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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the human rights of prisoners of conscience in the Maldives, with particular reference to (a) Mohamed Nasheed and (b) Jennifer Latheef. 
Dr. Howells: The Government monitor developments in the Maldives closely. We make clear our concerns about democracy and human rights to the Government of the Maldives. The British high commissioner in Colombo accredited to the Maldives did so personally, to President Gayoom in September. The high commissioner and his deputy also separately made representations to Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmed Shaheed in late October.
The British high commission in Colombo is also active in co-ordinating EU action locally. As Presidency, we led an EU fact-finding mission to the Maldives in August that met Government Ministers,
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officials and detainees, including Mohamed Nasheed. An EU statement issued on 2 September emphasised the Maldivian authorities' responsibility to uphold the right of political parties to meet freely and to carry out peaceful political activities. It noted the seriousness of the charges against detainees, calling for due process and making clear that the credibility of trials would come under close scrutiny. We will continue bilaterally and with our EU partners to underline to the Government of the Maldives its democracy and human rights obligations.
We strongly support continued democratic political reforms in the Maldives. We welcomed the legalisation of political parties in June 2005. We are, however, seriously concerned by the Government of the Maldives approach towards the opposition, including the trials of Mohamed Nasheed and Jennifer Latheef, which appear to have political motivations. Freedom of association and expression are essential to the reform process. I discussed these cases with Mohammed Latheef (father of Jennifer Latheef), the Maldivian Democratic Party's (MDP) Chief Spokesman on 8 November. Mohammed Latheef told me that, in spite of the manner of her incarceration, her treatment by the Maldivian authorities was of an acceptable standard. I trust this will continue to be the case. I assured him of the UK's support for the democratic reform process and human rights in the Maldives. I underlined the importance of the MDP remaining engaged and peacefully committed to the democratic process. We welcome recent moves from the Government of the Maldives to establish dialogue with the MDP. We look forward to seeing early progress. We commend the offices of the Commonwealth Secretary-General's Special Envoy in this regard.
Dr. Howells: We monitor the supply of arms and weaponry through export controls. The respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country of final destination is one of the key criteria. Export licences will not be issued if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression. The UK has no current plans to impose sanctions, such as an arms embargo, against the Government of the Maldives. We are, however, seriously concerned about the human rights situation in the Maldives. We continue to raise those concerns bilaterally and with EU partners.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place an immediate travel ban on members of the Government of the Maldives entering the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Niger concerning the reported persecution of Christians in Niger State since the imposition of Shariah law. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Niger concerning the reported attack on and torture of the Christian convert Sardauna Anaruwa Sashi by police officers in Niger State in September. 
We are concerned by all incidents of inter-religious conflict and violence, including persecution on the grounds of religious belief. We will undertake inquiries in order to verify the reports of this case and, if necessary, will make representations to the Federal Nigerian Government or the Government of the State of Niger.
Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) embassies, (b) high commissions and (c) consulates the United Kingdom operates; and how many it operated in 1997. 
Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently operates 102 embassies, 42 high commissions and 99 consulates and trade offices. In 1997 the FCO operated 99 embassies, 46 high commissions and 92 consulates and trade offices. Like any well-run organisation, the FCO continues to move its resources flexibly in line with UK interests.
On 8 October, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale devastated the Muzaffarabad area of northern Pakistan, around 60 miles north-northeast of Islamabad. Approximately 30,000 square miles were severely damaged causing the destruction of 90 per cent. of buildings in the worst hit areas. The death toll has reached nearly 75,000, with approximately 70,000 injured. Nearly 2.5 million people have lost their houses.
The European Union's civil protection mechanism was activated on 8 October and operated for two weeks until the immediate search and rescue operation was over. Search and rescue teams from member states including the UK arrived within 36 hours and helped save many lives. The presidency had a representative in Islamabad from 10 October, co-ordinating assistance through this mechanism.
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The European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) despatched staff on 8 October, and within 72 hours the European Commission had made €3.6 million available for humanitarian relief operations. A further €10 million has been committed by the EC. The funds have already helped to deliver items including tents, blankets, bedding, water, food and medical supplies to the affected areas. The European Commission has requested a further €80 million (€30 million for humanitarian and €50 million for reconstruction) from the EU budgetary authorities. In addition to the €93.6 million from the European Commission, EU member states have pledged over €500 million for humanitarian and reconstruction activities.
The presidency issued two official statements in the first few days after the earthquake expressing the EU's condolences and willingness to provide as much assistance as possible. The earthquake was discussed in October at meetings with Heads of Government, Finance, Foreign and Development Ministers. I represented the Council of Ministers at the 19 November donor conference in Islamabad and reported back to the 2122 November General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels. At that meeting, Development Ministers agreed on the urgent need to provide practical support to the survivors of the earthquake and the importance of continuing to strengthen the international community's capacity to respond to major natural disasters.
John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many calls were made from call centres in his Department in 200405 using predictive diallers; how many such calls resulted in contact being made with the recipient without a Government agent available to talk to them; and what assessment he has made of the likely impact of Ofcom's policy on silent calls on the use of predictive diallers in departmental call centres. 
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