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23 Nov 2005 : Column 2129W—continued


Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will list the frais allowance for each UK ambassador for each of the past five years; [26866]

(2) what methods of accounting and audit UK ambassadors frais allowances are subject to; and if he will make a statement. [26868]

Mr. Straw: Heads of Mission receive frais de representation (Frais) and some other senior officers receive frais-type allowances to enable them to offer official entertainment in support of Government objectives. These allowances are individually assessed on the basis of previous budgetary evidence, agreed adjustments to reflect local costs and practice and the needs of the job.

Officers in receipt of Frais are required to provide a certificate of expenditure against Frais at the end of each financial year and at the end of their posting. They are required to keep an account of expenditure to provide evidence that it was necessarily incurred in the public service, that costs were not covered elsewhere, e.g. through personal allowances, and that the amount spent was reasonable. The accounts are subject to audit by Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) auditors and form the basis for reviewing subsequent Frais allocations.

I am arranging for a copy of a schedule showing the information on individual Frais allocations to be placed in the Library of the House.

Arrangements for Frais will shortly change. Budget allocations will be devolved from the centre from 1 April 2006 and new accounting arrangements will be brought in thereafter, as the FCO's new financial management IT system is rolled out to posts.


Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Chinese Government regarding alleged abuse of those who protest against the one child policy in China; and if he will make a statement. [29907]

Ian Pearson: We regularly raise concerns about abuses of human rights activists in China, including those who peacefully protest against the one child policy. Under the UK presidency, the EU raised the case of Chen Guang-Cheng, who is one such activist, with the Chinese Government in October and November 2005.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of China about the cases of (a) Mao Hengfeng and (b) Chen Guangcheng; and if he will make a statement. [29908]

Ian Pearson: We regularly raise individual human rights cases with the Chinese Government. The EU has raised the cases of Mao Heng-Feng and Chen Guang-Cheng with the Chinese Government several times. Mao Heng-Feng's case was included on the list of individual cases handed to the Chinese at the October 2005 round of the EU/China Human Rights Dialogue. The EU,
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under the UK's presidency, raised the case of Chen Guang-Cheng with the Chinese Government in October and November 2005.

Common Foreign and Security Policy

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the EU stability instrument upon the Common Foreign and Security Policy. [30266]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: It is clearly important that there should be no overlap or lack of coherence between the proposed new stability instrument and work undertaken under Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Discussions on the scope, objectives and programming of the Stability Instrument continue in Brussels. We have been working with others to ensure that the new Regulation defines what activities may be funded under the Instrument in a very clear way and that member states have sufficient control over programmes to ensure close co-ordination with CFSP actions, while still enabling the Commission to act flexibly, quickly and effectively in response to crises.

Cote d'Ivoire

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on future elections in Cote d'Ivoire. [30297]

Ian Pearson: Presidential elections scheduled for 30 October were postponed. This was due to a delay in the preparations required to make free and fair elections possible. The African Union and the UN Security Council have since called for elections to be held within the next 12 months. The onus now is on the Ivorian government and opposition parties, with the support of the international community, to ensure that elections occur in the given timeframe and are free, fair, credible and transparent. We are urging all those involved to take the necessary steps towards this objective.

Date-based Export Scheme

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had with the European Commission regarding the lifting of the date-based export scheme; and when the scheme will be lifted. [31083]

Mr. Douglas Alexander [holding answer 22 November 2005]: The Government are in regular contact with the European Commission at all levels about lifting the beef export ban which will end the need for the date-based export scheme.

I also refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Bradshaw) today (UIN 2052).

Democratic Republic of Congo

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the Government are giving to the (a) demobilisation, disarmament and integration into civilian society and
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(b) integration into the national army of the members of militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [31295]

Ian Pearson: We continue to press the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to accelerate its efforts to disarm militias and integrate all combatants into the national army or civilian life.

The UK has committed £25 million over five years to the Multi-Donor Regional programme for disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration (MDRP).

The UK has also contributed two of the eight officers in the EU's Security Sector Reform Mission (EUSEC). This has recommended action to the DRC Government to speed up disarmament and army integration and to improve the transparency of paying its soldiers. We have offered the DRC Government US$5million to support newly-integrated brigades, if they implement the EU's recommendations.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in encouraging ethnic minority recruitment within his Department. [30508]

Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is fully committed to improving the diversity of its workforce. Part of the FCO's work towards achieving this goal is positive action, involving the encouragement of candidates from under-represented groups to enter and progress in the organisation. Along with the rest of the civil service, we are committed to improving the representation of these groups, while ensuring that all recruitment and promotion is fair and achieved on merit.

The FCO participates in the Summer Development programme, which is a Cabinet Office run programme offering minority ethnic graduates the chance of working within Government Departments each summer. In 2005 we took on 10 participants, all of whom spent part of the summer working in an overseas mission.

We place advertisements for our generalist recruitment campaigns in the following minority ethnic newspapers and magazines: Works for Me, The Voice and the Ethnic Media News covering Eastern Eye, India Weekly, Asian Times, Caribbean Times, African Times and New Nation. We also advertise throughout the year in a number of minority ethnic publications and websites aimed at school leavers and graduates.

The following statistics show that, although the percentage of minority ethnic staff in the FCO has remained constant since 2002, recent recruitment figures show that there has been an increase in the number of minority ethnic recruits across the grades in 2005.
Total staffMinority ethnic
April 20025,678326 (5.7%)
April 20035,915338 (5.7%)
October 20056,014345 (5.7%)

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FCO Minority ethnic recruitment statistics

Total recruited
Minority ethnic (percentage)
C4 Policy Entrants
B3 Operational entrants
A2 Executive assistants
Al Admin assistants

As this data illustrates more progress on this issue is necessary.

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