|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effect on the humanitarian situation in Chad of the decision of the UN Refugee Agency and the World Food Programme to move all non-essential staff out of the country; and if he will make a statement. 
Hilary Benn: The evacuation of staff from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, and other humanitarian agencies due to insecurity has the potential to affect the protection of both refugees and the internally displaced and the provision of life-saving assistance. In response to the situation, the World Food Programme has already distributed food rations to cover needs in December, and agencies have put in place measures to allow most basic services to be continued if there was a full evacuation. Maintaining water supply is a major concern, due to the depth of the groundwater. If systems in the camps were to break down and agencies were unable to repair them, refugee and IDP populations would be forced to seek water elsewhere. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will consider providing further support to the humanitarian operation if required. Our current contribution in 2006 stands at £4 million for relief operations carried out by WFP, UNHCR and Oxfam.
We are very concerned about the current situation in Chad. We assess it is fuelled partly by cross-border interference from Sudan. We continue to call on both the Government of Sudan and the Government of Chad to stop supporting each other's rebels and to fulfil their obligations under the Tripoli Agreement. A UN assessment mission travelled to Chad from 28 November to 3 December to look at what the UN could do to improve security in refugee camps and border areas. We are pressing the UN Secretary General to report back quickly with options for an international presence in the Chad/Darfur border region.
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with (a) EU counterparts and (b) Cabinet colleagues regarding the Norwegian conference to discuss a future treaty on cluster munitions which will take place on 21 to 23 February 2007 in Oslo. 
Hilary Benn: I have had no such discussions. However, DFID officials have continued with interdepartmental discussions on how best to achieve our objectives on cluster munitions. We have not received an invitation to the meeting in Oslo. We will consider carefully any invitation we do receive to discuss cluster munitions.
For development, all states need to fulfil certain basic functions, such as protecting their people and providing an economic framework to enable people to support themselves. In fragile states, our approach is to provide support for basic government administrative capacity building such that we do not overburden already weak state structures by attempting governance improvements on all fronts. Alongside this fundamental support, we also prioritise
security, access to justice, conflict prevention, peace-building, the protection of human rights and basic service delivery.
For example in Sierra Leone, DFID assistance in building up civilian policing has helped reduce instability and increased the safety of citizens. Human development indicators are improving because citizens are better able to earn a living safely. In DRC DFID has supported the first democratic elections there for 40 years. And in Afghanistan DFID has helped the Government to collect revenue and plan their budget.
In our 2006 White Paper, we set out our commitment to use a new quality of governance assessment which will be done as part of our published Country Assessment Plans. We will use this assessment along with others to make choices about the way in which we provide UK aid and help improve the capability of state institutions and strengthen their accountability to the poor.
Hilary Benn: DFID Bilateral Aid to Sudan in the fiscal year 2005-06 was £117.1 million. £68,000 of this was in the form of other financial aid which relates to pensions payments where the UK has taken over liabilities from the Government of Sudan. No UK funds were provided directly to the Government of Sudan.
For statistical reporting purposes, the term financial aid covers poverty reduction budget support, other projects and programmes. A full breakdown of Bilateral Aid for Sudan is published in Table 12.1 of Statistics on International Development 2001/02-2005/06, a copy of which is available in the Library.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what audit arrangements are in place to assess the use of donated funds by the African Union Mission (AUM) in Sudan; and what assessment he has made of the effect of financial oversight on the AUM's financial management of resources in Sudan. 
Hilary Benn: The African Union and international donors to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) have established a Liaison Group to co-ordinate their work. This group meets weekly to ensure that financial and in kind donor contributions to AMIS are used effectively.
The UK is providing a £13.5 million cash contribution to help fund personnel costs for the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS). We have a contract with Crown Agents to support the development of AMIS' budget management capacity, and to provide assistance, oversight and independent reporting on the disbursement of UK funds.
Mr. Austin Mitchell:
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the African Union's (AU) capacity to (a) manage and (b) apply effectively funding from the UN
for its mission in Darfur; whether the AU troops in Darfur have been paid for the last six months; and what prospects there are for such payments over the next six months. 
