Previous Section Index Home Page

6 July 2006 : Column 1340W—continued

Iraq

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has received from her US counterpart regarding the statement by the US Commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq that covert Iranian special forces are providing weapons, roadside bomb technology and training to Shi'ite extremist groups; and if she will make a statement. [82856]

Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discusses the situations in Iran and Iraq frequently with Dr. Rice. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, the nature of some explosive devices used in Iraq, including against British troops, leads us to either Iranian elements or Lebanese Hezbollah, which has close connections with Iran. We continue to investigate. We have repeatedly made our concerns clear to the Iranians in the strongest terms.

Israel

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what monitoring, beyond seeking information from Israel, is being undertaken by the UK Government to ascertain whether military equipment supplied directly to Israel, or components which are supplied to a third country but which have been re-exported or diverted to Israel, are being used in the military incursions by Israel into Gaza and the West Bank which commenced on 27 June; and if she will make a statement. [83291]

Mr. McCartney: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on 5 July (UIN 82166). Our embassy in Tel Aviv monitors local developments taking account of information from all relevant sources which might indicate that military equipment from the UK or other suppliers has been used in a manner inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria. All relevant information obtained would be taken into consideration as appropriate in the thorough assessment of any future export licensing decisions.

Journalists (China)

Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on reports of restrictions being placed on journalists by the Chinese Government. [82827]

Mr. McCartney: The Government are very concerned about the apparent hardening of Chinese policy on freedom of expression, including on journalists and in relation to the internet. We regularly
6 July 2006 : Column 1341W
raise these concerns with the Chinese Government and make clear our view that freedom of information is essential to the development of a modern, stable and sustainable society.

Freedom of expression was a particular focus of the May 2006 round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue. The EU also made representations to the Chinese Government on this issue in Beijing on 27 June 2006. Several individual cases of concern were raised on both occasions and at the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing on 3 July 2006. I will discuss media freedom issues with the Chinese Government and foreign correspondents during my forthcoming visit to China.

Kashmir

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps her Department is taking to help resolve the dispute over Kashmir. [82692]

Mr. McCartney [holding answer 5 July 2006]: My hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East discussed Kashmir with the Pakistani Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, during his visit to the UK in March 2006. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed Kashmir with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to India in September 2005. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) the then Foreign Secretary discussed Kashmir with Indian and Pakistani counterparts during his visit to both countries in February 2005. Officials in both countries also regularly discuss the situation in Kashmir with Indian and Pakistani Ministers and officials.

The Government fully supports the ongoing Composite Dialogue between India and Pakistan, which includes the issue of Kashmir. We will continue to urge both countries to seek a lasting solution to their dispute over Kashmir, which takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

Kosovo

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations her Department has made to ensure that the protection of minorities is properly provided for in the final status arrangements for Kosovo. [82299]

Mr. Hoon: The UK continues to stress to the Kosovo Government the need to focus on delivering UN-endorsed standards relevant to minority communities in Kosovo, and to create the conditions for a multi-ethnic Kosovo. In mid-June the Contact Group (United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Russia, together with EU representatives) Head of Missions in Pristina presented a list to the Kosovo Government of priority standards, including minority rights, where we expected to see progress.

The Contact Group ministerial statement of 31 January and the UN-endorsed Guiding Principles make clear that the final status outcome should offer
6 July 2006 : Column 1342W
effective constitutional guarantees to assure the protection of minorities, including mechanisms to ensure their participation in central government and in the new local administrative structures. There should also be robust arrangements for patrimonial sites. Both of these documents can be found in the Library of the House.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations her Department has made to ensure that the protection of religious and cultural sites is properly provided for in the final status arrangements for Kosovo. [82300]

Mr. Hoon: In mid-April, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Balkans co-ordinator held a meeting with Mr. Astrit Haraqia, the Kosovo Minister of Culture, and reiterated the importance of protecting and preserving Kosovo’s cultural heritage.

UN Status Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, held talks on 23 May 2006 between Belgrade and Pristina on the protection of cultural and religious heritage sites. A further meeting is due to be held on 17 July 2006. The UK welcomes these meetings and hopes that agreement on this issue can be reached soon.

The UK recognises that the protection of religious and cultural sites will be a key issue during the final status process. The Contact Group’s UN-endorsed Guiding Principles refer to the need for any settlement to include specific safeguards for the protection of the cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo, and provisions specifying the Status of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s institutions and sites in Kosovo. These Guiding Principles are there to support the work of the UN Status Envoy and have been placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government’s policy is on the final status of Kosovo; and if she will make a statement. [82301]

Mr. Hoon: The Government’s policy on Kosovo’s final status is set out in the Contact Group ministerial statement of 31 January 2006 and the UN-endorsed Guiding Principles.

The Contact Group ministerial statement makes clear that the final status process for Kosovo should be concluded during 2006, that there were a distinct set of circumstances that distinguished Kosovo from other disputed areas and that any settlement needed to be acceptable to the people of Kosovo.

The UN-endorsed Guiding Principles exist to support the UN Status Envoy. They make clear that there should be no partition of, or in Kosovo, and no union of Kosovo with any country or part of any other country after the solution of Kosovo’s final status.

Both of these documents have been placed in the Library of the House.

Montenegro

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans she has to exchange diplomatic missions with Montenegro; and who will take up the position of Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the state. [83113]


6 July 2006 : Column 1343W

Mr. Hoon: On 13 June 2006, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote to Montenegrin Foreign Minister Vlahovic to propose the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UK and Montenegro, and to announce our intention to upgrade the British Office in Podgorica to an embassy as soon as is practicable. Our ambassador in Belgrade will be responsible for relations with Montenegro until the resident ambassador has been appointed.

