Previous Section Index Home Page

29 Oct 2007 : Column 820W—continued


Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to promote the principles of democracy in countries governed by dictators, military forces or single party structures. [160842]

Dr. Howells: The UK is committed to promoting democratic principles and values around the world. Our approach is grounded in our support for upholding universal human rights standards to which all countries are bound. Countries currently governed by dictators, military forces and by a single party structure usually have a poor record of non-compliance with human rights norms, denying rights such as freedom of expression, assembly, association, movement or information, on which democracy is built. We and our European partners regularly raise human rights concerns directly with these Governments and in international bodies.

In this context, we welcome the decision of the Burmese Government to agree to a visit by the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. We hope he will be able to visit soon to fulfil the mandate of the special session of the UN Human Rights Council on 2 October.

We also actively promote human rights and the development of the foundations of democratic societies through project assistance, including through the Government's support for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Details of their work can be found on their website: We also support development of civil society. For example, the Government have given £500,000 over three years for grass-roots support to civil society organisations in Burma; and a programme of £3 million has been established to help build the foundations for democracy in local level political decision-making bodies in that country.

Further information on the Government's work on human rights, democracy and governance can be found in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2006 Annual Report on Human Rights. Copies of the report are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

29 Oct 2007 : Column 821W

Departments: Accountancy

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what departmental budget items have been reclassified, under Consolidated Budgeting Guidance, following Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 decisions; and what the (a) former and (b) new (i) classification and (ii) sum budgeted is in each case. [160413]

Meg Munn: The only amount reclassified by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office following the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 is £300,000,000 for UK staff overseas engaged in front-line diplomacy. Formally classified as administration budget, but now classified as programme ‘other current’ expenditure.

Departments: Assets

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what departmental assets are planned to be sold in each financial year from 2007-08 to 2010-11; what the (a) description and (b) book value of each such asset is; and what the expected revenue from each such sale is. [160353]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, like other Government Departments, has been set a challenging asset recycling target as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). Our target, restated in the CSR, over the next three financial years is £54 million, or £18 million each financial year, and will be reflected in our Asset Management Strategy to be published in December.

In order to maximise the price achieved for the sale of our assets, it is not our policy to provide details of our sales programme nor the price we expect to receive in advance of formal marketing.

Departments: Cost-effectiveness

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a breakdown of the Department’s efficiency savings in relation to its Spending Review 2004 (SR04) targets, including (a) the efficiency projects in the Department, (b) the date on which they were initiated and (c) how much each was predicted to contribute to the SR04 target. [160550]

Meg Munn: As part of the 2004 Spending Review (SR04) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) agreed a target to achieve 2.5 per cent. year-on-year efficiency savings from its core expenditures. This equates to £120 million by the end of financial year (FY) 2007-08; £33 million of which will be delivered by the British Council and the BBC World Service.

Efficiency gains in FY 2005-06 were £53.9 million against a planned outturn of £50.9 million. The efficiency gains in FY 2006-07 were £87.8 million against a planned outturn of £88.0 million. By the end of September 2007, efficiency gains are estimated to have risen to £122.4 million with a FY 2007-08 forecast of £132.5 million against a planned outturn of £120 million. The FCO is on course to deliver all targets for the SR04 Efficiency Programme.

29 Oct 2007 : Column 822W

The following table gives the present forecast savings from each of the FCO’s SR04 efficiency projects. These figures may differ from the targets set for each project at the time they were set up. The original targets are revised as the projects and hence savings have developed.

Specific project target, date initiated and contribution toward SR04
Project Date initiated Contribution to SR04 Efficiency Programme( 1) (£ million)

Lyons Review



Assets Recycling



Other Estates Efficiencies






UK Staff Pay-bill Reduction



Ancillary Pay Bill Savings



Overtime Reduction



Local staff pay bill savings



Strategic Sourcing and Demand Management



Procurement at Post



Spending Review 02 Efficiencies



Strategy Units Savings



Finance Directorate Savings



Human Resources Directorate Savings



Extra Wider Market Turnover



Better Project Management



Reduction in Contractor Costs



Alternative Representation



Directorate for Strategy and Information Restructuring



Local Efficiencies



BBC World Service



British Council



(1) Forecast calculated on September 2007.
(2) The projects refer to additional savings from projects initiated before 2004.

