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27 Feb 2007 : Column 1181Wcontinued
Mr. Walter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Governments policy are on the export from the UK of equipment to Indonesia for use by police, civil and military authorities for internal security purposes. 
Dr. Howells: All export licence applications, to all destinations including Indonesia, are considered on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Export Licensing Criteria, taking into account intended end use, prevailing circumstances and other announced policies of the Government at the time of application. The criteria include consideration of the security situation in the country of final destination under criterion 2 (human rights and fundamental freedoms) and criterion 3 (the internal situation). If an application is considered to be inconsistent with the criteria, a licence will not be issued.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether there are any programmes in place aimed at encouraging liberal democracy in Iran. 
Dr. Howells: Encouraging respect for human rights and political freedoms is a key element of our approach towards Iran. We do not take sides in Iran's internal political debatesthese are for Iranians themselves to resolvebut seek to promote the internationally recognised principles to which many Iranians aspire including freedom of speech and transparent, genuinely democratic and accountable government.
In line with long-standing EU policy, we are committed to supporting political reform. We continue to support the development of governmental and non-governmental organisations where opportunities arise. We do not publicise the details without the consent of our Iranian partners. The EU has allocated around £4.4 million to projects in Iran under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights. Three projects, to which the EU has allocated a total of £2.9 million, are implemented by United Nations agencies. A further £1 million project was launched in January 2005. We are encouraging the EU to allocate more resources to support political reform under the EU's new financial perspective (2007-13).
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether tenders for police training and mentoring in Iraq require employees to be covered by UK employment law in relation to (a) redundancy and (b) other issues. 
Dr. Howells: There is no express stipulation in the original tender for police training and mentoring in Iraq requiring the application of UK employment law.
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether she has given assurances to the Israeli Government that members of the Israeli Defence Force will not be subject to arrest in the UK. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has given no such assurances.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether she has made representations to the Israeli Government on the building of the separation wall next to the Hope Flowers School, Bethlehem. 
Dr. Howells: We have not raised this specific case with the Israeli Government. We are concerned about the ongoing construction of the barrier and the effect it has on the Palestinian population. We fully recognise Israels right to self-defence, but the barriers route should be moved so that it is on or behind the green line, and not on occupied territory. Construction of the barrier on Palestinian land is illegal. I raised our concerns about the routing of the barrier with the Israeli ambassador on 19 February.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment has she made of the effectiveness of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon in stopping the rearmament of Hezbollah. 
Dr. Howells: In his letter of 1 December 2006 to the President of the Security Council, the then UN Secretary-General reported that while the UN continued to receive reports of illegal arms smuggling across the Lebanese-Syrian border, they had not been able to verify these reports. We remain concerned by these reports.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been successful in large parts of its mandate, especially in helping the Lebanese armed forces extend in to the south of Lebanon and in tightening sea and air borders. UNIFIL's mandate means it is limited in what it can do on the land border between Syria and Lebanon without an explicit Lebanese request. So far there has been no such request from the Lebanese and the responsibility for controlling the Syria/Lebanon land border remains with the relevant national authorities.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made on ensuring free and fair (a) Presidential and (b) Parliamentary elections in the Maldives; what
international observers she expects to be present at the next elections; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. McCartney: Presidential elections are expected in 2008 and Parliamentary elections in 2010. These will be important elections as they should be the first held under a multiparty system. At this early stage, we do not yet have any information on whether or how international partners will observe them.
It is essential that the Maldives accelerate the pace of reform to match the timetable set out by the President last year in his Road Map for Reform. All political groups in the Maldives need to engage in dialogue to move towards a consensus on constitutional change. On that basis, we welcome reports that the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party, which forms the current Maldivian government, and the main opposition, Maldivian Democratic Party, are now in consultations and preparing for discussions on constitutional and legislative change. The Government have in discussions with Maldivian Ministers and through our High Commission in Colombo (also accredited to Maldives) encouraged and hosted dialogue between the two political parties.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the freedom of the press in the Maldives. 
Dr. Howells: Freedom of expression remains fragile in the Maldives despite some progress made since the announcement of multi-party reforms in 2004. Overly proscriptive legal measures including defamation and sedition laws are still used to intimidate journalists who criticise the Government. The Government have made their concerns clear to the Maldivian authorities. We have also offered practical assistance in the form of training courses for journalists to raise journalistic standards of both reporting and conduct.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had on the level of BBC World Service broadcasting to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. 
Mr. McCartney: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office holds regular meetings with the BBC World Service to discuss its strategic direction and priority markets. North Korea has been discussed in this context. The BBC World Service does not broadcast in Korean. Although its Short Wave English language broadcasts do reach North Korea, it is illegal for North Korean citizens to listen to any radio or TV broadcasts except from the state broadcaster. Penalties for citizens who do so are high. This means that options for reaching audiences are extremely limited and resources devoted to such broadcasting would have low impact.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of north Korea's willingness to denuclearise. 
Mr. McCartney: While it is too soon to assess the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) long-term intentions, the agreement reached at the latest round of Six Party Talks is a step in the right direction towards the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. It would clearly be in the DPRK's interest to implement the agreement, as well as comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1718 and resume its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The UK will continue to urge the DPRK to fulfil the commitments it has entered into.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the (a) objectives and (b) outcomes were of her recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited the region on 5-7 February to discuss developments in the Middle Eat Peace Process and to assess how to move the process forward. She discussed this with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Foreign Minister Livni, Defence Minister Peretz and Palestinian President Abbas. She raised a range of key issues with both parties including settlements, restrictions on movement and access in and between the West Bank and Gaza, and prospects for negotiations.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she made to the Government of Israel on her recent visit to the region on (a) the withholding of revenues from Palestinian Authority, (b) the building of settlements in the West Bank, (c) the construction and positioning of the Israeli separation barrier, (d) movement restrictions on Palestinians and (f) the ongoing detention of Palestinian parliamentarians and humanitarian workers; and what response she received from the Israeli Government. 
