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31 Jan 2007 : Column 383W—continued


Early indications from audience research currently in progress on the Directgov digital TV service are that users are primarily those who do not use, or rarely use, the internet. They are also more likely to be unemployed or homemakers.


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The Directgov mobile phone service is currently in the pilot stage and to date has received no marketing. The service launched in December 2005 was a limited information service only available to O2 i-mode customers. Visitor numbers are not available for the first two months whilst the additional tracking, necessary for measuring visitor numbers, was built.

Local Markets

Ann Coffey: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) what assessment she has made of the potential role of local markets as social spaces in delivering the Government’s social inclusion policy objectives; [111724]

(2) what steps the Department is taking to support and develop the role of local markets in helping deliver its social inclusion policy objectives; and if she will make a statement. [111725]

Mr. McFadden: The Action Plan on Social Exclusion, launched in September 2006, deliberately focuses on a series of immediate changes and pilots built around a lifetime approach to tackling exclusion, primarily aimed at helping the most disadvantaged. I am aware of the recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation research that highlighted the significant role that markets can play as a site of social interaction and civic engagement—particularly for vulnerable and isolated members of the community. However, to date, no assessment has been made of the potential role of local markets as social spaces in delivering the Government’s social inclusion policy objectives.

Public Sector Information Regulations

Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps the Government are taking to increase awareness in the public sector of the re-use of public sector information regulations. [117632]

Vera Baird: I have been asked to reply.

Ministerial responsibility for the re-use of public sector information now rests with ministers in the Department for Constitutional Affairs. The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) has participated in a series of workshops, conferences, seminars and briefings for public sector organisations across the United Kingdom. OPSI has also issued a wide range of guidance material in order to inform public sector organisations of their responsibilities under the regulations on the re-use of public sector information. The process of providing advice and support to public sector organisations continues.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Correspondence

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she expects to reply to the letter of 18 December 2006 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Mr. A. Latif. [111099]


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Margaret Beckett: I replied to my right hon. Friend on 23 January.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she will reply to the letter of 28 November 2006 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton about Mr. M. Ahmad. [116579]

Margaret Beckett: I replied to my right hon. Friend on 10 January 2007.

Departmental Offices

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what area of office space her Department and its agencies used in central London in (a) 2004 and (b) 2006; and if she will make a statement. [112176]

Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office occupied the following net square metres of office space in central London in both 2004 and 2006:

Net square metres

King Charles Street, London, SW1

28,878

Old Admiralty Building, Horse Guards, SW1

13,993

89 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, SE1

1,259


EU: 50th Anniversary

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what events her Department is planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the European Union; [117051]

(2) if she will make a statement on the 50th anniversary of the European Union. [117052]

Mr. Hoon: The 50th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the European Union’s (EU) achievements and promote wider awareness and discussion of the role of the EU in addressing future challenges. It is right that we should not only celebrate the achievements of the EU, but look to the future, as regards the principles that guide the decisions that we will take. The Government are planning to support a number of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary, about which I will make a statement shortly.

The 50th anniversary will be marked in Berlin on 25 March. The German presidency is hosting an Informal Council of Heads of State and Government on that day to mark the event and is planning to issue an accompanying political declaration.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans she has to mark the 50th anniversary of the EU and its predecessor bodies. [116370]

Mr. Hoon: I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) today (UIN 117051 and 117052).


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Immigration

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will take steps to ensure that the Minister dealing with immigration matters in her Department is a Member of this House. [117318]

Margaret Beckett: Ministerial portfolios are allocated to meet departmental needs, to balance ministerial work loads in a coherent thematic manner and to reflect Ministers’ interests and experience. I have no current plans to change the existing allocation of responsibilities.

Iraq

Michael Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to ensure that Article 140 of the national constitution of Iraq is implemented within its proposed timescale. [112273]

Dr. Howells: Implementation of the Iraqi constitution is a matter for the Government of Iraq. We continue to encourage the Iraqi authorities to ensure that the process on the future of Kirkuk is as transparent and inclusive as possible.

Michael Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions her Department has had with representatives of Turkey on the implementation by the Parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan of Article 140 of the national constitution of Iraq. [112274]

Dr. Howells: The implementation of Article 140 of Iraq’s constitution is a matter for the sovereign Government of Iraq and its people. We are aware of Turkish concerns about the future of Kirkuk and have held regular and wide-ranging discussions with Turkey about the situation in Iraq. Our exchanges on Article 140 have focused on encouraging the Iraqi authorities and the UN to ensure that the process on the future of Kirkuk is as transparent and inclusive as possible.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her latest estimate is of the number of Iraqi civilians killed by the regime of Saddam Hussein; and if she will make a statement. [111154]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the reply my hon. Friend the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mullin) gave the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) on 23 March 2005, Official Report, columns 886-87W.