Departments: Public Expenditure

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what dates his Department breached its (a) resource, (b) near-cash, (c) administration and (d) capital budgets since 2001; what the value of each breach was; and what the reason was for each breach. [160316]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not breached its resource budget or its near-cash budget at any time since 2001. The Administration budget was overspent in financial year 2001-02 by £31,245,000 mainly as a result of the reclassification to Administration costs of items that had previously been treated as capital expenditure. The capital budget was overspent in financial year 2002-03 by £36,826,052 mainly as a result of the capitalisation of the Berlin embassy private finance initiative contract which was previously treated as off-balance sheet and in financial year 2006-07 by £1,968,000 mainly as a result of the reclassification of grants to the UN and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as capital.

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in which financial years since 2001 his Department's outturn for its capital
29 Oct 2007 : Column 823W
budget at the end of the year was less than planned at the beginning of the year; and what the (a) value and (b) reason for the underspend was in each case. [160335]

Meg Munn: The National Audit Office measures spending performance against plans by comparing outturns against final provision following Supplementary Estimates—rather than against plans at the start of the year—as plans can change during the year for a number of reasons, such as machinery of Government and classification changes. The definitive figures for final provision and provisional outturn are published each year in the Public Expenditure Outturns White Paper (available in the Library of the House). Changes to plans arising in-year are published in Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses, as are differences between provisional and final outturns.

Capital underspends should be seen in the context of estate and information and communications technology programmes that stretch across a number of years. We fine tune spending across programmes towards the end of each financial year to get as close to our annual targets as possible but it is very difficult to turn the flow of capital spend on and off easily. A prudent approach is taken which resulted in underspends in some relevant years.

Departments: Road Traffic Offences

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many fixed penalty tickets were incurred by vehicles within the purview of his Department in the last year for which figures are available; and what the total cost was. [157899]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Services home fleet of vehicles have incurred 27 fixed penalty charges at a cost of £1,620.00 from January 2007. It is not possible to collate the information relevant to the FCO's overseas fleets without incurring disproportionate cost.

All of the drivers employed by FCO Services are required to abide by the law at all times, they are held personally responsible for any speeding or other driving offences they may commit.

In respect of vehicles provided by the Government Car and Despatch Agency, I refer the hon. Member to the reply Under-Secretary of State for Transport my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Caning Town (Jim Fitzpatrick), gave to him on 18 October 2007, Official Report, columns 1185-86W.

Diplomatic Service: Defence Export Services Organisation

Mr. Benyon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Defence Export Services Organisation first secretaries there are in UK embassies and high commissions; and what plans there are to change that number. [160066]

29 Oct 2007 : Column 824W

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I have been asked to reply.

The Defence Export Services Organisation has 13 first secretary posts in British embassies and high commissions. From next spring it is planned to reduce the number to 12.

Entry Clearances: Telephone Services

Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of suspending the UKvisas advice line in 2007. [161525]

Dr. Howells: There has been minimal effect since the suspension of the UKvisas advice line. During the closure period, UKvisas has been providing an enhanced email service, replying to inquiries within 24 hours and whenever possible the same day. UKvisas has received very few complaints.

EU Reform: Treaties

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library the text of the Reform Treaty and Protocols agreed at Lisbon, including all the amendments in EU document CIG4/1/07 revision 1 of 5 October. [160980]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The documents approved at the informal meeting of Heads of State and Government on 18 and 19 October in Lisbon were sent to the Libraries of both Houses on 22 October. We will continue to forward all Inter-governmental Conference papers to the Libraries of both Houses as soon as we receive them.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will bring forward legislative proposals to repeal section 2 (1) of the European Communities Act 1972 if the EU Reform Treaty comes into effect. [161129]

Mr. Jim Murphy: No. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 22 October

The Reform Treaty cannot come into effect unless and until all 27 member states have ratified it in accordance with their constitutional arrangements. If section 2(1) of the European Communities Act 1972 were repealed, the UK would not only be unable to ratify the Reform Treaty, we would not be able to comply with our commitments under the EU Treaties generally.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which judicial authority will adjudicate on cases related to the UK’s opt-ins under the proposed EU Reform Treaty. [161130]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Under the Reform Treaty, the UK’s current opt-in arrangements on Title IV of the Treaty Establishing the European Community
29 Oct 2007 : Column 825W
(covering asylum, immigration and civil justice) would be extended to cover the remaining areas of Justice and Home Affairs co-operation (which will be moved to Title IV). The UK’s opt-in arrangements would also be reinforced to cover explicitly both amendments to existing measures as well as measures building on those parts of the Schengen “acquis” in which the UK participates.

It is the role of the European Court of Justice to interpret Title IV of the European Community Treaty and the Protocols establishing the UK opt-in arrangements, and to review the legality of acts under Title IV and the Protocols. This will remain the case under the Reform Treaty.

Next Section Index Home Page