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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 22 January 2007

Leader of the House

Carbon Emissions

Anne Main: To ask the Leader of the House when the Privy Council Office began to measure its carbon emissions; what the volume of those emissions was in the last period for which figures are available; when the Office started to offset those emissions; what the cost is expected to be of offsetting the Office's emissions; and if he will make a statement. [116395]

Mr. Straw: The majority of the staff of the Privy Council Office (PCO), including my office, are located in premises which are managed by other Government Departments or in the Palace of Westminster. The one building wholly managed by the PCO currently houses fewer than 30 staff and has not had a specific assessment of its carbon footprint. The PCO is, however, run in accordance with a green procurement policy which seeks to minimise its carbon footprint in a variety of ways. These include the use of energy efficient light bulbs and electrical equipment, minimising energy use and evaluating, as appropriate, the environmental performance of tenderers when relevant to any contracts.


Scott Inquiry

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will make a statement on the progress of the inquiry by Peter Scott QC into criticisms made of the Northern Ireland Office by Mr. Justice Girvan; and what the expected timescale is of the inquiry. [116945]

The Solicitor-General: There is a large amount of documentation for Mr. Scott to consider in the course of his review. To date he has received 13 lever arch files of material and is expecting a further 18 within days. Additional material has been requested by him.

Full statements have been requested from a number of individuals in response to detailed questionnaires prepared by the review team. The witnesses were given four weeks to provide replies and these are now expected in early February. By that time Mr. Scott expects to be in possession of all the documentation and witness statements from others; if oral evidence is required—either to provide further information or for clarification—he expects such hearings to be held no later than fours weeks after the date of the last witness statement requested. Subject to any further steps that he may decide to be necessary at that stage, he will report to the Attorney-General as soon as possible thereafter.

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House of Commons Commission

Photocopying Facilities

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if the Commission will take steps to improve the photocopying facilities in the Library. [117409]

Nick Harvey: The Library’s photocopiers are leased and maintained under contract. Meetings with the supplier are held on a quarterly basis where the performance of each machine is reviewed.

The House of Commons Central Procurement Office will shortly begin a tender exercise for photocopiers. The intention is to replace a number of existing contracts in different parts of the House with a single contract. An initial advertisement will be placed in the EU Official Journal in the spring, with the aim of signing a new contract in the second half of 2007.

Under the new contract all photocopiers will progressively be replaced on a rolling basis. Replacement of the machines in the Members’ Library will be a high priority once the new contract is in place.


Carbon Emissions

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when his Office began to measure its carbon emissions; what the volume of those emissions was in the last period for which figures are available; when his Office started to offset those emissions; what the cost is expected to be of offsetting his Office’s emissions; and if he will make a statement. [116379]

Mr. Hain: The Carbon Trust completed an audit of the Wales Office energy usage in May 2006, showing that the volume of emissions for the year was 302 tonnes.

The Wales Office are planning to offset all carbon emissions recorded by the Carbon Trust together with our carbon footprint calculated from both air and road travel at the end of the financial year. This will be achieved using one of the companies accredited with meeting the DEFRA standards for carbon offset schemes referred to in the announcement made by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 18 January 2007. We expect to spend around £4,000 offsetting our emissions.

Departmental Fixed Assets

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales which fixed assets his Department sold for more than £10,000 in (a) 2004-05 and (b) 2005-06; and what the (i) sale value, (ii) purchaser and (iii) date of sale was of each asset. [110801]

Mr. Hain: None.

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International Development


Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development when he will reply to the letter of 4 December 2006, from the hon. Member for South-West Surrey about the Global Fund. [110522]

Hilary Benn: A reply to this was issued on 18 January.

Displaced Karen People

Mr. Walter: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what measures his Department has put in place to provide support for the displaced Karen people on the border between Burma and Thailand. [116278]

Mr. Thomas: DFID is very concerned about the humanitarian situation for internally displaced people in Burma. We have been working hard to find innovative ways to increase the amount of aid reaching them.

There are three types of internally displaced people in the east of Burma, near the Thai-Burma border. These are (with the latest available numbers from October 2006):

In response to the 2006 military offensive against the Karen, which has swelled the number of civilians hiding in conflict areas, DFID has provided emergency assistance by working through local community groups inside Burma. The local community groups also provide support to internally displaced people in relocation sites and other areas controlled by the Burmese authorities.

This support complements that of relief teams working cross-border from Thailand, as each approach accesses different groups of internally displaced people who may not be reached by any other means. And we recognise the importance of maintaining coordination with all those funding and delivering assistance both in-country and cross-border to ensure that the international community manages to reach as many internally displaced people as possible.

DFID also provided support to internally displaced people in temporary settlements in ceasefire areas in eastern Burma (mostly in Karen State) through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2006. Approximately 75 per cent. of our £500,000 contribution was used for protection work with displaced people in this area, and the delivery of medical supplies and improvement of their water supply and sanitation. Following the forced closure of ICRC’s field operations later in the year, DFID, with the British embassy in Rangoon, has been continuing to press the Burmese authorities to reconsider their decision. We remain in close contact with ICRC on the developing situation.

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In addition, our health, education and rural livelihood projects provide assistance in eastern Burma, and support internally displaced people in temporary settlements and designated relocation sites, as well as other vulnerable people. For example, in Karen State, our Fund for HIV/AIDS in Myanmar supports World Vision projects in two townships, Save the Children UK projects in four townships and Care projects in five townships, as well as supporting other national non-governmental organisations. DFID-funded rural livelihoods and pre-primary education projects are about to start in Karen State.

