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John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the possible impact of cuts to the BBC World Service radio provision upon (a) the UK's international standing and reputation and (b) the success of British foreign policy. 
The BBC World Service (BBCWS) contributes to Britain's international standing and reputation by being the world's best-known and most respected voice in international broadcasting. To maintain its position, BBCWS must continually take into account shifting global priorities, new technologies and changing audience preferences. Failure to do so would inevitably reduce the impact and value for money.
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While continuing to provide global services in English, the BBCWS, in response to the Government's Green Paper, has reprioritised its vernacular services to focus on the countries where they can have most impact and where there is the greatest need. It was right to do so. Further reprioritisation will be necessary in the future. The closure of low impact services has released resources for investment in new media services, including the launch of a 12-hour Arabic TV service.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the EU's Comprehensive Monitoring Report's findings in relation to the justice system in Bulgaria. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Commission states in its Comprehensive Monitoring Report of 25 October that Bulgaria should continue with its efforts to reform the pre-trial phase and improve the accountability of the justice system. We support its assessment.
Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what mechanisms are in place to assess the effectiveness of consultant-led projects in his Department; what sanctions are available to penalise consultants who run unsuccessful projects; how many projects conducted by consultants were assessed as unsuccessful in each year since 2000; and what sanctions were imposed. 
Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) assesses the effectiveness of consultant-led projects through defined project management processes based on the Office of Government Commerce good practice. Evaluation of success or otherwise is carried out through review processes both at the end of stages within a project, drawing out lessons learned that can be immediately incorporated into later stages of the same project, and through final evaluation in project evaluation reports and post implementation reviews.
FCO contracts do not include penalty clauses as these are not enforceable in English law. The FCO seeks to reach agreement at the outset on the genuine losses that would be incurred by the FCO in the event of a failure to deliver. These then form the basis of any damages payable to the FCO and are included in the contract as liquidated damages. The FCO also makes wide use of service credit regimes where performance failures lead to pre-agreed reductions in payments to the contractor.
The FCO does not hold a centralised record of projects conducted by consultants that have been assessed as unsuccessful and the sanctions imposed. This information could therefore be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Department takes to ensure that consultancies do not claim excessive expenses while working for his Department and its agencies. 
Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office agrees the level of expenses that may be claimed by consultancies through a fully itemised pricing schedule in each contract. This includes travel, travel time, subsistence/expenses, leave and leave relief.
Clare Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will reply to the letter from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, of 7 December 2004 regarding the Middle East peace process (acknowledgement reference 1 84476/04). 
Clare Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will reply to the letter from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, of 9 May 2005 on behalf of a constituent, Carol Parsons, (acknowledgement reference 1 88801/05). 
Ian Pearson: According to Foreign and Commonwealth Office records my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary replied to my right hon. Friend on 11 May 2005.1 will ensure that a copy of the letter is sent to my right hon. Friend for information.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many contracts for direct mail were signed by his Department in (a) 200506 to date and (b) 200405; and what the value was in each case. 
In the financial year 200405 one contract was signed with the Central Office of Information. This was for the distribution of EU guides to organisations on the Benefits Agency publicity register (including Citizens Advice Bureaux, doctors surgeries, Post Offices etc). The contract was worth £38,859.68 inclusive of VAT.
Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office spent a total of £3,658 on the purchase of works of art in the financial year 200405. This was all spent as part of the restoration of the Consulate in Istanbul.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent activity by his Department's (a) Gender
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Advisory Group and (b) Disability Action Group, with particular reference to official meetings with outside bodies. 
Mr. Straw: The Gender Advisory Group, a group of staff from all grades and departments around the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), chaired by the board champion on gender, Mr. Martin Donnelly, has met three times this year. The meetings have included discussions on a wide range of gender issues, including role models, an internal study on career progression for women, and the FCO nursery. Alison Platt, non-executive member of the FCO board and a member of Opportunity Now's leadership team, attended June's meeting. There have also been targeted meetings for women intending to attend internal assessment and development centres. The group has been consulted about the FCO's targets for women in the senior management structure and feeder grades, and on the streamlining of the FCO's human resources operation. The FCO hosted an Opportunity Now seminar in May and members have attended other gender-related seminars. The group's chair has called on Waqar Azmi, the civil service diversity adviser.
The Disability Action Group, a group of staff from all grades and departments around the FCO, including the board champion on disability, Mr. Dickie Stagg, has met three times this year. The meetings have included discussions on a wide range of disability issues, in particular for staff overseas, support and training for managers of disabled staff, disabled access at overseas posts, accessibility of FCO literature and websites, the FCO's disability policy and disability training. The group has been consulted about the FCO's targets for disabled officers in the senior management structure and feeder grades, and on the streamlining of the FCO's human resources operation. The group completed the Employers' Forum on Disability (EFD) Benchmark for the FCO and members of the group have attended EFD breakfast briefings. A personal development programme, run by Disability Matters, was held for disabled staff in April and May this year. Members of the group have met their counterparts in the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
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