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Mr. Hain: As in previous years, a Minister from the Northern Ireland Office will be attending the Somme commemorations in France this year. A Minister will also lay a wreath at the Somme service at BelfastCity Hall.
Maria Eagle: The number of children with special educational needs at schools in Northern Ireland in 2005-06 is 53,699. The total number of children with special educational needs is not available for 1995-96. However, the number of children with a statement of special educational needs in 1995-96 was 5,718. The number of children with a statement of special educational needs in 2005-06 is 11,968.
Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people are employed in the Teachers Pay and Pensions Unit; and what the implications are for the Unit of the Review of Public Administration. 
Maria Eagle: The Department of Educations Teachers Pay and Pensions Branch employs 124 people. The effect that the Review of Public Administration (RPA) will have on this Branch has yet to be determined. The RPA Consultation document of March 2006 proposed that, generally, DE should no longer undertake the direct delivery of services and made explicit mention of the Departments teachers pay and pensions functions as a part of DE likely to be affected by this proposal. Following on from this, and as announced by the Under-Secretary of State for communities and local government, my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Angela E. Smith) in her statement of 22 November 2005, the Department has conducted an Internal Review to establish which of the functions currently performed within the Department would transfer to the Education and Skills Authority, to be established under the RPA in 2008. This review covers all of the Departments current functions. The Review is still going on. The implications of the RPA for DE staff, including Teachers Pay and Pensions Branch, will be made clear when it reports.
David Cairns: The Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) of the Department of the Environment has formed a dedicated Environmental Crime Team to enforce serious breaches of waste legislation, including the illegal transportation and deposition of waste from the Republic of Ireland (ROI) to Northern Ireland (NI).
EHS and the PSNI have carried out a large-scale joint operation which has resulted in the removal of a major illegal waste operator from the activity. As a result, court proceedings are expected later this year.
EHS has recently secured its first conviction in Crown court against landowners who were running an illegal landfill site to receive ROI waste in Fermanagh. This case has also been referred to the Assets Recovery Agency. The possibility of remediation costs being awarded to EHS will also be explored. The Fermanagh case is the first example of a prosecution case involving environmental offences being heard at Crown court in NI. It represents a major step in achieving a wider recognition of the seriousness of waste crime.
Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of23 January 2006, Official Report, column 1879W, on wind farm proposals (Tunes Plateau), whether an application (a) has been submitted and (b) is in the process of being submitted. 
Maria Eagle: I can confirm that there has been no change in the position reported in the answer of23 January 2006. No application has yet been made in respect of the proposed development at Tunes Plateau and I am not aware of the developers' timescale for submitting such an application.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representationsshe has made to her Belarussian counterpart on the arrest and imprisonment of opposition leaderMr. Milinkevich; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: Based on the 1997 General Affairs Council Conclusions, the EU suspended ministerial and high-level contacts with Belarus, while offering dialogue and assistance if Belarus addressed reform. Neither my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) then Foreign Secretary or my right hon. Friend the Member for then Minister for Europe Parsley and Renfrewshire, South (Mr. Alexander) have therefore made representations direct to their respective counterparts. However, my right hon. Friend the then Minister for Europe made the following statement on Friday 28 April on behalf of the Government:
I wholeheartedly condemn this action against people who were trying to exercise legitimate rights of freedom of assembly and expression. Once again the Belarusian authorities have demonstrated their lack of tolerance, respect for their people, and adherence to democratic standards.
