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12 Dec 2005 : Column 1650W—continued

Palestine

Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times he has met members of the Palestinian Authority in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [35132]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I, along with other Members of the Government, regularly meet members of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Most recently I met with PA Foreign Minister Nasser al Qidwa, Finance Minister Salam Fayyad and Presidential Chief of Staff Rafiq Husseni during my visit to the region on 27–30 September. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last held meetings with Foreign Minister Nasser al Qidwa, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and President Mahmoud Abbas in Barcelona on 28 November.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures are being taken by the Palestinian Authority to fulfil its international obligations to reduce terrorism. [35432]

Dr. Howells: The Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has publicly condemned all terrorist activities. The PA is working closely with the United States Security Co-ordinator (General Ward) in order to improve its effectiveness on security. Some progress has been made but much more needs to be done. The EU are working with the PA to expand the current EU Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support mission to increase the operational capacity of the Palestinian police force.

Russia

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made on the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the EU and Russia. [35077]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The EU enjoys close co-operation with Russia on a range of issues outlined in the 1997 Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, including on justice and home affairs and economic relations.

The Road Maps for the Four Common Spaces finalised at the May 2005 EU-Russia Summit formalised the EU-Russia dialogue in new areas not covered in the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, in particular on external security issues including counter terrorism. Progress on these areas was welcomed at the UK-hosted EU-Russia Summit in October.
 
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The EU and Russia are examining in more detail the implementation of the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement as part of early considerations on future EU-Russia relations following the scheduled expiry of the first 10-year term of the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement in 2007.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has received on the human rights situation in Russia. [35078]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Staff at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and at our Embassy in Moscow are in regular contact with human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who use the opportunity of these meetings to make representations and discuss a range of human rights issues in Russia.

In addition, during 2005 the FCO received 36 letters and 17 parliamentary questions about human rights and democracy in Russia.

Given this public interest about human rights in Russia and our broader objective of engagement with the Russian Government on human rights and democracy, staff at the FCO in London and at our embassy in Moscow raise human rights issues with their Russian Government interlocutors at every appropriate opportunity.

Security Services (Travel)

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether personnel in the United Kingdom security services have travelled in US-registered aircraft tail number (a) N313P and (b) N44982, formerly N8068V and N379P. [36413]

Mr. Straw: It is not the Government's policy to comment on intelligence matters.

Sensitive Products

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the consistency with which trade rules on the protection of sensitive products are applied to (a) developed and (b) developing countries. [35757]

Mr. Bradshaw: I have been asked to reply.

Sensitive products are a new concept which form part of the Doha Development Agenda's Framework Agreement. The number and treatment of sensitive products have yet to be decided in the context of the Doha Development Agenda and therefore they have yet to be applied. However, in line with Framework Agreement these sensitive products will be available to all WTO members—developing and developed—and will be subject to lesser tariff cuts than non-sensitive products.

In line with the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries—based on the fact this is a development Round—developing countries will also have access to special products". These special products are in addition to sensitive products and should be based on criteria of food security, livelihood
 
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security and rural development needs. Special products will be eligible for more flexible treatment, which has yet to be agreed.

St. Helena

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what circumstances the Public Solicitor in St. Helena is allowed to undertake private work; and what mechanisms are in place to ensure that such work does not conflict with his public duties. [34083]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Public Solicitor is forbidden to undertake work outside his terms of reference, which require him, while being employed in the public service, to provide legal advice to the private sector.

Terrorist Suspects (Renditions)

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he was first informed that the United States was conducting international renditions of terrorist suspects; and what representations he has made to the US administration on such renditions. [36414]

Mr. Straw: The term rendition" is currently being used to describe informal transfers of individuals in a wide range of circumstances. Whether any particular rendition" is lawful depends on the facts of each individual case. Where we are requested to assist another State and our assistance would be lawful, we will decide whether or not to assist taking into account all the circumstances. We would not assist in any case if to do so would put us in breach of UK law or our international obligations. In particular, we would not facilitate the transfer of an individual from or through the UK to another State where there were grounds to believe that the person would face a real risk of torture.

Careful research by officials has been unable to identify any occasion since 11 September 2001, or earlier in the Bush administration, when we received a request for permission by the United States (US) for a rendition through UK territory or airspace, nor are we otherwise aware of such a case.

Additional research covering the remainder of the period of office of this Government (i.e. back to May 1997) has been undertaken. This shows there were some renditions via the UK during that period. Specifically, we have identified two definite occasions in 1998 when requests were made by the US. These occasions, for which records have been identified, were for transfer to the US for the person concerned to stand trial there. As the then Home Secretary I agreed these requests.

Although confirmatory records have yet to be identified, we believe that there may have been one or two other possible cases, also in 1998, which concerned requests by the US but for transfer to a third country. We have information on one such case which is incomplete and does not tell us whether the request was refused. We also have information on a case based on the recollection of officials involved in such matters, without any confirmatory records. The officials' recollection is that the case was refused. It is likely, but not certain, that the two cases are in fact one and the
 
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same. I have some recollection of such a case, but, given the passage of time, I cannot be certain. The search for records continues.

Trade Liberalisation

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what account he has taken of the World Bank's assessment that designating 2 per cent. of products as sensitive products could counter progress made in trade liberalisation in his assessment of the EU proposal to protect 8 per cent. of products as sensitive. [35752]

Mr. Bradshaw: I have been asked to reply.

The UK is aware of the research cited and is committed to substantial improvements in market access. We also believe that there should only be a minimal number of sensitive products. The number of sensitive products must be considered in light of the 'treatment' which is agreed for sensitive products and in the context of the tariff reduction formula. Only then is it possible to consider the impact of a certain number of sensitive products.


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