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24 Oct 2005 : Column 73W—continued


Electoral Registration

Chris Ruane: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what is the Electoral Commission's predicted drop in registration as a result of a switch to individual registration for each region of the UK. [20279]

Peter Viggers: Individual registration of voters was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2002. The commission has published a series of research reports analysing the impact of the change on registration rates there.

The Electoral Commission has recommended the introduction of full individual registration in the remainder of the United Kingdom both on grounds of principle and to enhance public confidence in the arrangements for postal voting by reducing the scope for fraud in this area.

The commission informs me that it has not undertaken any detailed research into the likely impact of the introduction of full individual registration in Great Britain on levels of voter registration. Such research, the commission advises, would involve making a number of speculative assumptions, and would thus be open to a significant margin of error.



Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how much has been spent on the Afghan drugs eradication programme; and how many hectares of poppies have been eradicated; [20253]

(2) what assessment he has made of the (a) effectiveness and (b) value for money of the Afghan drugs eradication programme. [20254]

Dr. Howells: The UK, as lead nation on counter narcotics (CN), is committed to supporting the Afghan Government in the implementation of their eight pillar 2005 CN Implementation Plan and in updating their National Drug Control Strategy. The UK provides assistance across all eight pillars of the 2005 CN plan, which include building institutions, an information campaign, developing the rural economy and providing alternatives for poppy farmers, interdiction and law enforcement, criminal justice, eradication, demand reduction and the treatment of addicts, and regional cooperation.

On 5 September, I announced new UK funding for Afghan CN in a joint press conference with Afghan CN Minister Qaderi. The UK is to provide more than £270 million over the next three years. £130 million of the funding will be provided by the Department for International Development with the rest coming from other Government Departments including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. In this financial year, the UK is spending in the region of £100 million on all CN activity, £50 million of which is for alternative livelihoods. £6 million is for eradication activity.
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Eradication is one of the ways of inserting risk into the Afghan drugs industry. However, it needs to be balanced with wider measures to interrupt the drugs trade, to take action against the traffickers and to build up Afghan criminal justice capacity to deal with drugs offenders. The UK does not carry out any direct eradication but provides targeting, monitoring and financial support, bilaterally and through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). We also provided financial support to the Afghan National Police (ANP) for eradication.

Supported by the US, the Central Poppy Eradication Force (CPEF) and, more recently, the ANP and provincial governors have eradicated poppy this season. We understand that the final figures in the UNODC Survey for 2005 will confirm that while eradication by CPEF this year was disappointing (at around 200 hectares), eradication by governors and the ANP was more effective (around 4,800 hectares). The final UNODC survey is due to be published at any time.

For further information on the counter narcotics programme in Afghanistan, I refer to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) on 6 June 2005, Official Report, columns 234–35W. I intend to make a further statement to the House in the next month.

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions the head of the interdepartmental Afghan drugs unit has visited Afghanistan; and which provinces he has visited outside greater Kabul. [20255]

Dr. Howells: The Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit (ADIDU) was established by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 1 February 2005. Based at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), it consists of 17 staff from the Department for International Development, the FCO, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence.

ADIDU works closely with the British Embassy Drugs Team (BEDT) in Kabul which has 13 staff. While ADIDU sets the direction of policies and programmes to enable delivery, BEDT manages this delivery on the ground, liaising with the Afghan Government and international partners.

Peter Holland (head, ADIDU) has visited Afghanistan twice since his appointment in February. He visited for one week in May 2005 and for two weeks in October 2005. In addition to time spent in Kabul, he has visited the provinces of Balkh and Farah.

Al-Qaeda Training Camps

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of al-Qaeda training camps in operation in overseas locations. [16906]

Dr. Howells: We continue to monitor carefully the activities of the al Qaeda network. For reasons of security, we do not provide details of our work. However, it is well known, that al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan have been destroyed. We assess that concerted international
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pressure on al Qaeda has reduced its capability, but that the terrorist network continues to present a major threat to international security.


Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will make representations to the Government of Azerbaijan on ensuring the parliamentary elections on 6 November are orderly, peaceful, free and fair. [19448]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: We continue to engage directly with the President and Government of Azerbaijan, the Central Election Commission, the main political parties and key non-governmental organisations on the need for parliamentary elections that meet international standards. We support the work on electoral integrity of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Council of Europe and, as EU presidency, have made regular representations on behalf of the EU.

Central America

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the priority his Department accords to diplomatic representation in central America. [20538]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The December 2003 White Paper UK International Priorities: a strategy for the FCO" (Cm 6052) set out the Government's international priorities for the next 10 years and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's strategy for delivering them. We currently have three embassies and one high commission in Central America helping to deliver that strategy in Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica and Panama. We also have an embassy in Mexico.


Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will reply to the letter from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, dated (a) 16 June 2005, with regard to Mrs. Z. Khanum, (b) 13 June 2005, with regard to Mr. Abdul Rehman and (c) 8 July 2005, with regard to El Hadja Souley Manou. [19515]

Dr. Howells: My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office replied to my right hon. Friend's letters with regard to Mrs. Z Khanum, Mr. Abdul Rehman and El Hadja Souley Manou on 18 October.

Departmental Estate

Mr. Maples: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who is responsible for running the Foreign and Commonwealth Office estate (a) in the UK and (b) abroad; what relevant specialist qualifications he or she holds; and what the details are of his or her career to date. [20265]

Mr. Straw: The head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Estates Strategy Unit that is principally responsible for running the FCO estate in the UK and abroad is Mr. Geoff Gillham. He is a qualified economist and spent six years in the private
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sector before joining the FCO. His immediate deputy is an experienced chartered surveyor: the majority of the unit they lead are qualified property or finance professionals. Mr. Gillham has served in a number of positions in London and, overseas, in New Delhi, Paris (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Madrid and Caracas.

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