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West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive
West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive
Wiltshire County Council
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps will be taken to alleviate congestion and inconvenience to road users between junctions 27 and 30 of the M25 when the planned expansion and widening begins. 
Dr. Ladyman: Road users of the M25 between junctions 27 and 30 already experience congestion and delays, especially during peak times. The objectives of the widening are to improve journey time reliability and provide drivers with smoother, less stressful and safer journeys.
During normal daytime operations the traffic will have, at least, the existing number of lanes in both directions. At most locations this will be three lanes in both directions. To allow safe construction at difficult locations the number of lanes may be reduced for limited periods at night and at weekends.
During construction, lane widths will be narrower and the hard shoulder will be used as a running lane. The use of a lower speed limit will help traffic flow smoothly through the roadworks area. A breakdown service, free to the road user, will be provided and CCTV cameras will monitor traffic to enable rapid clearance of any breakdowns.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the planned dates are for the expansion and widening of the M25 between junctions (a) 5 and 7, (b) 1b and 3, (c) 23 and 27 and (d) 27 and 30. 
Dr. Ladyman: The widening of three of the sections, that is (a) junctions 5 to 7, (c) junctions 23-27 and (d) junctions 27-30, will be delivered within a Design Build Finance and Operate (DBFO) contract, which also includes widening of the M25 between junctions 16 and 23. The widening of these sections will be phased over approximately 10 years, scheduled to commence in 2008. The phasing of the works is to be determined with the successful bidder. From the work we have done so far we believe the section between junctions 16 and 23 will be the first to be widened.
The widening of the section between junctions 1b and 3 is being delivered through the same early contractor involvement contract that is delivering the adjacent A2/A282 improvement. The widening of M25 junctions 1b and 3 will start in 2007, subject to completion of any statutory processes and availability of funding and take about 18 months to complete.
Dr. Ladyman: The South West regional assembly was one of the principal organisations which contributed to the advice provided by the south west region in January 2006 on the priority that it attaches to major transport schemes in the south west including the Weymouth relief road. The advice included proposals for the delivery timescales for transport schemes within the indicative regional funding allocation for the south west. We are currently considering this advice and hope to announce our response to it before the summer recess.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total UK expenditure on capacity-building of the Afghan Government, including strengthening democratic institutions, was in each year since 2002. 
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Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with her US counterparts regarding proposals to start poppy eradication with crop-spraying planes in Afghanistan; and what the Governments policy is regarding this issue. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had no discussions with her US counterparts regarding proposals to crop-spray in Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistans eradication policy, as set out in the National Drug Control Strategy, is based on ground based eradication targeted where there is access to legal rural livelihoods. The UK has no plans to undertake or support aerial eradication.
Eradication on its own will not solve the drugs problem in Afghanistan. It is a useful deterrent where there is access to legal livelihoods. But tackling the drugs trade requires a range of activities including arresting and convicting the traffickers who profit from the trade, and putting in place the development programmes which enable farmers to move away from growing poppy. That is why the UK is spending £270 million over a three-year period on supporting the Government of Afghanistans National Drug Control Strategy.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the most recent assessment is of progress in encouraging farmers in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan to grow alternative crops; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Department for International Development (DFID) has a number of programmes which seek to provide economic alternatives to farmers who grow poppy in Helmand Province. When in Afghanistan last week, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development announced a UK contribution of £30 million over the next three years in Helmand. However, whether farmers choose to pursue alternative livelihoods to poppy in Helmand also depends on effective law enforcement and a credible threat of eradication. That is why the UK is supporting the multifaceted approach set out in the Afghan National Drug Control Strategy. We believe that the focus on the four key prioritiestargeting the trafficker, strengthening livelihoods, reducing demand and developing effective institutions will together have a greater impact on the drug trade.
