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1 Nov 2006 : Column 465W—continued

Burma

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate has she made of the value in sterling of the assets of Burmese regime officials frozen in each year since the ban’s inception; and if she will make a statement. [97932]


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Dr. Howells: Those on the assets freeze list are unlikely to hold bank accounts in the UK or the EU. The current reported value of assets frozen by UK authorities on the basis of the EU restrictive measures applied to Burma is £3,576.65. The value of assets frozen in previous years were:-

£

2003

0.40

2004

3,548.43

2005

3,576.65


The freezing of assets of the Burmese regime and its associates is one of a number of such measures intended to exert pressure on the regime to enact democratic reforms. By denying regime figures access to the EU and its financial centres, including Switzerland where the EU’s policy directly influenced the Swiss to take similar measures, the EU sends a powerful message that the Burmese Government current policies are unacceptable.

All EU member states are required to implement the restrictive measures set out in the EU Common Position.

Caucasus

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of (a) the independence movements of the North and South Caucasus and (b) the potential for further instability in the region. [97895]

Mr. Hoon: The UK recognises the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia to include South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We do not recognise the claims to independence of the separatist movements in these regions. The UK supports the peaceful resolution of the conflicts in these regions and is working to address the recent tension between Georgia and Russia. We co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1716 extending the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Abkhazia. The EU issued a statement on 17 October calling on Georgia and Russia to resume dialogue and focus on reaching a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with full respect for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. I recently visited Georgia and stressed to President Saakashvili and others in the Georgian Government the importance of peaceful negotiation of a settlement with the parties to the conflicts.

We also support the efforts of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group to find a negotiated settlement of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh (NK). We recognise the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan to include NK.

We also recognise the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation to include all of the republics of the North Caucasus, including Chechnya. We do not recognise the claims to independence of the Chechen separatist movement. We urge all sides of the conflict in Chechnya to work towards peace and reconciliation within the framework of the Russian Federation and with full respect for human rights. The UK has been increasingly concerned by the spread of
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violence and instability across the North Caucasus region. We are troubled particularly by the poor security situation and frequency of incidents in the republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan. Instability across the region is fuelled by widespread poverty, corruption and high unemployment. We believe that the long-term problems of the region can only be solved through socio-economic development and the implementation of security measures which respect human rights.

Chechnya

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment her Department has made of the situation in Chechnya. [97840]

Mr. Hoon: I refer my right hon. Friend to the answer my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr. Howells), gave the hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) on 9 October 2006, Official Report, columns 448-49W.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to promote free and fair elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo; which international observers will be present at those elections; and if she will make a statement. [97881]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the reply my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade gave on 9 October 2006, Official Report, column 424W to the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster) on promoting free and fair elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

There are an estimated 1,000 registered international observers for the second round of elections in the DRC, attached to approximately 24 different observer missions including teams from the EU, Southern African Development Community and the Carter Centre. The EU Election Observation Mission comprises 250 long and short term observers and the UK observation team will comprise about 16 British civil servants, together with four hon. Members.

Diplomatic Service

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will list the countries where the UK has (a) closed and (b) downgraded its embassy or high commission in each year since 1997. [97505]

Mr. Hoon: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 26 October 2005, Official Report, column 467W by the then Foreign Secretary my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker). The following is a list of British embassy and high commission closures since this answer was given:


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Year: 1 April to 31 March
Mission closed

2005-06

Abidjan(1), Port Vila and Nuku’alofa

2006-07

Dili

(1) Operations have been suspended due to the uncertain security situation in the Ivory Coast.

No British embassies or high commissions have been downgraded since 1997 and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has no current plans to downgrade any such missions in the future.

The FCO continuously reviews the deployment of its resources and aligns them flexibly in line with UK interests to benefit the British taxpayer.

Ethiopia/Somalia

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of (a) the Ethiopian involvement in Somalia and (b) whether the conflict in Somalia is likely to spread to Ethiopia. [97888]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the reply my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade gave the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) on 23 October 2006, Official Report, columns 1617-1618W.

Freedom of Information

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what percentage of requests for information by (a) hon. Members and (b) members of the public under the Freedom of Information Act have been refused by her Department for each complete year for which figures are available. [96082]

Margaret Beckett: In 2005, the last year for which figures are available, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office refused a total of 22 per cent. of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. This figure breaks down as follows: 8 per cent. were refused because the cost of responding was likely to exceed the £600 cost limit, and 13 per cent. were considered to engage various of the Act’s exemptions which prevented any information being released.

FOI requestors are not required to provide details about themselves. Our statistics do not distinguish between hon. Members, members of the public or any other type of requestor.

Honours

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which individuals who are not UK citizens were awarded honours between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2001; and what the (a) date of announcement, (b) honour concerned and (c) reason for the award was in each case. [98008]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 30 October 2006]: As the information requested is lengthy, I will arrange for it to be placed in the Library of the House, and to also send a copy to the hon. Member.


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As honorary awards to citizens of countries where Her Majesty the Queen is not Head of State are not formally announced, the date of the Queen’s formal approval of such awards is given.

Human Rights

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many copies of her Department’s Human Rights Annual Report 2006 were produced; at what cost; how many copies were supplied gratis; to whom; at what cost; how much of the cost was attributable to (a) postage, (b) time of staff and (c) the cost of producing copies; how many officials were responsible for researching the information contained in the report; what criteria she uses to (i) include and (ii) exclude information from the report; who implements these criteria; and if she will make a statement. [97874]

Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) produced 3,000 copies of the 2006 Annual Report on Human Rights. 3,000 CD-ROM versions are also being produced.

