Previous Section Index Home Page

10 Jan 2006 : Column 455W—continued

Wild Bird Ringing

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information her Department collects on wild bird ringing groups operating in the UK and licensed by the British Trust for Ornithology; and what advice and information her Department has circulated to such
10 Jan 2006 : Column 456W
groups in each region on (a) monitoring of possible avian influenza and (b) obtaining seasonal influenza injections. [38435]

Mr. Bradshaw: DEFRA continues to have regular discussions with a number of ornithological organizations in Great Britain for assistance in implementing a surveillance programme for avian influenza in wild birds. This comprises three strands:

Stewardship of the network of ringing groups lies with the ornithological organisations, including the BTO, and they have been working with DEFRA to identify the key issues concerning bird migration and behaviour, habitats, distribution of species of interest and issues around sensible measures for the protection of both employees and volunteers who may come into contact with wild birds through ringing and other activities.

Following consultation with the Department of Health, advice is available on the DEFRA website regarding submission of bird carcasses from unusually high mortality events. DEFRA has also issued advice cleared by the health authorities to those that are conducting sampling of birds for wild bird surveillance.

Further information can be found on DEFRA website at:

DEFRA is guided by the Department of Health in relation to advice on seasonal influenza vaccination. The current position is that routine vaccination of poultry workers, veterinarians or those dealing with wild birds with seasonal human flu vaccine is not recommended, but should be used in a confirmed outbreak of avian flu as a protection against the possibility of re-assortment with human flu virus for those people who might be exposed to the virus during disease control activities.


Middle East

9. Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State forForeign and Commonwealth Affairs If he will make a statement on the prospects for peace in the middle east. [40205]

Mr. Straw: Important progress has been made in recent months: the level of violence on both sides has been significantly reduced, and whilst much remains to be done, overall prospects have been transformed by the withdrawal from Gaza and northern settlements in the West Bank, in mid August. The UK and EU have been heavily involved in all this. Elections in the Occupied Territories for the Palestinian Legislative Council are due on 25 January, and a general election is due in Israel on 28 March.
10 Jan 2006 : Column 457W

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon deserves great credit for his courage and foresight in leading many of the recent positive developments. I am sure the whole House will join me in sharing my deep concern about his illness; our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends and the people of Israel.

19. Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Israeli Government about the peace process in the middle east. [40215]

Dr. Howells: We regularly discuss progress on the Middle East Peace Process with the Israeli Government, at all levels. Since disengagement in September 2005, both my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have met with members of the Israeli Government to discuss progress on their Roadmap commitments. The Israelis tell us that they remain committed to making progress against the Roadmap.

Collinson Grant Report

12. Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the findings of the Collinson Grant report. [40208]

Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office commissioned Collinson Grant to further improve its operations and efficiency and accepts many of the reports' conclusions. Actions resulting include substituting locally engaged for some UK-based staff; rationalising the various programmes intended to bring change in the FCO; reducing the number of people providing short term cover or working on temporary duties; improving the workings of the internal market and reducing administrative costs.

Extraordinary Rendition

13. Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with EU colleagues about extraordinary rendition. [40209]

Mr. Straw: On 21 November last year, EU Foreign Ministers discussed United States handling of detainees and agreed to ask for clarification of the reports of US transfer and detention of terrorist suspects through and in European countries. I subsequently wrote to EU partners to convey the response of the US Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

There have been further discussions about the matter at subsequent meetings in Brussels, and I have spoken bilaterally to EU Foreign Minister colleagues. I gave evidence on this matter to the Foreign Affairs Committee on 12 December.


14. Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what financial assistance and advice has been given to the Iraqi Government to help build civil society. [40210]

Dr. Howells: The Government are committed to supporting the development of a vibrant civil society in Iraq. Since 2004 we have committed over £17 million to programmes to help build civil society capacity. While
10 Jan 2006 : Column 458W
we have built a strong relationship with the State Ministry for Civil Society the majority of our funding is targeted directly at civil society organisations. Projects have focused included protection of minority rights, trade unions, justice and the rule of law, inter-faith dialogue and media development.

22. Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Iraqi elections. [40218]

Dr. Howells: Certified results have not been announced. However the fact that almost 11 million Iraqis from all communities voted illustrates their desire to determine their country's future. This shows great progress in building a new political system.

All parties are engaged in determining the formation of a fully representative Government. This Government will face many challenges and there is much we and the international community can continue to do to assist.


15. Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Iran's nuclear programme. [40211]

Mr. Straw: In 2003, Iran was forced to admit that for many years it has been operating secret facilities to enrich uranium, in clear contravention of its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty. Other breaches relating to plutonium have been ascertained. We also know of Iranian contact with the Pakistani nuclear weapons expert A. Q. Khan, who admitted working with clandestine nuclear weapons programmes in Libya and North Korea.

Since 2003, the United Kingdom, French and German Governments, with Javier Solana, the EU high representative, have worked tirelessly to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation by Iran through ensuring that it complies fully with its international obligations. As part of this, I ran agreed towards the end of 2003 to suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

This morning, I regret to say, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had broken seals at nuclear facilities, including its uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, with a view to resuming research and development, including the introduction of uranium hexafluoride into the centrifuges. That is enrichment. This is a profound concern. It is a further rejection by Iran of IAEA board requests and a violation of the commitments that Iran made in the Paris agreement in November 2004. In view of all that, I shall be meeting my French and German colleagues and Javier Solana as soon as this can be arranged, to discuss our joint and firm response.

24. Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent comments by the President of Iran concerning Israel. [40220]

Dr. Howells: I condemn unreservedly President Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel to be relocated or destroyed, and his denial of the existence of the Holocaust. Such remarks are wholly unacceptable, and
10 Jan 2006 : Column 459W
have no place in civilised debate. The United Nations Security Council has also condemned them, with our full backing.

Next Section Index Home Page