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Commonwealth: International Conferences

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much and what proportion of the costs of the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting in Uganda in November will be met by the Government; and from which budget this contribution will be drawn. [138941]

Mr. McCartney: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) on 17 May 2007, Official Report, column 871W.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the adequacy of arrangements for the security of the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of State meeting in Uganda in November; and if she will make a statement. [138942]

Mr. McCartney: All aspects of Her Majesty the Queen’s security on visits overseas are kept under close review. We are working closely with the Ugandan authorities to ensure that all necessary measures are taken for the state visit and Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Armed Conflict

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to assist in finding a solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [138238]

Mr. McCartney: In the short term, we continue to urge the Congolese government to seek peaceful and negotiated solutions to the internal problems which provoke violence. We support the continuation of the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (MONUC)'s mandate and encourage MONUC to take a robust stance against foreign and Congolese militia groups that threaten civilians.

We remain concerned by the ongoing violence in eastern DRC. We continue to press the Congolese Government to make security sector reform a priority, so a disciplined and well-trained national army is developed. This is the only long-term solution to prevent further conflict.

The DRC remains a priority for the UK. Our extensive bilateral assistance to the DRC, £75 million in the last financial year, is designed to work in support of conflict prevention, including work on security sector reform, democracy and accountability and provision of basic services to the population. I discussed this issue myself when I met William Swing, the UN Secretary-General's special representative for the DRC, on 2 March.

Economic and Monetary Union: European Constitution Treaty

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what funds have been spent since 2005 by British embassies to EU countries
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on (a) events and (b) organisations to support UK strategic priorities pertaining to the Government’s EU policies, with particular reference to (i) the euro and (ii) the EU constitution. [138137]

Mr. Hoon: All our embassies in EU capitals are proactive in supporting the UK’s strategic priorities relating to the Government’s EU policies through a wide range of activity. However, the information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Ethiopia: Kidnapping

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance the Government received from the Eritrean authorities in obtaining the release of the kidnappees held recently in the Afar area. [138805]

Mr. McCartney: Senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in London and our ambassador in Asmara maintained active contact with the government of Eritrea during the abduction of the five officials from our embassy in Addis Ababa and family members from 2 March to 13 March.

The government of Eritrea offered to provide whatever assistance they could in obtaining the release of our staff and their family members on humanitarian grounds. After our staff and family members were freed, the Eritrean government made arrangements to transport them to Asmara where they were handed over to our ambassador.

The Ethiopians that were abducted at the same time were released on 22 April. It is not yet clear if the Eritrean authorities offered any assistance or were instrumental in facilitating their release.

The Government are grateful for the assistance received from the Eritrean government, including the personal engagement of President Isaias.

European Council

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government’s main priorities are for the forthcoming European Council meeting in June. [138510]

Mr. Hoon: The 21-22 June European Council will focus on institutional reform. The Government’s aim, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 16 April, is to secure an outcome that allows Europe to work more effectively while preserving our national interest, including our position as a key player in Europe. I set out the Government’s approach to these negotiations in my written ministerial statement on 5 December 2006, Official Report, columns 10-11WS.

The Government want to maintain momentum on delivering the concrete results that citizens expect. So we will also want the European Council to confirm progress on EU action on important, practical challenges, such as tackling climate change, strengthening police co-operation across Europe and improving the efficiency of the single market.

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Nigeria: Overseas residence

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British citizens are permanently resident and working in Nigeria. [138239]

Mr. McCartney: A total of 3,007 British citizens are registered with our high commission in Abuja, including dependants and others who are not necessarily working. We strongly advise all British citizens who intend to stay in Nigeria for three months or longer to register with the high commission but not all do so, so the exact number of British residents is likely to be higher than 3,007.

Northern Cyprus

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on the campaign led by the Mayor of Famagusta in Cyprus for the full re-opening and redevelopment of Famagusta; and if she will take steps to discuss this issue with the Mayor of Famagusta. [138470]

Mr. Hoon: The Mayor of Famagusta has already shared his campaign plans with senior officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). They emphasised the importance of a UN process leading to a comprehensive and durable settlement of benefit to all Cypriots. Our high commissioner in Nicosia is also in regular contact with the Mayor. The FCO remains open to further meetings.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Mr. Wareing: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initiatives to promote multilateral disarmament the Government are proposing at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting in Vienna being held in May; and if she will make a statement. [138236]

Mr. McCartney: The UK statement of 30 April to the meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee will be made available to the Library of the House. On multilateral disarmament, this made clear the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and encouraged those countries that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the treaty. It reiterated UK support for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and called for a prompt start to negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. It also called on the US and Russia to make further progress on disarmament through their bilateral arms control agreements.

Palestinians: Politics and Government

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of security arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza. [138442]

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Mr. McCartney: We are concerned about the security situation in Gaza. The recent intra-Palestinian violence, which started on 13 May, has left 54 Palestinians dead. We welcome the ceasefire, which was agreed on 19 May, to end this violence. However, the on-going launching of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel, the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and the resulting Palestinian casualties are of serious concern. As the Minister for the Middle East my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells) said on 21 May in a press conference following the Israeli raids on Gaza:

We are also concerned by the movement restrictions placed upon Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has noted that access to parts of the West Bank, such as East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, have not improved due to a high number of checkpoints (537 as of April), roadblocks, the barrier and a complex system of permits. In Gaza, the regular closure of the Rafah crossing point and lack of access to the West Bank has had a detrimental effect on the population. We continue to raise our concerns about movement restrictions with the Israeli Government and call upon both parties to implement the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.