In line with the statements of the EU Presidency and colleagues in EU member states, I call on the Belarusian authorities to release immediately Mr Milinkevich, those imprisoned with him and all other political detainees imprisoned following the flawed presidential election on 19 March.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her assessment is of the likelihood of restored relations between Burma and North Korea resulting in Pyongyang becoming one of Burmas suppliers of weapons; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: We understand the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Burmese Government have an existing military and trade relationship which predates the possible establishment of diplomatic relations. The Burmese military purchases weapons from a number of countries. We would be concerned if the DPRK sought to increase its sales of weapons to Burma.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of whether Burma has agreed to restore diplomatic ties with North Korea; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: Neither the Burmese government nor the Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has made an official statement about the resumption of diplomatic relations, but we are aware of credible media reports to this effect. It is too early to assess what the impact would be, if any, on contacts between the two countries. Burma is currently the only Association of South East Asian Nations country which does not have diplomatic relations with the DPRK.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions the UK Government have requested from the Burmese military authorities direct access to Aung San Suu Kyi since her detention in May 2003; what the results were of each such request; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: In 2003 and 2004, our embassy in Rangoon sent five official notes formally requesting the Burmese Government to transmit a request to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for our ambassador to meet her. This was at a time when the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) claimed she was not under detention but inaccessible for security reasons. No official response was forthcoming, but when pressed, Burmese officials claimed that Aung San Suu Kyi had not agreed to a meeting. We believe that the requests were not, in fact, submitted to her. The last formal written request to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was made on 21 September 2004. Again, our embassy was orally informed that a meeting would not be possible. At the end of November 2004, the SPDC clarified that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been put under house arrest, citing Section 10(b) of the 1975 State Protection Law. After the SPDC confirmed that
she is, in fact, in detention, our embassy has not sought consular access to her, since she is not a British citizen. However, we continue to press for her release and the release of all political prisoners in Burma.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if she will (a) raise the issue of the current Burmese military offensives in Karen state at the UN Security Council and (b) lobby for Security Council resolutions(i) condemning atrocities by the Burmese military against the Karen, Karenni and Shan people and(ii) imposing a global (A) arms and (B) investment embargo on Burma; 
(2) what representations she has made to Burma's military regime following the Burmese army's military offensive in western and northern Karen state; what reference was made during those representations to (a) the killing of Karen civilians and (b) the displacement of people from their homes; and if she will make a statement; 
We condemn the attacks carried out by the Burmese army on civilians in northern and western Karen State. We understand that these attacks have resulted in a significant number of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees on the Thai/Burma border. The EU issued a statement on 3 May expressing its concern about these recent attacks. The statement was sent to the Burmese Ministries of Information and Foreign Affairs.
The UK, in response to the humanitarian problems caused by the ongoing conflict in Burma, provides support for IDPs through the International Committee of the Red Cross and for refugees through the Thai Burma Border Consortium.
A global arms and investment embargo can only be imposed on a state under a Chapter VII Resolution of the UN Security Council. At present there is no agreement within the Security Council, including among the Permanent Members, to add Burma to the Council's formal agenda, which is a pre-requisite for adopting such a resolution. Our UN mission in New York has regular discussions with the UN and Security Council partners on Burma.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will list the companies which were paid consultancy fees by her Department in 2005-06; how much each was paid; and what each of the companies was used to accomplish. 
Margaret Beckett: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Jack Straw) gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 25 May 2005, Official Report, column 134W.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many people in her Department have been (a) disciplined and (b) dismissed for (i) inappropriate use of the internet while at work and (ii) using work telephones to access premium rate numbers in each of the last five years. 
Margaret Beckett: Breaches of IT policy (inappropriate Internet use and misuse of IT systems) have been monitored periodically since April 2003. This table shows the number of staff who have been disciplined in line with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) Misconduct Procedure. A copy of the procedure is in the Library of the House.
|Number of staff|
No staff have been disciplined or dismissed for misuse of premium rate numbers. Staff are told about the FCO's policy on use of emails and the internet when they join the FCO and are reminded about the policy at regular intervals through office notices circulated to all staff (most recently in June 2005).
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what percentage of the staff in her Department is (a) male, (b) female and (c) disabled, broken down by grade. 
|Responsibility level||Male||Female||Declared disabled|
Margaret Beckett: Opportunities arise on an ad hoc basis. In normal circumstances we do not expect
members of staff to work beyond their normal retirement age. There is provision in our retirement policy for exceptional circumstances where we could agree to re-employing a member of staff at home. For example, there might be operational reasons why we needed to re-employ someone with specialist skills. Normal retirement age for Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff is 60 and it is assumed that staff will want to retire at 60 unless they notify the FCO to the contrary six months in advance. However, staff in Band A (clerical or secretarial officers) can choose to retire between the ages of 60 and 65 and staff in Bands B to D (junior and middle managers) between 60 and 63.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by her Department with the government of Ethiopia to improve prison conditions and to monitor the treatment of prisoners. 
Mr. McCartney: The UK and other donors have visited a number of prisons in Ethiopia to monitor conditions and treatment of prisoners, and have raised our concerns with government officials. Our embassy in Addis Ababa, along with other donors, is supporting projects with the government and local non-governmental organisations to try to improve conditions for prisoners.
In 2005-06 the embassy funded the construction of a dormitory in Kaliti prison, Addis Ababa, for 130 female prisoners. The embassy also funded the construction of a biogas digester, dry pit latrines and shower rooms to improve conditions in Metekel prison in Beneshangul regional state.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations she has received about the trial of prisoners of conscience for treason in Ethiopia. 
Mr. McCartney: We have received numerous representations from hon. Members, Members of the European Union Parliament, the public and non-governmental organisations about the trial of Coalition for Unity and Democracy opposition leaders, media and civil society representatives charged with offences after the unrest that followed the elections in Ethiopia last year. Some have been charged with treason.
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