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Climate Change

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): The eleventh conference of the parties to the UN framework convention on climate change (COP11) and the first Meeting of the parties to the Kyoto protocol (MOP1) took place in Montreal from 28 November to 9 December. Margaret Beckett, UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, led the European Union delegation.

The agreement reached by all countries participating in the conference represent a important step forward in the global effort to tackle climate change. Despite the deep divisions of recent years, the whole global community including the United States, India and China have agreed to work together through the United Nations process to examine the way forward.
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The conference agreed:

There will be two tracks to the discussions on global action post-2012:

The UK's leadership on climate change has played an important role in enabling this agreement, through our action at home and abroad, in particular in 2005. The Prime Minister's decision to make climate change a top priority for the UK's presidencies of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations in 2005 and the European Union from 1 July to 31 December 2005 is recognised by all parties as an important factor that has injected fresh momentum into the international debate. The entry into force of the Kyoto protocol this year was another important boost to global discussion on climate change.

The outcome of the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in July, attended also by leaders from China, India and other large developing countries, was a milestone. Key world leaders agreed for the first time that climate change was exacerbated by man's emission of greenhouse gases and required a rapid response. The G8 agreed to a new G8+ Dialogue on climate change, clean energy and sustainable development to create a political space outside the formal negotiating process and to complement and reinforce the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process.

By implementing a series of innovative policy measures at home, the UK is one of the few countries on track to meet its Kyoto target, a reduction in emissions of a basket of greenhouse gases of 12.5 per cent. from 1990 levels by 2012. And the UK has shown international leadership by setting an even more challenging domestic goal to reduce emissions by 20 per cent., to which we remain committed and are addressing through the climate change programme review.

The UK recognises that the agreement reached at Montreal is only the beginning of a further round of global discussion. We remain committed to achieving the stabilisation of GHGs in the atmosphere in line with the goal of the UN Climate Change Convention.
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Indian Ocean Tsunami

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I should like to make a written statement on the commemorative events planned for the anniversary of the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. This follows my previous statements to the House on 22 March and 28 June 2005.

I wish to express again my deepest sympathies and condolences and those of the entire Government to the family and friends of all the British nationals who lost their lives in the Tsunami and to all the British nationals who suffered trauma or injury. This feeling, I am sure, is shared by every member of the House. And we remember too the millions of people from the region who lost loved ones or whose lives have been shattered by the Tsunami. The anniversary on 26 December will be a very painful time for all those affected by the disaster; our thoughts and prayers will be with them.

British victims of the Tsunami

We have now confirmed that a total of 149 British nationals died as a result of the Tsunami; 129 in Thailand, 17 in Sri Lanka and three in the Maldives. The bodies of 143 of these people have been identified. The bodies of the remaining six have not yet been identified. There is one British national whose death has not been confirmed and who is still listed as a category one missing person—that is highly likely to have been caught up in the Tsunami.

Anniversary arrangements

On the morning of 26 December, the Royal Thai Government is arranging events in six separate locations where the greatest loss of life occurred. One memorial event will be held on Phi Phi Island; two in the Khao Lak area; and three in the Phuket area. A memorial foundation stone laying ceremony will take place in Khao Lak on the afternoon of 26 December, followed in the evening by an inter-faith service. Both of these events will be attended by the Prime Minister of Thailand. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with responsibility for consular affairs, Lord Triesman, will represent the Government at the anniversary events.

We expect that around 130 British nationals will travel to Thailand for the anniversary. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's priority will be to provide support for families of the British victims during this very difficult time. As part of the special package of assistance which I agreed for victims of the Tsunami, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will cover the travel and accommodation costs of a number of British nationals travelling to Thailand to mark this anniversary. Some of those families who have already taken advantage of this package of assistance and some of those injured will have their travel and accommodation provided for by the Royal Thai Government. A few families have chosen to travel independently, and will make their own arrangements.

The families of all British victims will be met at Bangkok airport and at Phuket airport and given assistance with travel to official commemorative events on 26 December. If they wish, officials from the
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Government and the British Red Cross will accompany them during their visit. My noble Friend, Lord Triesman, with the British Ambassador David Fall, will attend a religious service and host a reception in Phuket on 24 December for the families and for survivors.

