Previous Section Index Home Page

19 Jun 2007 : Column 1605W—continued


These figures, particularly for the early years, may contain a level of under-reporting. They rely on staff and their managers entering absences accurately on our electronic management information system. We have recently revised our sickness absence procedures to improve the accuracy of our records and to reduce the number of days lost to sickness absence. Subject to agreement with our trade unions, we plan to implement the new procedures in September.

Developing Countries: Drugs

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received following the meeting between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and senior officials from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan; and what steps the UK is taking to increase participation between these partners to stop drug trafficking along their common borders. [143226]

Dr. Howells: We await the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report following the meeting between the UNODC and senior officials from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan which took place on 12 June.

The UK is keen to encourage increased participation between these partners to stop drug trafficking along their common borders. We encourage regional co-operation between Afghanistan and her neighbours as part of our commitment to supporting the Government of Afghanistan to deliver their National Drugs Control Strategy. This is undertaken through either bilateral or multilateral mechanisms through UNODC. Bilaterally, our missions in Islamabad, Tehran and Kabul help to facilitate better working level contacts and information sharing between these countries to take forward regional practical assistance, including improved border control. We also provide support to the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics
19 Jun 2007 : Column 1606W
Good Neighbourly Relations Declaration meetings to encourage Afghanistan's neighbours to engage in the drugs process. We support UN capacity building projects which foster greater links between regional law enforcement agencies to exchange information on drug trafficking and strengthen Afghanistan's borders.

Iran: Bahai Sect

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations she has made to the Iranian government on the treatment of the Bahá'í community in that country. [143302]

Dr. Howells: We continue to have concerns about the situation of religious minorities in Iran and treatment of the Bahá'í community in particular. We often receive reports of discrimination against Bahá'ís in Iran.

We most recently addressed the situation of the Bahá'ís in our dialogue with the Iranian authorities on 25 May, through an EU Statement. We will continue to raise this issue bilaterally and through the EU.

We 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 Bahá'ís. 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:

Nepal: Human Rights

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the UK is making available to assist the second phase of monitoring Maoist army personnel in Nepal to ensure that no child soldiers are serving. [143225]

Dr. Howells: Under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Nepal in November 2006, both sides to the conflict have agreed not to include or use children under 18 years of age in the armed forces. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have agreed that any children in the cantonment camps who are identified under phase II of the UN monitoring process will be removed to the care of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and partner agencies to arrange their return home and reintegration into civilian life.

Through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool, the UK has recently provided £150,000 to support UNICEF's programme for the reintegration and rehabilitation of child soldiers. In addition, we have provided funding and technical expertise to help with the arms verification process.

Pakistan: Human Rights

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on the freedom from government intrusion of (a) the press, (b) internet access and (c) telecommunications in Pakistan. [143222]


19 Jun 2007 : Column 1607W

Dr. Howells: On 4 June, the Government of Pakistan introduced an ordinance giving the state regulatory media body, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, enhanced powers to confiscate equipment and revoke licences of media organisations without recourse to a complaints council. However, on 7 June, the Government of Pakistan withdrew these media restrictions pending a review. We welcome the decision to suspend the ordinance as the UK views media freedom as essential to economic and social development and stability, and we actively support the evolution of free and fair media in Pakistan. We have received no reports of government intrusion into internet access or telecommunications in Pakistan.

Palestinians

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the United Kingdom’s 1945 Emergency Regulations for Palestine were annulled. [142696]

Dr. Howells: We have found no record of annulment or revocation by the United Kingdom of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations 1945 made by the then Government of Palestine.

Rendition

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what undertakings have been (a) sought and (b) received from the US Administration since January 2001 that the US Administration has not rendered any detainee through UK territory or airspace since May 1997; and if she will make a statement. [143040]

Dr. Howells: We are clear that the US would not render a detainee through UK territory or airspace without our permission. In an interview covering these issues alongside my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Mr. Straw) in March 2006 the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said

We have also carried out extensive searches of official records and have found no evidence of detainees being rendered through the UK or overseas territories since 1997 where there were substantial grounds to believe there was a real risk of torture.

There were four cases in 1998 where the US requested permission to render one or more detainees through the UK or overseas territories. Records show the Government refused the US request in two cases and granted the request in the two others. In both these cases, the detainees were subsequently tried and later prosecuted on criminal charges in the US.

Saudi Arabia: Terrorism

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the risks to UK citizens from Al-Qaeda terrorists in Saudi Arabia; and if she will make a statement. [143043]


19 Jun 2007 : Column 1608W

Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides the British public with an assessment of the safety of travellers and expatriates overseas through its travel advice.

All of our travel advice is regularly reviewed and draws on a variety of sources, including the local knowledge and expertise of the FCO's overseas posts and intelligence sources.

We believe there is a continuing high threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia and that terrorists are planning further attacks, including against westerners.

The travel advice for Saudi Arabia can be found on the FCO website at:

Saudia Arabia: Arms Trade

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have received from (a) the government of Saudi Arabia and (b) its representatives on the Serious Fraud Office inquiry into defence sales to Saudi Arabia; and if she will make a statement. [143094]

Dr. Howells: The Government are in frequent and regular contact with the government of Saudi Arabia as part of the normal conduct of our close bilateral relationship across a wide range of issues of mutual concern.

