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Iran: Nuclear Power

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what assessment has been made of the level of capability achieved by Iran in the production of fissile material which could be used in a nuclear weapon; and if she will make a statement; [138578]

(2) what assessment has been made of the likely date at which Iran will reach its stated goal of installing and operating 3,000 centrifuge machines at its enrichment facility in Natanz; [138579]

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(3) what assessment has been made of the stage reached by Iran in the installation of centrifuges at its enrichment facility in Natanz; [138580]

(4) what is the latest assessment that has been made of the progress by Iran towards the mastery of uranium enrichment technology; [138581]

(5) pursuant to the answer of 20 March 2007, Official Report, column 837W, on Iran: nuclear weapons, what definition she uses of mastery of enrichment technology; and what (a) level and (b) scale of (i) centrifuge operation and (ii) enriched uranium production is referred to. [138582]

Mr. McCartney: Iran is defying calls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, made mandatory by the UN Security Council, to suspend all uranium enrichment-related, reprocessing and heavy water-related activities. These activities are of proliferation concern because they would enable Iran to develop the capability to produce fissile material that could be used in nuclear weapons.

Iran has produced very small quantities of enriched uranium at its pilot fuel enrichment plant at Natanz and is now installing centrifuges in the Fuel Enrichment Plant. The IAEA reported on 22 February that,

Most recently, in a letter to the Iranian representative to the IAEA on 18 April, the IAEA reported the information Iran had provided to inspectors that

We now await the Director-General of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei’s, official report on Iran’s compliance with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1747 which will give a further update of Iranian progress at the fuel enrichment plant, which is due on 23 May.

Enriching uranium is a complex technical process which requires diagnostic testing and the running of multiple cascades over a sustained period. It remains our assessment that Iran has not mastered the process.

We will consider next steps in light of the Director-General’s upcoming report on compliance with UNSCR 1747. UNSCRs 1696, 1737 and 1747 make it mandatory that Iran suspends its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities before negotiations aimed at a long-term agreement can commence. We remain committed to a negotiated solution. We continue to urge Iran to take the steps required by the Security Council and IAEA Board, and to return to talks on the basis of the proposals presented to Iran on 6 June 2006 by EU High Representative Javier Solana on behalf of the ‘E3+3’.

Luis Posada Carriles

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the US Administration on its release of Luis Posada Carriles from detention. [138179]

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Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not made any representations to the US Administration on its release of Luis Posada Carriles from jail.

The question of his extradition from the US is a matter for the authorities in the US and for any country which may request his extradition.

North Korea: South Korea

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of progress in relations between North and South Korea. [138248]

Mr. McCartney: The inter-Korean relationship looks to be back on track. The 20th Inter-Korean Ministerial Talks (IKMT) took place in Pyongyang on 27 February to 2 March for the first time since July 2006. The 13th round of Inter-Korean Economic Co-operation Promotion Talks also took place in Pyongyang on 18-22 April, face-to-face reunions between separated family members were held on 9 May and the next round of IKMT has been scheduled to take place this month. South Korea has said that they will be looking to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to take steps in the coming months to start implementing the 13 February Agreement and made clear that the provision of rice aid will be dependent upon this. Further progress in relations was demonstrated on 17 May when railway tests were successfully conducted between North and South Korea—this was the first time trains had operated between the two Koreas for 50 years.

I raised the UK’s commitment to the process of improving inter-Korean relations during my meeting with the DPRK ambassador on 17 May.

UN Resolutions

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government have taken to meet their obligations under Article 2 of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) on the prevention of non-state actors from financing activities to support the development of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery. [137098]

Mr. McCartney: In its national reports to the 1540 Committee, the UK set out the framework of domestic legislation that relates to Article 2 of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 (2004). These national reports will be placed in the Library of the House. The UK has one of the best records in the world on implementation of UNSCR 1540 and we work constantly to ensure that all aspects of the resolution are fully implemented, including on proliferation finance. In addition, the standards agreed within the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), of which the UK is a member, help to promote the international legal framework necessary to combat illicit finance of all kinds. In February, G7 Ministers called specifically for the FATF to examine the risks involved in weapons of mass destruction proliferation finance.

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Vietnam: Human Rights

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the human rights situation in Vietnam. [138249]

Mr. McCartney: We are concerned at the recent arrest and sentencing of several peaceful human rights offenders in Vietnam who have been charged with “conducting propaganda”. We, along with our EU partners, have made numerous representations to the Vietnamese authorities on this issue.

Most recently, on 15 May, the EU issued a statement expressing its concern about the current situation and calling on the Vietnamese Government to release all non-violent political activists who have simply exercised their rights to freedom of expression and association.

I raised our concerns about the arrest and detention of human rights activists with the Vietnamese Vice-Minister Le Cung Phung during the EU/Association of South East Asian Nations ministerial meeting in Nuremberg on 14-15 March. I also raised this issue with the Vietnamese ambassador on 10 May.

We will continue to raise the question of human rights defenders, along with other human rights issues, with the Vietnamese Government, including during the EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with the Vietnamese Government.

Weapons: Hezbollah

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make an assessment of the implementation of United Nations Resolution 1701, on the rearmament of Hezbollah. [138325]

Mr. McCartney: There has been considerable progress on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, which brought the Israel/Hezbollah conflict to an end in August 2006.

