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Universities: Northern Ireland

Sammy Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the total costs associated with building a new university on the Springvale site have been to date. [121663]

Maria Eagle: Springvale was to be a joint project, between the University of Ulster (UU) and the Belfast Institute, for a main campus, a community outreach centre and an applied research centre on a split site on the Springfield road. £9.2 million has been spent to date—£0.9 million from Government, £6 million from external sources and the remainder from the two institutions. The outreach centre has been built but, following the withdrawal of UU, the other two elements will not proceed. The Belfast Institute brought forward an alternative proposal for a workforce and economic development centre, to be located adjacent to the community outreach centre. This proposal received ministerial approval at April 2006 and, when delivered, will complete the regeneration of the south site.

Valuation and Lands Agency

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for how long the Valuation and Lands Agency has used pictometry techniques for valuations of domestic property. [128638]

Mr. Hanson: The Valuation and Lands Agency has never used pictometry techniques for valuations of domestic property.

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which councils in Northern Ireland are willing to engage in the Valuation and Land Agency or Land and Property Services Agency's building control project. [128632]

Mr. Hanson: To date Belfast city council is the only council currently engaged in the Valuation and Lands Agency/Land and Property Services Agency's Building control project.

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what advice the Valuation and Land Agency or Land and Property Services Agency has sought from (a) the Information Commission and (b) legal experts on the use of oblique aerial photography for valuation purposes. [128633]

Mr. Hanson: Valuation and Lands Agency/Land and Property Services Agency has not sought advice from (a) the Information Commissioner and (b) has had preliminary discussions with legal advisers on the use of oblique aerial photographs for valuation purposes.

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information Belfast city council is providing to the Valuation and Lands Agency or Land and Property Services Agency as part of the building control project; and whether this includes the provision of photographs. [128634]

Mr. Hanson: As part of the building control project, Belfast city council provides the Valuation and Lands Agency/Land and Property Services with full survey details on new and altered properties. This generally includes a digital photograph of the front elevation of the property.

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what use the (a) Valuation and Lands Agency and (b) Land and Property Services Agency is (i) making and (ii) planning to make of fee code segmentation data to determine value significance. [128640]

Mr. Hanson: The Valuation and Lands Agency/Land and Property Services Agency are (i) not currently making use of fee code segmentation data to determine value significant alterations to properties for rating purposes, but (ii) may consider the use of these data in the future.

Victims Commissioner

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many applicants there were for the post of Victims Commissioner in Northern
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Ireland, broken down by (a) gender and (b) religious affiliation; and how many applicants were (i) shortlisted and (ii) interviewed in each category. [129778]

Mr. Hanson: Out of the 46 applicants for the post of Commissioner for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland:

14 were shortlisted for interview. One candidate (female and from a Roman Catholic community background) withdrew from the competition prior to the interviews being conducted, resulting in 13 candidates being interviewed.

Of those interviewed six were male and seven were female. Eight were from a Protestant community background, four from a Roman Catholic community background and there was one other.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan: Detainees

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations her Department has made to the US to ensure the safe return of former residents of (a) the UK and (b) UK overseas territories being held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. [130216]

Dr. Howells: The Government are not in a position to provide consular or diplomatic protection to non-British nationals, including those detainees in Guantanamo Bay, who were formerly resident in the UK or UK overseas territories.

However, we agreed in March 2006 to make representations to the US government for the release of Mr. Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national formerly resident in the UK, from Guantanamo Bay and his return to the UK. That decision was based on the particular circumstances in his case. On 6 April 2006, my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Mr. Straw) wrote to the US Secretary of State to ask formally for Mr. al-Rawi’s release and return. Detailed discussions between our Governments have continued ever since. While these are sensitive and complicated issues that take time, we are fully committed to securing Mr. al-Rawi’s release from Guantanamo Bay and his return to the UK.

The Government continue to raise humanitarian concerns about detentions at Guantanamo Bay with the US authorities, including issues relating to detainees who were formerly resident in the UK.

Africa: Drugs

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of action taken to stop the trafficking of narcotics across African borders. [129424]


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Dr. Howells: East and west Africa is increasingly being used as a transit route for cocaine and heroin from Latin America and Asia to European and other western markets. We have supported counter narcotics capacity building projects with local law enforcement agencies in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and Senegal to improve interdiction through the provision of training and equipment.

While significant challenges remain, our assistance is starting to have some impact in the region. In 2006 the Kenyan authorities destroyed over one ton of cocaine from an earlier seizure. In Ghana, drugs interdiction training and equipment at Accra International airport (Operation Westbridge) has achieved some good success interdicting cocaine couriers, since the start of its operation in November 2006. As at 21 March 2007, 40 couriers destined for the UK or Europe had been interdicted with seizures of 130 kg of cocaine and 413 kg of cannabis, with an estimated UK street value of £8.5 million. This progress proves the importance of supporting good law enforcement co-operation coupled with training on interdiction techniques.

