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27 Feb 2006 : Column 310W—continued

Overseas Postings

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list overseas postings which are open to non-civil service staff; and if he will list the occupants with (a) date of appointment and (b) method of selection. [46863]

Mr. Straw: Two high commissioner positions in Canberra and Pretoria are filled by political appointees (Helen Liddell and Paul Boateng). Both joined the diplomatic service on 9 May 2005 for the duration of their postings. There are no other overseas postings currently filled by non civil servants at the time of their appointment. However the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does open postings to public competition when appropriate.

The ambassador to the Holy See position was filled by open competition in 2005. The successful candidate, Francis Campbell, was a member of the diplomatic service who had been on special unpaid leave working with a non-governmental organisation.

Overseas postings that were open to public competition in the past include consul general positions in Mumbai, Toronto and Sao Paulo.
 
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Pakistan

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Pakistani authorities on the recent attacks on a church in (a) Kawanwali and (b) Sialkot Pakistan; and if he will make a statement. [52090]

Dr. Howells: We have not yet made any representations to the Pakistani authorities on the recent attacks against Christians in Kawanlit, in Sialkot district, Pakistan. We are currently investigating the matter. We are deeply concerned that such an attack occurred so soon after the November 2005 rioting and attacks against Christians in Sangla Hills, Lahore.

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political situation in Pakistan. [53114]

Dr. Howells: The key to a stable political situation in Pakistan is a guarantee that the 2007 parliamentary elections in that country are seen to be free and fair. Together with our EU and international partners, we are urging Pakistan to appoint an independent election commissioner to bring that about.

Palestine/Israel

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the recent statements by the acting Israeli Prime Minister on incorporation of settlement blocs in the west bank into Israel, the status of Jerusalem and redefining the borders of Israel; and what representations he is making to the Israeli Government on the matter. [52370]

Dr. Howells: We are concerned by acting Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's recent comments about incorporating the settlement blocs around Jerusalem into Israel, the status of Jerusalem and redefining the borders of Israel. We have made our concerns clear on these matters. Final status issues can only be resolved through negotiations and agreement between both parties under phase 3 of the Roadmap.

We regard east Jerusalem as an occupied territory and regard any unilateral attempts to change the status of Jerusalem as invalid. We also hold that the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 242 on the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 war apply to east Jerusalem.

The Roadmap calls on Israel to dismantle all outposts and settlements built since March 2001 in the occupied territories.

Pension Liabilities

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will estimate the net present value of accrued pension liabilities in respect of (a) present and (b) former employees of his Department. [52123]

Mr. Straw: The Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme is an unfunded multi-employer defined benefit scheme and individual departments' pension liabilities are not available. The Cabinet Office: Civil
 
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Superannuation Resource Accounts for 2004–05 showed that the total pension liability at 31 March 2005 was £84.1 billion. The value of pension liabilities was assessed as follows:

As a result of a change in the discount rate used for calculating pension liabilities with effect from 1 April 2005, the total pension liability at 1 April 2005 increased by £10.6 billion to £94.7 billion.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also provides for agreed programmes of early retirement for its UK-based staff, the combined net present value of which for both present and former employees is £27.86 million. There are also several pension schemes in operation for local staff overseas. The combined net present value of this liability for both present and former employees is £38.9 million.

Russia

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Russia regarding the need to ensure that victims of torture in Chechnya receive justice. [52161]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary regularly raises the issue of human rights in Chechnya with his counterpart in the Russian Government. Most recently, the EU-Russia human rights dialogue chaired by UK presidency in September 2005 included discussion of judicial reform in Chechnya. Reports of ongoing incidents of such human rights abuses including torture, abductions and murder are unfortunately still commonplace in the region. We have emphasised to the Russian side the importance of confronting the prevailing culture of impunity and ensuring that the perpetrators of these abuses are brought to justice.

Rwanda

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Rwanda regarding the security of genocide survivors. [52187]

Ian Pearson: The Government, through its embassy in Rwanda, has regular discussions with the Rwandan Government about security. The Rwandan Government is committed at the highest levels to protecting survivors from threats or violence. The Rwanda National Police has assured us that it investigates all allegations of crimes against genocide survivors and witnesses involved in genocide related gacaca" trials. The gacaca" criminal justice system requires that witnesses should be able to come forward in safety. It is therefore in the Government of Rwanda's interest to investigate all allegations of witness intimidation. However a full witness protection programme would be near impossible with over 750,000 cases.
 
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John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of reports that survivors of the Rwandan genocide are subject to violence and intimidation by genocidaires given amnesty. [52188]

Ian Pearson: There have been some reports that survivors of the Rwanda genocide have been violently targeted and intimidated by perpetrators of the genocide. But there is little evidence to suggest that those who were imprisoned because of their involvement in the genocide and have since been freed through the prisoner amnesty are particularly likely to carry out such attacks. The Rwandan National Police has assured us that any violent offence would be dealt with by the Rwandan justice system. The Rwandan Government is committed at the highest levels to protecting survivors and witnesses in the gacaca" traditional justice process from threats or violence.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the progress of the project of national reconciliation following the Rwandan genocide. [52189]

Ian Pearson: In the 12 years since the genocide, Rwanda has made impressive efforts at reconciliation and reconstruction. Reconciliation is central to government policy. The Rwanda National Unity and Reconciliation Commission works with different groups to educate the population and promote reconciliation. And the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission holds re-education with a strong reconciliation theme in camps for returnees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Perhaps the greatest progress the Government of Rwanda has made to ensure national reconciliation has been to provide an environment of peace and security and by establishing the basis for economic development and poverty reduction. However, there are growing international concerns about increasing government charges of divisionism" and genocidal ideology" against individuals. These potentially impact on national and local reconciliation.


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