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Assets (Corruption)

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what value of illicitly acquired assets of a foreign state recovered by British authorities has been returned to the victim state in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [35404]

Ian Pearson: The Government welcome the new powers granted under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption which will make it easier for states to restrain funds. International co-operation is currently directed by existing legislation. However, these procedures have proved to be a barrier to providing effective assistance and as such there is no record of return of assets. The power of British authorities to seize assets will be strengthened when an Order in Council comes into force under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) in January 2006. The 2002 Act also provides for domestic action to be taken by way of civil recovery proceedings. I cannot comment on ongoing live cases and to date no assets have been returned.

Bangladesh

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions the UK Government have had with the Government of Bangladesh regarding that government's human rights record. [37813]

Dr. Howells: We regularly raise human rights with the Government of Bangladesh. I visited Bangladesh from 14 to 16 November 2005. I underlined the UK's commitment to, and support of, human rights in Bangladesh during my discussions including with human rights campaigners and representatives of religious and ethnic minorities and in a widely reported high profile speech.

The British high commission in Dhaka is actively engaged in the promotion of human rights. On 10 December 2005, in a speech to mark World Human Rights, the high commissioner called publicly on political and religious leaders in Bangladesh to defend minority rights, and to work to eradicate unlawful killings. The British high commission routinely monitors and often raises human rights with the Government of Bangladesh, both bilaterally and together with EU partners. As the EU Presidency, our high commission has specifically lobbied Ministers and officials on minority rights, the persecution of human rights defenders, freedom of the media and the observance of human rights by law enforcement agencies. They have also helped to raise awareness in Bangladesh of the plight of indigenous peoples, refugees and of human rights in wider civil society. The high commission also has regular contacts with human rights
 
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non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other activists in Bangladesh, and provides funding to NGOs for human rights based programmes.

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the human rights situation in Bangladesh. [37814]

Dr. Howells: We continue to have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Bangladesh including human rights abuses by the rapid action Battalion; the use of the death penalty, combined with legal and penal systems that do not have the appropriate probity or capacity; gender, ethnic and religious discrimination; the safeguarding of the rights of children and the disabled and the protection of vulnerable groups from exploitation. The British high commission in Dhaka regularly raise human rights issues with the Government of Bangladesh and provide funding to non-governmental organisations for human rights programmes.

Brazil

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his Department's policy towards British citizens held without representation in Brazil. [37872]

Dr. Howells: Foreign and Commonwealth Office policy for all our overseas posts is for consular staff to visit detained British nationals if the detainee wishes them to do so. During visits to detainees, consular staff monitor their welfare, and can provide information on the local legal system and a list of local lawyers. However, consular staff are not qualified to give legal advice, nor can we pay for or provide legal representation.

If a detainee indicates, either at a first meeting or subsequently, that they do not wish to receive consular assistance, our staff will respect the detainee's wishes.

There are currently 37 British nationals in detention in Brazil. We do not keep records for any country of how many detainees have specifically asked not to receive consular assistance, so are unable to give a number for those not being assisted in Brazil.

Bribery (OECD Working Group)

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress the Government will report to the OECD Working Group on Bribery on how the United Kingdom is implementing the Working Group's Phase 2 review recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [36845]

Ian Pearson: The UK's oral report on progress against the phase 2 review recommendations will take place at the meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Working Group on Bribery in March 2006. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is co-ordinating the inputs of those Government Departments involved in responding to the recommendations. This process will continue until the presentation of the UK's final written report in March
 
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2007. The FCO is currently collating information in preparation for the oral report in March 2006. When this has been completed, a progress report will be published.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library the briefing documents drawn up by his Department for the oral report the UK will make to the OECD Working Group on Bribery in relation to the Working Group's Phase 2 review recommendations. [36846]

Ian Pearson: I refer the hon. Member to the reply Igave today (UIN 36845).

British Antarctic Territory

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last visited (a) South Georgia, (b) the South Sandwich Islands and (c) the British Antarctic Territory; and whether he has any plans to do so. [36091]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has never visited these Territories, nor does he have any plans at present to do so.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to (a) encourage tourism to (i) South Georgia, (ii) the South Sandwich Islands and (iii) the British Antarctic Territory and (b) to restrict the impact of tourism on the wildlife in those areas. [36092]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) encourages visits by tourist cruise vessels to South Georgia by attending the annual meeting of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), by providing services to shipping, by supporting the South Georgia Museum Trust and by preserving the wildlife and environment that attracts tourists. There are no facilities for tourists in the South Sandwich Islands.

The Antarctic Treaty, to which the UK is a Consultative Party, designates Antarctica as a continent for peace and science. While the Government considers sustainable tourism a legitimate activity in Antarctica, they do not promote tourism to the British Antarctic Territory.

The GSGSSI takes very seriously its responsibilities in restricting the impact of tourism on wildlife in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI). A strict permitting process is in place, and visits to the Islands require the permission of the Commissioner for SGSSI. No cruise ship may land passengers other than at Grytviken/King Edward Point without being a member of IAATO. All IAATO vessels follow the Antarctic Treaty Environmental Protocol guidelines while at GSSI. Expeditions to SGSSI are vetted by an independent panel of experts, which considers the potential impact on wildlife and the environment. The GSGSSI has banned the use of helicopters for the purpose of tourism, and any other flying is strictly regulated. The GSGSSI has closed many areas of South Georgia to tourists in order that wildlife should remain undisturbed.
 
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The UK has actively promoted measures to restrict the impact of tourism on Antarctic flora and fauna through the Antarctic Treaty System. These have included, for example, the development of Site Guidelines for visitors to key Antarctic tourism sites, and new requirements to ensure adequate insurance and search and rescue provision for Antarctic expeditions.


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