Previous Section Index Home Page

23 Apr 2007 : Column 908W—continued


23 Apr 2007 : Column 909W

Central African Republic: Peace Negotiations

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of reports that the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity in the Central African Republic (CAR) have signed a peace agreement to disarm and to join the CAR National Army. [132587]

Mr. McCartney: The UK is concerned at the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), which suffers from both internal conflict and from the impact of instability in the region.

We welcome the signing of the peace agreement made on 2 February between President Bozize and various rebel groups, including the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UDFR), operating in the CAR, which provides for an immediate cessation of hostilities. We welcome reports of the potential release of some of the former UDFR leaders from prison and also the planned rehabilitation, disarming and possible integration of former UDFR rebels into the national army. We hope that this will promote the advance of national reconciliation.

Departments: Training

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much her Department spent on language training for its staff in each of the last five years. [132743]

Mr. Hoon: The total cost of language training charged to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) account was:

£

2002-03

3,101,000

2003-04

5,717,000

2004-05

4,265,000

2005-06

5,564,832


The figures for 2006-07 are not available yet.

The figures include training costs in the UK and overseas for FCO officers and their spouses/officially recognised partners.

The figures given cover pre-posting and developmental external language tuition, language centre expenses, exam fees, students travel and subsistence. The figures are an aggregate of costs paid to the FCO Services' language training division and costs paid direct from the FCO account for language training related expenses.

Diplomatic Service: Broadband

Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many UK embassies and ambassador residences in European countries have access to wireless broadband. [132543]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 19 April 2007]: Two residences in European countries have officially recognised wireless networks; there are none in embassies or consular offices.


23 Apr 2007 : Column 910W

East Timor: Armed Conflict

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of recent conflict in East Timor; and what reports she has received from the UK embassy in Jakarta on the conflict. [132564]

Mr. McCartney: Following deployment of an International Stabilisation Force requested by the Government of East Timor, in response to the unrest in early 2006, the security situation improved and force numbers were reduced. However, renewed outbreaks of violence in February and March saw some fatalities, incidents of looting and attacks on vehicles. We urged all concerned to bring an end to the violence and to resolve the problems within the framework of the constitution and laws of East Timor. The situation has calmed since and the first round of presidential elections on 9 April passed off without any major security incident. We warmly welcome this and have urged that the campaigns for the second round of the presidential elections and the subsequent parliamentary elections should proceed equally peacefully. None the less the security situation in East Timor remains extremely fragile and could deteriorate at short notice. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office therefore continues to advise British nationals against all travel to East Timor at this time.

We remain in close contact with our embassy in Jakarta and with other diplomatic missions in East Timor.

EC Integration

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on which occasions Ministers from her Department have met representatives of campaign bodies and think tanks advocating closer EU integration in the last 12 months. [133091]

Mr. Hoon: I and other Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers regularly meet representatives of think tanks and other organisations with a wide spectrum of views on EU issues, both in the UK and while on overseas visits.

Embassies: Manpower

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff were employed in British embassies in each of the last five years. [132744]

Mr. Hoon: The following chart sets out the total number of staff employed by the Government at Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Posts overseas on 1 April for each of the past five years:-

Number of UK-based staff Number of locally engaged staff

2007

2,807

10,730

2006

2,798

10,063

2005

2,719

10,811

2004

2,673

9,466

2003

(1)2,017

9,062

(1) We introduced a new and more accurate management information system in 2004. The figures for 2003 are less reliable; they are likely to be an underestimate.

23 Apr 2007 : Column 911W

In addition there are a small number of staff at some posts who are employed locally and are not paid through the FCO payroll. These numbers are not held centrally.

Ethiopia: Kidnapping

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations she has made on behalf of the Ethiopian citizens who were taken captive against their will alongside staff from the British embassy and who remain in captivity. [132477]

Mr. McCartney: [holding answer 19 April 2007]: The Government remain concerned at the continued abduction of the Ethiopian citizens that were taken captive on 2 March. Embassy officials in Addis Ababa, other British and European nationals, that were abducted at the same time, were released on 13 March. Upon their release, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary issued a press statement and called for the release of the Ethiopians. Our ambassador in Addis Ababa also issued a press statement on 27 March calling for their release. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, met with the Ethiopian ambassador on 21 March to discuss the issue and has also raised the issue in the media.

We will continue to make representations in support of the release of the abducted Ethiopians, including with the Eritreans, and will engage with those that might be able to help facilitate their release.

We shall continue to call for the release of the Ethiopians publicly and privately.

European Commission: Motor Vehicles

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many vehicles are owned by the European Commission. [133112]

Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not hold the information requested. This information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

European Union

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which agencies in the UK are recognised source points for providing information about the European Union. [133079]

Mr. Hoon: A wide range of organisations provide public information about a range of EU issues including central Government Departments, local government, other public bodies, the European Commission, the European Parliament, business groups and non-governmental organisations. The European Commission supports a network of providers, including some 30 Europe Direct Centres in the UK. These operate as drop in centres which provide the public with a range of literature and where staff are available to answer questions on the EU. The related Europe Direct Contact Centre operates a freephone telephone service which is available from anywhere in the EU. The number is 00800 67891011.


