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14 Mar 2007 : Column 383W—continued

Embassies: Closures

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans she has to close British embassies in 2007. [126997]

Mr. Hoon: No British embassies or British high commissions have been closed to date in 2007 and there are currently no plans to close any such missions this year.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continuously reviews the deployment of its resources and aligns them flexibly in line with UK interests to the benefit of the British taxpayer.

European Tender Information System

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost has been of the European Tenders Information System. [126919]

Mr. Hoon: The total project budget of the European Tender Information System (ETIS) was approximately £1.47 million between January 2005 and October 2006. Half of this was funded by the European Union’s eContent programme. The remainder was funded by the fourteen ETIS partners in the nine countries (including the UK) involved, who provide services in the field of public procurement in their regions.

European Union: Constitutions

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the UK has been invited to attend the meeting organised by the German EU presidency on 27 February for those states yet to ratify the EU Constitution. [127339]

Mr. Hoon: To the Government’s knowledge, the Germany presidency did not organise a meeting on 27 February for those states yet to ratify the EU constitution.

Iran: Nuclear Power

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the authorities in Saudi Arabia on Iran’s nuclear programme. [126995]


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Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised Iran with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud in the margins of the Paris III Conference on Lebanon on 25 January. Officials discuss Iran’s nuclear programme with the Saudi Arabian authorities on a regular basis, most recently on 12 March.

Iran: Sanctions

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what she expects the effects to be of the latest set of European Union sanctions on Iran; and if she will make a statement. [127336]

Dr. Howells: UN Security Council Resolution 1737 introduced sanctions targeted at the most sensitive elements of Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. European Union Foreign Ministers decided in January to implement the measures broadly. We hope that these sanctions, and any further measures introduced as a result of discussions currently under way in the Security Council, will persuade Iran to suspend its enrichment-related, reprocessing and heavy water related activities which will permit a resumption of negotiations. There are signs that UN sanctions are beginning to influence the internal debate within Iran.

Iraq: Opinion Polls

Mr. Galloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to her statement in the debate on 24 January 2007, Official Report, column 1428, on Iraq and the wider Middle East, if she will place in the Library the results of the opinion poll of the people of Basra; who (a) commissioned and (b) paid for the poll; which organisation conducted it; and what its (i) methodology and (ii) sample size was. [126000]

Dr. Howells: The information requested cannot be provided, in order to protect the personal security of individuals involved. The methodology and sample size used for the opinion poll were appropriate in order to gain statistically valid results.

Iraq: Security Guards

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will estimate (a) how many private military and security companies are operating in Iraq and (b) how many individuals are employed by such companies in that country. [127018]

Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not keep a record of private military and security companies operating in Iraq. The Private Security Company Association of Iraq (PSCAI) (www.pscai.org) has fifty companies listed as members and estimates that the total private security company workforce is approximately 30,000 employees, broken down as follows:


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Number

Citizens of United States/United Kingdom/Australia;

5,000

Third country nationals such as Fijians, South Americans, Georgians, Ghurkas etc

10,000

Iraqis

15,000


Figures are difficult to accurately assess as the labour force is very mobile and membership of PSCAI is not compulsory.

Lebanon: Overseas Aid

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much the Government pledged at the Lebanon donors conference. [127234]

Dr. Howells: The UK provided a significant package of economic assistance to Lebanon at the Paris III conference, where my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced £58 million for Lebanon for the coming years and an additional £24 million for Palestinian refugees, in addition to the £23 million the UK gave last year in humanitarian assistance for Lebanon.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether her Department will act as the sponsor department for the money donated to Lebanon. [127235]

Dr. Howells: The UK provided a significant package of economic assistance to Lebanon at the Paris III Conference. The majority of the funding will come from the Department for International Development (DFID), although a small proportion will come from the tri-departmental (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and DFID) Global Conflict Prevention Pool.

Paraguay: Embassies

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reasons the British Embassy in Paraguay was closed. [126996]

Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) regrets having to close posts in any part of its overseas network. Such decisions are always difficult. The decision to close our embassy in Asuncion was part of a global reorganisation of our overseas network in response to changing demands and challenges, aimed at ensuring that the UK has a cost-effective and flexible network of overseas representation.

The decision was in no way a reflection on the quality of our bilateral relations. As we made clear to the Paraguayan Government, we value the excellent relations we have with Paraguay.

Since the closure of our embassy in Asuncion, coverage has been maintained from our embassy in Buenos Aires where our ambassador to Paraguay resides. In addition, the FCO has appointed an honorary consul based in Asuncion to provide emergency consular assistance. Contact details for both can be found on our website at:


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Project Al Yamamah

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations were received by her Department about the Al Yamamah military contract prior to the announcement that the Serious Fraud Office would end its investigation into the contract. [126928]

Dr. Howells: I regret to inform the hon. Member that to answer this question would result in disproportionate cost.

The original Al-Yamamah military contract was signed between the Government and the Government of Saudi Arabia in 1985. Defence sales are handled by the Ministry of Defence.

UN Security Council

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the outcome of the Security Council discussions held in London on 26 February 2007 on Iran. [126011]

Dr. Howells: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737, adopted unanimously on 23 December 2006, requires Iran to take certain steps to help build confidence that it is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons. The Security Council asked the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr Mohammed El-Baradei, to report in 60 days and said that it would adopt further sanctions if Iran did not meet its obligations.

