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25 Jan 2007 : Column 1952W—continued

Iraq

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her Department’s latest assessment is of civilian casualties for military and terrorist operations in Iraq in each month since February 2002; and if she will make a statement. [111135]

Dr. Howells: All civilian deaths in Iraq resulting from military and terrorist attacks are a tragedy. The Government of Iraq are best placed to monitor the numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties. But we continue to believe that there are no comprehensive or reliable
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figures for deaths since March 2003. Estimates vary according to the method of collection.

According to figures released by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior on 2 January 2007, 12,320 civilians were killed during 2006. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq estimates that 34,452 civilians were killed in 2006, on the basis of information obtained through the Iraqi Health Ministry, hospitals and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the latest figures received by her Department from the Iraqi Ministry of Health are on the number of Iraqi civilians who have been (a) violently killed and (b) injured through violence since May 2003; and if she will make a statement. [111683]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him today (UIN 111135).

Lord Levy

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when Lord Levy last visited Kazakhstan as the Government’s envoy; what the purpose of the trip was; what meetings he held; and what the cost was to the public purse. [110850]

Mr. Hoon: My noble Friend Lord Levy has only visited Kazakhstan once, on 1-2 September 2003 as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy. During the visit, he met President Nazarbayev, the President’s Foreign and Security Policy Adviser Massimov, Foreign Minister Tokaev and Chairman of the National Bank Grigory Marchenko. During these meetings the then ambassador, James Sharp, and a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official were present, as well as the Kazakh Ambassador to London Yerlan Idrissov and other Kazakh officials.

The purpose of the trip was to discuss the political and economic development of Kazakhstan, and regional issues, and to report back on these subjects.

Details of all my noble Friend Lord Levy’s overseas visits and meetings as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy are available on the FCO website at: www.fco.gov.uk.

Lord Levy receives no remuneration and travels at his own expense.

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which countries Lord Levy has visited in the last 12 months in his capacity as the Government’s envoy; when each visit took place; and what the (a) purpose and (b) cost was of each visit. [110851]

Dr. Howells: The details of all my noble Friend Lord Levy’s overseas visits and meetings over the last 12 months, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy, are on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk). Lord Levy undertakes meetings to exchange views on a range of issues, but in
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the main on the Middle East Peace Process. The visit to Brazil during this 12-month period was also on a range of issues, but in the main on bilateral and regional issues. Lord Levy receives no remuneration and travels at his own expense.

Nepal

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether she expects the Nepalese Maoists to join the interim government in Nepal; what representations she has received on this issue; and what discussions she has had with (a) the UK ambassador to the United Nations and (b) the British embassy in Kathmandu on the interim Government. [110749]

Dr. Howells: The UK has played a significant role in helping to drive the peace process in Nepal and welcomes the formation of the interim Parliament following the recent adoption of the interim constitution. The introduction of 83 Maoist members to the interim Parliament is a positive step towards greater inclusion in the political process in Nepal. We expect Maoists to take their place in an interim Government to be formed following sufficient arms separation. The UK has taken the lead in New York on the drafting of a presidential statement and a Security Council resolution on UN support to Nepal's peace process. The full text of the presidential statement can be found on the UN website at:

The Prime Minister of Nepal has personally thanked our ambassador in Kathmandu for the UK's efforts to secure these. Officials from our embassy in Kathmandu will continue to work closely with the Nepalese Government, particularly in key areas of human rights, rule of law and the forthcoming elections to a Constituent Assembly.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made on the unrest in south eastern Nepal. [111402]

Dr. Howells: The UK has not made any representations on the unrest in south-eastern Nepal. However, we are deeply concerned about the recent riots and civil unrest in the Terai and urge the Government of Nepal and Maoists to take positive steps to demonstrate their commitment to inclusion as outlined in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The lack of inclusion felt by many marginalised groups was one of the key causes of the conflict in Nepal. The UK played a leading role in drafting UN Security Council Resolution 1740 on Nepal which was adopted unanimously on 23 January. We worked hard to ensure in particular that this Resolution recognises the need to pay special attention to the needs of women, children and traditionally marginalised groups in the peace process. Failure now to acknowledge the demands of Madeshis and other groups based in the Terai risks further flare-ups, which have the potential to undermine the prospects for elections to the Constituent Assembly.


25 Jan 2007 : Column 1955W

Recruitment Agencies

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much her Department paid to recruitment agencies for the hire of temporary staff in each year since 1997; and if she will make a statement. [110487]

Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not have a central record of the numbers of staff under contract from agencies. The annual financial accounts have provided the cost of agency staff since 1997. The reason for the increase was a recruitment freeze during 2004. The FCO started to recruit permanent staff again during 2005-06, filling gaps caused by security clearance delays with temporary agency staff. There will be a reduction in agency staff during 2007. Agencies have been selected subject to the availability of suitably security-cleared staff, the performance of staff and negotiated rates.