23 Apr 2007 : Column 912W

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contribution her Department makes to decisions on the information and publicity material produced by the European Union which may be distributed in the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement. [133092]

Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) maintains regular dialogue with the European Institutions about their policy and approach towards raising awareness and debate on EU issues. For example, the Government submitted a response to the European Commission consultation on their “White Paper on a European Communications Policy” in 2006. The FCO is also working with the UK Representation of the European Commission and the UK Office of the European Parliament on specific initiatives such as the development of Europe Direct Centres and the “Learning Together” initiative I launched in March to increase partnerships between UK schools and their counterparts in Europe. The FCO has not given any detailed input into information or publicity materials produced by the EU Institutions.

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures have been planned to increase the profile of the European Union in the UK, with reference to (a) the 2009 European Parliament elections and (b) the debate on the European Constitution; and if she will make a statement. [133096]

Mr. Hoon: The Government remain committed to engaging with the UK public to generate greater awareness and a mature debate about EU issues. Our work to raise awareness and debate on the future of Europe and EU dossiers has included ministerial speeches and events, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website europe.gov.uk and a printed “Guide to the European Union” available in English, Welsh and audio formats. In respect of the European Parliament elections scheduled for 2009, the independent Electoral Commission is responsible for promoting public awareness and understanding of arrangements for voting at elections in the UK. Additionally, the Electoral Administration Act 2006 places a duty on local electoral officers to take appropriate steps to promote electoral participation in their area.

Fatah

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings (a) Ministers and (b) officials have had with Farouk Kaddoumi, General Secretary of Fatah, during his visit to the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement. [133454]

Mr. McCartney: Ministers and officials have no plans to meet with Head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Political Department and Secretary-General of Fatah, Farouk Kaddoumi, during his visit to the UK.

Iran: Baha'i Sect

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received on the treatment of the Baha’i community in Iran. [133032]


23 Apr 2007 : Column 913W

Mr. McCartney: We continue to have concerns about the situation of religious minorities in Iran and treatment of the Baha’i community in particular. We often receive reports of discrimination against Baha’is in Iran from the National Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom.

Denial of access to higher education has been a long-term problem for Baha’i students, effectively banned from entry to universities because of their religion. Although 178 Baha’i students were admitted to various campuses after the removal of religious identification from the entrance exam papers last autumn, recent reports suggest that at least 70 were subsequently expelled as universities became aware of their religion. We have also received some reports about persecution of Baha’i school children, and are currently trying to find out more information about these serious claims. We will take further action as appropriate.

We continue to raise this issue bilaterally and through the EU, and have pressed the Iranian authorities on many occasions to take seriously their international human rights obligations, uphold the right to freedom of religion and belief as described in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and address the intimidation and discrimination suffered by Iranian Baha’is. We also take action at the UN and in December 2006 we, along with all EU countries, co-sponsored a resolution on human rights in Iran, which expressed serious concern at

Iran: Exports

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the total (a) number and (b) value of (i) military and (ii) non-military British exports reaching Iran via other foreign states which contravene the existing sanctions against Iran. [132829]

Dr. Howells: No such estimates have been made. Licences are required for direct exports of military and dual-use items from the UK. Licences are also required for any person in the UK, or any UK person overseas, to participate in the supply of military items to Iran from any third country. Licences would not be issued if they contravened sanctions. Likewise, licences for all countries are carefully assessed against the risk of diversion to other countries under undesirable conditions.

Licensing data by destination is published in the Quarterly and Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls (available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at:

The UK has had a national arms embargo in force on Iran since March 1993, and all applications for military items have been refused, except in a very limited number of circumstances that have been announced in the House. The EU will implement UN Security Council Resolution 1747 by imposing a standard arms embargo on Iran. This is scheduled to come into force when the Common Position is adopted today.


23 Apr 2007 : Column 914W

Iraq: Peace Keeping Operations

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what her policy is on the provision of assistance from British overseas posts to Iraqi nationals who have left Iraq after threats of violence because of their work as interpreters with the British Army. [132997]

Dr. Howells: All such requests for assistance from Iraqi citizens who served for the Government in Iraq are dealt with on a case by case basis, taking account of their particular circumstances.

Iraq: Weapons

Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 25 January 2007, Official Report, column 1957W, on the weapons of mass destruction dossier (1) why she has no plans to publish Mr. John Williams’ draft document, extracts from it, or to confirm details of the contents; why the draft document was not made available to the inquiry led by Lord Hutton; and whether her Department retains the document; [131333]

(2) whether the draft of the dossier on weapons of mass destruction produced by the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Mr. John Scarlett, on 10 September 2002 (a) was based upon and (b) took into account the draft document produced by Mr. John Williams on 9 September 2002; [131334]

(3) whether reference was made to Iraq’s ability to deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes in (a) an assessment by the Joint Intelligence Committee prior to 9 September 2002, (b) a draft of the dossier by the Joint Intelligence Committee prior to 9 September 2002, (c) the draft document produced by Mr. John Williams on 9 September 2002 and (d) the draft document produced by Mr. John Scarlett on 10 September 2002; [131335]

(4) who the author was of the executive summary of the dossier on weapons of mass destruction in September 2002; [131336]

(5) who the members were of the dossier on weapons of mass destruction drafting group in September 2002; at which meeting the dossier was signed off on behalf of the group; and which members of the group were present at that meeting. [131337]

Margaret Beckett [holding answers 16 April 2007]: Matters relating to the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) dossier were examined in great detail by the inquiry led by Lord Hutton, Lord Butler’s “Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction” and the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report “Iraqi WMD—Intelligence and Assessments”. These inquiries placed into the public domain as much information as it was possible to do without prejudicing national security.


Next Section Index Home Page