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6 Nov 2006 : Column 843Wcontinued
Mr. Andy Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations she has made to the government of Ethiopia on the detention of political prisoners in that country. 
Mr. McCartney: We regularly make representations to the Government of Ethiopia about the detention of all those, including civil society representatives, detained in connection with political disturbances in 2005. Most recently, our ambassador in Addis Ababa raised our concerns with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on 5 October 2006. In our discussions we raise the need for the trials of those charged to be transparent, independent and impartial. The international community is monitoring the trials and the internal situation in Ethiopia closely.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent meetings Ministers in her Department have had with European Union counterparts concerning irregularities in EU spending identified by the European Court of Auditors; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Hoon: The Government as a whole considers it to be a matter of serious concern that the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has been unable to give a positive statement of assurance on the EUs accounts for the 12th year in succession. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers have not had the opportunity to discuss last month's European Court of Auditors Report with their EU counterparts, but EU Finance Ministers will consider the ECA Report on the 2005 EC Budget when it is presented at the 7 November Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting. We will continue to work with member states and the Commission to ensure that improvements are made to the management of EC funds for which they are responsible.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) technical information and (b) analysis she has received differentiating Irans suspected nuclear weapons programme from a possible nuclear power programme. 
Dr. Howells: The nature of Irans nuclear programme, its history of concealment, its continuing failure to co-operate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its refusal to take the steps required by the IAEA Board and UN Security Council have all contributed to international concern that its ambitions may not be, as it claims, solely peaceful.
We are deeply concerned by Irans uranium enrichment programme, which will help it develop the capability to produce fissile material suitable for use in nuclear weapons. While Irans enrichment activities would also help it develop the capability to produce
fissile material suitable for use as fuel in power reactors, Iran has no production technology that would enable it to manufacture fuel from any enriched material, norwith the exception of a reactor being built at Bushehr, for which Russia is contracted to supply fuel for 10 yearsany power reactors (operational or in construction) requiring fuel.
The IAEA Director General, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, has produced regular reports since 2003 on Irans nuclear programme. They have outlined serious outstanding questions that Iran needs to resolve. These include: how Iran came to possess and what use it made of a document on casting uranium hemispheres, whose only application is in nuclear weapons; why Iran conducted experiments on Polonium 210, which has virtually no civil use but can be used as a neutron initiator in nuclear weapons; why Irans military has been involved in what it claims is a purely civil programme; and why Iran is constructing a heavy water research reactor for which there is little apparent civil need, yet which would be ideally suited for the production of plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. Successive IAEA reports have made clear that Iran is failing to co-operate fully in answering these questions. Dr. ElBaradei reiterated in his speech to the UN General Assembly on 30 October that
the IAEA continues... to be unable to confirm the peaceful nature of Irans nuclear programme, which is a matter of serious concern.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many and what proportion of the people of Ashraf signed forms accepting their compliance with the conditions stipulated by the Commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq for their continued protection by the Multi-National Forces-Iraq; 
(2) whether the letter of the Deputy Commander of the Multi National Force-Iraq to the people of Ashraf dated 21st July 2004 was on behalf of the International Coalition; 
(3) on what date in February the headquarters of the Multi National Force-Iraq reaffirmed its commitment to Article 45 of the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of civilian persons, 1949 in respect of the people of Ashraf; whether the communication made reference to the principle of non-refoulment; and if she will make a statement; 
(4) on what date the commander of the multi national coalition forces authorised the opening of bank accounts in Iraq by residents of Ashraf city; 
(5) whether individuals in Ashraf have abrogated the undertakings they entered into with the commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq and which were detailed in the signed agreements prepared by the force commander; 
(6) if she will publish the communication dated 7th October 2005 from Major General William Brandenburg on behalf of the multi national coalition forces to the people of Ashraf; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Ingram: I have been asked to reply.
Camp Ashraf, near Baghdad, is outside the UK's area of responsibility in Iraq. As such, the UK has no responsibility for, or involvement with, Camp Ashraf or its residents. These are matters for the US and Iraqi Governments.
Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many and what percentage of information technology projects undertaken by or for her Department since 2001 have been delivered (a) over budget, (b) after their original deadline, (c) on budget, (d) under budget, (e) on their original deadline and (f) ahead of their original deadline. 
Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office operates a devolved system of financial responsibility under which Directorates and overseas posts have the freedom to invest in non strategic IT systems designed to meet specific needs. Answers to the hon. Members question would require exhaustive searches of records in the UK and overseas, and this could be achieved only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much her Department has spent on (a) equipment and (b) consultants for (i) information technology and (ii) web-facing information technology projects in each year since 2001. 
Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) undertakes a very wide range of IT-enabled projects. Strategic projects are managed centrally, but many others are delivered under a devolved system of financial responsibility under which Directorates and overseas posts have the freedom, subject to conformity with FCO technical standards and the need to demonstrate effective use of public funds, to invest in non-strategic IT systems designed to meet specific needs. FCO accounting practice does not make a distinction between expenditure on information technology and web-facing information technology. It is not possible to provide a complete answer without incurring disproportionate cost.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on Israels compliance with International Humanitarian Law during the recent conflict in Lebanon. 
Dr. Howells: The UK has received a number of reports on Israel's compliance with International Humanitarian Law during the recent conflict in Lebanon. These include reports from human rights non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International, and the visit report of the four UN special procedure mandate holders, which accuse both Israel and Hezbollah of serious violations of international humanitarian law.
The UK has not conducted an investigation into Israels conduct in Lebanon between 12 July and 14 August. The UK has always recognised Israels legitimate right to self-defence. At the same time we made clear during the conflict our deep concern at the deaths of civilians and at the destruction of civilian infrastructure and consistently urged Israel to exercise utmost restraint and act in compliance with international humanitarian law. We believe that any credible allegations of improper conduct should be properly investigated and appropriate action taken by the Governments of Israel and Lebanon.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the ministerial responsibilities of her right hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) have changed since the publication of the List of Ministerial Responsibilities in June 2006; and whether he speaks for the Government on European matters in the House. 
Margaret Beckett: The responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon), the Minister for Europe, remain unchanged from those set out in the List of Ministerial Responsibilities in June 2006. Both he and I speak for the Government on European matters in the House as appropriate.
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received on the Moldovan economy; and if she will make a statement.[R] 
Mr. Hoon: Our embassy in Chisinau reports regularly on the political and economic situation in Moldova. We have also seen recent reports from the International Monetary Fund and the Economist Intelligence Unit on the Moldovan economy.
Economic growth has slowed recently due to the impact of sharp increases in the gas price, and the continuing ban on wine exports to Russia. Despite these factors, we expect Moldova to achieve modest growth of 3 per cent. in 2006, down from 6 per cent. predicted earlier in the year, followed by a slight recovery in 2007.
Moldova remains heavily dependent on remittances from Moldovans working overseas. Currently estimated at roughly US $l billion, remittances account for over 30 per cent. of gross domestic product (GDP), and through import taxes provided some 56 per cent. of the state budget. This has enabled the Government to run fiscal surpluses over the last few years, amounts they have used for repaying the principles on their debt. On the downside, this has meant significant proportion of the Moldovan labour force is productively employed outside of the country, leading to serious shortages in skilled labour.
Moldovas debt remains high, but has fallen sharply in recent years from 100 per cent. of GDP in 2001, to 55 per cent. in 2005. In addition, Moldova received debt treatment from the Paris Club in early 2006, which has reduced debt service to the Paris Club by nearly 60
per cent.. The UK is not a creditor. The total stock of debt looks set to continue to decline over the next few years, despite the slowdown in economic growth.
While generally sound fiscal and monetary policies are being pursued by the authorities, inflation has accelerated to 14 per cent. year-on-year on the back of continuing high remittances, rapid increases in real wages, increasing funds from donors and hikes in energy prices. As both remittances and gas prices are likely to rise again next year, the amount of disinflation the authorities will be able to achieve during 2007 will be limited.
The combined effect of the wine ban and the gas price increase, however, means that we expect to see a worsening of Moldovas external position, with its current account deficit set to rise to around 18 per cent. of GDP in 2006, up from 5.6 per cent. in 2005.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the statement by General Burwell Bell of the United States Army that another nuclear test by the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea is expected; and what action she is taking (a) to support United Nations sanctions against the regime and (b) to prevent further nuclear tests. 
Mr. McCartney: We cannot rule out the possibility of another nuclear test; but we are encouraged by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Koreas (DPRK) commitment to return to the Six Part Talks following talks in Beijing, which suggests a willingness not to escalate the situation further.
