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Mr. McCartney: I refer the hon. Member to the reply my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave to the right hon. Member for Richmond, (Yorks) (Mr. Hague) on 27 November 2006, Official Report, columns 469-470W.
Dr. Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had recently with the South African High Commissioner on strengthening commercial, cultural and educational links between the United Kingdom and the Peoples Republic of South Africa; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. McCartney: Commerce, culture and education were themes covered during the 7th UK-South Africa Bilateral Forum, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in May this year. During the Bilateral Forum, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the South African Minister for Arts and Culture also signed the UK-South Africa Film Co-production treaty.
There are regular ministerial visits to and from South Africa, in which our strong bilateral co-operation in the fields of commerce, culture and education are discussed. My department maintains a regular dialogue with the South African High Commission in London.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of a new ground and air offensive in Sudan in the last week; and what representations she has made to the Government of Sudan. 
Mr. McCartney: In the last week there have been renewed ground and air attacks in Darfur carried out by both Sudanese forces and Arab militia groups. They have targeted civilians, resulting in many deaths and displacements.
We utterly condemn these attacks; they are in breach of the Darfur Peace Agreement and a severe impediment to the political peace process. We have repeatedly called on the Government of Sudan to halt its military action in Darfur, to honour its commitment to disarm the Janjaweed, and to pursue a peaceful political settlement. That is why we supported the UN Secretary-Generals efforts in Addis on 16 November, and why we shall continue to press for Sudanese agreement to the outcome of that meeting.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the briefing Jan Egeland delivered to the UN Security Council on the situation in Darfur. 
Jan Egeland, the United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, addressed the Security Council on 22 November on his return from Sudan. He said that the number of people in Darfur needing humanitarian assistance had now risen to four million and the number of internally
displaced to two million. Large new militias were being armed. There was rampant insecurity. The Government of Sudan were imposing serious obstacles to the operations of humanitarian agencies.
The Government are appalled at the conditions described by Mr. Egeland. We call for all acts of violence, the arming of militias and restrictions on the activities of humanitarian agencies to cease immediately. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told President Bashir when they spoke on 22 November, the Government of Sudan must co-operate with the international community in implementing the agreement reached in Addis Ababa on 16 November.
Mr. McCartney: International observers were not permitted to attend the talks that led to the signing of the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement by the Eastern Front and the Government of National Unity on 14 October. The UK funded an adviser to the Eritrean-led mediation process, and officials in London, Khartoum and Asmara were in regular touch with both parties as the process evolved.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the terms are of the recent peace agreement in Eastern Sudan; who is party to the agreement; what the time-scale is for its implementation; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. McCartney: The Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) was signed by the Government of Sudan and the Eastern Front in Asmara on 14 October. The UK warmly welcomes the Agreement and we hope it will be the basis for lasting peace and security in eastern Sudan; and call on the parties to continue to work together to achieve this.
The ESPA sets out arrangements for security and power and wealth sharing. Key elements include the establishment of the post of an assistant to the president from the Eastern Front; US$600 million for local development projects in eastern Sudan; and 5,000 Eastern Front troops to be incorporated into joint units with the Sudanese armed forces. The agreement relies heavily on structures and processes established by the North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and, therefore, in parts shares its timeframe.
Mr. McCartney: UK officials have had regular contact with representatives of the Beja Congress through Department for International Development/Foreign and Commonwealth Office Officials in London and our Embassies in Khartoum and Asmara. We will remain in close touch as the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement is implemented.
With our EU and international partners, we continue to monitor closely the political situation in Thailand and its effect on human, political and civil rights, as well as the rule of law. We urge the Thai authorities to lift martial law and other restrictions on political and individual liberty, to hold full democratic elections and to restore accountable democracy as soon as possible.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on violence at the recent rally in Uganda to be addressed by the main opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. McCartney: On 18 November, Ugandan police used tear gas to disperse a meeting of supporters of the main opposition party the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). On 17 November, the police had written to the FDC advising them against holding the rally in Constitution Square, because of the potential disruption to local businesses. We are aware of reports of violence, however there are no specific reports of anybody being injured in the unrest.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and officials continue to stress the importance of maintaining a pluralist democracy and upholding human rights in their contacts with Ugandan Ministers and officials.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the conduct of the election (a) in Zimbabwe in 2001 and (b) in Uganda in 2006; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. McCartney: The Zimbabwe presidential election of 2002 was widely and internationally condemned as deeply flawed. It was characterised by malpractice, with widespread violence and intimation by the ruling elite. My right hon. Friend the former Foreign Secretary (Mr. Straw) said,
the failure of the electoral process in Zimbabwe (was) a tragedy not just for Zimbabwe, but for the people of southern Africa as a whole.
