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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has held with (a) the Secretary of State for Defence and (b) others about (i) human rights and (ii) the personal security of trade unionists in Colombia. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no recent discussions with my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary about these issues. However, my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, with responsibility for Latin America, has discussed human rights, including the legitimate security concerns of Colombian trade unionists, with both British and Colombian trade unionists on 6 March and 6 February respectively. He has also raised human rights in discussions with the Colombian Vice-President on 28 November 2005, the Colombian embassy in London and non-governmental organisations. Human rights are at the heart of our policy towards Colombia. We will continue to work with our EU partners, the Colombian Government and other stakeholders, including civil society, to help improve the human rights situation there. Our embassy in Bogota is actively pursuing this objective.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Colombia about the murder of trade unionists in that country; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Through our embassy in Bogota we frequently raise human rights issues, including the murder of trade unionists, with the Colombian authorities. We also sponsored a visit to the UK. by a group of senior Colombian trade unionists in February to demonstrate support to Colombian unions. We believe and have consistently stated that civil society, including trade unionists, human rights defenders and community leaders, have an important role to play in helping tackle Colombia's inter-linked problems of internal armed conflict, illegal drugs trade and human rights abuses. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, with responsibility for Latin America, raised the importance of respect for human rights and the role of civil society when he met Vice-President Santos of Colombia in London in November 2005.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made by the Government regarding the imprisonment of Craig Alden in Brazil; and if he will make a statement on the UK Government's position on the case. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: On 30 March 2005, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote to the Brazilian Foreign Minister in support of Craig Alden's application for Presidential Expulsion. The Brazilians rejected this application. Both my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Common wealth affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, who is responsible for Consular matters in Latin America, have subsequently raised Mr. Alden's case with their Brazilian counterparts on a number of occasions asking that they take account of the human rights issues involved in Mr. Alden's case. Most recently, my noble Friend Lord Triesman of Tottenham raised Mr. Alden's case with the Brazilian Foreign Minister in March 2006.
Since his arrest, Mr. Alden and his family have expressed concerns over his safety while in prison. We have taken his fears about his safety seriously and officials from our Embassy in Brasilia have made numerous successful representations to the Brazilian authorities, requesting that he remain apart from other prisoners.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office remains completely impartial in respect of the substance of any allegations against Mr. Alden. However, we share the concerns about the fairness of his trial, which we continue to raise with the Brazilian government.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are undertaken within his Department to ensure that women are obtaining equal pay to men doing work of equal value. 
Mr. Straw: As part of the 200508 pay settlement for delegated grades, agreed in November 2005, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) agreed with the Trade Union Side (TUS) to undertake annual Equal Pay Audits and to review the findings on completion with the TUS. The first of these will be carried out during 2006.
The FCO last carried out an Equal Pay Audit in 2003. The conclusions were that the overall picture on mean salaries within bands for full-time employees is within the 5 per cent. tolerance set out by the Equal Opportunities Commission; women do not seem to be less favourably treated than men in the way they are allocated to, or progress through, the salary scale and within each band the distribution of performance ratings is in proportion to the general split.
Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) lessons were learnt and (b) improvements were made to UK maritime security following Exercise Exploring Themis in November 2005. 
15 nations took part in this UK exercise in November 2005 as part of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). The exercise identified a number of lessons, with extensive and valuable feedback provided by participating nations. The need for appropriate and
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timely access to information from a range of sources reinforced the importance of cross-government involvement from the outset. Sharing of information between PSI nations was also shown to be vital, highlighting the need for secure and reliable communications channels to be established. Almost all nations commented on the need to continue to improve inter-departmental operations and awareness within their own governments. A number of important issues were raised which will be examined in future PSI exercises, such as the disposition of cargo after an interdiction and how the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea protocols will affect the legal basis for interdiction. The cost effectiveness and benefits of running a federated exercise in national capitals showed that this way of hosting exercises could reduce the cost without compromising the high standards associated with PSI events.
The UK has benefited a great deal from running Exercise Exploring Themis and from our involvement in other PSI exercises. The main benefits have been improved intra-Government co-ordination, better understanding of the legal environment and improved technical abilities, such as communications. These factors have all contributed to improved UK maritime security. The exercise also enabled governments from 15 nations to co-ordinate their efforts to address potential future weapons of mass destruction proliferation threats. Effective joint international action helps to address maritime security for UK shipping outside UK territorial waters.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Russian Government about discrimination against and persecution of Hindus in Moscow. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last visited Iraq on 2 to 3 April together with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. He met a broad range of key political figures involved in the negotiations on the formation of a new government including President Talabani, Prime Minister Ja'afari and leaders of the main Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shia parties. He urged them to work to conclude the process as swiftly as possible in the interests of the Iraqi people.
Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has been contacted by the Italian authorities in relation to the export from the UK of Beretta small arms to Iraq. 
[holding answer 9 March 2006]: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is unable to confirm or deny whether we have received any such contact
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about an investigation in another country. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety, Hazel Blears, on 14 March 2006, Official Report, column 2114W.
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