In terms of measuring the impact of the Government of Afghanistans National Drug Control Strategy in changing farmers behaviour, Afghanistan has a poorly developed data collection and management system. DFID is working closely with the Central Statistics Office of
the Government of Afghanistan to put in place mechanisms to ensure we are able to do this. These efforts should start to bear fruit over the next few months. This will allow us to make more robust assessments about the progress we are seeing in changing the behaviour of those farmers that currently grow poppy.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations she has made to her Afghan counterpart concerning reports that the Afghan Government have started remobilising militia groups to fight the Taliban; what her assessment is of those reports; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary raised the issue of armed militias during his call on President Karzai on 13 June 2006. He received assurances from President Karzai that the Afghan Government did not intend to remobilise militias. President Karzai explained the Afghan Governments plans to establish community police units under the control of the Ministry of Interior to help deliver stability in some rural areas. Our ambassador in Kabul regularly discusses security matters with the Afghan Government and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
We recognise there is a need to increase the capacity and effectiveness of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, and the UK and the international community are playing an active role in supporting the establishment of effective Afghan security forces.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total UK expenditure on Afghan (a) police equipment and (b) salary payments has been since January 2006. 
Dr. Howells: The UK does not make direct salary payments to the Afghan National Police (ANP). However, the UK contributes to the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) which supports salaries and the purchase of equipment for the Counter-Narcotics Police of Afghanistan. The UK's total contribution to LOTFA last financial year 2005-06 was £1.5 million. There has been no UK expenditure on equipment for the ANP since January 2006.
Dr. Howells: Comprehensive information on international exports of military equipment to Burma is not available. There is currently no international mechanism that provides the fully comprehensive data required for a full assessment. However, the UN Register of Conventional Arms does provide information covering those countries who have submitted returns. Further information is available on the UN website at:
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information the Government have sought from the United States Administration in respect of the (a) cause and (b) circumstances of the deaths of three detainees held at the Guantánamo Bay military detention centre; and what information has been provided. 
Dr. Howells: The United States Government have told us, as they have also announced publicly, that they will conduct an investigation into the deaths of the three detainees. We welcome that decision and look forward to hearing the results of the investigation.
Dr. Howells: The new Iraqi Government are currently considering their approach to the demobilisation of militia groups. We are ready to help with this effort and hope that other members of the international community will do likewise.
Dr. Howells: The UK has deployed in Iraq a team of HM Prison Service officers who work with the UK military and international donors to assist and advise the Iraqi Correctional Service (ICS) in southern Iraq. Since 2003, the team has helped the ICS to increase capacity significantly by building new prisons and refurbishing and extending existing ones, including providing separate facilities for women and juveniles.
Dr. Howells: The Iraqi Government will lead this process with support from the UN. We are in contact with them and stand ready to assist. We hope others in the international community will also stand ready to help through the UN as and when required.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters in respect of (a) Israel's possession of nuclear weapons and (b) the prospects for Israel joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty were raised during her meeting with her Israeli counterpart on 12 June. 
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not discuss the prospects for Israel
signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT), or Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, during her meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Livni.
Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she has taken to assist the transfer of Michael Shields from Bulgaria to the UK to serve his sentence of imprisonment; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: We fully support Mr. Shields' request to be transferred back to the UK and have advised Mr. Shields and his family on the procedures involved. Officials from our embassy in Sofia have discussed Mr. Shields' transfer with the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice, most recently on 9 June, and will continue to monitor the situation closely. Consular staff are also in contact with the Prisoner Transfer Section of the Home Office to facilitate Mr. Shields' return.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make representations to the Pakistan authorities on the abduction of Christian children from their villages in the Punjab, Pakistan, by the militant Islamic group Jumait-ud-Daawa. 
Dr. Howells: We are aware of the report in the Sunday Times of 21 May 2006 that Jamaat-ud-Daawa are involved in the abduction of Pakistani Christian children. Our high commission in Islamabad is currently looking into this. We have not so far raised the question with the Pakistani authorities.
Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at what level UK/Venezuela counter-narcotics co-operation is undertaken; and what recent assessment she has made of its effectiveness. 
Dr. Howells: The UK co-operates closely with the Venezuelan authorities and law enforcement agencies at all levels as well as with other international partners to combat drug trafficking and strengthen institutions in the fight against illicit drugs and international organised crime. I hope to travel to Venezuela later this year. UK support for Venezuelan anti-narcotics operations has recently led to several seizures of illicit drugs and associated arrests.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the Audit Commission has amended its methodology for assessing Best Value Performance Indicator 199 in the last 12 months. 
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