Furthermore, DFID funds non-governmental organisations working among displaced Burmese (mainly Karen) people in the refugee camps on the Thai side of the Thai-Burma border—as a grant to the Thai Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) of £1.8 million over three years. The UK contributes approximately the same amount again as its share of the EC’s support to TBBC. The British embassy in Bangkok advocates on behalf of Burmese refugees living in Thailand through the United Nations high commission for refugees to improve the situation in the refugee camps in Thailand and to bring about a relaxation of the regulations prohibiting freedom of movement and employment outside the camps.

Legal Advice

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much was spent by the Department on external legal advice in each of the past five years. [109097]

Hilary Benn: DFID obtains its legal advice from three main sources—the Treasury Solicitor's Department, FCO Legal Advisers and Crown Agents Legal Advisers, which we and the Cabinet Office regard as in-house legal advisers—and very rarely uses external legal advisers in the UK. The costs set out in the table relate to legal advice provided on a UK property issue and represent our best data without incurring disproportionate cost.

Cost of legal advice (£)





Our overseas offices may obtain advice from local legal advisers on a range of foreign domestic issues, from foreign accommodation leases to local employment law but information on these costs could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Overseas Development Assistance

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of the UK's Overseas Development Assistance is projected to come from departments other than his Department in (a) 2006 and (b) 2007; what the figures were in each year between 2001 and 2005; and if he will make a statement. [116448]

Hilary Benn: Information on the projected proportion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Government organisations other than DFID is
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not held centrally. The following table contains the proportion of ODA from Government organisations other than DFID as a proportion of total ODA from 2001 to 2005.

Proportion of ODA from Government organisations other than DFID, 2001 to 2005
Non-DFID ODA as a percentage of total ODA











Public Sector Pensions

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the cash equivalent transfer value is of the public sector pensions of the 10 highest paid members of staff in his Department and its executive agencies; and if he will make a statement. [113814]

Mr. Thomas: The total cash equivalent transfer value for pensions of the 10 highest paid members of staff in DFID is £6,459,922, as at 31 March 2006. One of these individuals is not a member of the civil service pension scheme arrangements and therefore there is no cash equivalent transfer value. Seven of the individuals are members of the senior management team who are named in the 2005-06 Remuneration Report and the cash equivalent transfer value of their public sector pensions is reported annually.


Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which countries are engaged in negotiating a voluntary partnership agreement on timber trade with the EU; and which countries have expressed an interest in forming a voluntary agreement with the EU. [116935]

Mr. Thomas [holding answer 19 January 2007]: Preliminary discussions about Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade partnership agreements have been held with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Indonesia, Liberia, Malaysia and the Republic of Congo. Ghana, Indonesia and Malaysia have now entered into formal negotiations with the European Union. Other countries are expected to announce their wish to start negotiations in the coming months.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Arms Sales

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the (a) number and (b) value of arms sales by China to African countries in the last 12 months. [117479]

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Mr. McCartney: The People's Republic of China does not publish details of its arms exports, and last submitted data to the UN Register on Conventional Arms covering its exports in 1996. It is not therefore possible to provide figures on either the total number or value of Chinese arms exports to Africa. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, Ministers and officials hold regular discussions with the Chinese Government on a wide range of international issues, including Africa and the arms trade. Within this dialogue we encourage China to increase the transparency of its arms exports and we work with China as it seeks to improve its export controls. The UK is leading calls for an international arms trade treaty, with the aim of ending irresponsible arms trading that fuels internal conflict, external aggression or regional instability, and human rights abuses. We are encouraging China to engage positively in the UN process that will take this initiative forward.


Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the Association of South East Asian States (ASEAN) members on a charter for the association; what assessment she has made of the potential effects of the proposal to change ASEAN's policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of member countries; and what assessment she has made of the potential impact of this on (a) regional relations in South East Asia and (b) the Burmese regime. [114212]

Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made no representation to the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the ASEAN charter. However, I have spoken to the ASEAN London Committee (ASEAN ambassadors and high commissioners in London) and the ASEAN Secretary-General on the issue. He updated me on the progress of the charter and indicated that it would contain a reference to human rights. The nature of this reference would be considered during the drafting process.

ASEAN Leaders appointed an Eminent Persons Group, mandated to provide practical recommendations on the direction and nature of the ASEAN Charter. The Group presented its recommendations at the ASEAN Summit on 13 January. ASEAN Leaders are now likely to appoint a drafting task force to begin work on drafting the charter. It is therefore too early to assess the outcome of the process and the impact it might have on regional relations in South East Asia and on the Burmese regime.


Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the current political situation in Bangladesh; and if she will make a statement. [116845]

Dr. Howells: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) on 16 January 2006, Official Report, column 994W.

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Further to that answer I reiterate that we fully recognise the importance to Bangladesh of free, fair, credible, peaceful and universally accepted elections. The UK, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our high commission in Dhaka, has adopted and is implementing without preference or favour, a policy of active engagement with the political parties and the institutions responsible for the electoral process in Bangladesh. We have, and continue to urge, a constructive dialogue to find an early and democratic political solution acceptable to the people of Bangladesh that ensures the security of voters, political leaders and activists and the media. We look to the caretaker Government, law enforcement agencies and the parties themselves to take responsibility and to demonstrate leadership and restraint to ensure this.

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