Previous Section Index Home Page

20 Oct 2006 : Column 1518W—continued

Mr. Hoon: Prior to the opening of the Green Line, our high commission in Nicosia maintained frequent contact with Greek Cypriots living in northern Cyprus, including those in the Karpas Peninsula. Freedom of movement across the island has now greatly increased, with over 10 million crossings since its opening in 2003, granting greater access to these communities from Greek Cypriots south of the Green Line. Their interests are now protected by both the United Nations
20 Oct 2006 : Column 1519W
Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and representatives of the Cyprus Government. Our high commission in Nicosia no longer maintains the same frequency of contact, but does stay in touch with both the Cyprus Government and UNFICYP regarding the situation. A representative of the high commission visited the UN Police Force in the Karpas to discuss the welfare of Greek Cypriots in northern Cyprus on 14 May 2006. A meeting with the community is planned to take place shortly.

Departmental Mail

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what percentage of her Department’s mail is shipped using private companies; and what the cost was over the last 12 months. [95149]

Mr. Hoon: Over the last 12 months the Foreign and Commonwealth Office shipped mail using the following companies:

In addition 100 per cent. of inter-Government mail was shipped using Government messenger services.

Democratic Republic of Congo Officials (UK Travel)

Mr. Joyce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent advice her Department has offered to officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo planning to travel in the UK following the recent assault in London on Mr Okitundu, Chief of Staff to President Kabila. [95475]

Mr. McCartney: We have offered no specific advice to visiting Congolese officials nor has any advice been requested. However, we have remained in contact on this issue with both the Democratic Republic of Congo Embassy in London and the Congolese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kinshasa. My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, has written to President Kabila to underline our concern over this incident. We understand that police investigations are continuing.


Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps have been taken to prevent ammunition obtained from coalition forces’ supplies reaching the black market in Iraq. [80431]

Dr. Howells: UK forces’ ammunition in Iraq is accessible only to UK personnel The Iraqi security forces (ISF) do not draw their ammunition from UK supplies. Thorough measures are in place to prevent any interference with UK ammunition supplies at all stages in the supply and distribution chain. These include secure containment with restricted access, regular patrols, and thorough auditing. There is no evidence of diversion or unauthorised removal of UK ammunition.

20 Oct 2006 : Column 1520W

The UK has gifted infrastructure, vehicles and other equipment, including ammunition, direct to the ISF, in order that they will be able to undertake security tasks with less recourse to Multi-National Forces (MNF). This has taken place under the auspices of project Osiris, which the House has been informed of prior to donations. Thorough measures are in place to avoid the possibility of diversion of this equipment, including checking and logging of stocks on arrival, UK military supervision of hand-over, and checking and recording the identification of recipients. After hand-over, the ISF take full responsibility for the security of equipment, although some routine inventory checks are subsequently still carried out by Multi-National Forces.

Other members of coalition forces will have their own monitoring and security procedures in place.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will take steps to seek the establishment of an independent international body to monitor the levels of conflict-related mortality in Iraq; and if she will make a statement. [95279]

Dr. Howells: The UN operates in Iraq and monitors the levels of violence and conflict-related deaths. The numbers of deaths cited in the UN Human Rights Reports are taken from Iraqi Ministry of Health figures. Maintaining records of civilian deaths in Iraq is ultimately a matter for the Government of Iraq and we believe they are best placed to monitor the situation. In many conflict situations it would be impossible to make a reliably accurate assessment either of the civilian casualties resulting from any particular attacks or of the overall civilian casualties of a conflict. This is true in the security conditions that exist in Iraq. It is unlikely that an independent body could gain better access than the Iraqi Ministries, including the Ministry of Health, which collates information from some 180 hospitals across the country.


Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what capacity she expects UK forces to serve as part of a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Lebanon. [94302]

Dr. Howells: The UK provided HMS York to the UN-sponsored interim maritime task force in early September. This task force is due to be replaced by a follow-on force, under United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) command, on or around 15 October. We have also offered to provide support in other areas, including the use of our Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus, and provision of a naval logistician to assist the UN. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK pays a premium contribution to the costs of UN operations. This year our contribution is expected to be approximately £16 million.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) the UN, (b) the Government of Lebanon, (c) the Government of Israel and (d) Hezbollah on the subject of unexploded ordnance in Lebanon as a result of the recent conflict, with particular reference to cluster munitions which failed to explode; and what monitoring has been undertaken of the situation. [94407]

20 Oct 2006 : Column 1521W

Dr. Howells: We have recently held official level discussions through our embassies in Beirut and Tel Aviv about unexploded ordnance with the Governments of Lebanon and Israel. We called on the Government of Israel to make a public statement about their use of cluster munitions in the recent conflict with Lebanon. We have not held any discussions with Hezbollah on the issue. We plan to discuss the issue of cluster munitions with the UN shortly.

We continue to be concerned about levels of unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions in south Lebanon. In response to the recent crisis in Lebanon the Department for International Development (DFID) has provided £205,000 to the British non-governmental organisation, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for clearance of unexploded ordnance and has a commitment to provide a sum of £1 million to the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) for similar tasking.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures are being taken by (a) the UK and (b) the rest of the EU to help the Lebanese armed forces achieve the capacity to effectively defend Lebanese sovereignty; and if she will make a statement. [94575]

Dr. Howells: Through its contribution to United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, (UNIFIL) the EU is supporting the Lebanese Government in extending their authority throughout the whole of Lebanese territory. EU member states comprise the bulk of troops deployed to UNIFIL acting under its new mandate. The UNIFIL mission is currently under French command. As a result of UNlFIL's efforts so far, the Lebanese army is now deployed in south Lebanon for the first time in 30 years.

The other main area of EU involvement is on managing points of entry, where Germany has taken on a forward role in border, port and airport security. Germany deployed a team of consultants based at the airport to assist the Lebanese with their aviation security shortly after the conflict ended. It has offered advice and equipment to improve management of the Lebanon/Syria border. Germany has also taken on the task of supporting the Government of Lebanon with their maritime security under UNIFIL. This operation took over on 15 October from an interim maritime task force comprised of a number of international partners (UK, France, Italy, Greece) which had been carrying out monitoring off Lebanon's shores under an Italian lead. The UK deployed HMS York as part of this arrangement. The EU is also collectively exploring the options for providing enhanced border security and security sector assistance for the wider Lebanese security forces.

The UK's contribution has been a commitment of £2.5 million for security sector assistance. There is currently a Ministry of Defence (MOD) minute before the house detailing UK proposals to supply the Lebanese with 50 vehicles. The MOD is also planning to provide counter-terrorism training and we are looking to identify the equipment and training needs of the security forces and co-ordinating donor responses. We have allocated £320,000 for counter-terrorism assistance in Lebanon, including training for border security, police capacity building and aviation security and assistance.

20 Oct 2006 : Column 1522W

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response the UK Government have made to Iran's involvement in the conflict in the Lebanon. [95295]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Moore) on 11 October 2006, Official Report, columns 763-764W.

Middle East

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the proposed extension of the Temporary International Mechanism to deliver aid to the Palestinians; and when it is expected to take effect. [94255]

Hilary Benn: I have been asked to reply.

On 20 September, the Quartet (EU, UN, US and Russia) met in New York and endorsed the continuation and expansion of the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) for a three-month period, and agreed to again review the need for such a mechanism at the end of that period.

The EU had already expanded the TIM in response to the G8 statement of 16 July. The scope was widened to include more of the poorest Palestinian Government workers. Workers in the medical sector, PA employees who earn less than 2,000 New Israeli Shekels a month, pensioners, and recipients of welfare from the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs have received allowances through the TIM. This totals 98,000 recipients. Their allowances help them to continue working and provide their families with a modest income, and help to inject money into the Palestinian economy.

In the light of the serious humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the EU is considering how further to expand the TIM. Officials discussed the issue in Brussels on 10 October. The plans currently under consideration would increase the number of recipients of TIM allowances considerably while maintaining the rigorous auditing procedures that have been applied so far. The World Bank is expected to provide support for the water, sanitation and electricity sectors and to deliver essential medical supplies in November.

