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20 July 2006 : Column 627W—continued

Royal Commissions

Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what royal commissions there are; how many there were in (a) 1976, (b) 1986, (c) 1996 and (d) 2000; and what the expected duration of each existing commission is. [85239]

Vera Baird: There are currently no ad hoc royal commissions. In 1976, there were four. For the years 1986, 1996 and 2000, there were no ad hoc royal commissions. The average duration of an ad hoc royal commission is between two and four years. There are also a number of standing royal commissions, such as that on environmental pollution.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many members there are on each royal commission; how many members on each are paid; and what the (a) total and (b) average remuneration is. [85240]

Vera Baird: There are currently no ad hoc royal commissions. Membership of a royal commission is set by Government and dependant on the subject matter. The cost of an ad hoc royal commission is usually published in its report. This includes payments to members, expenses paid to witnesses and the cost of printing and publishing the report and evidence.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the position of women in Afghan politics, with particular reference to appointments to the Afghan Cabinet and Supreme Court. [86482]

Dr. Howells: Women are playing an increasingly important role in Afghan politics. Having been excluded from society by the Taliban, some 68 women (27 per cent. of the total number of MPs) were elected to the Lower House in September 2005, and 19 (19 per cent.) sit in the Upper House, 17 of them nominated to their seats by President Karzai. In March 2005, President Karzai appointed the first female Governor, Habiba Sorabi, to Bamiyan Province. He has also appointed a woman to be the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

President Karzai’s previous Cabinet contained two women. The previous Supreme Court contained no female judges. The appointment processes for the new Cabinet and Supreme Court are not yet completed, but there are no women among the appointments so far confirmed.


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Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to her Pakistani counterpart regarding cross-border terrorist activities in Afghanistan. [86699]

Dr. Howells: We take the issue of cross-border activities by terrorists, and cross-border co-operation between the authorities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, extremely seriously. This is discussed frequently with the Pakistani authorities by representatives of the Government. The issue was raised by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister during his meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on 6 March and I followed up with Prime Minister Aziz on 7 March.

Anti-terrorism Capacity Building

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance programmes the Department has in place to support anti-terrorism capacity building in other countries; what funds are allocated to this task; and in which countries the programmes are located. [86702]

Dr. Howells: Through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Counter Terrorism (CT) Programme of the Global Opportunities Fund (GOF), the Department directly supports the Government’s Counter Terrorism strategy as outlined in the Command Paper presented to the House on 10 July 2006. The aim of the strategy is to reduce the risk from international terrorism so that people can go about their daily lives freely and with confidence. The GOF CT programme focuses activity under four principal strands: prevent, pursue, protect and prepare.

Funding for financial year 2005-06 was £7.7 million and this financial year is £8.6 million. Since our programme contains classified elements, including the list of our priority assistance recipients, we are unable to give full information on all our assistance programmes. However, our work is focused in the following regions: the Middle East and North Africa; the East and Horn of Africa; South-East Asia and South Asia.

Typical projects include:

EU Commission Budget

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is her Department’s policy to support proposals from the Finnish EU presidency to reduce the EU Commission budget by €56 million over the next seven year budget period. [86741]


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Mr. Hoon: The Government support the Council Draft EC Budget for 2007 established under the Finnish presidency, which aims to limit the growth of Commission administrative spending to 2.46 per cent. (€71 million), rather than the 5.08 per cent. (€158 million) proposed. This is in line with our belief that it is important to set EU institutions’ administration budgets at a level which properly reflects the scope for economies of scale from enlargement and efficiency savings from investment in IT and buildings.

Iraq

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much funding has been allocated to the Iraqi Women’s Ministry by the UK Government. [86484]

Dr. Howells: The Government do not allocate funding to Iraqi Government Ministries. We do maintain a regular dialogue with the Iraqi Women’s Ministry and other Iraqi authorities about areas in which we can assist in the development of women’s role in Iraqi society. For example, we have met the cost of visits by key Iraqi women, including Council of Representatives members, to the United Kingdom.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Iraqi Prime Minister on the budget for the Iraqi Women’s Ministry. [86485]

Dr. Howells: We have not discussed the budget for the Iraqi Women's Ministry with the Iraqi Prime Minister. We do, however, maintain a dialogue with the Ministry about areas in which we can help them raise the awareness of the role of women in Iraqi society.

Kifle Tigneh Abate

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to her answer of 15 May 2006, Official Report, column 687W, on Kifle Tigneh Abate, whether she has made further representations since 15 May; and when she expects to receive a report from Michael Ellman. [86155]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 18 July 2006]: We continue to make representations to the Government of Ethiopia about the trial of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) leadership, including Kifle Abate, at every suitable opportunity. Most recently, officials from our embassy in Addis Ababa made representations to the Ministry of Justice about the ongoing trial of the CUD leadership on 12 July 2006.

