Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many departmental staff have been required to take compulsory early retirement on structural grounds under the provisions of FCO Circular 754/01; and if he will make a statement. 
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Circular 754/01, issued in December 2001, gave guidance to FCO employees at senior management level
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on their options if they were unable to pick up jobs at the relevant appointment board. This included their eligibility to leave the FCO on compulsory early retirement (CER) terms. In order to help achieve the FCO's efficiency targets, in particular the decision to reduce substantially the number of staff in the senior management structure, these provisions were extended to a wider range of senior officers in September 2004, using funding from the Treasury's Efficiency Challenge Fund. This exercise enabled some officers not eligible for CER (i.e. those aged under 50) to leave on compulsory early severance (CES) terms. The numbers taking CER or CES in each of the last five years is as follows:
Dr. Howells: International election observers were not invited to the presidential or parliamentary elections in 2005, and as such it is difficult for us to comment on the transparency of legitimacy of the elections.
The European Union issued a statement on 9 December 2005 about the parliamentary elections, noting concern about reports of widespread violence, but welcoming the decision to allow domestic groups to monitor the elections. This is available at:
Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the financial and other benefits of running each embassy and consulate. 
There is an inherent difficulty in ascribing a financial value to most foreign policy activity. The performance of the UK's Posts and Consulates are measured against each mission's annual objectives. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) reports against its objectives and public service agreements (PSAs) as set out in the Department's Annual Report (Command paper 6533). The contribution of posts is reflected in the performance monitoring against the FCO's PSAs.
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Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps have been taken to monitor the acquisition of weapons by (a) Eritrea and (b) Ethiopia since the lifting of the arms embargo of May 2001. 
Dr. Howells: As there is no arms embargo in force, there are no formal mechanisms for monitoring arms acquisitions by Ethiopia and Eritrea, but we monitor closely developments in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the EU constitution initiative and the prospects for its revival (a) in whole and (b) in part. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Following the French and Dutch 'no' votes in referendums on the EU constitutional treaty, EU Heads of State and Government agreed on the need for a period of reflection with a view to coming back to the matter during the first half of 2006. The Government will participate constructively in these discussions, but it would not be sensible to pre-empt now where the discussions might end up. In the coming months we need to focus on the EU's policy agenda, including follow-up to the issues discussed at Hampton Court.
Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his answer of 13 June 2005, Official Report, column 137W, on Iraq, what progress has been made with his inquiries with the United States Administration. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer14 November 2005]: I apologise for the delay in providing a substantive answer to the hon. Member's questions on this matter. This is because the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), to whom the Special Rapporteur's letter was addressed, was dissolved at the end of June 2004. An additional difficulty is that the incident to which it refers is alleged to have happened in February 2004, when there was a great deal of militia activity of this type in Iraq. We are working with the United States Government, via whom the letter was passed to the CPA, to ascertain whether they have any record of what happened to the letter and what action was taken on it. They are still researching the archives.
Given the delay in providing a substantive reply, we will continue to pursue with the US authorities and, exceptionally, I will write to the hon. Member when we have more information, and will place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from what date the UK Government have raised concerns about respect to international humanitarian law with the government of Israel; on how many occasions; and what assessment he has made of the impact of these representations on Israel's human rights record under international law. 
Dr. Howells: We have frequently made clear our concerns with the Israeli Government about respect for international humanitarian law over a number of years. Our Ambassador in Tel Aviv last raised house demolitions, route of the barrier, establishment of new settlements and the expansion of existing settlements in Arab neighbourhoods on 19 December 2005. Israel's respect for international humanitarian law still remains a concern and we will continue to raise these matters.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from non-governmental organisations on the closure of the British embassy in Madagascar. 
Ian Pearson: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received representations from 13 non-governmental organisations about the closure of the British embassy in Madagascar. Most express concern about Madagascar's continued development and the conservation of its wildlife.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent visits have been made to (a) Somaliland and (b) Somalia by British officials; and what organisations they met whilst there. 
Ian Pearson: Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID) visited Somaliland on numerous occasions during 2005 and had meetings with the Somaliland authorities, local non-governmental organisations, the UN agencies operating there and the Somaliland Scouts veterans' association. Most recently, a DFID official took part in a joint needs assessment as part of the UN Development Programme aid co-ordination from 16 to 18 January 2006.
Officials from the FCO and DFID have visited Somalia and Puntland on a few occasions during 2005, as part of UN organised and protected missions, for meetings with the Transitional Federal Authorities in Jowhar, the National Aids Commission in Puntland and to assess conditions in the drought affected southern region. A DFID official working under the auspices of the World Food Programme assessed the humanitarian situation in Southern Somalia from 14 to 19 January 2006.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on which dates during the period from 2000 to 2004 the appointments board selected candidates to serve as ambassador in (a) Beijing, (b) Brasilia and (c) Mexico City.