Ascension Island

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her assessment is of relations between Ascension Islanders and the Island administrator. [129822]

Mr. Hoon: The administrator of Ascension Island has a good professional relationship with those living and working on the Island. That relationship is promoted through regular formal and informal meetings.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what provisions have been made to hold elections to replace the Ascension Island councillors who have recently resigned. [129871]

Mr. Hoon: The Island Council (Ascension) Ordinance lays down the procedure for holding elections. Six out of a total of seven councillors have recently resigned just a little under half-way through a three year tenure. The acting governor of St. Helena and its Dependencies, as acting governor of Ascension, in consultation with the substantive governor and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is currently considering urgently whether in these circumstances a by-election should be held or the council should be dissolved so that a general election should take place.

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when Ministers from her Department visited Ascension Island in each year since 1997; and what the (a) duration and (b) purpose was of each visit. [129982]

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Bill Rammell) transited Ascension Island on 26 November 2003 en route to the Falkland Islands. During his visit, he had the opportunity to meet the Ascension Island councillors. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham,
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was prevented from visiting Ascension Island on 15 December 2006 by bad weather. He had scheduled meetings with the Ascension Island councillors.

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in providing permanent rights of (a) abode and (b) property ownership to residents of Ascension Island. [129984]

Mr. Hoon: After having weighed carefully the aspirations of those working and living on Ascension Island against the risk that a settled community might not be economically viable, the Government concluded that the UK would face unacceptable risks if the right of abode were granted and further development of property rights permitted. This decision was conveyed to the Ascension Island Council in my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham’s letter of 19 January 2006.

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has received from the United States government on providing (a) permanent rights of abode and (b) property ownership rights to residents of Ascension Island. [129985]

Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has received no representations from the US Administration on providing permanent right of abode and property ownership rights to residents of Ascension Island.

Cambodia: Administration of Justice

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the independence from the political process of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia trying suspects accused of serious crimes under the Khmer Rouge regime. [129560]

Dr. Howells: The Government support an independent, UN-supported tribunal that will help strengthen accountability, the rule of law and judicial reform in present day Cambodia as well as hold to account those suspected of being most responsible for the serious crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge period. We, and other interested states, continue to encourage all parties to work together to ensure the credibility and success of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. We are monitoring developments at the tribunal closely.

Cameroon

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made by the High Commission in Yaoundé on the arrest and detention of Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor and other members of the Southern Cameroon National Council in Bamenda. [128874]


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Mr. McCartney: Our high commission in Yaounde has not made any representations to the Cameroon authorities regarding this incident. However, since learning of the arrest and detention of 11 Southern Cameroon National Council members, including Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, the high commission in Yaounde has been in contact with the National Human Rights Commission and Freedoms representative in Bamenda. That representative has met with Dr. Nfor at the prison, who confirmed that their health situation was good and they were being detained under normal Cameroon prison conditions, including having access to their legal counsel and families.

Ten of the 11 detainees including, Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, were released on bail on 14 March. Hearings on preliminary investigation into the arrests have been scheduled for 17 April. The high commission will continue to follow the case.

China

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the compliance by China, in respect of its occupation of Tibet, with Article 49 paragraph six of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. [129373]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 23 March 2007]: The Government have not made any assessment of the situation in Tibet in relation to paragraph six, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Successive Governments have regarded Tibet as autonomous while recognising the special position of the Chinese authorities there. We encourage the Chinese Government to put history aside and move towards a solution to the present problems in Tibet, doing so most recently at the latest round of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in London on 5 February. We continue to urge China to engage in dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama, without preconditions.

Egypt: Politics and Government

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her Department’s assessment is of the democratic process in Egypt. [128868]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 22 March 2007]: The Egyptian Government have committed to a process of political reform. In recent years some important reforms have taken place. The constitution was amended in 2005 to allow multi-candidate presidential elections to be held for the first time. Domestic monitors were allowed to observe parliamentary and presidential elections for the first time in 2005. In December 2006, President Mubarak announced further constitutional amendments; these will be voted on in a referendum today. The President has also committed to ending the state of emergency by May 2008.

There is scope for further progress in enhancing the transparency and independence of the electoral system, as well as increasing the participation of women in the political process. We will continue to monitor the implementation of the reforms and the constitutional amendments. We will also continue to work with Egypt to promote democracy and human rights.


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Iraq: Peace Keeping Operations

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made on the raids of 23 and 25 February 2007 by US and Iraqi forces on the head offices of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers; what reports she has received on the damage caused; and if she will make a statement. [129566]

Dr. Howells: We have made no representations on this matter. We are aware of the raids on the offices of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers. These were carried out by Iraqi security forces with the backing of multi-national forces as part of ongoing security operations—several other offices and institutions have also been subject to similar operations. We strongly support the Iraqi Government’s efforts to improve security, which are essential to improving the situation across the whole country.

Nuclear Weapons

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria the Government use when formulating policy of opposing or supporting development of nuclear capability by other states. [129555]

Dr. Howells: The Government are bound by their commitment under article IV of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to be supportive of the development of peaceful nuclear technology by all states party to the treaty. The state party concerned must, of course, be in compliance with its treaty obligations, particularly those under articles I and II, but also under article III, to be the beneficiary of such support.

Policy towards those not in compliance with their treaty, or International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, obligations is formulated case by case.


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