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13 Dec 2005 : Column 1955W—continued

Rates

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much was paid by his Department in rates to each local authority in the UK in 2004–05; and how much was paid in (a) each region of the UK and (b) London in that year. [35985]

Ian Pearson: Rates were paid on Foreign and Commonwealth Office buildings to local authorities in the UK in 2004–05 as follows:
£
Local authoritySiteAmount paid
City of WestminsterOld Admiralty Building718,980.14
City of WestminsterKing Charles Street2,120,400.00
City of Westminster1 Carlton Gardens(63)1,089.00
City of Westminster1 Carlton Gardens(64)446.40
London borough of Lambeth89 Albert Embankment67,233.55
Milton Keynes councilHanslope Park567,720.00


(63) Non-domestic rates for apartment.
(64) Council tax on house.



 
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Somaliland

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with representatives of (a) European Union governments, (b) South Africa and (c) Somaliland on recognition for Somaliland. [35315]

Ian Pearson: We have had frequent discussions with representatives of Somaliland on the question of recognition, most recently when my noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for Africa, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, met the Foreign Minister of Somaliland on 20 May. We have not had substantive discussions of this matter with European Union partners, South Africa or any other government.

The international community does not recognise Somaliland as an independent state. We have urged the Somaliland authorities to agree a mutually acceptable solution on their future status with any eventual government in Somalia. We believe that African countries should take a lead in any eventual recognition process.

Torture (Third Party Countries)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions his Department has had with its counterpart in the US regarding the torture of detainees in third party countries. [36405]

Mr. Straw: My Department discusses counter terrorism and human rights issues with its United States counterpart frequently.

Uganda

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise the matter of the conflict in northern Uganda at the UN Security Council during the British presidency. [35759]

Ian Pearson: The UK has supported previous efforts to raise northern Uganda in the United Nations (UN) Security Council. As presidency the UK has invited Jan Egeland, the UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator to provide a briefing on humanitarian issues in Africa on 19 December.

A number of non governmental organisations have written to my right hon. Friend, the Foreign Secretary, advocating a UN Security Council Resolution during the UK's presidency of the Security Council. We are currently considering their ideas and how we can most effectively continue to address the situation in northern Uganda.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact of the decision by the Government of Uganda to imprison an opposition politician on progress towards democracy, good governance and respect for human rights in Uganda. [35761]

Ian Pearson: My noble Friend, the Lord Triesman of Tottenham, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for Africa, expressed our serious concerns
 
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regarding the arrest of Dr. Kiiza Besigye on charges including treason, to the Ugandan Foreign Minister Kutesa, on 17 November. The UK, on behalf of the EU, also issued a statement on 21 November. We are pressing for a fair and transparent civilian trial. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made this clear to President Museveni at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Valetta.

The move to a pluralist democratic system in advance of the next elections in February or March 2006 is a crucial step in the political development of Uganda. We have consistently encouraged the Ugandan Government to ensure that all parties are able, and are seen to be able, to compete on a level playing field.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by his Department to help resolve the conflict in northern Uganda. [35762]

Ian Pearson: Resolving the long-running conflict in Northern Uganda and addressing its humanitarian impact are priorities for the UK. In our discussions with the Uganda Government, we emphasise the need to bring peace to northern Uganda, provide adequate protection for the people of the North and to continue to encourage those Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) members not indicted by the International Criminal Court to seek amnesty and re-integration into their communities. We are also encouraging the governments of the region to work together to ensure that those LRA members who have been indicted are brought to justice.

The UK has provided support for a number of specific peace initiatives, including the recent mediation effort led by Betty Bigombe, a former Ugandan Minister. We are providing practical help to the Amnesty Commission, which is helping to re-integrate former combatants into the community. We have also helped establish a local radio station, MEGA FM, which, through its programming, helps to promote peace. To date we have provided over £2 million and will be doing more.

UN Peacebuilding Commission

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is the policy of the Government to support the expansion of the mandate of the UN Peacebuilding Commission to allow for a conflict prevention role. [35731]

Ian Pearson: The Government support a role for the UN Peacebuilding Commission in preventing violent conflict. By tracking peacebuilding efforts and offering advice to UN member states, donors, including the International Finance Institutions, and the wider international community, the Commission should help to reduce the risk of post-conflict countries falling back into conflict. The Government also support the proposal that the Peacebuilding Commission should consider countries on the verge of lapsing into conflict at the request of the country concerned.
 
