|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Straw: The following amounts were spent on presentational skills and training in speaking skills in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and include media training as well as training for press officers at British embassies.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many meetings he has had in each of the previous five years with representatives of the Indian Government; and what meetings are planned. 
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what mechanisms have been employed in the past to protect against the diversion of UK funding to the Palestinian Territories into terrorist activities; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) whether UK disbursement of funds to the Palestinian Territories has been contingent upon signed declarations by the recipient parties that funds will not be diverted to terrorist activities; and if he will make a statement. 
The UK Government absolutely condemn all acts of terrorism and takes concerns over the use of UK and European Community (EC) aid very seriously. We have not and would not allow taxpayers' money to be used to fund terrorism.
Since 2004, UK and European Community financial support to the budget of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been provided through a Reform Trust Fund, managed by the World Bank. Funding is conditional on the achievement of benchmarks for reform, progress against which is carefully monitored. The benchmarks cover the PA's audit and accounting processes as well as issues such as pension reform, the wage bill and the PA's budget process. The benchmarks require that the PA submit its annual financial statements to the Palestinian Legislative Council and be independently audited. This is intended to ensure the legitimate use of PA resources and that UK taxpayers' funds achieve value for money. The terms governing the Trust Fund are set out accordingly in signed memoranda of understanding between DFID and the World Bank and between the World Bank and the PA. There is no evidence to suggest that Reform Trust Fund money has been diverted to private bank accounts, or been used to support terrorism.
Other assistance to the Palestinians is provided though the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for refugees and a number of smaller projects. Where projects involve the transfer of funds to a Palestinian agency, there is always a signed agreement with that agency on what funding may be used for. Furthermore, financial reports are submitted as part of a careful monitoring process designed to ensure the legitimate use of taxpayers' money. The UK government will not allow development aid to be used for anything other than poverty reduction.
23 Mar 2006 : Column 574W
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of UK funding for the Palestinian Territories for 200506 has been disbursed; and if he will make a statement. 
DFID's allocation for aid to the Palestinians in the financial year 200506 is £30 million. We expect to have disbursed 99 per cent. of this allocation by the end of the financial year. Our assistance comprises:
£15 million for bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, including £10 million direct budget support to the Palestinian Authority with the remaining for projects supporting institution building and reform, negotiations capacity and in the water sector.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 13 March 2006 to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, Official Report, column 1909W, on Prism, which posts he referred to when he indicated that a concerted effort to improve on Prism's poor performance was beginning to pay dividends for a significant number of posts; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) Prism posts communicate using landlines (67 posts) or satellite links (112 posts). Changes to the FCO's IT infrastructure improved the speed and consistency of performance at most landline posts in September 2005. These changes did not improve the performance at posts using satellite communications to the same degree. Therefore other measures are being considered. Following successful tests at a small number of posts we are considering:
transferring posts to landlines, where possible. Initial pilots have been conducted successfully at two posts, Warsaw and Budapest. Further pilots are planned at another seven posts this month: Ankara, Brasilia, Bucharest, Islamabad, Nairobi, New Delhi, Nicosia and Santiago. This change could be applied to 56 posts;
installing hardware to accelerate communications over satellite links, where it is not possible for a post to migrate to a landline. Pilots are underway at five posts: Abuja, Accra, Pretoria, Lagos and Tehran.
In parallel, ways of improving the speed of the Prism system itself are being pursued. System memory has recently been increased, allowing more users to use the system concurrently. Changes to balance the processing load across the system have also been implemented. And more powerful servers will be installed shortly.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 13 March 2006 to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, Official Report, column 1909W, on Prism, which posts will be the hub and spoke pilots for Prism during the financial year 200607; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Straw: Hub and spoke pilots for Prism will be carried out in Spain and Italy. Our embassy in Madrid will be a hub for Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Ibiza, Las Palmas, Malaga, Palma, Seville and Tenerife. Our embassy in Rome will serve Florence, Milan and Naples.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Prism IT system's configuration problems affecting posts in South Asia and Russia/Central Asia; which posts are affected; for what reasons; whether compensation will be sought from the supplier; how it is intended that each post affected will close their accounts by 31 March; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Straw: All changes to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) organisation must be reflected in the Prism software. Data defining how the posts in South Asia and Russia/Central Asia Directorates should operate were originally programmed incorrectly in Prism. This was revealed when the posts went 'live' on Prism between 7 and 9 February. The posts could not access their suppliers or approve purchases, so they could not buy goods or services using Prism. Software 'rules' granting access to some accounting processes were also wrong. These problems stopped posts using Prism: it took until 22 February to resolve them fully.
The posts affected were Chennai, Colombo, Dhaka, Islamabad, Kabul, Karachi, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Almaty, Ashgabat, Baku, Dushanbe, Ekaterinburg, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tashkent, Tblisi and Yerevan.
To protect the FCO's financial year 200506 account closure and alleviate pressure on staff at these posts, they were asked to return their accounts on spreadsheets, rather than on Prism, until 31 March. These spreadsheets are loaded into Prism in the UK. Most of the posts will now go live on Prism in April.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|