In Sri Lanka, many communities and religious groups along the coast will hold events to mark the anniversary of the Tsunami. The Sri Lankan authorities are not planning to hold a large-scale commemoration ceremony but they are organising an inter-faith service on the evening of 26 December in the town of Bentota, on the south-west coast. We expect that 15 British nationals will travel out to Sri Lanka for the anniversary. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will cover the accommodation and travel costs of some of those going out through the special package of assistance. Others are travelling independently. The Sri Lankan Government will also mark the anniversary with a remembrance service held on the morning of 26 December at their High Commission in London.

The Maldives Government are not planning to commemorate the anniversary as the whole of this year has been declared a year of national unity to mark the Tsunami. We are not expecting any British nationals to travel there for the anniversary itself.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell), has recently visited India, Thailand and Sri Lanka to thank all the staff and volunteers for their work in the aftermath of the Tsunami. In Thailand she discussed arrangements for the forthcoming anniversary commemoration with the Thai Government.

The Government deeply appreciate the tremendous support and kindness shown by the governments and the peoples of all the countries in which British people were killed. At a time when they were each overwhelmed by their own national tragedies, they have shown enormous compassion and generosity to the nationals of other countries.

Ongoing Government response

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to provide support and assistance to British nationals affected by the Tsunami. The United Kingdom has a dedicated consular team in Phuket for this purpose. We have also encouraged the British Red Cross to use some of the money which was donated by the public for Tsunami relief to assist British families who are suffering financial hardship. The Fund will primarily be available to UK residents, and grants will be made available to individuals who have been seriously affected by the Tsunami whether through bereavement, injury or trauma. Funds are also available for those otherwise unable to afford travel to events such as the formal inquest in West London. Payments from the Fund will normally be single grants of up to £10,000 per individual in respect of financial hardship and up to £2,000 for those requiring private psychological treatment.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has taken over the running of the Red Cross Helpline which had been funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This helpline offers support and telephone counselling to all victims of the Tsunami and provides advice on, for example, how victims can get long-term
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psychological help or on how to access the benefits system. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also funding the Red Cross Tsunami Support Network which was set up by the Red Cross and was also initially funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Police Family Liaison Officers got back in touch with all the families of the victims in the run up to the formal inquest into the majority of the British deaths last week. Three British police officers are still seconded to the international disaster victim identification team in Thailand and are expected to remain there until the end of February.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is continuing to improve its crisis management procedures in the light of the recently published joint report by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the National Audit Office on lessons learned from our response to the Tsunami. The report concludes that Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff in the region and in London "coped tremendously well under severe pressure" and that they had "worked extremely long hours and made great personal sacrifices". But the unprecedented scale of the Tsunami meant that some people did not get the level of support which we would have wanted to give them. Where that happened, I have apologised to the families affected and we have listened to their suggestions for how we could have done better.

The joint report includes detailed recommendations on how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can further improve its emergency response. We have accepted those recommendations in full; we have already implemented some and others are in hand. So, for example, although we had put in place new arrangements with the police for handling calls in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the police call centre could not cope with the volume of traffic generated by the Tsunami—at times more than 10,000 calls an hour. We are now part of new police call handling arrangements which route emergency calls across their national network; and we are looking at a way to register missing people on-line, taking some of the load off people staffing the telephones.

I was and remain determined to learn lessons so that our consular crisis management, an area in which the National Audit Office recognised the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as "world leaders", is the very best it can be.

Support for countries affected by the Tsunami

The Government have allocated the equivalent of around £275 million to disaster relief and reconstruction in the Tsunami affected countries including the Indonesian province of Aceh which took the brunt of the Tsunami. This can be broken down into: £75 million of bilateral funds allocated to the humanitarian relief effort; £65 million of bilateral funds to the longer-term reconstruction phase; £50 million through tax relief on public donations made through the Gift Aid Scheme; £40 million contributed through the European Union; and £45 million by adding Sri Lanka to the list of countries eligible for the United Kingdom's new multilateral debt relief initiative.
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