Dr El-Baradei's report, published on 22 February, showed that Iran has failed to take the steps required, including full suspension of all uranium enrichment related, reprocessing and heavy water related activities. Following its publication, senior officials from the ‘E3+3' (France, Germany, UK plus China, Russia, US) met in London on 26 February to discuss next steps. They confirmed the E3+3's support for additional sanctions, designed to secure Iran's full compliance with its obligations and return to negotiations. They have since spoken by telephone several times and E3+3 representatives in New York have started to consider possible elements for a new Security Council Resolution, which we expect to discuss soon with other members of the Council.

We remain committed to finding a negotiated solution. The E3+3's proposals for a long-term agreement, presented to Iran by EU High Representative Javier Solana in June 2006, remain on the table. We hope that Iran will take the positive course open to it. The Security Council has said that it will suspend the implementation of sanctions if Iran meets its obligations.

Communities and Local Government

Age: Discrimination

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent research she has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on discrimination in the provision of basic goods and services to older people because of their age. [126247]


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Mr. Woolas: The Discrimination Law Review has evaluated a wide range of evidence and research on this issue. Examples include the report of the ‘Research on Age Discrimination Project’ carried out by the Open University and Help the Aged and a survey carried out by the University of Kent and Age Concern entitled ‘Ageism—A benchmark of public attitudes in Britain’.

Best Practice

Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to issue further guidance to local authorities on best practice in drawing up statements of community involvement. [126401]

Mr. Woolas: The Local Government White Paper (LGWP), published in October 2006, highlighted the multiplicity of community consultation and engagement strategies in local authorities, including the Statement of Community Involvement for Local Development Frameworks. It concluded that in order to secure co-ordinated consultation and engagement across local authority activity we want the local authority and its partners to have the flexibility to draw up more comprehensive engagement strategies. We plan to issue guidance on these comprehensive strategies in autumn 2007 for consultation, to be published in spring 2008.

Gender: Equality

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will direct the Women and Equality Unit to form an advisory group on men’s health issues to support the implementation of the Equality Act 2006’s gender equality duties. [126724]

Meg Munn: The Women and Equality Unit (WEU) and the Department of Health have been working together with the Men’s Health Forum to address health issues specific to men. They have provided funding for a number of events and will be supporting the Men’s Health Forum’s Conference later this month.

In addition, the Department of Health recently established a Gender Equality Advisory Group. The aim of the Group is to advise the Department on current health inequality trends and to provide a consultative forum on Department of Health policy initiatives that impact on the NHS. Key stakeholders represented on the Advisory Group include the Men’s Health Forum, the Equal Opportunities Commission and a number of other gender related advisory bodies across government as well as the Women and Equality Unit and the voluntary and community sector. The Group has already met and will be taking forward a number of gender specific actions including ones that affect men more generally such as prostate cancer.

Homelessness: Cumbria

David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her most recent estimate is of the number of people sleeping rough in (a) Penrith and (b) Cumbria. [126861]


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Mr. Woolas: The Government have published an estimate of the number of rough sleepers in England each year since 1998. At that time the Prime Minister introduced a target to achieve a two thirds reduction in the numbers of those sleeping rough by 2002 from 1,850. The target was achieved in 2001 and is being sustained.

The National Estimate publishes figures on a local authority basis. Penrith is covered by Eden district council who recorded 0 rough sleepers in 2006. Cumbria recorded four rough sleepers.

Housing: Disabled

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the (a) one-off and (b) recurring cost of implementing the Disability Discrimination (Providers of Services) (Adjustments of Premises) Regulations 2001 to (i) businesses and (ii) the regulators. [125603]

Mrs. McGuire: I have been asked to reply.

Any costs to businesses arising from these Regulations were taken into account in the assessment of the overall costs of implementing the new duty for service providers that came into force on 1 October 2004. This duty requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments to physical features of their premises in order to improve access for disabled people to their services.

The only costs that are likely to occur are where a service provider in leased premises is required to seek consent for an alteration to the premises. These are expected to be minimal. Other provisions in the Regulations set out circumstances in which a service provider is not required to make, or therefore incur the cost of, reasonable adjustments to a physical feature.

There will be no costs to regulators, since there is no regulator responsible for enforcing the reasonable adjustment duties of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Enforcement is by the individual disabled person who considers that he or she has been discriminated against by a service provider who fails to make a reasonable adjustment.

Housing: Flood Control

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the proportion of new (a) housing and (b) commercial developments which are able to withstand the effects of flooding. [126620]

Yvette Cooper: No data are available on the proportion of new residential or commercial developments able to withstand the effects of flooding.

The consideration of flood risk in new development by the planning process is covered by Planning Policy Statement 25 “Development and Flood Risk”. This advises that where flood risk cannot be removed by seeking a lower-risk location for the proposed development, or by taking other mitigating measures, but where it is still desirable for that development to proceed, the measures to manage the remaining risk should include the use of flood resistant and resilient construction.


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We have carried out research into improving the flood resistance and resilience of new building and expect to publish a guide on these matters shortly.

Planning control only applies to applications for new development. Flood resistance and resilience is also of importance to existing development, broadly 10 per cent. of which in England is in the higher flood-risk areas as mapped by the Environment Agency. We published guidance for existing buildings in “Preparing for Floods” in 2002, and revised it in 2003.


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