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14 Feb 2006 : Column 1910W—continued

Yemen

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the security situation in Yemen. [51425]


 
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Dr. Howells: We are concerned about the security situation in Yemen, in particular because of the recent escape of 23 al-Qaeda prisoners and also the spate of kidnappings of Western tourists in December 2005 and January. We judge that there is a continuing high threat from terrorism.

I visited Yemen in January and emphasised to Government Ministers that determined action against terrorist threats was vital. The UK is providing practical Counter Terrorism support to Yemen.

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the activities of (a) al-Qaeda and (b) Islamic fundamentalists in Yemen. [51426]

Dr. Howells: We are aware that members of al-Qaeda and other similar groups continue to exist in Yemen and we monitor reports on their activities there. We maintain a wide-ranging dialogue with the Government of Yemen which includes security issues, in particular counter-terrorism (CT). We have an extensive
 
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programme of CT capacity-building with the Yemeni authorities; this includes training of the coastguard, as well as training in investigative techniques, forensic science and crime scene management. During my recent visit to Yemen, I expressed the hope that our CT relationship would continue to develop, with an enhanced two-way flow of co-operation.

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the Jawf and Mareb tribes in Yemen have contact with (a) al-Qaeda and (b) other Islamic fundamentalist groups; and if he will make a statement. [51437]

Dr. Howells: Al-Jawf and Marib are regions of Yemen where members of al-Qaeda and related groups are known to have been present. It is possible that tribes living in these areas have offered funding and/or logistical assistance to members of such groups; this support may have been with or without tribal knowledge of the al-Qaeda background of the individuals concerned.
 
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CABINET OFFICE

Government Information Technology

24. David Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on progress with development of the Government's IT strategy. [51264]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The Transformational Government strategy was published in November 2005 and was followed by a three-month (public) consultation period. Responses are being incorporated into an implementation plan that will be published by the end of this financial year.

Civil Service

25. Sarah McCarthy-Fry: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he is taking to increase the number of women in the senior civil service. [51265]

Mr. Jim Murphy: There have been significant increases in the proportion of women in senior posts since 1998: the civil service has met its target to double the proportion of women in top management posts, from 12.7 per cent. in 1998 to 25.5 per cent. in 2005.

But there is still more work to do: we have set challenging new targets for 2008, underpinned by a Diversity 10 Point Plan.

26. Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects to be in a position to bring forward a Civil Service Bill. [51266]

Mr. Jim Murphy: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I provided to the hon. Member for North East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on 9 January 2006, Official Report, column 199W.

28. Harry Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what recent discussions he has had with other Departments on the pay of civil servants. [51268]

Mr. Jim Murphy: There has been no need for me to have discussions with Departments. They have delegated authority to determine their own pay arrangements, outside of the senior civil service, that are tailored to meet their business needs. However, my officials have regular discussions with Departments regarding pay issues.

Public Appointments

27. Keith Vaz: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what further steps he has taken to increase diversity in public appointments. [51267]


 
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Mr. Jim Murphy: This Government are committed to achieving greater diversity in public appointments. All Department's including my own, will in due course publish an Annual Appointments Plan. These will provide more detail and clarity than before, on the overall policy, approach, and diversity objectives set by individual Department's to public appointments.

Departmental Energy Costs

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much was spent by his Department on (a) gas and (b) electricity in 2004–05. [51781]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Spending on gas and electricity by the Cabinet Office in 2004–05 is shown in the table.
£
Gas63,743
Electricity588,248

Departmental Entertainment

Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much was spent on entertainment by his Department in 2004–05, broken down by (a) food, (b) alcohol, (c) staff and (d) accommodation. [50883]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The Cabinet Office spent £571,940 on entertainment in 2004–05. Expenditure broken down into the four categories requested is not separately identifiable on the department's accounting system and is therefore only available at disproportionate cost.

Entertainment expenditure includes working breakfasts or lunches, refreshments at meetings and all similar types of entertainment expenditure.

All Cabinet Office expenditure on official entertainment is made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in Government Accounting".

Departmental Recruitment

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many job advertisements were placed by his Department (a) in total, (b) in print newspapers and magazines and (c) on a recruitment website in each year since 1997; and at what cost in each case. [50756]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Cabinet Office expenditure on recruitment advertising for 2004–05 and 2005–06 is shown in the table.

Information prior to 1 April 2004 could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
 
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Cabinet Office expenditure on recruitment advertising for 2005–06

TotalPrint(23)Website only(24)
Numbers622735
Total cost172,736172,576160
Average cost6,3924.57

Cabinet Office expenditure on recruitment advertising for 2004–05

TotalPrint(23)Website only(24)
Numbers934746
Total cost236,828236,8280
Average cost5,0390


(23) Includes press associated website. These posts were also advertised on the civil service Gateway.
(24) Vacancies advertised on the civil service gateway only.

Departmental Staff

Kate Hoey: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans his Department has to change the London allowance of its staff; and if he will make a statement. [50005]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The Cabinet Office does not pay a specific allowance to employees located in London. There are, however, two pay scales: one covering employees located in London, Sunningdale and Basingstoke and a national pay scale for employees in other locations.

E-government

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many Government IT projects processed as part of the e-government programmes have gone (a) over budget and (b) over time since 1997. [51791]

Mr. Jim Murphy: This information is not held centrally and could only be collected at disproportionate cost.


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