Hilary Benn: The United Nations does not currently fund the operations of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), but it will fund the support that it provides to the mission. The Addis Ababa High Level Consultation on Darfur of 16 November agreed that the United Nations be requested to fund a hybrid AU-UN Peacekeeping Force for Darfur. This funding will require agreement in the General Assembly and would need to be accompanied by UN financial management and controls to ensure that it was applied effectively. Difficulties with the African Union's financial reporting have led to stalled funding from the European Commission for the payment of troop salaries, and the Commission are planning to send financial experts to assist the AU in addressing this problem. The UK cash contribution of £13.5 million will include payment of salaries owed from 20 October for a period of eight to nine weeks. Funding for AMIS' extended mandate from 1 January is yet to be confirmed: the UK is looking at making a further contribution and we are encouraging all partners to do the same.
Lynda Waltho: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions the Government have had with the Sudanese Government on increasing areas in which humanitarian programmes may operate. 
Hilary Benn: Over the last few months, attacks on humanitarian agencies have led to the evacuation of staff and the suspension of their operations in a number of locations throughout the Darfur states. This has reduced the area in which humanitarian assistance can be delivered, and poses a severe threat to an already fragile situation. The ability of agencies to return to these areas is contingent upon an improvement in security, which in turn requires finding a political solution to this crisis.
The UK remains at the forefront of efforts by the international community to achieve this. Recent meetings in Addis Ababa mapped out a way forward, including the need for an immediate and strengthened ceasefire; a renewed political process to bring in the non-signatory rebel groups to the Darfur Peace Agreement; and a hybrid Africa UnionUnited Nations (AU-UN) peacekeeping force.
We welcome the fact that the African Union Peace and Security Council extended the mandate of the AU force and endorsed the Addis Ababa conclusions. The staged deployment of UN support packages to the AU force leading to a joint operation needs to happen without delay in order to restore security, protect civilians, ensure humanitarian access and implement security aspects of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
The UK Government has been in regular discussion with the Government of Sudan on the requirements to end the conflict. We are pressing them to take forward these agreed steps in full co-operation with the AU and UN and, in doing so, proving that it is taking its responsibilities seriously.
David Lepper: To ask the Chairman of the Administration Committee if he will make a further statement on the changes recommended by the Committee to the rules on broadcasting proceedings of the house and on filming and photography within the precincts. 
Mr. Doran: By way of a written answer on 20 June 2006, Official Report, column 1725, I informed the House of changes to the rules on broadcasting proceedings of the House and on filming and photography within the precincts. The changes were originally introduced on a trial basis from the return of the House in October. The Committee again considered the operation of the rules earlier this month, and Mr. Speaker has agreed to the Committee's recommendation that the changes should be made permanent. Accordingly, the changes, which are restated, will remain in place on the return of the House in January.
A greater variety of shots of proceedings in the Chamber than was permitted before October will continue to be allowed, including a greater use of reaction shots in order to illustrate the mood of the House, and the provision of a low-level atmospheric sound-feed during divisions rather than complete silence.
BBC Parliament has been released from the undertaking previously given to the Broadcasting Committee, to carry live Commons Chamber coverage regardless of proceedings at the same time in the House of Lords, on condition that the freedom to select proceedings in the Lords should be used only sparingly, and that Mr. Speaker should be consulted in such cases. A reporter voice-over is also now permitted during divisions.
Two new interview points have been identified within the precincts: in the south west corner of Westminster Hall once the current works there have been completed, and on the Green in New Palace Yard, subject in the latter case to a permit from the Serjeant at Arms. Filming pieces to camera of a presenter walking across Central Lobby are also permitted before 9 a.m. on non-sitting days, similarly subject to a permit from the Serjeant at Arms.
Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what the current estimate for completed works on the new visitor entrance is; and what percentage this is of the original contract price. 
The latest forecast including contracted works costs, fitting out, fees and preliminary works is £8,727,500 against the original business case approval of £8,687,500. This is an increase of less than 1 per cent. There are a number of different contracts involved in the project. The latest
valuation for works completed on the main contract as of 23 November 2006 is £4,303,660 and represents 101 per cent. of the original contract price for that element of the contract.
Richard Younger-Ross: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what extension of time has been granted for construction of the new visitor entrance; and on what grounds such an extension of time has been granted. 