Islamabad: Entry Clearance Office

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will take steps to inquire into the reasons for the recent failures by the Entry Clearance Office in Islamabad to grant visas following successful appeals. [116624]


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Margaret Beckett: We acknowledge that there have been delays in the visa section in Islamabad between the allowing of an appeal and the subsequent issue of a visa.

These were largely due to volumes of appeals and a staff shortage during the summer period last year. A new Head of the Appeals Section was appointed to the Visa Section in Islamabad at the end of last summer to address these issues.

In addition, there were previously delays with the unaccompanied diplomatic bag, through which until recently all appeals have been forwarded to Islamabad. However, since early January all appeal determinations are now emailed directly to the Visa Section in Islamabad from the Home Office. This will result in a much quicker turn around and the ability to track appeal determinations sent.

With the appointment of the Head of the Appeals Section, an increase in the entry clearance officer contingent at post and the electronic despatch of appeal determinations, the Visa Section in Islamabad hopes to significantly reduce the delay in the issue of allowed appeal visas.

Somalia

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the extent to which the Transitional Government enjoys popular support in Somalia; and if she will make a statement. [117447]

Margaret Beckett: There is no objective measure of the popularity of the Transitional Federal Government.

The Transitional Federal Government was formed in 2004 out of the Nairobi peace process which brought together leaders from across Somali society to agree the Transitional Federal Charter. This included agreement to a constitutional process eventually leading to elections. All major clans are represented in the Transitional Federal Government, which is recognised by the international community as the key mechanism to restore peace, stability and governance to Somalia.

We are pressing the Transitional Federal Government to be inclusive and reach out to all Somalis in seeking a lasting and peaceful solution for Somalia.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the extent to which the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) enjoys popular support in Somalia; and whether she classifies the ICU as a terrorist organisation. [117448]

Margaret Beckett: There is no objective measure of the popularity of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). The UIC has ceased to exist as an effective entity following the recent fighting. The UIC is not proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UK.

United States

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the US authorities about Jamil el-Banna and Bisher el-Rawi. [112491]


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Dr. Howells: The Government are not in a position to provide consular assistance or diplomatic protection to foreign nationals, including those held at Guantanamo Bay. However, we discuss a wide range of detainee issues, including Guantanamo Bay, with the US Administration on a regular basis. As part of these regular exchanges we have raised humanitarian issues relating to detainees who were formerly resident in the UK, including Mr. el-Banna and Mr. al-Rawi.

Additionally, in April 2006 my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Mr Straw) wrote to the US Secretary of State to request exceptionally Mr. al-Rawi’s release and return from Guantanamo Bay, having considered particular fact-specific circumstances in his case. Detailed discussions between our Governments have continued ever since.

Deputy Prime Minister

Post-Kyoto Agenda

14. Lynda Waltho: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress the Government have made on the post-Kyoto climate change agenda. [112474]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I am sure that my hon. Friend will be aware that the UK is on track not only to achieve but in fact to well exceed our Kyoto targets. We are one of the few countries to be in this position.

The Government are continuing to take measures to tackle climate change, both at home and internationally. The UK was the only member state to propose an acceptable cap in our national allocation plan for the next stage of the European Union emissions trading scheme.

Health Care and Public Health

15. Mr. Amess: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent steps he has taken to improve the co-ordination of Government policy on health care and public health. [112475]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I chair the Cabinet Committee on Public Health, which co-ordinates and monitors the implementation of the Government's policies to improve public health and reduce health inequalities.

Ministerial Visits

16. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 15 December 2006, Official Report, column 858, on ministerial visits, what the evidential basis was for his statement that the Government achieve better value for money from spending on hospitality and travel than the previous Administration. [112476]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I have nothing to add to my previous answer.


31 Jan 2007 : Column 389W

Departmental Travel Budget

17. Gregory Barker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his Departmental expenditure on travel has been in the last six months. [112477]

The Deputy Prime Minister: Since 1999, the Government have published on an annual basis a list of all overseas travel undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more and the total cost of all Ministers’ travel overseas. Information for 2006-07 will be published as soon as it is ready after the end of the financial year.

China

18. David Taylor: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent assessment he has made of China’s pattern of energy consumption. [112478]

The Deputy Prime Minister: The International Energy Agency predicts that the world’s primary energy demand will increase by just over 50 per cent. between now and 2030—if current policies continue. China, alone, is expected to account for a third of this increase.

This underlines the importance of working with China and other emerging economies to tackle the global challenges of energy security and climate change. The UK continues to work closely with China, bilaterally and through international forums, on the promotion of clean and energy efficient technologies, such as the EU-China Near-Zero Emissions Coal (NZEC) project, which will assist China in meeting its future energy requirements in a sustainable manner.

As Chair of the China Task Force I have placed issues of sustainability, including energy sustainability, at the heart of our relationship with China. I am currently working with UK experts and business leaders to draw up specific proposals for ensuring the creation of sustainable cities.


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