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Cyprus

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will meet the President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [31447]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, Mr. Sophoclides, has not recently requested a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The Foreign Secretary regularly meets a range of interlocutors on Cyprus issues, including Mr. Sophoclides, whom he last met in his official capacity in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in February this year.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent discussions between his Department and Turkish Cypriot leaders Mr. Talat and Mr. Soyer. [31450]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister met Mr. Soyer when he visited Cyprus in October and I met Mr. Soyer this month in London. Officials also maintain an open dialogue with representatives of the Turkish Cypriots. UK policy remains to help facilitate a just, viable and lasting settlement for the benefit of all Cypriots. We believe that only by engaging with both communities in Cyprus can we help make progress towards this objective.

The Government maintains its long-standing position of non-recognition of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus".

Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the Minister of State for Europe last met representatives of the Cypriot community in the UK. [32016]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Ministers and officials maintain a close and extensive dialogue with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. In addition, Ministers meet regularly with members of the Cypriot
 
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community in the UK, in both official and parliamentary capacities. My right hon. Friend the former Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister of State for Europe (Mr. MacShane), last met representatives of the Cypriot community in March 2005 and I am willing to consider future requests for meetings.

Departmental Estate

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which buildings and sites used by his Department and related agencies (a) have ceased to be used in the last year and (b) will be closed under current plans for relocation. [31777]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: No buildings and sites have ceased to be used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office within the UK in the last year. We intend to rationalise our central London estate and move out of our Albert Embankment, London, SE1, and Croydon premises in the next two years.

Departmental Staff

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to relocate staff in his Department and related agencies into London and the South East. [31745]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is implementing the Lyons Review recommendation to relocate 450 FCO jobs out of London, to Hanslope Park, Buckinghamshire, by 2010. We have no plans to relocate jobs from Hanslope Park to London or to other parts of the South East.

Diego Garcia

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) US military personnel and (b) civilian contractors reside in Diego Garcia (i) in total and (ii) broken down by nationality. [32179]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: There are currently 991 US Military personnel and 2347 civilian personnel posted to Diego Garcia. The civilian personnel are broken down as follows:

In addition there are 41 British military personnel posted to Diego Garcia.

There is no settled or permanent population on Diego Garcia.

Ethiopia

Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what factors he took into account when on behalf of the EU under the UK presidency he congratulated Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia on his re-election. [31644]


 
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Ian Pearson: The EU letter congratulated Prime Minister Meles on his re-election and welcomed the progress towards democracy represented by the May elections. It also urged him to demonstrate that the Opposition parties could play a constructive role in the new Parliament; to free detained activists not charged with any offence; and to conduct a prompt independent inquiry into the killings on 8 June. We are continuing to urge the Government of Ethiopia to take these measures and resume a political dialogue with the Opposition.

EU Council

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what options for the improvement of its transparency he will present to the Council of the European Union as part of the UK presidency of the EU; and if he will make a statement. [31619]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK presidency has recently tabled a paper setting out options for improving transparency in the Council. A copy of this paper has been sent to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee and the Chair of the EU Select Committee. One of these proposals advocates implementing more fully the existing provisions on transparency in the Council Rules of Procedure and the alternative proposes revising those provisions. We have also suggested that supporting measures to facilitate access to the Council's proceedings be considered. These proposals will be taken forward in COREPER (Committee of Permanent Representatives).

Freedom of Information

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Freedom of Information applications his Department has received; how many have taken more than 20 days to process; and how many of these gave rise to complaints about the time taken. [31211]

Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) received 830 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from 1 January 2005, when the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came fully into force, to 30 June 2005, the date to which full monitoring statistics were provided to the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA). Of these, 436 were answered within the 20 days specified in the Act; a further 249 received responses within permitted extended deadlines; and the remaining 145 received replies after the permitted deadlines. The FCO has received two complaints on timeliness grounds from the Information Commissioner.

The DCA is committed to publishing quarterly updates in relation to departmental performance under FOI, including information on both the volume and outcomes of requests. The bulletin for the second quarter was published on 30 September 2005 and can be found on the DCA website at http://www.foi.gov.uk/statsapr-iun05.htm and in the Library of the House. The next bulletin will be published before Christmas and an annual report will be published in early 2006.
 
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International Arrest Warrants

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department is considering proposals to amend legislation on international arrest warrants. [31399]

Dr. Howells: This is a matter for the Home Office.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings (a) he and (b) his Department has (i) had since 11 September and (ii) is planning to have with representatives of the Israeli (A) Ministry of Law, (B) State Attorney Office and (C) Foreign Ministry regarding the arrest warrant for General Almog. [31400]

Dr. Howells: Officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have met twice with officials from the Israeli Government. This includes the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Justice and Israeli embassy since 11 September regarding the arrest warrant for General Almog.

Iraq

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what assistance the Government is providing to (a) the Iraqi Interim Government and (b) the International Advisory and Monitoring Board to ensure that public funds in Iraq are administered in a transparent manner; [31246]

(2) what the role of the UK is in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in administering (a) the Development Fund for Iraq and (b) funds from other sources; and if he will make a statement. [31247]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 28 November 2005]: The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ceased operating in Iraq at the end of June 2004, at which point control of the Development Fund for Iraq (DPI) was transferred to the sovereign Government of Iraq. We continue to encourage the transparent management of public funds by the Iraqi Government.

The UK is providing economic technical assistance to the Iraqi Government to improve the transparency and management of public expenditure through reforms to the budget cycle. A team of UK-funded advisers also works closely with the Iraqi Ministry of Finance on essential reforms to the subsidy system which will help to improve transparency in public funds. The UK is also helping to build up the capacity of the Prime Minister's Office, the Iraqi Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Interior, and the southern Provincial Councils. This work is supporting the development of an effective Iraqi civil service which is able to administer public funds in a more accountable way. Earlier this year the National Audit Office hosted a study tour for the Iraqi Supreme Board of Audit to compare current practices. In addition, the UK is encouraging Iraq to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and to the UN Convention for Anti-Corruption.

The role of the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) is to act as an audit oversight body for DPI. Its purpose is to help ensure that the DPI is used in a transparent manner for the benefit of the people of Iraq and that export sales of petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas from Iraq are consistent with prevailing
 
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international market best practices. IAMB membership includes representatives from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, UN Secretary General's Office, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and Iraq's Ministry of Finance. External audits of the IAMB have been carried out by KPMG, The UK is not directly involved with the IAMB.


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