Nick Harvey: The project is clearly running late and it is not possible to give a reliable date for its completion. On the information available at present the Commission hopes to see the building opened by Easter 2007. Over the summer, delays were caused by unexpected problems with piling and hidden services beneath the site. More recently there have been difficulties with the construction of the building itself. A technical audit has been commissioned by the accounting officer, action is being taken to manage the project more tightly and the Commission expects a full report on progress in January. A five week extension of contract time was made on 26 September 2006 but this covers only a part of the delay.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she plans to make to President Karzai on (a) regional stability and (b) Afghan-Pakistan relations. 
Dr. Howells: We continue to make regular representations to the Afghan Government on the importance of regional stability and we are encouraging a sustained constructive dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri recently met with Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta in Kabul (7-9 December) as part of an on-going effort by the two countries to improve relations. During my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's November visit to Afghanistan, President Karzai was urged to continue to engage Pakistani co-operation.
Our messages promoting regional stability and urging Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together on shared problems will continue to be delivered to both governments at both ministerial and official levels.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the (a) Bangladeshi Government and (b) Bangladeshi embassy in London that forthcoming elections in Bangladesh should be both free and fair. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade visited Bangladesh on 22-23 November and met the head of the caretaker government and leaders of the main political parties. In his meetings, my right hon. Friend urged the caretaker government to act in a non-partisan manner to deliver free, fair, peaceful and accepted elections. He emphasised the need for responsible leadership and restraint from the parties in Bangladesh. He said that the UK continued to stand ready to help support democracy, stability and security in Bangladesh.
Officials at our High Commission in Dhaka and here in London continue to take a close interest in preparations for elections, and we support the EU and Commonwealth Election Observer Missions. But ultimately it is for the parties and the people of Bangladesh to find solutions and make their elections a success. We encourage the parties to continue talking with each other to this end.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the participation of British citizens in military conflicts between third party states is governed by any domestic statute or regulation. 
Dr. Howells: As a general proposition, persons on the territory of another state are subject to the laws of that state. However, in some circumstances, such persons may also be subject to the laws of other states, particularly their state of nationality. For example, in the case of the UK, members of HM armed forces overseas remain subject to UK law by virtue respectively of the Naval Discipline Act (1957), the Army Act (1955) and the Air Force Act (1955).
UK criminal law may apply in some cases to acts committed by British citizens who are not members of HM armed forces during conflict overseas. For example, British nationals and residents can be prosecuted in the UK for war crimes committed overseas under the Geneva Conventions Act (1957) and the International Criminal Court Act (2001). In addition, there are specific domestic statutes which may apply in such circumstances, including the Foreign Enlistment Act (1870). However, there has never been a prosecution for either enlistment or recruitment under this Act.
I refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave to the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) in response to questions about legislation relating to the provision by UK companies of security and military services overseas on 25 July 2006, Official Report, columns 1284-85W.
Dr. Howells: We are very concerned about the spill-over of the Darfur conflict into Chad. We continue to call on the Governments of Sudan and Chad to stop supporting each others rebels and to fulfil their obligations under the Tripoli Agreement. Christopher Prentice, UK Special Representative/Ambassador at Large for the Sudan Peace Process, made representations on Chad to the Government of Sudan during his trip to Sudan from 8 to 13 December 2006. The UN Secretary-General is due to report to the Security Council shortly on options for an international presence along Chads border with Darfur. We will consider his recommendations carefully when they are made.
Dr. Howells: There are no current plans for a bilateral meeting. However, there may be some events over the coming months where meetings are possible and cluster munitions may be one of the subjects discussed.
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which officials from her Department will be attending the conference to discuss a future cluster munition treaty in Oslo on 21(st )to 23(rd) February 2007. 
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) EU counterparts and (b) Cabinet colleagues on the Norwegian conference to discuss a future treaty on cluster munitions which will take place on 21(st) to 23(rd) February 2007 in Oslo. 
Dr. Howells: There have been no discussions at Ministerial level. However, interdepartmental discussions among Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Ministry of Defence/Department of International Development officials on the wider issue of cluster munitions have continued. We will consider carefully any invitation we receive to discuss cluster munitions.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|