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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what discussions he has had with members of the Turkish Government regarding the murder of Ferho and Fatim Akgül in Turkish Kurdistan in March 2006; what
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assurances he has sought with regard to the investigation into this act; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what assessment his Department has made of the allegations of the involvement of the Turkish local authorities and the Turkish armed forces in the murder of Ferho and Fatim Akgül in Turkish Kurdistan in March 2006; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Ferho and Fatma Akgül were found murdered on 2 March near Mardin in Southeast Turkey. We are aware of a number of allegations about their deaths, including that from Derwich Ferho, Chairman of the Kurdish Institute in Brussels, that Turkish military special forces and village guards were responsible for his parents' killing. The local prosecutor has opened an investigation into the killings. Our embassy in Ankara is closely monitoring the case, but the Government has not discussed this matter with the Turkish Government.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with members of the Turkish Government since January 2006 concerning allegations of violence against the Turkish population; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: During his visit to Turkey on 25 January, my right hon. Friend, the Foreign Secretary pressed for sustained Turkish momentum on internal reform. Our ambassador in Ankara has since conveyed similar messages to senior Turkish Ministers and officials and has discussed the recent rioting in Diyarbakir and other provinces with the Turkish Government.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to monitor and evaluate the full adoption and implementation of the Copenhagen criteria in Turkey; what progress has been reported since Janaury 2005; what areas have been highlighted as needing more work; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The European Commission monitors a candidate country's fulfilment of the Copenhagen political criteria and produces an annual regular report on candidates' progress. The November 2005 report states that Turkey continues to sufficiently fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria," but that implementation of the reforms remains uneven". Areas requiring further attention include torture, freedom of expression and religious freedoms. The Government closely monitors developments and regularly raises related issues with Turkey, and did so most recently at ministerial level during my right hon. Friend, the Foreign Secretary's visit to Turkey on 25 January.
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Turkish judicial system has been strengthened in recent years with the adoption of structural reforms and a new penal code. There have been concerns raised about provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure which effectively prevents lawyers accused or convicted of terrorism offences from representing others accused of terrorist crimes.
24. Gordon Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what assessment he has made of the likely effect of his proposed amendments to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill on the burden of administration affecting businesses. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill has the potential to make a real impact on reducing burdensome regulation. I am currently looking to focus the order-making power in the Bill on delivering better regulation objectives, to bring to an end speculation about far-fetched constitutional risks. These amendments will make it clear that the Bill provides an effective power to reduce burdens more quickly and easily.
Mr. Jim Murphy: I refer the hon. Member to my letter of 12 April 2006 to the Chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller). Copies are available in the Library.
25. Mr. Bone: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what recent assessment he has made of the progress of the Cabinet Office's work in leading and supporting the delivery and reform of public services. 
26. Mr. Allen: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on handling correspondence from hon. Members; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy:
The revised Guidance for Departments on the handling of Members' and Peers' Correspondence", published on 21 July last year, sets out best practice. Copies of the guidance are available in the Library.
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Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the answer of 29 March 2006, Official Report, column 1031W, on council tax (official residences), whether there has been a change in occupancy in any official residence activating revised guidance for Ministers on their liability for council tax on such residences. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: There has been no such change. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 16 March 2006, Official Report, column 2394W, by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, confirming that the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) had left his official residence.
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Cabinet Office undertook an equal pay review for the senior civil service (SCS) in 2002 and equal pay has been re-examined each year since then as part of the Government's evidence to the Senior Salaries Review Body. Under the delegated pay arrangements for staff below the SCS, every Department and agency produced an equal pay action plan in 2003 as part of the Government's commitment to address the gender pay gap. Civil service organisations continue to monitor progress against their action plans and equality-proof their pay systems following implementation of annual pay awards.
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