Dr. Howells: During my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's visit to the region she raised a number of key issues. She raised settlement activities and movement and access with Israeli Defence Minister Peretz and welcomed the release of US$100 million of tax revenues with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. We continue to call for the remaining customs revenue to be released.
We also remain concerned at the routing of the barrier. We fully recognise Israel's right to self-defence, but the barrier's route should be moved so that it is on or behind the green line and not on occupied territory. Construction of the barrier on Palestinian land is illegal. Our ambassador in Tel Aviv raised this with Israeli Foreign Minister Livni's office and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs legal advisers on 31 January.
We support the call at the 22 January General Affairs and External Relations Council for the immediate release of Palestinian Ministers and legislators detained in Israel.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications of the Mecca Agreement
signed in Saudi Arabia on 8 February 2007 between Fatah and Hamas for UK foreign policy objectives; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: We welcome Saudi Arabia's efforts to broker an agreement in Mecca between Hamas and Fatah. We await the final details of the new government. My tight hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have discussed recent developments with their Israeli, Palestinian, US and European counterparts. Following the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 12 February the EU reiterated that it stands ready to work with a legitimate Palestinian Government that adopts a platform reflecting the Quartet (EU, US, UN and Russia) principles.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what effect she expects the Mecca Agreement to have on (a) UK and (b) EU funding of the Palestinian Authority. 
Dr. Howells: We welcome Saudi Arabia's efforts to broker talks between Hamas and Fatah in Mecca. We await the final details of the new national unity government. As we have indicated before, we are ready to work with any Palestinian Government based on the Quartet (EU, US, UN and Russia) principles: renunciation of violence; recognition of Israel; and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. Only then can financial and technical assistance to the Palestinian Authority resume. The UK and other donors continue to support the Palestinian people through the temporary international mechanism and other means. We will also continue to support Palestinian President Abbas' efforts to improve the safety, security and prosperity of the Palestinian people.
Mr. Cash: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will extend the Ponsonby Rule to apply to all international treaties; and if she will bring forward proposals for the referral by the House of all such treaties to the relevant select committee for scrutiny and report where appropriate. 
Mr. Hoon [holding answer 23 February 2007]: Most treaties that are signed by the Government and which are subject to ratification, accession, acceptance or approval, or the mutual notification of completion of procedures, are subject to the Ponsonby Rule. Such treaties must therefore be laid before both Houses as a published Command Paper for a minimum of 21 sitting days, and be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum, prior to ratification, accession, acceptance or approval. Only bilateral double taxation agreements, which are scheduled to the relevant Order in Council which implements the agreement, and treaties that enter into force on signature are exempt from this requirement. There are no plans to extend the Ponsonby Rule to such agreements.
All treaties that are subject to the Ponsonby Rule are copied to the relevant departmental select committee when they are laid, in accordance with an undertaking given by the Government in response to a report by the
Procedure Committee in October 2000. Additionally, all treaties that raise significant human rights issues are copied to the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the detention of Dr. Kamal al-Labwani by the Syrian government; what representations she has made to the Syrian government on this detention; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: Dr. Kamal al-Labwani is being detained at the Adra criminal prison. He was arrested in October 2005 on his return from the United States. He is being tried under article 264 of the Syrian penal code, accused of inciting a foreign power to commit an aggressive act against Syria. He is also accused of spreading lies and false information against the state.
Along with EU and other diplomatic missions, officials from our embassy in Damascus attend the court cases of Dr. al-Labwani. The EU has continued to make its concerns known to the Syrian authorities about human rights in Syria.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the conditions of detention of Dr. Kamal al-Labwani by the Syrian government. 
Dr. Howells: Dr. Kamal al-Labwani has been detained at the Adra criminal prison for more than a year. He was arrested in October 2005 on his return from a visit to the United States. He is being tried under article 264 of the Syrian penal code, accused of inciting a foreign power to commit an aggressive act against Syria. He is also accused of spreading lies and false information against the state.
We have been unable to verify what conditions Dr. al-Labwani is being held under, but conditions in the prison are likely to be difficult. Officials from our embassy in Damascus continue to monitor Dr. al-Labwani's situation and attend court cases involving Dr. al-Labwani with their EU colleagues and other diplomatic missions.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on which occasions she has discussed the detention of Dr. Kamal al-Labwani by the Syrian government with her counterparts in (a) the United States and (b) the European Union since his detention; what the outcome was of those discussions; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: I have not discussed the detention of Dr. Kamal al-Labwani with my counterparts in the US or EU, but my officials have done so with EU and US colleagues. Officials from our embassy in Damascus attend the court cases of Dr. al-Labwani with the EU and other diplomatic missions. We regularly raise our concerns about human rights in general with the Syrian government.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British citizens (a) have been convicted and (b) are being prosecuted for sex-related offences in (i) Thailand and (ii) Malaysia; and how many of these were from (A) Essex and (B) the London borough of Havering. 
Dr. Howells: Consular staff in Thailand have confirmed that they are aware of two British nationals in prison due to sex-related offences and another British national who has been charged with a sex-related offence. Consular staff in Malaysia are not aware of any British nationals either in prison or being prosecuted for sex-related offences in Malaysia.
Under the Data Protection Act we are unable to divulge personal details, such as place of residence in the UK, of British nationals to whom we are providing consular assistance.
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