Robert Mugabe

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking with her Commonwealth counterparts to ensure that President Mugabe is not invited to the Commonwealth Heads of Government or related events. [138676]

Mr. McCartney: President Mugabe withdrew Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth in 2003. We would therefore not expect him to be invited to or to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kampala and we are confident he will not be.


Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the situation in Eastern Sudan. [138177]

Mr. McCartney: Following the signing of the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) between the Government of Sudan and the Eastern Front (EF) on 14 October 2006, the region has been calm. We welcomed the ESPA, but are concerned that implementation has been slow. This is partly due to the EF’s inability to agree nominations to political posts in the Government and National Assembly in Khartoum. We have urged them to complete this process quickly.

The east remains one of the poorest parts of Sudan. Large numbers of people live in extreme poverty and socio-economic indicators, such as infant mortality, are the worst in the country. Illiteracy and unemployment levels in the region are also high. The UK supports development and stability in Eastern Sudan as part of our contribution to implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

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The UK currently chairs an informal donor co-ordination group on Eastern Sudan. This group shares information and fosters joint programming among members of the international community. The Government’s own support to Eastern Sudan includes pressing the Government of Sudan for the timely transfer of funds from the central budget to the states and pilot projects such as a social protection scheme implemented in the east through Oxfam.

Uganda: Elections

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the role of the media during the 2006 Ugandan elections. [138694]

Mr. McCartney: International observers monitoring the 2006 elections raised concerns that a level playing field was not established before the elections took place. One reason for this was the lack of balance in media coverage, especially on the part of the state owned media. However, there was consensus that despite some shortcomings on election day, voting was generally well administered, transparent and competitive.

Our high commission in Kampala, along with other representatives of the international community, continues to monitor the governance environment, including media freedom, in Uganda.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Ugandan authorities on the administration of future presidential and parliamentary elections. [138695]

Mr. McCartney: We have a regular dialogue with the government of Uganda on all aspects of developing multi-party democracy and engaging with the opposition, building towards the next elections. Our high commissioner in Kampala discussed these issues most recently with President Museveni on 10 May.

The Government are helping the Ugandan Parliament finalise a new strategic plan for its development and is helping to build the capacity of a number of parliamentary committees. The Government also plan to commit £5 million to a new multi-donor ‘deepening democracy’ programme which will include help for the implementation of the strategic plan that Parliament is now finalising.

In March our high commission in Kampala funded a visit of Ugandan opposition MPs to the UK to enable them to gain a greater understanding of how an opposition works within a parliamentary democracy. We will continue to look for further opportunities to work with the Ugandan parliament in the run up to the 2011 elections.

Zambia: Politics and Government

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the political situation in Zambia. [138237]

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Mr. McCartney: Following elections, which we believed set a strong example within the Southern African Development Community, Zambia has continued to enjoy political stability. Underpinning this is Zambia’s continued strong economic performance. In their 27 December 2006 report, the International Monetary Fund forecast a solid 6 per cent. growth for 2006, with an outlook of 7 per cent. for 2007. The 2007 Budget speech contained a useful restatement of the Government’s commitment to sound macroeconomic policies and fiscal discipline.

President Mwanawasa has also targeted corruption as a key Government priority. The 4 May judgment by the London High Court against former President Chiluba in a civil case brought before it on behalf of the Zambian Attorney-General was a historic event. It sends a powerful message in Zambia, but with a resonance beyond, that plundering a nation’s resources will not be tolerated. We look forward to the money being returned to the Zambian people.


Accident and Emergency Departments

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will place a copy of the national guidance stating that accident and emergency departments should serve a catchment population of 450,000 to 500,000 people in the Library. [137312]

Andy Burnham: The Department has not issued guidance stating that accident and emergency departments should cover a given catchment population.

It is a matter for the local national health service to ensure that there is appropriate provision of urgent and emergency services that are responsive to people’s needs.

General Practitioners

Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations her Department has received on the support general practitioners are receiving from primary care trusts in delivering change; and if she will make a statement. [122812]

Andy Burnham: The Department and the ministerial team meet stakeholder organisations including the Improvement Foundation, NHS Alliance, National Association of Primary Care, NHS Primary Care Contracting team, British Medical Association, and Royal College of General Practitioners on a regular basis. They are key stakeholders in the implementation of practice based commissioning which relies on good relationships with and support from primary care trusts.

Midwives: Insurance

Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made with plans to require independent midwives to have professional indemnity insurance; and what consultation (a) has taken place
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and (b) is planned with (i) midwives, (ii) other healthcare professionals and (iii) women on those plans. [136426]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The White Paper stated that the introduction of compulsory indemnity insurance of all registered health professionals will be required in time.

The introduction of compulsory professional indemnity cover for midwives will require secondary legislation. A three-month public consultation will form part of that legislative process. No specific date for this has yet been set.

The chief nursing officer has met with and written to independent midwives and is investigating alternative contractual arrangements which may resolve the issue.

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