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Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will list the outside (a) agencies and (b) consultancies which are undertaking work commissioned by her Department; and what the (i) purpose and (ii) cost is of each commission. 
Mr. Hoon: The information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Annual expenditure on external consultants is published in the Departments annual reports, copies of which are in the Library of the House. The vast majority of work undertaken for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office by consultants is associated with its major Information Communication Technology and Estate construction programmes.
I also refer the right. hon. Member to the reply my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) on 16 May 2006, Official Report, columns 893-94W; and the reply my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Mr. Straw) gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 25 May 2005, Official Report, column 138W.
Mr. Hoon: A procurement team will oversee the purchasing of language training from new suppliers in accordance with Government guidelines during the tendering and evaluation process. Our objective is to set up a framework agreement with at least two possible suppliers for each foreign language. Maintaining a high standard of language training will be a priority.
To ensure high quality we will build into the contract specification rigorous standards and processes, covering academic calibre of staff; teaching methodology; range and depth of programmes; external accreditation and recognition of widely known benchmark standards; and customer-focused administrative and learning resource support. Quality assurance mechanisms will monitor that standards are being met, including through briefing, training and performance management of teachers and continuous assessment of students.
Mr. Pope: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what evidential basis she reached the conclusion that the language teaching function would be uneconomic for her Department to operate. 
Mr. Hoon: As preparation for its move towards Trading Fund status, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Services carried out a rigorous analysis of its business and competitive environment, to identify its strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats it faces as it becomes a commercially-focused organisation. This, taken together with the FCOs own policy review of language training, which was carried out in close consultation with a variety of stakeholders at all levels across the FCO, has informed us that:
the business demand for language training is changing from one-to-one to group training, a much more effective way of delivering tuition, involving four hours per day direct teaching time;
demand for all languages fluctuates considerably;
the recommended productivity of teaching staff (percentage of time spent teaching as opposed to other tasks e.g. lesson and exam preparation, producing materials, administration, pastoral care and liaising with overseas centres) is between 45 and 50 per cent. Very few languages attain this level and productivity is likely to fall below 30 per cent. in most languages with the move to group classes and more in-country training;
a flexible hours and agency model operating on a pay per use basis achieves good productivity rates. Most external providers employ this model because of the fluctuations in demand;
FCO language training costs on average 15-40 per cent. more than other providers;
40 per cent. of our existing teaching for priority languages is currently out-sourced despite our large in-house teaching staff; and
performance by exam results indicates that the quality of teaching is not enhanced by having a permanent workforce.
For all of these reasons, we consider that not only are there advantages in cost terms of moving to a new business model, but there are also advantages to be gained in terms of flexibility and quality of service.
Mr. Pope: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many departmental staff were trained in a foreign language in each of the last three years for which figures are available; in how many languages training was available in each year; and what proportion of training was carried out overseas in each year. 
|Financial year||Number of staff|
Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian and Spanish.
Arabic, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian.
Pashtu, Dari, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Burmese, Urdu, Cantonese and Thai: training in these languages was outsourced.
The proportion of training carried out overseas varies according to the difficulty of the language. Easier languages will normally include a period of around four weeks in-country; the most difficult languages have one year training in the UK and one year training in-country.
Stewart Hosie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the total value of private finance initiative projects included in her Department's balance sheet (a) is in 2007 and (b) was in each of the last five years, broken down by project. 
Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has one private finance initiative (PFI) project included in its balance sheetour embassy in Berlin. The total capital value reported in HM Treasury's list of signed PFI projects is £17.1 million.
Stewart Hosie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the value was of annual private finance initiative payments made by her Department from (a) capital and (b) revenue budgets in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has two private finance initiative projects for which it has made the following payments from revenue budgets in the last five years, as reported in the HM Treasury list of signed deals.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what revenue was received by her Department from the telephone inquiries lines at British embassies handled by Abtran in the last 12 months. 
Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) received no income from the telephone inquiry lines handled by Abtran Ltd in the last 12 months. The service the company provides is self-funding and the surplus they make enables them to run it at no cost to the FCO.
Dr. Howells: UK Visas sent an initial response to Mr Richard Helgesens letter on 14 May. The letter explained that they need to make further enquiries before they can provide Mr Helgesen with a full reply.
Mr. Hoon: Proceedings in the European Council are not recorded on tape. The presidency conclusions of the European Council are made public by the Council Secretariat and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister describes the processes to Parliament.
Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not met the Chief Minister in the last 12 months. I met the Chief Minister most recently on the occasion of the Gibraltar day reception in the City of London in October 2006, and have regular contact with him.
Foreign travel and engagements for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and other
Ministers are kept under constant review. It is not practice to announce such visits until they are firm. Because of the unpredictable nature of world events, final decisions on overseas visits are not often possible until very shortly before the day of travel.
Mr. Hoon: Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other Government Departments work closely with the Government of Gibraltar to promote and defend Gibraltars rights and interests within the EU, often (but not exclusively) through active interventions by the UK Permanent Representation in Brussels.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government is taking to ensure that Gibraltar has the same access to EU funding as other EU regions. 
Mr. Hoon: Gibraltar has its own constitutional self-government and separate economy. It is a territory for whose external affairs a member state is responsible in accordance with Article 299(4) of the Treaty establishing the European Community. Therefore, Gibraltar is entitled to receive EU structural funds from the UK member states allocation.
Gibraltars allocation of Regional Competitiveness and Employment Objective funding was based on the same formulas as were applied to the nine English Regions. Allocations under the Co-operation objective are determined by a formula set out in the structural funds general regulations.
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