Michael Ellman has not given any indication of when he will complete his report or when we would receive a copy.

Libya

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance she is giving to British oil companies wishing to secure contracts in Libya. [86468]


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Dr. Howells: Where oil companies have sought our assistance to secure contracts in Libya we have provided it and will continue to do so. Our embassy in Tripoli has for example, provided local advice and assistance with visiting delegations. Where appropriate, Ministers have and will lobby in support. United Kingdom Trade and Investment also provides a range of services to British companies seeking to export to Libya.

Non-proliferation (Norwegian Initiative)

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on progress in taking forward the aims of the Norwegian seven country initiative on non-proliferation; and in what form minutes or other records of the meetings of initiative members are made publicly available. [86929]

Dr. Howells: The UK continues to be engaged with this initiative and to further the seven-country agenda in accordance with the principles outlined in the July 2005 Ministerial Declaration made in New York.

There is only one official record, of a 9 June meeting held in the Norwegian embassy in London. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House. I will also arrange for a copy to be sent to my hon. Friend.

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support her Department has given to Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to attend functions funded by the Government; what assessment she has made of Sheikh Al-Qaradawi’s views on (a) the use of force against UK forces in Iraq and (b) the use of suicide attacks elsewhere in the Middle East; and if she will make a statement. [86642]

Dr. Howells: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) facilitated and helped fund a “Muslims of Europe Conference” in Istanbul on 1-2 July which was organised and led by a steering group of European Muslim scholars and civil society representatives. The steering group set the agenda and chose the participants. A wide variety of international Muslim scholars attended, including Sheikh Al-Qaradawi. As with all other participants, the FCO paid for travel and accommodation costs.

Sheikh Al-Qaradawi has expressed views on the use of violence in the Middle East with which we certainly do not agree. Unless all leaders in society deliver a clear renunciation of violence as the solution to the problems in the Middle East, and a commitment to political processes to resolve conflicts, the cycle of hate will only continue. The FCO is working to bring influential leaders together to encourage the debate on the unacceptability of violence. The culminating Declaration of the Muslims of Europe Conference, which was agreed by all its participants, contained a strong renunciation of violence and terrorism. The full text is available on the following website: www.muslimsofeurope.com/topkapi.php.


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Prime Minister

Iraq

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Prime Minister on which occasions he has (a) met the bereaved families of British soldiers killed in Iraq and (b) visited British soldiers wounded in Iraq in hospital. [86932]

The Prime Minister: I have nothing further to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) on 27 February 2006, O fficial Report, column 36W.

Ministerial Meetings

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what recent discussions he has had with Sir Ghulam Noon concerning matters connected with (a) party funding and (b) the award of honours; [86693]

(2) what communications he has had with (a) Dr. Chai Patel and (b) Mr. Barry Townsley since his recommendation that they should be elevated to the peerage was rejected. [86694]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) on 25 May 2006, Official Report, column 1982W.

Missile Defence

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with the US Administration on missile defence in each of the last three years. [86669]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 4 July 2006, Official Report, column 961W.

Premiership Anniversary

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister what events are planned to mark the tenth anniversary of his premiership; and if he will make a statement. [86695]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on 17 March 2006, Official Report, column 2581W.

Duchy of Lancaster

Deputy Prime Minister

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much the Government Car Service has spent on providing a car and a driver to the Deputy Prime Minister in each year since 1997-98. [85717]

Dr. Ladyman: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 15 June 2006, Official Report, column 1329W given to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles).


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Information Commissioner

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans the Cabinet Office has to appeal Information Commissioner ruling FS50086128. [85671]

Hilary Armstrong: The Information Commissioner has recently issued a decision in relation to Freedom of Information requests for this information. A copy of the Information Commissioner’s decision notice and the Cabinet Office’s disclosure in response to the decision is available on the Cabinet Office website at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/foi/pdf/murdoch.pdf and in the Library for the reference of Members.

Misc 33 Committee

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the (a) purposes and (b) objectives are of the Misc 33 Committee. [86939]

Hilary Armstrong: The purpose of the Ministerial Committee on the Post Office Network (MISC33) is to allow collective consideration of, and decisions on, issues relating to the future of the Post Office network.

Deputy Prime Minister

Casinos

Mr. Moss: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which casinos he has visited in (a) the UK, (b) South Africa, (c) the USA (d) the Far East and (e) Australia in an official capacity since January 2003; and what the (i) date and (ii) time was of each visit. [84192]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Eric Pickles) by my hon. Friend the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Jim Fitzpatrick) on 8 February 2006, Official Report, column 1243W.

Consultants

Sir Paul Beresford: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many consultants are working for (a) him and (b) his office; and what the cost of the consultants has been since May 2006. [84921]

The Deputy Prime Minister [holding answer 13 July 2006]: Staffing and expenditure will be accounted for in the Department’s annual report and accounts in the usual way.


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