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30 Jan 2006 : Column 117W—continued


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had with the African Union on helping to expedite the return of the former Chadian leader Hissène Habre" to stand trial. [46050]

Ian Pearson: There have been no discussions between the Government and the African Union (AU) regarding Hissène Habre". The AU discussed the extradition request for Mr. Habre", submitted by the Belgian authorities to Senegal, at their summit of 16–24 January. The summit agreed to set up a committee of eminent African jurists to consider the case. The European Union has called on the AU to ensure that any decision is in line with the fight against impunity and that the crimes of which Mr. Habre" is accused will be judged by a court.

Civil Service (Complaints)

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reasons responsibility for procedures for handling complaints against senior staff were transferred to the Civil Service Commission; what responsibilities (a) Ministers and (b) the Permanent Secretary retain in this regard; when these changes were decided upon; and by whom. [45906]

Dr. Howells: Responsibility for procedures for handling complaints against senior staff has not been transferred to the Civil Service Commissioners. The Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) complaints procedure encourages any staff member who has a complaint about a work issue to raise this with their line
30 Jan 2006 : Column 118W
manager in the first instance. Staff also have access to the FCO's Grievance Procedure which is in line with best practice.

If a member of staff believes they are being required to act in a way which is inconsistent with the Civil Service Code, there is a separate procedure to follow which could involve the Civil Service Commissioners. They should raise this in the first instance with their line manager, or one of the FCO's Nominated Officers or Human Resources. They may also approach the Director General for Corporate Affairs or the Permanent Under-Secretary. Staff can also contact the Civil Service Commissioners if they consider the response received is not a reasonable one or if they do not wish to use any internal channels.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the human rights situation in Colombia. [45561]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle), on 12 December 2005, Official Report, column 1646W.

The human rights situation in Colombia remains grave. While we acknowledge that there has been a reduction in recent years in some human rights abuses, there is still a lot that needs to be done to improve the situation. During the visit to the UK by Vice-President Santos in late November 2005, my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Lord Triesman of Tottenham, raised human rights issues. We have made it plain to the Government of Colombia that we are willing to work with them to help bring an improvement to the situation in the country, either as a bilateral partner or through our EU membership. We will continue to look for ways to bring about change, working with other partners such as the UN and civil society, to achieve this goal.

In addition, a Colombian trade union delegation will be visiting the UK in February at FCO expense. FCO officials will meet the delegation to discuss human rights and hear their views on how the Government can best support civil society in Colombia to improve the human rights situation.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the capture of members of the Lord's Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); and if he will make a statement on the deaths of UN peacekeepers in the DRC. [45819]

Ian Pearson: My noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, issued a statement on 24 January to express his sadness at the deaths of the eight Guatemalan peacekeepers. He has also offered the Guatemalan Government the UK's condolences. The UN Security Council has also issued a presidential statement condemning the killings.
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Foreign and Congolese armed groups operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) pose a daily threat to vulnerable civilians and to the delicate peace process. We fully support the United Nations' robust action to tackle the threat posed by all of these groups, and in particular the Lord's Resistance Army contingent, based in the DRC. The UK is also determined that there will be no impunity for war crimes or grave human rights abuses. We support the International Criminal Court's efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of such abuses.

Departmental Assets

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the items valued at over £100 that have been reported as stolen from buildings occupied by his Department in the past 12 months. [43434]

Dr. Howells: The following items have been recorded as lost or stolen from Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) buildings in the UK over the past 12 months:

Although records of items reported stolen or lost at overseas posts are not held centrally, the following thefts have been reported:

To collate detailed information on thefts and losses at all of our overseas posts would incur disproportionate costs.

Diplomatic Missions (Congestion Charge)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which countries' diplomatic missions have (a) indicated to his Department that they will not pay the London congestion charge and (b) have failed to pay this charge since 1 September 2005. [46025]

Dr. Howells: The Swiss embassy and the African Union Group have informed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that, as a matter of policy, they do not pay the congestion charge. The US embassy has also informed us that they ceased paying the charge in July 2005. No other missions have indicated to us that they have failed to pay since September 2005.
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Transport for London's records indicate outstanding Penalty Charge Notices incurred by individual members of diplomatic missions. These figures, up to 10 November 2005, were reported in my ministerial statement issued on 12 December 2005, Official Report, column 127WS. The following list, provided by Transport for London, updates these figures to 20 January this year.
Fines outstandingAmount in £
United Arab Emirates
Sierra Leone1,550147,040
South Africa1,492140,440

Diplomatic Service Appeals Board

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether recent changes in the mandate of the Diplomatic Service Appeals Board affect the right of departmental employees to appeal to the board in cases of complaints against senior management; what steps have been taken to ensure the independence of the board's secretariat in relation to the Department's human resources and management function; and if he will make a statement. [45903]

Dr. Howells: Changes to the mandate of the Diplomatic Service Appeal Board (DSAB) took place in early 2003. Following a review of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Misconduct Procedure and in consultation with the Trade Unions, it was agreed that the DSAB would hear appeals against dismissal and not lesser penalties. This amendment brought the DSAB into line with the Civil Service Appeal Board and provided similar rights of appeal for Diplomatic Service and Home Civil Service staff within the FCO.

The FCO's Grievance Procedure is available for any member of staff to use if they wish to pursue a formal complaint against a colleague. It is in line with statutory requirements and best practice.

The role of Secretary to the Board was transferred in early 2005 within the Human Resources Directorate from the FCO's Conduct Adviser to the Employee Relations Adviser. The latter has no involvement in conduct or disciplinary matters.

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