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Mr. Andrew Turner:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many
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contracts are let by his Department to voluntary sector organisations; how many of those are let on an annual basis; and how many of those had received finalised contracts for 200607 by 31 March. 
Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's accounts system does not differentiate between voluntary sector organisations and other organisations in its supplier records. The information could therefore be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will seek to obtain from the Indian high commissioner in London replies to the letters sent to the high commissioner on 4 January 2006, 9 February 2006 and 7 March 2006 by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, with regard to Mr. G.K. Singh. 
Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the (a) state of and (b) prospects for the UK's relations with Cuba; and what his present policy is on Cuba. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK's policy towards Cuba, which is shared by our EU partners, is set out in the EU Common Position of 1996. The Common Position seeks to encourage a peaceful transition to pluralist democracy in Cuba. We see a relationship based on constructive engagement as the best way to achieve this.
The UK co-operates successfully with Cuba in a number of fields, including anti-drug trafficking, tourism, trade and cultural affairs. However, we are concerned by Cuba's human rights record and we continue to raise our concerns with the Cuban authorities. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, who is responsible for relations with Cuba, most recently held discussions with Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Caballero on 6 March.
The UK's desire is to further develop our relations with Cuba, but full co-operation between the EU and Cuba is dependent on Cuba demonstrating measurable improvements in human rights and political freedoms.
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Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK's policy towards Cuba, which is shared with our EU partners, is set out in the EU common position of 1996. The main objective of the common position is to encourage a peaceful transition to pluralist democracy in Cuba.
We will maintain a close dialogue with our EU partners ahead of the review of the EU common position in June. In that context, we will continue to monitor the political and human rights situation in Cuba closely and will seek a consensus view with our EU partners.
Mr. Douglas Alexander: We maintain close co-operation in areas that encourage trade, tourism, education, sport, science and cultural links between the UK and Cuba. The Cuba Initiative continues to develop trade and investment links and undertook another successful mission to Havana in November 2005.
The British Embassy and the British Council in Havana recently hosted a successful British Film Festival in Cuba in November 2005. Plans are being drawn up for co-operation between Cuban and British athletes for the 2012 Olympic games. Since 2003, the UK and Cuba has had a bilateral sports memorandum of understanding, allowing for training visits and exchanges in boxing, judo and cricket.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans the EU has to send further troops to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and what discussions he has had with other EU Foreign Ministers on this issue. 
Ian Pearson: On 23 March the European Council approved the concept of an EU military operation to support the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during the electoral period in the DRC. The exact nature and structure of the EU force remains under discussion, although preliminary planning has begun.
We have discussed this issue frequently with EU colleagues, including among Foreign Ministers at the 20 March General Affairs and External Relations Council. We welcome the EU decision as part of wider efforts to ensure a secure and stable environment for free and fair elections.
The human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains poor. Congolese civilians, particularly in eastern DRC,
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continue to suffer abuses committed by militias, foreign-armed groups and ill-disciplined and poorly controlled Congolese army soldiers. A climate of impunity prevails. Harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders continue. The transitional government still does not demonstrate commitment to freedom of expression.
The UK and international partners frequently remind the Congolese authorities of the need to protect civilians from such abuses and to respect freedom of expression. The EU's work on reform of the army and its pay structure should also help increase the discipline of Congolese soldiers.
We believe the recent transfer of former militia leader Thomas Lubanga, the first indictee to be transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, sends a strong signal that grave human rights abuses will not be tolerated.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many and what proportion of (a) staff and (b) new staff employed in (i) his Department and (ii) each of the agencies for which he has responsibility were registered as disabled in each of the last three years for which data is available. 
Mr. Straw: The Cabinet Office collects and publishes annually statistical information on the civil service by Department. This includes data on the number of staff in departments who have declared a disability.
At April 2005, 189 (3 per cent.) Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff had declared a disability. The latest available figures for 2006 (as at February) are that 179 (3 per cent.) staff have declared a disability.
|1 March to|
|Number of staff||As a percentage of new staff joining that year|
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his
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Department spent on private schooling for the children of its staff based in the UK in each year since 1997. 
It is a condition of employment that members of the Diplomatic Service must be prepared to serve anywhere in the world at any time during their career, sometimes at very short notice. Those with children also have the legal obligation as parents to ensure that their children receive a full-time education from the age of 5 years. The FCO's provisions for children's education are intended to help staff meet these potentially conflicting obligations.
Children who accompany their parents on postings overseas are expected to use free state schooling if it is available locally and is of a suitable standard. But at posts where no suitable schooling is available free-of-charge locally, education fees can be refunded to enable children to receive the education they would be entitled to in the UK.
With staff moving every 1248 months and education facilities at Posts' locations overseas varying, continuity of education can be problematic particularly during the important exam years. The FCO's provisions address this problem by enabling children to board at school in the UK while their parents remain subject to the worldwide mobility obligation.
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