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18 July 2007 : Column 403W—continued


Ministry of Defence Police: Colchester Garrison

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Ministry of Defence Police (a) inspectors, (b) sergeants and (c) constables are employed at Colchester Garrison. [150467]

Derek Twigg: The current number of Ministry of Defence Police officers employed at Colchester is:

Number

Sergeants

2.5

Constables

6.5


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Modern Housing Solutions: Engineers

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many engineers are (a) employed and (b) privately contracted by Modern Housing Solutions. [150021]

Derek Twigg: Modern Housing Solutions (MHS) does not directly employ any engineers, although there are 1,861 engineers who are sub-contracted by MHS.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to how many days of paid holiday engineers for Modern Housing Solutions are entitled; and at what times of year they are granted holiday leave. [150022]

Derek Twigg: There are no engineers directly employed by Modern Housing Solutions (MHS). All are sub-contracted by MHS and as such their holiday entitlement is at the discretion of their respective employers.

Navy: Military Bases

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when further consultation over the naval bases review will be commissioned; when it will begin; for what reason further consultation is being undertaken; and if he will make a statement. [149484]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The naval base review (NBR) is currently considering a number of broad cross-Government issues. As part of this work, we are currently engaged with other Government Departments including HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Communities and Local Government. Working with them, we are assessing the possible cross-Government cost implications for the different NBR options to ensure a clear understanding of the best value for the taxpayer.

While this complex pan-Government work is progressing well, further work is required before final conclusions can be reached. One aspect of this additional work might be the need for public consultation.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether a decision has been taken in principle to retain all three naval bases. [149881]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: No decisions have yet been taken with respect to the naval base review.

Nimrod Aircraft

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many RAF personnel are stationed at the Nimrod MRA4 trainer facility at Kinloss on an (a) permanent and (b) temporary basis; and at what cost in the last period for which figures are available. [149581]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Five RAF personnel are permanently stationed at the Nimrod MRA4 training facility at RAF Kinloss and their costs are estimated at £400,000 per annum. RAF members of the joint MOD/BAE Systems flight trials team who are
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stationed at Warton travel to RAF Kinloss to man the simulator as required, to assess the operation of the simulator against the actual aircraft and to confirm its suitability for training. Costs of these personnel are not separately recorded.

RAF Lakenheath: Nuclear Weapons

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many US nuclear weapons are based at USAF Lakenheath, Suffolk; and what plans there are to reduce the number. [149496]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: NATO’s Strategic Concept (paragraph 63) states that

It is NATO and UK policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons at a given location.

Territorial Army: Expenditure

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total expenditure was on the Territorial Army in each year since 1997. [148234]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The information is not held in the format requested and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Torpedoes: Environment Protection

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what limitations have been imposed on Royal Navy heavyweight torpedo firings following adverse environmental impact assessments in respect of the copper guidance wires; and if he will make a statement. [149883]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: We are not aware of any adverse environmental impact statements in respect of the Royal Navy's heavyweight torpedo guide wire system. No restrictions have therefore been imposed on heavyweight torpedo firings.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters are to be discussed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November; what the Government's objectives for that meeting are; and if he will make a statement. [150264]

Meg Munn: The Ugandan theme for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is transforming Commonwealth societies to achieve political, economic and human development. The formal agenda has yet to be confirmed, although there will be reports to Heads
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of Government from the Commonwealth Secretary-General's Commission on Respect and Understanding and from the Committee on Commonwealth Membership, as well as the selection of a new Commonwealth Secretary-General. My right. hon. Friend the Prime Minister looks forward to taking part in frank and fruitful discussions with his Commonwealth counterparts on these and other key issues at the meeting.

Entry Clearances: Training

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what training programmes are in place for staff assessing visa applications. [149804]

Dr. Howells: Entry clearance officers (ECOs) with no previous entry clearance experience must complete an intensive three-week course before undertaking entry clearance work at our missions overseas. Immigration officers from the Border and Immigration Agency must complete a one-week ‘conversion’ course. Both courses are based on continuous assessment and all ECOs must obtain a “Pass” mark at the end of their training before they can take up their posting.

Entry clearance managers (ECMs) must complete an eight-day course covering all aspects of visa section management. Officers who have had no entry clearance experience within the previous two years must also complete the three-week ECO course before taking up an ECM position.

In addition, the training team delivers regional training workshops in the ten Director of Visa Services global regions between September and April each year.

Iran: Capital Punishment

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the use of capital punishment, in particular stoning, in Iran over the last 12 months. [149714]

David Miliband: We are deeply concerned at the increasing use of capital punishment in Iran. Last year Iran executed more people than any other country in the world except China (whose population is over 15 times the size). Many of the most basic standards in the application of capital punishment are absent and executions are often carried out in public. Iran is one of a tiny handful of countries that continues to execute juvenile offenders. This abhorrent practice is a clear breach of Iran’s international human rights commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and runs contrary to the moratorium on juvenile executions that Iran announced in 2005.

We received reports that a man and a woman, Jafar Kiani and Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, were due to be stoned to death for adultery in Qazvin province in June. The EU presidency made representations to the Iranian authorities, and the executions were halted. We were very disturbed to hear confirmation from the Iranian Judiciary, that Mr. Kiani was subsequently executed by stoning on 5 July. The Head of Iran’s Judiciary announced a moratorium on stonings in 2002 and although stoning sentences continue to be handed down by judges, this is the first confirmed report of a sentence being carried
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out in recent years. The EU presidency issued an immediate statement, on 10 July, condemning the sentence, which is in clear violation of international laws, and called on Iran to stop the execution of Ms Ebrahimi. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also issued a statement of concern on 10 July. We are also concerned by the recent announcement by a Judiciary spokesperson that Iran intends to hang 20 criminals imminently.