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United Arab Emirates

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of the United Arab Emirates regarding the fair and equal treatment of homosexuals. [35734]

Dr. Howells: We have had no recent discussions regarding the fair and equal treatment of homosexuals with the United Arab Emirates Government.

Zimbabwe

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations his Department has made to the South African Government in respect of (a) its policy towards, (b) financial links with and (c) trade links with Zimbabwe. [15372]

Ian Pearson: South Africa is in no doubt about the Government's views on Zimbabwe, including that all concerned states should be encouraging Zimbabwe to pursue policies which help rather than harm its economy. Ministers and officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regularly make these views clear to the South African Government, most recently when my right hon. Friend, the Foreign Secretary and South African Foreign Minister Dlamini-Zuma co-chaired the EU/South Africa Co-operation Council in Brussels on 7 November.

SOLICITOR-GENERAL

Consultants

Martin Horwood: To ask the Solicitor-General what mechanisms are in place to assess the effectiveness of consultant-led projects in the Law Officers' Departments; 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 in each case. [29081]

The Solicitor-General: The Law Officers' Departments have either had no consultant-led projects or none has been assessed as unsuccessful.

The Crown Prosecution Service has adopted the Office of Government Commerce's Gateway review process to provide assurance at critical stages of a programme's or project's lifecycle, whether led by departmental staff or consultants. Best practice project techniques and governance procedures are followed to ensure the consultant(s) meet their terms of reference and deliverables for the project and guidance has been issued to departmental managers on the monitoring and reviewing of consultants performance. Where appropriate, payments are linked to the achievement of milestones. Failure to deliver milestones could result in payment being withheld. No project has been assessed as unsuccessful in the time cited.

HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate rarely uses external consultants for analysis, advice, the investigation of problems or assistance in developing new systems, structures or capabilities within HMCPSI.
 
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In the event of a consultant-led project which was completed unsatisfactorily, a reduction or cancellation of fees would be sought. No instance has occurred in the time cited.

The Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Service was created on 18 April 2005 and has not run any projects assessed as unsuccessful. It has arrangements in place, which would evaluate progress during and after project completion.

The Serious Fraud Office has had no consultant-led projects.

During the time cited, the Treasury Solicitor's Office, including the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, has had no consultant-led projects assessed as unsuccessful. The officer commissioning the project has reviewed output. Consultant-led projects in TSol have been relatively small and subject to contractual obligations, with appropriate controls. These included defined deliverables and time scales, options for withholding payment until output is delivered to an acceptable standard or terminating contracts at given stages without penalty. There was also an agreed escalation process for dealing with any contractual issues.

Martin Horwood: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Department takes to ensure that consultancies do not claim excessive expenses while working for his Department and its agencies. [29085]

The Solicitor-General: All the Law Officers' Departments scrutinise expenses claimed by the consultants they employ.

Expenses by consultants working on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service must be approved in advance by the Project Manager. Expenses are reimbursed on the basis of the costs actually incurred and must be supported by original receipts. Costs must be within the ceilings determined by the Departments' travel and subsistence policy. CPS includes these requirements in its letters of appointment.

HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate consultancies are agreed on a fee for the work or daily rate with necessary travelling expenses. HMCPSI's prior authority would be required for any further disbursements. Claims for travelling expenses or disbursements which were insufficiently justified would be queried before payment

The Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Service employs consultants via the Office of Government Commerce's S-CAT service ensuring that procurement of consultancy services accord with the terms and conditions agreed by OGC, Expenses are included in monthly reports, scrutinised by RCPO staff.
 
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In the Serious Fraud Office, authorisation of consultancy fees and any associated expenses are subject to internal SFO governance and authorisation controls applicable to all expenditure, ensuring that invoices are for agreed rates, for services delivered correctly and to standards agreed in the contract. All projects are led by a Senior Responsible Officer and internal project boards regularly monitor performance against planned activity and budget.

The Treasury Solicitor's Office, including the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers, applies to appointing the services of consultants and management of their contracts, including charges and cost monitoring, the same government accounting principles on procurement as they do on the engagement of external service providers generally: to achieve value for money, with due regard to propriety and regularity.


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