Somalia: Politics and Government

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the assurances of the Transitional Federal Government that a planned Reconciliation Congress in Somalia will be fully inclusive, regardless of clan loyalty. [143219]

Mr. McCartney: Lasting security in Somalia will only be possible with a credible political reconciliation process. We believe that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is the only body that can bring stability across Somalia, as envisaged by the Transitional Federal Charter. But we strongly believe it must be more inclusive and develop a broad base of clan acceptance if it is to succeed. Therefore, we have repeatedly stressed to the TFG that it should reach out to all Somalis who reject violence, regardless of clan and that the National Reconciliation Congress, now scheduled to start in mid July, represents an excellent opportunity to do this. My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, made this point in person to President Yusuf when he visited the UK in February and to the Somali Foreign Minister on 7 June. The meeting of the International Contact Group in London on 6 June sent the same strong message to the TFG through the Somali Foreign Minister. We will continue to work for this.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to further a cessation of violence by fundamentalist Islamic militias loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia; and what discussions the
19 Jun 2007 : Column 1609W
UK has held with the International Contact Group on the establishment of peace and stable government in Somalia. [143221]

Mr. McCartney: We do not believe the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) still exists as a coherent political entity. A meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG), hosted by the Government in London on 5 and 6 June, strongly condemned actions of extremists and terrorists and those looking to undermine the political and reconciliation process. The ICG called on the international community to do everything it could to prevent further acts of violence. We fully support these views.

At the same time, the ICG has publicly stressed the need for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to do all it can to make the National Reconciliation Congress as inclusive as possible so that there will be a broad clan-based acceptance of the TFG. We believe that this offers the best long-term way to increase political participation and stable government, as well as to reduce the scope for violence.

Sri Lanka: Internally Displaced Persons

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the movement of Tamils from the city of Colombo by the Sri Lankan Government; and if she will make a statement. [142947]

Dr. Howells: On 7 June, the Sri Lankan Government removed between three and four hundred people from boarding houses and lodges in a mainly Tamil area of Colombo and transferred them to majority Tamil areas of the north and east of the country.

We supported an EU statement which condemned their forced eviction and called on the Sri Lankan Government to halt this activity and to take action to safeguard the rights of those already removed.

We welcomed the apology offered by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister for the evictions.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has received on the forced relocation of people in Sri Lanka. [142948]

Dr. Howells: Although we receive frequent representations on the conflict in Sri Lanka and on the peace process there, we have not so far received any specific representations on this issue.

Sudan: Armed Conflict

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government is taking to encourage China, India and Malaysia to ensure that their activities and influences in the region are conducive to alleviating the conflict in Darfur. [142556]

Mr. McCartney: We regularly discuss Darfur with the Chinese Government including at the UN. We want China to use its influence with the Sudanese Government to ensure Khartoum supports the deployment of joint
19 Jun 2007 : Column 1610W
UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur, as well as committing to a ceasefire and renewed political process. We gave this message to the Chinese Government before President Hu's visit to Africa earlier this year. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised Sudan with the Chinese Government during her trip there last month, as did my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister during his visit to China in April. We have also raised our concerns about Sudan directly with the Malaysians and Indians and pressed them to use their influence with Khartoum to get them to co-operate.

WMD Intelligence Review Committee

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost was of the Butler Inquiry. [143722]

Hilary Armstrong: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the right hon. Member to the answer given in the other place to the noble Lord Palmer on 27 October 2004, House of Lords, Official Report, column WA125, by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos).

Transport

Eddington Transport Study

9. John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to take forward the recommendations of the “Eddington Transport Study”; and if he will make a statement. [143388]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Government set out in the December 2006 pre-Budget report how we intend to take forward the recommendations of the Eddington Study. My Department is now reviewing its strategy and delivery processes in the light of the key conclusions of both the Eddington and Stern reports—including through the recently announced refresh of our appraisal framework. The Department will provide its detailed response to Eddington and Stern alongside the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Canals

10. Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his Department's policy is on the use of canals as a part of an integrated transportation system; and if he will make a statement. [143390]

Dr. Ladyman: It is Government policy to encourage the greater use of the inland waterways for carrying freight, where this is practical and economic. Passenger transport on canals is dominated by the leisure industry.

Road Safety Targets

11. Meg Hillier: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made towards meeting 2010 road safety targets. [143391]

Dr. Ladyman: Provisional statistics for 2006, compared with the 1994 to 1998 averages, indicate that the number of people killed or seriously injured was 34 per cent. below the baseline, the number of children
19 Jun 2007 : Column 1611W
killed or seriously injured was 53 per cent. below the baseline and the slight casualty rate was 26 per cent. below the baseline.

Bus Services

12. Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to give local authorities a greater role in planning bus services. [143392]

Gillian Merron: The draft Local Transport Bill proposes changes to enable local authorities to secure better local bus services. It sets out measures to promote more effective partnership working between local authorities and bus operators and makes the implementation of quality contracts schemes a realistic option in areas where it is in the public interest for local authorities to take greater control of bus services.

15. Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to improve the quality of bus services. [143395]

Gillian Merron: Last month the Government published a draft Local Transport Bill for consultation. This includes proposals to provide the necessary powers for local authorities to improve bus services as set out in "Putting Passengers First".


Next Section Index Home Page