As I reported to the House on 9 October, the UK has committed a total of £9 million to the TIM. Of this, £3 million is for allowances to the poorest Palestinian Government workers, £3 million is for essential medical supplies and £3 million is for water, sanitation and electricity. I intend to allocate a further £3 million to the TIM as the need for further funding arises. This is in addition to the UK’s contribution to European Community support. European Community support for the Palestinians in 2006 totals more than €340 million. This is considerably more than the European Community has given on average in recent years.

20 Oct 2006 : Column 1523W

Ministerial Visits

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 9 October 2006, Official Report, column 444W, on ministerial visits, how many claims of expenses of more than £100 have been (a) submitted and (b) checked against departmental guidelines in each of the last two years; how many have been found to be non-compliant; and how many people have been disciplined as a result. [95261]

Mr. Hoon: Our records show that since October 2005 we have received 4,840 claims for amounts of £100 or more from Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff, and checked them against departmental guidelines. Before that date, our records do not distinguish between claims over or under £100 in value. We are aware of one officer who submitted a claim in this period that did not meet the guidelines. Following an internal investigation we recovered the appropriate monies from the officer.


Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the recent agreement between the Pakistani authorities and militants in North Waziristan; and if she will make a statement. [94975]

Dr. Howells: The results of the Jirga process in North Waziristan were announced shortly before my last visit to Pakistan at the beginning of September. The senior officials of the North West Frontier Province were optimistic that tribal structures would be able to deliver effective implementation. We are watching this carefully.

Public Servant Training

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will list the programmes funded by the EU to train public servants of the new EU accession countries. [95339]

Mr. Hoon: Twinning and Taiex (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument) are the main programmes funded by the EU providing practical assistance to support reform within the public administrations of new accession countries.

Twinning involves the secondment of public sector experts from EU member States to new accession countries as well as candidate and potential candidate countries, for periods from around six months to three years. It supports priority reforms through projects identified by the beneficiary country. Projects typically include training and capacity building for public servants as well as support for changes in policy and practices. Taiex provides technical expertise from EU member states for short assignments.

The UK is an active participant in both Twinning and Taiex in new accession countries.

20 Oct 2006 : Column 1524W

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations her Department has received on the case of Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. [95237]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has received the hon. Member’s letter on this case. I have also received a letter about the same case from my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Dr. Vis). I shall send replies to both letters shortly.

Sri Lanka

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the extent to which non-governmental organisations have suffered threats, harassment and violence in Sri Lanka. [93980]

Dr. Howells: It is clear that humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the north and east of Sri Lanka face pressures in different forms, from different sources, that hamper their ability to operate effectively. Our high commission in Colombo has maintained a regular dialogue with the humanitarian agencies and NGOs on the difficulties they have been facing. The UK, together with EU and international partners, has raised these concerns in strong terms with the Sri Lankan Government, urging them and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to guarantee free and safe access by relief agencies to the people and areas affected. The Sri Lankan Government have a responsibility to recognise, support and promote the valuable contribution these organisations are making in Sri Lanka.

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the report of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission implicating Sri Lankan Government forces in the deaths of aid workers in Muttur. [93982]

Dr. Howells: We are seriously concerned by the findings of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) on recent incidents, including the killings of the Action Contre le Faim aid workers at Muttur. The SLMM has attributed serious human rights violations to all parties to the conflict. It is essential to establish the truth behind these allegations; we support all efforts to do so. It is vital that investigations are thorough and credible and provide a proper basis, where necessary, for due legal process. We therefore welcome the agreement of the Australian Government to provide forensic technical assistance for the Muttur investigation. We also welcome President Rajapakse’s initiative for a national commission to inquire into recent killings, disappearances and abductions in Sri Lanka and for a panel of international observers to oversee the process.

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission since the expulsion of monitors from EU member states by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. [93983]

Next Section Index Home Page