the British high commissioner in Kuala Lumpur in September and October. They were informed that the matter was currently under active consideration.

Ministerial Travel

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many air miles were accrued through ministerial travel in his Department in 2004–05, broken down by Minister; how many were (a) foregone and (b) donated to charity, broken down by charity; and whether air miles accrued by officials were required to be (i) foregone and (ii) given to charity. [17324]

Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not centrally accrue air miles for Ministerial and official travel nor does it centrally record air miles accrued by Ministers or staff.

FCO Ministers are guided by the Ministerial Code which states that air miles and other benefits earned through travel paid for from public funds, other than where they are de minimis, should be used only for official purposes or else foregone. However there is no objection to Ministers donating them to charity if this is permissible under the terms of the airlines scheme and the charity is one chosen by the airline.

FCO staff are not allowed to use air miles, frequent flyer points or similar incentives, built up from the purchase of tickets paid for from public funds for private purposes. These may only be used for official travel or to fund existing journey entitlements where there is no gain of monetary value (for example the use of special departure facilities or booking arrangements that go with some frequent flyer schemes).

Opium (Afghanistan)

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's policy is on dealing with opium production in Afghanistan. [19376]

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Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) on 6 June 2005, Official Report, columns 234–35W, on the counter narcotics programme in Afghanistan.

The UK, as lead nation on counter narcotics (CN), remains committed to supporting the Afghan Government in the implementation of their comprehensive 2005 CN Implementation Plan and in updating their National Drug Control Strategy. We continue to work with the Afghan Government and others to increase activity in all areas of their strategy. As well as co-ordinating the activity of international partners, we are providing substantial financial and practical support.

On 5 September, I announced new UK funding for Afghan CN in a joint press conference with Afghan CN Minister Qaderi. The UK is spending in the region of £100 million this year on all CN activity, £50 million of which is for Alternative Livelihoods, and plan to spend over £270 million in financial years 2005–06, 2006–07 and 2007–08, which is a funding increase of £115 million.

I intend to make a further statement to the House in the next month.

Overseas Service (Children's Education)

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what factors were taken into account in devising different funding formulae for the contribution made by the Government to the cost of education of children of armed forces personnel and children of diplomatic staff based overseas; and if he will make a statement [18730]

Mr. Straw: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 18 July 2005, Official Report, column 1376W, which set out the background against which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) pays school fees.

With staff moving every 12–48 months and education facilities at posts' locations overseas varying, continuity of education can be problematic particularly during the important exam years. The FCO addresses this problem through its Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA), which enables children to board at school in the UK while their parents remain subject to the worldwide mobility obligation.

CEA is based on ceilings, up to which boarding school fees are met. These are set annually at the median of the fees charged by the schools in the Headmasters' Conference within a 70-mile radius of London; most members of the Diplomatic Service have a home near London and choose schools in the south-east. Members of staff must cover the difference themselves if the fees of the boarding school they send their children to exceed the CEA ceilings. The cost of GCSE and A Level exams in subjects that form part of the national curriculum are refunded on top of CEA. The costs of Special Education Needs (SEN) for children who require it are also covered separately in accordance with the recommendations of the appropriate local education authority (LEA).

The FCO does not hold information on the cost of education of children of armed forces personnel. This information is held by the Ministry of Defence.
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Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his Turkish counterparts regarding the imprisonment of Kurdish separatist leader Öcalan. [18731]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no discussions with the Turkish Foreign Minister regarding the imprisonment of Öcalan. However, our Embassy in Ankara has followed Öcalan's case closely since his arrest and held discussions with Turkish officials following the European Court of Human Rights ruling on 12 May that Öcalan's trial had not been fair.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had with the European Court of Human Rights regarding Kurdish separatist leader Öcalan, imprisoned in Turkey. [18732]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has had no communication with the European Court of Human Rights regarding Öcalan, but has followed developments closely since the Court ruled on 12 May that Öcalan's trial had not been fair. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, whose role it is to oversee the implementation of Court judgments, discussed the case at their meeting on 11–12 October, and will do so again at their next meeting in late November. The Turkish authorities are reviewing the case-file to see whether the European Convention on Human Rights violations could have affected the verdict.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's position on Turkey's property rights laws for its non-Muslim citizens. [18733]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Government are concerned that the draft Law on Foundations, though a considerable improvement on its predecessor, does not sufficiently address the issue of the return of immovable property to non-Muslim religious foundations. Enlargement Commissioner Rehn wrote to the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, in June on shortcomings in the draft Law on Foundations and highlighted this specific issue. We continue to monitor the situation and as presidency have raised the matter with the Turkish authorities on a number of occasions.

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