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Landmines and Cluster Munitions

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Israeli Government on the use of (a) anti-personnel landmines and (b) cluster munitions in Southern Lebanon. [109126]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not herself discussed the use of anti-personnel landmines or cluster munitions in Southern Lebanon with the Israeli Government.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials continue regularly to raise our concern at the levels of unexploded ordnance in Southern Lebanon, and press the Israeli government to both make a statement about its use of cluster munitions in Lebanon and to do more to help the UN locate and eliminate this threat.

We understand Israel has begun an inquiry into its use of cluster munitions. We hope this will be concluded quickly.

During her recent visit to Beirut, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced that the UK is making an additional £1.2 million available to the UN Mines Advisory Service and the Mines Advisory Group for further munitions clearance work in Lebanon. This is comprised of £1 million to UN Mines Advisory Service and £0.2 million to the Mines Advisory Group. The UK has now committed a total of £2,782,000 for de-mining work in Lebanon this year.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make an assessment of Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law in its use of (a) anti-personnel landmines and (b) cluster munitions in civilian areas in Southern Lebanon. [109127]

Dr. Howells: The UK continues to raise its concerns with the Israeli Government at the levels of unexploded ordnance in south Lebanon. Recognising Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence, the UK consistently urged Israel, during the conflict with Hezbollah earlier in the summer, to exercise utmost restraint and act in compliance with international humanitarian law.

Latin America

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with Latin American governments on tackling urban crime and gun violence. [105173]


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Mr. McCartney: Urban crime and gun violence are significant problems throughout much of Latin America and are issues that we discuss on a regular basis with the governments concerned. Latin America has some of the highest rates of gun violence in the world. In many opinion polls, tackling violent crime, often linked to the illegal drugs trade, ranks with unemployment as the main concern of citizens in a number of countries. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, raised security issues with the Colombian Government in his visit to the country in September, as did my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr. Howells), in his visit to Colombia and Venezuela in October.

We want to help tackle these problems, and are supporting a range of projects that directly address them. Some examples include support for police reform in Venezuela, one of the worst affected countries, to improve the effectiveness of the police in tackling crime, plus support to local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) addressing the threat of gun crime at community level; in Bolivia we are working with national and local authorities on projects to improve citizen security, community policing and crime prevention; and in Brazil we are working with NGOs and the police to improve security policy and tackle gun violence. We also encourage our partners to address the issue of small arms and light weapons, which contribute significantly to crime and violence in the region.

Leak Inquiries

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions her Department has conducted a leak inquiry since May 1997; what the subjects of those leak inquiries were; and who authorised each inquiry. [106487]

Mr. McCartney: The Department has conducted 26 inquiries since May 1997. It has been the practice of successive Governments not to comment on the subject or outcome of leak inquiries as there is a continued necessity to safeguard security and investigative arrangements.

Middle East

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she was informed of the Middle East peace initiative launched by France, Spain and Italy at the Spanish-French summit on 16 November; and whether the UK Government was invited to contribute to the peace initiative. [106287]

Margaret Beckett: Other Governments were not informed in advance of the initiative. We have been consulting since with EU partners, most recently in discussion of the Middle East at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on 11 December, to ensure a common approach that is constructive and has the support of all relevant parties.


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Niger: Human Rights

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Government of Niger about (a) the status of women and (b) female genital mutilation. [108741]

Mr. McCartney: The Government have held no recent discussions with the Nigerien Government about the status of women and female genital mutilation. We have, however, supported EU representations to the Nigerien Government in the past on broader human rights issues, most recently in June.

Official Publications

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to whom her Department sent copies of unprinted Command Paper 72 of Session 1999-2000, on Parliamentary Scrutiny of Treaties. [108390]

Margaret Beckett: The Government’s Response to the Procedure Committee’s Second Report of Session 1999-2000, Parliamentary Scrutiny of Treaties, (HC 210) was laid before the House as an unnumbered Command Paper on 31 October 2000. Two copies were laid before each House, and 100 further copies were sent to the Vote Office where they were available for consultation.

There is no information available to indicate whether separate copies of the above response were sent to any other addressees on or after 31 October 2000.

I have placed a copy of the above response in the Libraries of both Houses. An electronic version was placed on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website following presentation to the House, where it may be currently viewed at www.fco.gov.uk/treaty (section on UK Treaty Practice and Procedures).

Oslo Convention

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will attend the meeting of states party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Oslo in February. [109128]

Dr. Howells: As yet, no invitation to any meeting on cluster munitions in Oslo has been received. We will carefully consider any invitation we receive.

Pakistan

Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Government has had with the Government of Pakistan on the establishment of a permanent extradition treaty. [109115]

Dr. Howells: We have been negotiating the text of an extradition treaty with the Government of Pakistan since 2003 in the Joint Judicial Co-operation Working Group (JJCWG). The JJCWG last met in Islamabad in July 2006. Discussions on the treaty are continuing.


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Poland: Detention Centre

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she was first informed of the US detention centre in Poland; and if she will make a statement. [105419]

Dr. Howells: In his speech of 6 September 2006, President Bush acknowledged the existence of a detention programme operated by the CIA. However, we have not been informed, nor are we otherwise aware, of the existence of any US detention centre in Poland.