Constitutional Affairs

Canon Law

David Simpson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assurances have (a) been sought and (b) received from the new ambassador to the Vatican that at all times he will place UK law above Canon law. [77299]

Mr. Hoon: I have been asked to reply.

All Heads of British Diplomatic Missions are bound by Diplomatic Service Regulations which are made under powers vested in the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by the Diplomatic Service Order in Council 1991 (as amended). These include a Code of Ethics, the Diplomatic Service Code, which makes clear that the duty of all members of the Diplomatic Service is to the duly constituted Government of the United Kingdom. The Code also includes

This includes the applicable law of the UK and any international legal obligations of the UK. Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, diplomats are also required by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to respect the laws of the receiving State.

Courts Service

Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether an impact assessment was carried out prior to the decision to implement changes in the Courts Service’s budget. [79008]

Ms Harman: With regards to the impact assessment, all parts of HMCS worked up plans to see how they could make savings that would enable them to live within the set budget, while maintaining the services HMCS delivers to its customers and minimising impacts for staff and jobs.

Departmental Hospitality

David Simpson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will keep a separate record of the amount spent annually by her Department on alcohol for hospitality purposes. [77298]

Vera Baird: My Department records in its accounting system all expenditure incurred for
6 July 2006 : Column 1344W
hospitality purposes in total. It does not allow for the information to be broken down specifically for alcohol expenditure.

All expenditure incurred by DCA is done so in accordance with the principles set out in Government Accounting and supported by the Department’s published internal guidance.

Departmental Travel

Mr. Laws: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what plans she has to ensure that all flights undertaken by Ministers and officials in her Department are carbon neutral; and if she will make a statement. [81397]

Bridget Prentice: All central Government ministerial and official air travel is being offset from 1 April 2006. Departmental aviation emissions are calculated on an annual basis and subsequently offset through payments to a central fund. The fund purchases Certified Emissions Reductions credits from energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with sustainable development benefits, located in developing countries.

Development, Innovation and Support Contracts Project

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what progress has been made on the Development, Innovation and Support Contracts project; and if she will make a statement. [82554]

Vera Baird: The DISC Programme is due to announce the award of contracts in the fourth quarter of 2006 and is on target to achieve this.

DNA Bioscience

Mr. Laws: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 22 June 2006, Official Report, columns 2082-86W, on DNA Bioscience, whether DNA Bioscience made an application to be added to the accredited list. [82475]

Ms Harman: I refer the hon. Member for Yeovil to the answer given to him on 22 June 2006, Official Report, columns 2082-86W. As indicated in the paragraphs headed “DNA Diagnostics Center and DNA Bioscience”, DNA Bioscience was not itself accredited by the Department for Constitutional Affairs to carry out court directed tests under section 20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969. DNA Bioscience was not eligible to be accredited by DCA as it was not a testing facility, so had no ISO 17025 accreditation. Following an application from DNA Bioscience, DCA agreed that DNA Diagnostics Center (the laboratory DNA Bioscience used to conduct DNA tests) could be added to the accredited list. The
6 July 2006 : Column 1345W
Department then agreed orally in December 2004, that DNA Bioscience’s details could be added to the accredited list, but this was not as a result of an application for accreditation. The intention was to add those details as a referral route to the accredited body (DNA Diagnostics Center).

Judicial Review

Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs on what occasions an (a) individual and (b) organisation has applied for a judicial review of decisions of her Department in each year since 1997; and what the outcome was of each case where proceedings have been completed. [80474]

Vera Baird: The information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Libra

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many magistrates courts are using the Libra computer system. [82555]

Ms Harman: There are nine magistrates courts using the Libra case management system.

Official Residences

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will list the official residences for which her Department is responsible; who occupies each one; what the annual cost is of running each property; what contribution the occupants of each make towards running costs; what the total capital and refurbishment expenditure was on those properties in 2004-05; how much was spent in each property on (a) flowers and plants, (b) wine and entertaining, (c) food, (d) telephone bills and (e) electricity and gas in 2004-05; how many (i) domestic and (ii) maintenance staff are employed at each property, broken down by post; and what the total cost of staff employment was in 2004-05. [50876]

Vera Baird: My Department is not responsible for any official residences.

The Palace of Westminster is responsible for the maintenance of the Lord Chancellor’s residence in the House of Lords and for any work that needs to be carried out. There are no permanent staff employed at the residence. The Lord Chancellor’s Private Office is responsible for the administration of the residence in terms of organising tours of the residence and keeping the diary of charitable functions. The Department does not make any contributions to the running cost of the Lord Chancellor’s residence in the House of Lords.

The cost of (b) wine and entertaining and (c) food for the years 2004 and 2005 are as follows:


6 July 2006 : Column 1346W
Amount (£)

(b) Wine and entertaining

2005

883.88

2004

2,914.12

(c) Food

2005

15,534.40

2004

29,440.78


My Department is not responsible for (a) flowers and plants, (d) telephone bills or (e) gas and electricity bills nor are we responsible for (i) domestic or (ii) maintenance staff.

With respect to the contribution made by occupants: Ministers occupying official residences do not pay tax on the living accommodation itself. However tax is paid on the ancillary services (lighting, heating etc.) at a sum limited to his/her taxable ministerial salary and benefit (if any).


Next Section Index Home Page