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Ian Pearson: We are currently supporting Mr. Davies'; second Royal Pardon Petition. The outcome of clemency pleas is unpredictable. The Thai authorities have assured our embassy in Bangkok that the petition will be considered as quickly as possible. Our staff in Thailand continue to raise Mr. Davies'; case with the Thai authorities at every appropriate opportunity, and visit him regularly to monitor his welfare.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British nationals have been convicted and sentenced to death for drug smuggling in (a) Thailand and (b) Singapore in the last five years. 
We regularly raise our concerns with the Burmese authorities. On 26 October, our ambassador in Rangoon drew the attention of the Burmese Home Minister, Colonel Tin Hlaing, to the concerns of both Houses over the situation in Burma and raised human rights again with the Burmese Ministers for Labour and Foreign Affairs on 31 October.
We continue to believe that it is essential for the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to enter into a constructive dialogue with all legitimate representative bodies, including Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, and the ethnic groups to promote national reconciliation.
Human rights violations have been highlighted by successive highly critical UK co-sponsored UN Resolutions on Burma, most recently at the UN Commission on Human Rights in April. These issues remain a focus for the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Professor Sergio Pinheiro, and the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Burma, Tan Sri Razali Ismail, whom we urge the SPDC to allow to return to Burma.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department has taken to advise diplomatic missions to the UK that the congestion charge does not constitute a form of direct taxation under the Vienna Convention. 
Mr. Straw: We informed all missions by Note Verbale in March 2002 of our sustained view that there were no legal grounds to exempt diplomatic missions from payment of the congestion charge. Since then, in formal and informal exchanges, we have informed missions of our view that the congestion charge does not constitute a form of direct taxation under the Vienna Convention, but is a charge analogous to a motorway toll, and that they are expected to pay.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has shown good leadership on governance and security issues in recent years, evidenced by successful interventions in Guinea Bissau
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and Togo in 2005. ECOWAS is also making progress in trade related areas, particularly on establishing a common external tariff.
But the institution remains weak, particularly in its financial management and administrative systems. The UK is working with international partners to strengthen the ECOWAS Secretariat, and is providing technical and financial assistance to improve budgetary planning and management. A UK military liaison officer has also been seconded to assist with development of ECOWAS conflict management capability.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria are used when deciding to close an embassy; and in what ways the criteria applied to (a) Paraguay, (b) Lesotho, (c) Swaziland, (d) Madagascar, (e) Bahamas, (f) Kiribati, (g) Tonga, (h) Vanatu and (i) Timor Leste. 
Mr. Straw: In deciding the changes to the network Iannounced on 15 December 2004, which included the closure of these posts, the key factors I took into account in each case were the contributions of the post towards Foreign and Commonwealth Office priorities, including service delivery, the practicality of cover from elsewhere and the potential savings.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 24 October 2005, Official Report, column 76W, on the European Court of Human Rights, how many cases have been defended by Government Departments at the European Court of Human Rights since 1997; and which was the lead Department in each case. 
Dr. Howells: The number of cases communicated to the Government by the European Court of Human Rights since 1 November 1998, when a single full-time court was established under Protocol 11, is 789. There are no records of the lead Department for each of these cases.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) pursuant to the answer of 1 November 2005, Official Report, column 954W, on the Holy See, why no advertisement inviting applications for the post of UK Ambassador to the Holy See was published in any national newspaper of Wales; 
(2) pursuant to the answer of 1 November 2005, Official Report, column 954W, on the Holy See, why no advertisement inviting applications for the post of UK Ambassador to the Holy See was published in any national newspaper of Northern Ireland. 
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he
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has held with the government of India about (a) sex-selective abortion and (b) infanticide; and if he will make a statement. 
Officials at our High Commission in New Delhi monitor the situation and raise our concerns regularly, most recently on 5 October at a meeting between our Deputy High Commissioner and the Chairman of the National Commission for Women. We have also supported the work of the Centre for Women's Development Studies to combat pre-natal sex selection in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of expenditure by the coalition provisional authority of (a) Iraqi funds and (b) US funding since the occupation of Iraq. 
Dr. Howells: United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483 (22 May 2003) established the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) to oversee it. All revenues from the export of Iraq's oil are transferred into the DFI account, with the exception of 5 per cent. of revenues, which are deposited in a fund used to finance legitimate claims for compensation following Iraq's unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990. UNSCR 1483 authorised the coalition provisional authority (CPA) to act as the administrator of the DFI. The CPA performed this role until 28 June 2004, when control of the DFI was transferred to the sovereign Government of Iraq. Our information indicates that between July 2003 and June 2004 the CPA allocated approximately $6.9 billion in contract awards.
Media reporting has focused on recent reports by the US Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and the external auditor KPMG. SIGIR was established under the CPA to provide oversight of CPA operations and programmes.
SIGIR's report on the period 22 May 2003 to 28 June 2004 examines whether the CPA established and implemented adequate controls over disbursements made to Iraqi ministries. SIGIR found 'less than adequate controls' for approximately $8.8 billion funds in the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) allocated to Iraqi ministries by the CPA.
Firstly, there was an imperative to get ministries up and running quickly against the background of a chaotic bureaucratic legacy bestowed by the Ba'athist regime. This meant relying on the ability of the Iraqi civil service to get ministries functioning and reconstruction projects started. The alternative would have been to institute a system that could have delayed expenditure for months.
Secondly, the SIGIR report fails to take account of the progress made by the CPA to improve financial management in Iraqi ministries and of the budget
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process. Under the former regime, budgets and economic data were kept secret. In contrast, the CPA published the Iraqi national budgets for 2003 and 2004 and designed a transparent framework for management of the national budget. It also took measures to improve reporting and record keeping.
US funding for reconstruction in Iraq is managed by the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO). IRMO was established in May 2004 to co-ordinate the US reconstruction programme in Iraq, in co-operation with the Iraqi Government. Accounting for the financial management of US funds in Iraq is a matter for the US Government.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what approaches have been made to the UK by President Talabani or other representatives of the Iraqi Government to limit UK forces to the guarding of oil pipelines and other strategic installations. 
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