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John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contact the British embassy in Burma has had with the Union Solidarity and Development Association in the past year. 
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect of the Union Solidarity and Development Association on the political situation in Burma. 
Mr. McCartney: The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) is officially termed a social organisation and is involved in some social and charitable activities. However, it is also used by the Burmese Government to promote their political aims. Membership is compulsory for most government employees. Others are threatened or induced to join. The USDA is widely believed to have been involved in the attacks on Daw Aung San Suu Kyis convoy at Depayin in 2003 and in the intimidation they suffered on earlier trips. There are unconfirmed reports that the Burmese Government intend to transform the USDA into a pro-Government political party which would contest any forthcoming general election.
Mr. McCartney: I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave to the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) on 27 November 2006, Official Report, columns 463-64W, and 4 December 2006, Official Report, columns 69-70W.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the regime ruling Burma on the detention of (a) Min Ko Naing and (b) other student leaders. 
Mr. McCartney: I issued a statement on 2 October calling for the release of Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Htay Kway, Min Zeya and Myint Aye. The statement was delivered to the Home and Foreign Affairs Ministries in Burma. The EU released a statement on 5 October and followed this up with a demarche on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 October.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether discussions on a replacement for the UN special envoy to Burma have taken place at the UN; and which candidates have been put forward by the UK Government. 
Mr. McCartney: Discussions have taken place at official level about the possibility of appointing a new UN Special Envoy to Burma. No decision has been taken and no candidates have been put forward by the Government.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Governments of (a) Cuba and (b) Venezuela on the UN General Assembly resolution on Burma. 
Mr. McCartney: We have had no discussions with the Governments of Cuba and Venezuela on the UN General Assembly resolution on Burma. Representatives of both Cuba and Venezuela made clear their opposition to this resolution on its adoption in the General Assemblys Third Committee. But neither country made representations to the UK delegation or to the Finnish Presidency of the European Union during negotiations.
Chen Guangcheng was for instance denied access to the lawyers of his choice at his trial on 24 August, which contravenes international fair trial standards. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary therefore welcomed news of Chens quashed sentence in a statement on 2 November and urged the Chinese Government to guarantee due process at his retrial. Officials from our Embassy in Beijing applied for but were denied access to Chens retrial on 27 November. We are concerned by reports that one of Chens lawyers was again denied access to the court, and that key witnesses were detained, raising further doubts about the fairness of proceedings against him. We hope that his forthcoming appeal will be dealt with fairly and transparently. Zhao Yans trial was held in closed court on 25 August and we remain concerned at serious procedural irregularities, as well as the lack of information on his conviction for financial fraud. We are also concerned that Zhaos appeal was not granted a fair and thorough hearing on 2 December. We continue to urge China to prove its commitment to the rule of law through its handling of these cases and guarantee that international fair trial standards are enforced.
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to support the multilateral process led by the Norwegian Government to negotiate a prohibition on cluster munitions outside the framework of the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons. 
Dr. Howells: The UK recognises the humanitarian impact of unexploded ordnance, including cluster munitions. At the recent review conference for the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), the UK secured an agreement by consensus which included all major producers and users of cluster munitions. This will set up a discussion mandate that should lead to negotiations on a legally-binding protocol that addresses the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions. This approach is consistent with Kofi Annan's call at the conference for action within the existing CCW framework. If the process agreed within the CCW falters or fails, we will review our policy.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she plans to take concerning Darfur following the recent African Union Peace and Security Council meeting; and what assessment she has made of the effect on the prospects for long term peace and stability of the extension of the mandate of the current African Union peace mission in Darfur. 
Mr. McCartney: We welcome the decision of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) to extend the mandate of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS). We will continue to press for the full implementation of the conclusions of the 30 November meeting of the PSC. It is crucial that AMIS is bolstered by the phased UN support package that was agreed by the PSC if it is to be effective in promoting peace and stability in Darfur. We will continue to press the Government of Sudan to agree to this, urge our international partners to do the same, and go on providing support to AMIS. The hybrid AU/UN force should have a mandate based on the key elements of UN Security Council Resolution 1706.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support she plans to commit to UN activities in Darfur following the proposals of the recent African Union Peace and Security Council meeting. 
Mr. McCartney: The African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) meeting on 30 November endorsed the conclusions of the High level Consultation on Darfur held in Addis Ababa on 16 November. This requires the UN and AU jointly to take forward the political process for Darfur and provides for a phased increase in UN support to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS). The UK supports these outcomes, and is committed to supporting the AU and UN in their implementation. We are already a leading financial contributor to AMIS, providing 20m in financial assistance this year, and provide political, financial and practical support to the UN in Sudan.
