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Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent advice he has received from Mockbul Ali, departmental Islamic issues adviser, on (a) the Muslim Brotherhood and (b) Jamaal-e-Islami; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Islamic issues adviser is a position based in the FCO's Engaging with the Islamic World Group and contributes to the work of that group accordingly. With respect to advice given by the group, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs (Paul Goggins) on 20 December 2005, Official Report, column 2654W.
We regularly discuss human rights issues with the Egyptian government, most recently on 22 December. The last time the issue of torture was specifically raised was in April 2005.
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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government have made direct representation to the Eritrean President, Isaias Afewerki, concerning the the decision to expel UN peacekeepers. 
Ian Pearson: We have not talked to the President of Eritrea directly. However, my noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, summoned the Eritrean ambassador on 9 December to make clear the EU's concern about Eritrea's decision to expel monitors of certain nationalities serving with the UN Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea. We also supported a UN Security Council Presidential Statement, which declared that the Eritrean action was unacceptable and demanded its immediate and unequivocal reversal without preconditions. To date, the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki, has declined to meet representatives of the international community including the UK to discuss this issue.
Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will condemn the ongoing human rights violations in Ethiopia; if he will take and take (a) economic and (b) diplomatic action to press the Government of Ethiopia to (i) release immediately opposition party leaders, supporters and journalists, (ii) cease the killing, arrest and intimidation of political opponents, (iii) accept an independent investigation into the June and November killings of civilians and (iv) start immediately the political process to resolve the issues regarding the May election. 
Ian Pearson: We continue to monitor the human rights situation and have expressed our concerns to the Ethiopian Government. We condemned the tragic loss of life of both civilians and members of the security forces in the civil unrest of June and November. My noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Africa, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, raised our concerns about the current political crisis and the aftermath of the elections with Prime Minister Meles, during his visit to Ethiopia on 17 December.
We continue to work with the Government of Ethiopia and other stakeholders for progress on human rights and governance issues. Along with our EU and US partners, we have called for the release of all political detainees, including opposition leaders and for those individuals not charged under due process to be released immediately. We have also called for full access to those detained for their families, legal counsel and representatives of the International Community of the Red Cross or other appropriate representatives of the international community.
Prime Minister Meles has, through Parliament, established a Commission of Inquiry into the unrest. We continue to urge the Government of Ethiopia to engage in dialogue with opposition political parties and other stakeholders to resolve the crisis that followed the May 15 election.
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Ian Pearson: Since 1 November to date, our records show that we have received 10 written Parliamentary Questions, and 41 letters from Members of Parliament, including those from Members of the European Parliament, and 12 letters and seven emails from members of the public.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many meetings of the (a) Joint Committee (EC-Laos), (b) MED Committee (Financial and technical cooperation between the Community and Mediterranean non-member countries) and (c) Joint Committee (EEC-Paraguay) have taken place during the UK presidency of the EU; who presided over each meeting; which other UK representatives were present; what provisions were made for representation of the devolved governments; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Two meetings of the MED Committee have taken place during the UK presidency, on 13 July and 14 September 2005. As EU presidency the UK presided over the meeting. The UK was represented by officials from the Department for International Development. The EC Paraguay Joint Committee met on 14 November 2005. The UK presidency was represented by the local Italian presidency. There have been no meetings of the EC Laos Joint Committee.
The Government takes into account the views and interests of the devolved administrations when formulating the UK's policy position on all EU and international issues which touch upon devolved matters. Provision for attendance at EU meetings by Ministers and officials of the devolved administrations is set out in paragraphs 4.1215 of the Concordat on Co-ordination of European Union Policy Issues (part of the Memorandum of Understanding between devolved Ministers and the UK Government), a copy of which is available at:
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the evidence of the alleged use of torture in the Far-Filastin jail in Damascus; when this assessment was last revised; and if he will make a statement. 
We have a number of serious concerns about Syria's human rights record, in particular the continued practices of torture, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials and the detention of political prisoners which run contrary to international human rights norms. We regularly raise our concerns about Syria's human rights record, both bilaterally and through the European Union.
David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his Guatemalan counterpart about the status and treatment of Guatemalan women. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not recently discussed the status and treatment of Guatemalan women with his Guatemalan counter-part. However, the UK holds regular discussions on human rights, including women's rights and violence against women, with the Guatemalan authorities.
On 7 October 2005, officials from the British embassy in Guatemala met a representative from the human rights prosecutor's office of the Guatemalan public prosecutor's office to discuss, in particular, the recent rise in violent acts against women in Guatemala. A representative from Guatemala's network for the prevention of violence against women was also present.
Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how often he has received representations from the elected governing authorities of (a) Guernsey, (b) Jersey, (c) the Isle of Man, (d) the Falkland Islands, (e) Gibraltar and (f) Saint Helena about interest rates set by the Bank of England since 1997. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man, are dependencies of the Crown. The Department for Constitutional Affairs is the formal point of communication between the UK and the island authorities. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has received no representations from the Government of Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man about interest rates set by the Bank of England since 1997.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), as appropriate in conjunction with the Department for International Development (DflD), takes lead responsibility for the Government on issues pertaining to the UK Overseas Territories (OTs). FCO, and where appropriate DflD, Ministers and officials are in frequent and regular dialogue with OT Government Ministers and officials on a broad range of issues. We have no records of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary receiving representations from the Government of the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, or Saint Helena about interest rates set by the Bank of England since May 1997.
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