We are bound to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1718 (2006), and are taking the necessary administrative and legislative measures domestically and in the EU. The onus is now on the DPRK Government to comply fully with the resolution.
We believe that the current firm response of the international community represents the best means to resolve the current situation.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effects of the decision of Médecins Sans Frontières to withdraw from Jaffna. 
Dr. Howells: We understand that following irresponsible accusations in recent weeks in the Sri Lankan media of partisanship, and the apparent failure of the Sri Lankan government to regularise the status of their in-country staff, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) felt unable to operate safely in the Jaffna peninsula and withdrew from the area in mid-October. Given the security and humanitarian situation in Jaffna, where it is reported that over 50,000 of the civilian population has been displaced, and the wide international recognition of the impartial work of MSF in conflict areas this is regrettable. Our High Commission in Colombo raised concerns about MSFs position with Sri Lankan government ministers in early October.
The withdrawal of MSF will unfortunately have a severe impact in the north of the Jaffna peninsula where there is already a shortage of basic medical services and supplies and patients may now have to travel to Jaffna city itself for medical treatment. We continue to urge all parties to allow relief workers and essential supplies access to all conflict affected areas to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the continuing violence.
Anne Moffat: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in securing international support to encourage Sudan to accept UN Security Council Resolution 1706 for the deployment of a UN security force in Darfur. 
Mr. McCartney: A strong peacekeeping force is critical to efforts to resolve this terrible conflict. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and other colleagues have engaged African, Arab and other leaders to help persuade Sudan to co-operate. We have also engaged the Sudanese Government on this: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development met President Bashir on 16 October in Khartoum to press him to stop the violence, accept a UN peacekeeping force, implement the Darfur Peace Agreement and reach a political settlement with the non-signatories. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for International Development and my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, met with the First Vice President of Sudan and President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, on 30 and 31 October to reinforce this message and to urge him to use his influence with the Sudanese Government.
The Sudanese Government has not yet heeded this international message nor abided by UN Security Council Resolution 1706. We urge it to do so, to bring peace to the long-suffering people of Darfur.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the UK Government has given to the US Administration in facilitating the rendition of terrorist and other suspects since 1 May 1997; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Government respect its obligations under UK and international law. We would not assist in any activity if to do so would put us in breach of UK law or our international obligations, including the UN Convention Against Torture.
In respect of the allegations of transfer of persons through the UK, I refer the hon. Member to the Written Ministerial Statement made by the then Foreign Secretary my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) on 20 January 2006, Official Report, columns 37-38WS.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 4 May 2006, Official Report, column 1798W, on consultants, (1) for what purposes her Department employed Eleri Evans; 
(2) for what purposes her Department employed Issan Ghazni Partnership; 
(3) for what purposes her Department employed CIMTECH; 
(4) for what purposes her Department employed Design Systems Technology Ltd; 
(5) for what purposes her Department employed Horwood Safety Limited; 
(6) for what purposes her Department employed Analogue; 
(7) for what purposes her Department employed Reshan Sandhu; 
(8) for what purposes her Department employed Dennis Battle Associates; 
(9) for what purposes her Department employed Rick Evans Ltd.; 
(10) for what purposes her Department employed Mandural Ltd.; 
(11) for what purposes her Department employed Largos Ltd.; 
(12) for what purposes her Department employed Rene Caroyal; 
(13) for what purposes her Department employed Elborough Consulting/TSO Consulting; 
(14) for what purposes her Department employed Alexander Cameron Ltd.; 
(15) for what purposes her Department employed Venn Group Ltd.; 
(16) for what purposes her Department employed Professor Susskind; 
(17) for what purposes her Department employed GIC Ltd.; 
(18) for what purposes her Department employed Tribal MPC; 
(19) for what purposes her Department employed Penna; 
(20) for what purposes her Department employed Computer Sciences Corporation; 
(21) for what purposes her Department employed Craigforth; 
(22) for what purposes her Department employed UCL Consultants; 
(23) for what purposes her Department employed Adult Learning Inspectorate; 
(24) for what purposes her Department employed Hedra; 
(25) for what purposes her Department employed Digital Public; 
(26) for what purposes her Department employed David Coates; 
(27) for what purposes her Department employed Ilogic Ventures; 
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