The UK continues to have concerns about breaches of UNSCR Resolution 1701, in particular on the arms embargo. In March the UN Secretary-General reported that there was mounting evidence that Hezbollah was rearming and smuggling arms across the Syria/Lebanon border.

The UK continues to work to ensure the full implementation of UNSCR 1701. We are supporting a German-led initiative to improve border security and prevent arms smuggling across the Syria/Lebanon border. We have also provided the Lebanese armed forces with 50 Land Rovers to increase their mobility and capacity to implement UNSCR 1701. The UK has also welcomed the Secretary-General’s proposal for UN assessment mission to travel to Lebanon to assess the security at the border and make recommendations.

Communities and Local Government

Architecture: Registration

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will assess the merits of introducing an inexpensive appeals
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procedure for architects removed from the Architects Register administered by the Architects Registration Board. [137624]

Angela E. Smith: I am not aware that the case has been made for such a change. The Architects Registration Board procedures for investigating complaints involve an investigation and scrutiny by their investigations and professional conduct committees. The courts, to which those removed from the register can have recourse, already encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution procedures.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she has discussed the increased subscription rates asked for by the Architects Registration Board with the Board and ascertained their reasons for the rise. [137625]

Angela E. Smith: No—the setting of subscription rates is a matter solely for the Board of the Architects Registration Board (ARB) and I have had no discussions with them. The current ARB fee for registration is £78 (with effect from 1 January 2007). This compares with £76.50 for last year—an increase of 2 per cent. Fees are set to recover the full costs of the Board's work.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she plans to reduce the regulation of architects administered by the Architects Registration Board. [137626]

Angela E. Smith: No—I have no such plans. I am satisfied that the Architects Registration Board is exercising its powers properly and proportionately.

Mr. Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent discussions she has had with the Royal Institute of British Architects concerning the Architects Registration Board. [137627]

Angela E. Smith: I met the President and the President-elect of the Royal Institute of British Architects on 10 May to discuss issues they had raised about the operation of the Architects Registration Board.

Buildings: Climate Change

Andrew Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps she is taking to ensure that the (a) Code For Sustainable Homes And (B) Building Regulations take account of the effects of climate change on buildings; and if she will make a statement. [138245]

Angela E. Smith: The building regulations and the code for sustainable homes are both key components of the Government's strategy tackling climate change and its effects.

The amendments made in 2006 to Part L of the Building Regulations have, for example, increased the energy performance standards for new buildings by around 40 per cent. compared with pre-2002 levels. We have also recently consulted on making all new homes
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zero carbon by 2016 through further changes to Part L. These actions, together with the Code for Sustainable Homes and the draft planning policy statement on climate change—should save between five and seven million tonnes of carbon by 2020. Further details on the Department's climate change policy can be found at

Building to the standards set out in the Code for Sustainable Homes will help new homes mitigate for many of the effects associated with climate change including possible water shortages, increased rainfall and flooding. Building Regulations already help address many of the impacts of climate change and will be kept under review as necessary to ensure that they continue to do so effectively.

We are also working closely with stakeholders on what could be done to further reduce the impact of non-domestic new buildings and existing buildings on climate change.

Community Development: Government Office for London

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how expenditure by new deal for communities boards is scrutinised by the Government office for London; and if she will make a statement. [131646]

Angela E. Smith [holding answer 16 April 2007]: The Government office for London (GOL) has certified and authorised quarterly payments to new deal for communities (NDC) accountable bodies based on claims submitted to GOL for defrayed expenditure. Accountable bodies ensure proper supervision of expenditure through an annual audit of grant expenditure. These are audited by the Audit Commission and are subject to National Audit Office audit.

Where any underspends or overspends are identified, GOL liaises with the accountable body and the NDC to make adjustments. GOL ensures, through its performance management of the NDCS, that expenditure plans match with business improvement plans agreed by NDC bodies. From April 2007, Communities and Local Government will take responsibility for the physical payment of NDC grant but GOL will retain responsibility for performance management.

Council House Transfers: Chelmsford

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many people living (a) in the Chelmsford local authority area and (b) outside the Chelmsford local authority area are on the Chelmsford housing transfer list; and what the figures were in 1997. [132412]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 23 April 2007]: Information regarding housing transfers is not held centrally. However, local authorities in England report the numbers of households (not people) on their housing waiting list as at 1 April in their annual Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix returns. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for West Chelmsford on 18 May 2007, Official Report, column 977W.

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Council Housing: Property Transfer

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the cost of council housing debt write off for large scale voluntary transfers for each of the last six years; and what estimate she has made for 2007-08. [119830]

Yvette Cooper: If a local authority's attributable housing debt is not cleared either in part or in entirety by receipts from an RSL through large-scale voluntary transfer arrangements, the debt that remains is transferred from the local authority sector to central Government through a payment made to the Public Works Loan Board. Overhanging debt payments to the Public Works Loans Board under these debt transfer arrangements over the last six years are shown in the following table:

£ million















In 2006-07 we expect overhanging debt transactions with the PWLB to total about £600 million.

The extent of overhanging debt transferred to the central Government sector in 2007-08 is dependent on positive tenant ballots, and the completion of transfer transactions up to 31 March 2008. It is too early to estimate what these might be.

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