In July 2006, the EU election observer mission released its final report on the February 2006 elections in Uganda. The report concluded that the elections fell short of full compliance with international principles for genuine democratic elections. However, the report also said that despite some shortcomings on election
day, voting was generally well administered, transparent and competitive.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and officials continue to stress the importance of maintaining a pluralist democracy and developing civil society in their contacts with Ugandan Ministers and officials, including in a meeting with President Museveni on 20 November. And we with partners will continue to maintain pressure on Mugabe to adhere to international electoral standards and create a level playing field for all those involved in Zimbabwean society.
Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the Health and Safety Executive will have a role in investigating the recent deaths of British citizens in Corfu due to carbon monoxide poisoning. 
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) does not have a formal role in the investigation because their investigation powers, under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, do not extend to foreign jurisdictions.
However, HSE's approved provider of the national register of gas installers under gas safety regulationsCORGIhas offered technical assistance to the Greek investigation, and is also publicising gas safety messages to UK tour operators and to holidaymakers travelling abroad.
Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the proportion of children in (a) Glenrothes and (b) Scotland living in poverty in each of the last 10 years. 
|Percentage of children living in low income households: Scotland 1994/95-1996/97 to 2002/03-2004/05|
|Before housing costs||After housing costs|
1. Percentages are presented using a three-year moving average, as single-year estimates do not provide a robust guide to year-on-year changes. Hence, figures are not consistent with any previously published single-year estimates and there may be differences in changes over time. In circumstances such as a change in trend, moving averages will show less variation than single-year estimates.
2. Low income is determined for children as living in households with incomes below 60 per cent. of the Great Britain median.
3. Information is not available below the level of nation in Scotland and Wales or Government office region in England.
Family Resources Survey.
Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many households in Bristol, East constituency are in receipt of council tax benefit; and how many of those recipients are (a) pensioner and (b) non-pensioner households. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: No final decisions have yet been made on the exact benefit rate for the main phase of employment and support allowance or when the rate of benefit will be announced. In the main phase of the benefit, the rate will be higher than the current rate of long-term incapacity benefit and the most severely disabled people will receive a higher rate still.
Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what factors were taken into account when deciding not to uprate in line with inflation the basic state pensions of pensioners living in (a) Canada, (b) Australia and (c) New Zealand. 
James Purnell: The UK state pension is payable in all countries abroad to those who are entitled to it. It is uprated in the same way for UK pensioners living overseas where there is a reciprocal social security agreement or a legal requirement to do so. There are currently no reciprocal agreements which provide for the uprating of pensions with the countries listed. We have no plans to change these arrangements.
James Purnell: The Financial Assistance Scheme has paid a total of £1,947,591.79 gross (£1,558,055.97 net) to 557 qualifying members (as of 17 November 2006). In addition payments will be made to a further 133 people when they reach age 65.
Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many appeals by claimants against decisions on non-entitlement to incapacity benefit there have been in each year since 2000; what the average length of time taken to determine such appeals was in each year; and what the cost of such appeals was in each year. 
|Financial year||Received||Average clearance (weeks)||Average unit cost (£)|
1. All figures are subject to change as more up to date data become available.
2. Figures for latest months may increase substantially as information feeds through to the Appeals Service.
3. Received figures based on those received by the Appeals Service in the year specified.
4. Received figures are rounded to the nearest ten.
5. Figures exclude SDA cases.
6. Average clearance covers the period from date of receipt by the Appeals Service until the date a decision on the appeal is made.
7. Average unit cost is the average cost of clearing an appeal (all benefit types) by the Appeals Service.
100 per cent. download of the Generic Appeals Processing System (received count and average clearance)
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