We remain strongly opposed to the death penalty in all its forms and consider stoning to be a cruel and inhuman punishment. We will continue to urge Iran to uphold its international human rights obligations, to implement fully the moratoria on stonings and juvenile executions and to introduce them into law, as recommended in the UN General Assembly Resolution on Human Rights in Iran adopted in December 2006, in order to abolish these punishments completely.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of trends in use of stoning as a penalty in Iran. [150491]

Dr. Howells: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him today (UIN 149983) and the reply my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) also today (UIN 149714).

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made in the case of Jafar Kiani, recently stoned to death in the village of Aghche Kand, North West Iran, for alleged adultery. [149983]

Dr. Howells: We received reports in June that Jafar Kiani and his partner Mokarrameh Ebrahimi were due to be executed imminently by stoning for adultery. The EU presidency immediately made representations to the Iranian authorities, on behalf of all EU partners, in Tehran and Berlin on 20 June. The Iranian Foreign Ministry and Judiciary gave assurances that the moratorium on stoning, announced in 2002, was still in place and the executions would be halted.

We were therefore extremely shocked to hear confirmation from the Iranian Judiciary that Jafar Kiani was subsequently stoned to death on 5 July, despite these assurances. Although stoning sentences continue to be handed down by judges, this is the first confirmed report of a sentence being carried out in recent years. Mr. Kiani’s execution violates both Iran’s declared moratorium on stoning and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party. The ICCPR states that “in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, the sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes” and that “no-one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The stoning of Mr. Kiani violates both these principles.

The EU presidency issued an immediate statement on 10 July condemning the execution of Mr. Kiani and called on Iran to stop the execution of Mokarrameh Ebrahimi. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also issued a statement of concern on 10 July. I called in the Iranian ambassador on 16 July to protest
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this execution. I restated our fundamental opposition to the death sentence in all circumstances and urged the authorities to uphold the moratorium and to ensure that it is applied in the case of Ms Ebrahimi.

Iran: Nuclear Power

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response he has made to the remarks by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the 9 July meeting of the IAEA board of governors that there has been a slowing in the process of commissioning new cascades in Iran’s centrifuge facility at Natanz; and what the change in the use of centrifuges at Natanz has been. [149629]

David Miliband: We have noted the remarks of the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr. El Baradei, about a slowing in the process of commissioning new cascades at Natanz. We await further information from the IAEA before we can make a detailed assessment of this development, but a key point is that the relevant UN Security Council resolutions require Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities, not merely to slow down the rate of their expansion.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his latest assessment is of Iran's military nuclear capability. [150179]

Dr. Howells: We have serious concerns about Iran's nuclear programme. The Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on 23 May that he was still unable to verify certain aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran's programme. Therefore, the IAEA was unable to provide assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities, or about the exclusively peaceful nature of the programme. Until the IAEA can provide such assurances, the international community's concerns about Iran's programme will remain.

Middle East: Terrorism

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent representations he has made to the Palestinian authorities on the production of children’s videos encouraging attacks on Israeli citizens; and if he will make a statement; [150994]

(2) what recent representations he has made to Arab Governments on the production of children’s videos encouraging attacks on Israeli citizens; and if he will make a statement. [150995]

Dr. Howells: Following the broadcast in April of a Palestinian children’s TV programme which sought to incite violence against Israel and the US, the then Palestinian National Unity Government asked the TV station to stop the programme. The then Palestinian Information Minister, Mustafa Barghouti said the programme took a “mistaken approach” to the political
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situation. The programme was finally pulled on 29 June. We have not made any representations to the Palestinian Authority or Arab Governments on this issue.

The UK continues to condemn any actions which incite hatred and violence.

Moldova: Official Visits

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to support the first ever visit of the President of Moldova to the United Kingdom in autumn 2007; and if he will make a statement. [150243]

Dr. Howells: We are looking at future opportunities for inward visits from Moldova from senior figures including the President of Moldova. The timing of the president’s visit, however, has not yet been confirmed.

The UK enjoys a constructive relationship with Moldova and welcomes further co-operation between the UK and Moldova both bilaterally and within the EU. Over the last year, we have welcomed many high profile visitors to the UK, particularly Moldovan Ministers and parliamentarians. The Speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, Dr. Marian Lupu, visited the UK in February last year for meetings with Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials. Valeriu Ostalep, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration visited the UK in July 2006, while the Minister of Defence, Valeriu Plesca, visited the UK in September 2006, meeting with, among others, my noble Friend the Minister of State for Defence, Lord Drayson. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) the then Minister for Europe met President Voronin and other senior figures during his visit to Moldova in February this year, and met the First Deputy Prime Minister, Mrs. Zinaida Grecian√(r)i, on her visit here last November.

Nuclear Disarmament

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by what means he plans to take forward the proposals announced by his predecessor to the Carnegie International conference on 25 June of creating a disarmament laboratory to support a verification of the dismantlement of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles. [150235]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the former Foreign Secretary announced that the UK would act as a “disarmament laboratory” for the thinking and practical work required to move forward global nuclear disarmament.

As the speech made clear, we are supporting an independent International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in-depth study to help determine the requirements for the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons. In particular, we are working with IISS on holding a workshop to focus on some of the crucial technical questions in this area.

We have also tasked the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston with some detailed work on key stages in the verification of the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. This work is beginning and will produce results over the next few years.


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