We also want to secure UN funding for the peace keeping proposals endorsed by the AU PSC in order to ensure the sustainability of peacekeeping in Darfur. The UK financial contribution to UN assessed costs is currently 7.4 per cent. At the request of the UN we are providing two police advisers to assist the UN advance team with planning for the hybrid force, in addition to
two UK officers and one Ministry of Defence secondee already assisting the UNs Department for Peacekeeping Operations with planning for Sudan. The hybrid AU/UN forces should have a mandate based on the key elements of UN Security Council Resolution 1706.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many of her Departments civil servants work full-time to support departmental special advisers; and what the salary is of each such civil servant. 
Margaret Beckett: Two civil servants work full-time to support special advisers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Individual salaries cannot be disclosed in order to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with other Departments on UK energy security priorities under the German presidency of the Council of the European Union. 
Mr. McCartney: UK energy security is a high priority for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) as a whole. In the run-up to Germany taking over the presidency of the EU on 1 January, the FCO has been very active in engaging with other Government Departments on UK policy. Testament to the effective work we have done on this agenda were two important outcomes from informal European Council in October at Lahti: to link European policy on energy security and climate change more closely together so that the EU pursues an integrated policy; and a greater coherence among EU member states than there has been in the past on external energy security issues, e.g. our approach towards dealing with third country suppliers. This work has been particularly timely in relation to the European Commissions Strategic Energy Review, which will be published shortly and will help set further direction on energy and climate change policy during the German presidency. The FCO has been working with the Commission and EU member states to ensure that UK priorities are reflected in the Strategic Energy Review and other Commission papers such as the Energy Efficiency Action Plan.
The UKs objectives are to follow up on the agreement made by heads of the EU at Lahti to use EU external energy policy to deliver broader climate and energy security objectives. The strategic decisions we will take on energy in the next few months are an opportunity for the EU to deliver a future with a secure climate and secure energy. We aim to encourage
EU leadership in tackling the linked issues of energy and climate security and to show EU citizens that we are on the front foot in shaping a low-carbon future. We must also speak with one voice on climate security, including with external partnersRussia, China and India and are confident that the German presidency will take this further. A milestone for achieving these objectives will be the spring European Council and we are pleased that Chancellor Merkel has said energyand climate changewill be key element of this.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which important constitutional implications arising from the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe would give rise to a commitment to holding a referendum. 
Mr. Hoon: Under the UKs constitutional arrangements, there is no requirement to hold a referendum on the ratification of an EU Treaty. Indeed previous Governments have not sought to hold such a referendum. It is for Parliament to pass the necessary law.
In certain cases the Government have recommended that particular arrangements should be subject to a referendum. It is for Parliament to decide whether to hold such a referendum, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case.
In the case of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe I refer the hon. Member to the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the House on 20 April 2004, Official Report, columns 155-57.
On 5 December we issued a press statement condemning the military coup in Fiji as being wholly unconstitutional and calling for a return to democracy in Fiji as quickly as possible. A full copy of the statement can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at:
Following a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on 8 December, Fiji was suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth. A full copy of the statement issued by the Commonwealth Secretariat can be found on the Commonwealth website at:
Mr. McCartney: The recorded spend on office and residential furniture, in the UK and overseas, for each financial year (FY) since 2000 for which information is available is provided as follows. We are unable to break it down by manufacturers, as we do not maintain this information.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether she has held discussions with (a) the Iraqi Government and (b) coalition forces about the safety of Iraqi academics since 15 June; and if she will make a statement. 
In the current security environment it is difficult to obtain reliable statistics on the level of attacks against specific groups in Iraq. Although we are aware of reports of the difficulties faced by academics in working and living in Iraq, we do not have reliable and substantiated reports of specific threats against them. We continue to work with the Iraqi security forces to develop their capacity to provide security for all Iraqis.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many information technology projects within the responsibility of her Department, its agencies and their predecessors have been cancelled since 1997; what the total cost was of each project at cancellation; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. McCartney: The only significant IT contract cancelled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1997 was the Focus Programme. I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) on 4 September 2006, Official Report, column 2044W.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received from the British High Commission in Nairobi on the use of tear gas by police officers at a
recent demonstration in Nairobi; and if she will make representations to the Kenyan Government about human rights in that country. 
Mr. McCartney: We were concerned by the reports of opposition supporters in Kenya being tear-gassed by the police. Ministers and our High Commissioner in Nairobi continue to stress to the Kenyan Government that they, and other politicians, should respect freedom of speech and association and the rule of law in run up to next years elections.
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