The overall budget for the Report was £135,000. Final invoices have yet to be received, but the final cost will be very close to this figure.

500 copies of the report have been given to The Stationery Office. 30 copies of the report have so far been distributed free of charge to hon. Members and noble Peers, including the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC). Copies have been laid in the Libraries of both Houses, and sent to foreign embassies in London (175), human rights-related non-governmental organisations (203) and educational institutions (65). Copies have also been distributed to various Departments in the FCO (approximately 200 to date) and to all FCO overseas posts (approximately 450 to date), who pass them on to host Governments. Approximately 200 copies were distributed at the report’s launch.

The overall cost of postage is not yet available. A contracted, temporary member of staff arranged distribution of the initial batch of copies to the recipients listed above. The portion of his fee attributed to this (included in the overall budget figure, mentioned above) was £590.

Requests for extra copies were still being received from posts, Departments and other contacts. Experience shows that posts and Departments request further copies for specific events throughout the year. The final number of gratis copies issued will not be known for some time.

Officials in FCO Departments responsible for each country and subject area contributed the information in the report, in addition to the editorial team in the FCO’s Human Rights, Democracy and Governance Group (HRDGG), which is responsible for publication. It would incur disproportionate cost to assess the total number of staff who contributed.

There is no specific criteria for excluding information from the report, except that which falls outside the time scale it is intended to cover. The basic shape of the annual report has been in place for five years and is now well established. Contributors take on board recommendations from the FAC when compiling the report.


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My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary agreed the outline and general content of the report at the beginning of the process, some six months prior to the intended launch date. HRDGG co-ordinated the publication of the report and, as such, has editorial control of the process. Contributors determine the exact content. These contributors are the FCO policy leads for each country or topic, with input from posts. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary approved the final version of the report.

International Organisations

Mr. Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will list the international organisations of which the UK is a member; and how much money it paid to each such organisation in the last year for which figures are available. [97580]

Dr. Howells: The UK is a member of and pays assessed contributions to a number of international organisations. Some international organisations budget on financial years, others on calendar years. The figures for UK assessed contributions in 2005-06, except where otherwise indicated, are:

£ million

Commonwealth Secretariat and Foundation (includes Commonwealth Funds for Technical Co-operation and Learning)

10.7

Council of Europe

20.8

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Civil, Military and Security Investment Programme budgets)

130

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2006)

15.6

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (excludes field missions)

3.13

United Nations (2005) (includes UN Regular Budget and core funding for Specialised Agencies, Conventions, peacekeeping operations, criminal courts and tribunals)

314.5

Western European Union

1.6


The figures do not include UK voluntary payments to other funds, programmes and projects of these international organisations. These are made by Government Departments in accordance with their specific areas of policy responsibility. There is no central record available. A breakdown of additional voluntary contributions to the UN system in 2005, may be found in “The United Kingdom in the United Nations” (Cm 6892) which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary laid before Parliament in July 2006.

Iran

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with her EU counterparts on investment by European energy companies in upstream oil and gas developments in Iran; and what the outcome was of these discussions. [96990]

Margaret Beckett: I have not discussed such investments with my EU colleagues.

On 6 June the EU High Representative, Javier Solana, presented proposals to Iran on behalf of the
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‘E3+3’ (France, Germany, UK + China, Russia, US) as the basis for a possible long-term solution to the nuclear issue. These make clear that as part of a long-term agreement, we would support the establishment of a long-term energy partnership between Iran and the EU. Regrettably Iran has not taken the steps required by the International Atomic Energy Agency Board and the UN Security Council, which would enable negotiations to begin.

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she last met the Iranian ambassador to the UK to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme. [98136]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has yet to meet the Iranian ambassador. She discussed Iran’s nuclear programme with the Iranian Foreign Minister when they met in New York on 19 September.

I met the Iranian ambassador on 12 September to discuss Iran's nuclear programme and other areas of concern. Since taking up his post in July 2006, the Iranian ambassador has also discussed the nuclear issue with senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials on a number of occasions.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on Iran’s referral to the Security Council. [98345]

Dr. Howells: Successive reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General have made clear Iran’s failure to co-operate folly with the IAEA and its failure to address the IAEA Board’s concerns. As a result, the Board requested in its Resolution of 4 February that the Director-General should report to the UN Security Council the steps required of Iran.

Since then the Security Council has taken a close interest. In a Presidential Statement on 29 March, the Security Council called on Iran to comply with IAEA Board Resolutions, including by fully suspending all uranium enrichment related and reprocessing activities. Security Council Resolution 1696, adopted on 31 July, made the suspension mandatory.

The IAEA Director-General’s 31 August report makes clear that Iran has not complied with IAEA Board and Security Council Resolutions. Nor has Iran taken the steps that would enable negotiations on a long-term solution to begin on the basis of the generous proposals Javier Solana presented on 6 June on behalf of the ‘E3+3’(France, Germany, UK + China, Russia, US).

E3+3 Foreign Ministers met in London on 6 October and agreed that Iran’s approach leaves us no choice but to seek another Security Council Resolution imposing sanctions. We are now consulting members of the Security Council on a draft. We continue to urge Iran to respond positively to our proposals. If Iran takes the steps required by the IAEA Board and the Security Council we remain ready to suspend further action by the Council.


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