Rwanda

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether she has had discussions with the Government of Rwanda on (a) the rights of Opposition politicians, (b) the proscribing of political prisoners and (c) the imprisonment of Opposition politicians; [108640]

(2) what discussions she has had with the Government of Rwanda on (a) good governance and (b) respect for the human rights of Opposition politicians. [108734]

Mr. McCartney: The Government are in regular discussion with the Rwandan authorities about the promotion of good governance, human rights and democratic freedoms. These issues were most recently raised when the Rwandan President called on my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development, and noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, during his visit to London from 3 to 6 December.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the level of (a) political and (b) press freedom in Rwanda. [108641]

Mr. McCartney: Press freedom is enshrined in the Rwandan constitution and overseen by a High Press Council established with support from the Department for International Development. However, the misuse of the media in Rwanda, most notoriously the active role of Radio Television Milles Collines in promoting the ethnic hatred and killing during the genocide in 1994, has made the Rwandan Government sensitive to this issue and cautious about giving the media free rein.

We believe that the Rwandan Government should continue to build on the progress made so far in Rwanda’s transition to democracy. On 6 December, after meeting Rwandan President Kagame, my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, called for civil society in Rwanda to play a broader role, and for a genuine debate on the political, economic and social future of the Rwandan people.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment
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she has made of the effects of tensions between ethnic groups in Rwanda on stability in that country. [108643]

Mr. McCartney: The ethnically driven genocide of 1994, and other inter-ethnic fighting which pre-dated it, have clearly left their scars on Rwandan society. However, the current Rwandan Government has sought to promote inter-ethnic reconciliation; has taken legal action against those seeking to exacerbate ethnic tensions; and has ensured that the constitution views all Rwandans equally before the law.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the post-genocide reconciliation project in Rwanda. [108644]

Mr. McCartney: We believe the progress made in reconstruction, reconciliation and poverty reduction in Rwanda since the 1994 genocide is truly remarkable. However, much remains to be done, and it will be a long time before the scars of this terrible episode are fully healed. The UK is committed to do all it can to help in this process.

Sierra Leone

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total cost was of the indemnification of Sir Thomas Legg for contingent liability during his Sierra Leone investigations; and what the reason was for providing such indemnification. [108064]

Mr. McCartney: As is normal practice in investigations of this kind, Sir Thomas Legg, Sir Robin Ibbs and the secretariat of the investigation were granted indemnity from any liability arising from legal action taken against them in relation to their inquiry into the Sierra Leone arms affair. This was done in the standard format as advised by HM Treasury solicitors. The indemnity came into force on 10 July 1998, and was granted to assist the quick, effective and unhindered completion of the report. Neither Sir Thomas Legg, nor the other parties covered by the indemnity, has had cause to invoke the indemnity, and so there has been no cost involved.

Simon Mann

Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what access to consular services is available to Simon Mann, who is in prison in Zimbabwe. [109181]

Dr. Howells: Mr. Mann has access to the same level of consular assistance as any other British national who is in prison. With all British nationals detained overseas, we aim to make contact within 24 hours of being told about the arrest, and visit as soon as possible. Throughout the duration of detention, our consular staff are there to provide support, take an interest in welfare and where appropriate consider approaching the local authorities if a prisoner is not treated in line with internationally accepted standards.


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Somalia

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to promote peace and democracy in Somalia; what representations she has made to (a) the United Nations and (b) the Ethiopian Government on this issue; and what assessment she has made of the proposed UN resolution to partially lift the arms embargo on Somalia to allow for regional peacekeepers. [108887]

Mr. McCartney: Together with our international partners we continue to support the Transitional Federal institutions, which are the internationally recognised means of restoring peace and democracy to Somalia. We work closely with partners in the UN Security Council and the International Contact Group on Somalia to try to achieve peace and stability there. We have close contact with the Government of Ethiopia about peace and stability in the horn of Africa and urge all countries in the region to respect the UN arms embargo on Somalia and to do nothing which could provoke violence there.

We support UN Security Council resolution 1725, adopted unanimously on 6 December 2006, which authorises the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union to establish a protection and training mission in Somalia and endorses the specification in the IGAD Deployment Plan that those states that border Somalia would not deploy troops to Somalia.

Staff Grievances Review

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will place in the Library a copy of the report of the National Audit Office Review of the Handling of Staff Grievances at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. [109182]

Mr. McCartney: Yes, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be placing a copy of the National Audit Office report in the Library of the House.

Thailand

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Government of Thailand on the treatment of Burmese refugees. [108725]

Mr. McCartney: Our embassy in Bangkok regularly discusses the treatment of Burmese refugees with the Thai authorities, most recently on 28 November.

Timor-Leste

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she plans to make to the new special representative for Timor-Leste; what assessment she has made of the recent situation in Timor-Leste; and if she will make a statement. [108537]


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Mr. McCartney: Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials plan to meet with the newly-appointed Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Atul Khare, before he departs to take up his position in Timor-Leste. They will stress the important role that the UN has to play in helping Timor-Leste to recover from the recent crisis, by providing high-level political support and institution building, and preparing the country for the national elections planned for April/May 2007.

The situation in Timor-Leste has improved greatly since the height of the unrest in April/May. The Government of Timor-Leste, the international forces and the UN are working together to bring lasting peace and stability to Timor-Leste.


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