£

1997-98

445,944

1998-99

804,788

1999-00

971,657

2000-01

1,255,817

2001-02

1,933,841

2002-03

1,850,779

2003-04

2,357,123

2004-05

1,114,873

2005-06

2,299,111


Safe Havens: Terrorists

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of which countries offer a safe haven and training grounds for terrorists. [110623]

Dr. Howells: The Government condemn any state which, as a matter of policy, supports terrorism and is also concerned at any inadvertent use of a state’s territory as a base for terrorism. We have, for example, expressed our concerns about the close links between Iran and violent extremists operating in Iraq and Lebanon. We have also made clear to Syria that it has a strategic choice: either to decide to act responsibly and play a constructive role in the region or to continue to support terrorism and those trying to disrupt democracy.

Somalia

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of recent Ethiopian action in Somalia; what discussions she has had with the Ethiopian Government on this issue; and if she will make a statement. [117444]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 23 January 2007]: The Ethiopian action in Somalia has resulted in the Transitional Federal Government gaining control of Mogadishu and most of the rest of south and central Somalia.


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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my noble Friend Lord Triesman of Tottenham, has spoken to Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia about the recent action in Somalia and officials remain in frequent contact with their Ethiopian counterparts.

We want Ethiopian troops to withdraw as soon as they can, as Ethiopia has said it wants. We support the early deployment of a stabilisation force, as envisaged by UN Security Council resolution 1725, in order to help avoid a security vacuum and a return to civil war.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she has taken in support of establishing an international coalition to replace Ethiopian troops in Somalia. [117445]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 23 January 2007]: We are working closely with our international partners on this issue.

John Sawers, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Director-General Political, represented the UK at the International Contact Group (ICG) on Somalia in Nairobi on 5 January. In its communiqué, the ICG expressed an urgent need for funding to facilitate the deployment of a stabilisation force in Somalia, as envisaged in UN Security Council resolution 1725. It welcomed Uganda’s offer to be part of this force.

I attended the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on 22 January. We concluded that the EU stands ready to help with a stabilisation mission, as envisaged in UN Security Council resolution 1725.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with her Kenyan counterparts on (a) the situation in Somalia, (b) Ethiopian actions in Somalia and (c) US air strikes in Somalia; what the outcome was of these discussions; and if she will make a statement. [117446]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 23 January 2007]: Our high commissioner in Nairobi has spoken to Foreign Minister Tuju of Kenya about the recent action in Somalia and officials remain in frequent contact with their Kenyan counterparts on this subject.

We made our position clear to the Kenyans:

I refer the hon. Member to the response my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) on 10 January 2007, Official Report, columns 281-82.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her policy is on the independence of Somaliland from the rest of Somalia. [117449]


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Margaret Beckett: We do not recognise Somaliland as an independent state, nor does the rest of the international community. The UK has signed up to a common EU position and to many UN Security Council Presidential Statements, which refer to the territorial integrity and unity of Somalia. Nevertheless, the UK is aware of the position of the Somaliland authorities and of opinion within Somaliland. We hope that Somaliland will engage in early dialogue with the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia and that a mutually acceptable solution for their future relationship can be agreed. We readily acknowledge Somaliland’s achievements over the last decade and continue to support actively progress and stability in Somaliland.

Southern Lebanon

Jane Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of unexploded (a) cluster bombs and (b) other ordnance remaining in the region of southern Lebanon following the conflict of August 2006. [111447]

Dr. Howells: As at January 2007, a total of 838 individual cluster bomb strike locations have been identified by the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre south Lebanon (UNMACC) from the conflict last year. UNMACC have estimated that there may be up to 1 million unexploded cluster munitions in south Lebanon. The then UN Secretary-General reported that four de-miners were injured in November 2006 when they stepped on Israeli-manufactured anti-personnel mines in south Lebanon. The Secretary-General noted that the incident took place in an area considered safe prior to the summer 2006 conflict, which raised the possibility that the mines were laid during the conflict. We fully support the Secretary-General’s call for any party that laid such mines to provide information as to where they have been laid to prevent similar tragic incidents occurring in the future.

Jane Kennedy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) children under the age of 16 and (b) others have been killed in southern Lebanon by unexploded ordnance since the conflict of August 2006. [111448]

Dr. Howells: According to the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre south Lebanon, the statistics for those killed and injured by unexploded ordnance in south Lebanon from 14 August 2006 to 7 January 2007 are as follows:


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Injured Killed Total

Children (0-12)

Male

20

2

22

Female

4

0

4

Youth (13-18)

Male

37

4

41

Female

2

0

2

Adult (19+)

Male

85

13

98

Female

8

0

8

Total

156

19

175


Of these, eight deaths and 19 injuries were among those conducting the de-mining.


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