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20 Nov 2007 : Column 740W—continued

Japan: Whales

Mr. Scott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to build an international coalition to secure an outright ban on whaling as practised by the Japanese whaling fleet. [165053]

Dr. Howells: The UK plays a prominent role in building and maintaining the coalition of anti-whaling countries within the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

In advance of the 2007 Annual Meeting in Anchorage, the UK and its like-minded allies recruited a further six countries into the IWC with the result that the pro-whaling majority in that organisation was overturned.

In a further response to UK lobbying efforts, several other countries have indicated willingness to support our opposition to Japanese whaling and to join the IWC in time for next year's annual meeting. British embassies and missions will shortly deliver to certain governments an updated version of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs publication “Protecting Whales—A Global Responsibility” as part of a lobbying campaign to encourage more countries to join the IWC, to strengthen further the global opposition to commercial whaling.


20 Nov 2007 : Column 741W

Kosovo: Politics and Government

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the political and security situation in Kosovo. [165377]

Mr. Jim Murphy: I agree fully with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's assessment that the status quo in Kosovo is unsustainable. That is why the UK is committed to an early resolution of Kosovo's status.

The security situation is calm but fragile. As for the political situation, simultaneous general, municipal and mayoral elections will be held in Kosovo on 17 November. The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe are fully engaged in ensuring that these take place in an orderly and well-conducted manner.

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his (a) EU and (b) US counterpart on the possibility of Kosovo declaring unilateral independence from Serbia; and if he will make a statement. [165378]

Mr. Jim Murphy: I am in regular contact with my EU and US counterparts on the Kosovo status issue. When my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I met Kosovo's cross-party Team of Unity, which represents Kosovo in status negotiations with Belgrade, in London on 9 October, we made clear to them that Kosovo must engage fully in the ongoing Troika process and stay in step with international efforts to bring the status process through to completion.

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to his Russian counterpart on the future status of Kosovo. [165381]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK is in regular contact with Russia on the Kosovo status process both bilaterally and as fellow members of the Contact Group. The Contact Group last met at ministerial level in New York on 27 September. The Contact Group issued a statement which agreed inter alia that an early resolution of Kosovo's status is crucial to the stability and security of the Western Balkans and Europe as a whole.

Opinion Leader Research

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many contracts were awarded by his Department and the agencies for which it is responsible to Opinion Leader Research in each year since 1997; and what was (a) the title and purpose, (b) the cost to the public purse and (c) the dates of (i) tender, (ii) award, (iii) operation and (iv) completion and report to the Department or agency. [165342]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no record of any contracts being awarded to Opinion Leader Research since 1997.


20 Nov 2007 : Column 742W

Pakistan: Custody

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 9 November 2007, Official Report, column 167, on Pakistan (detention), what assessment he has made of the treatment of (a) Mrs. Asma Akhtar and (b) other UK nationals who are involved in child custody cases in Pakistan's courts. [166414]

Dr. Howells: In custody cases abroad involving British nationals, we offer advice and practical support to parents to assist them through their court proceedings. The courts must resolve custody cases of this kind. We understand that it is very difficult for the parents and children involved when the cases are not resolved quickly, but we are unable to intervene in the legal process of another country.

We cannot comment on individual cases.

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times the UK-Pakistan Judicial Protocol on Children Matters has been invoked in Pakistan's courts on behalf of a parent who has obtained relief by order of the High Court of the Family Division of England and Wales, regarding a child or children unlawfully retained there; and on how many of those times has a child or children been subsequently returned to England and Wales. [166472]

Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Family Division of the UK Royal Courts of Justice maintain records of cases brought under the Protocol. Since its inception in 2003, 84 cases have been brought under the Protocol. Of these, 49 involved actual abduction or wrongful retention of a child by a parent. 19 of these cases involved court proceedings being initiated in Pakistan and 22 cases resulted in returns from Pakistan to the UK. In some cases a child is returned to the UK before the court process is completed as the left behind parent cannot afford to continue to pursue the case.

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the UK-Pakistan Judicial Protocol on Children Matters is being observed by Pakistan's courts; and what representations he has received on the matter. [166474]

Dr. Howells: We are currently funding a project to examine existing judgments made under the Protocol, both in the UK and in the Pakistan courts. This work is being carried out by “reunite”, the International Child Abduction Centre, a non-governmental charity organisation who specialise in advising parents on these matters. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received no representations on this matter.

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has taken steps to implement the recommendation in paragraph 7 of the UK-Pakistan Judicial Protocol on Children Matters to the governments of the UK and Pakistan to identify or consider creating a provision for an enforcement authority. [166475]


20 Nov 2007 : Column 743W

Dr. Howells: The UK-Pakistan Protocol is a judicial understanding between the High Courts of the UK and Pakistan. It is not legally binding, but rather an informal framework for judges in both judiciaries to help return abducted children to their normal place of residence. The Government fully support the aims of the Protocol. Paragraph 7 of the Protocol

For the UK we have a dedicated child abduction section within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We continue to seek ways to enhance the practical application of the Protocol. To this end we are supporting a conference to be held in Islamabad next year bringing together senior members of both the UK and Pakistan judiciaries, as well as UK and Pakistani officials, and non-governmental representatives.

Pakistan: Detainees

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the (a) number and (b) status of those held in detention following the declaration of a state of emergency in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement. [163892]

David Miliband: I made clear in a statement to the House on 7 November 2007, Official Report, columns 130-32, that we condemn the mass detentions of politicians, lawyers and human rights activists, and call for their immediate release. It is vital that the Government of Pakistan act quickly to restore the Constitution, hold free and fair elections on schedule, honour the President's commitment to step down as Army Chief and lift restrictions on the media.

It is not possible to put an exact figure on the number of people detained following the declaration of the state of emergency. There are various estimates ranging from a few hundred to several thousand. The situation is very fluid. Some of the detainees have been released. The detainees are being held in a wide variety of locations. Many are under house arrest, while some are imprisoned in jails and other facilities. The Pakistani authorities have used detention orders in some cases, but the legal status of the other detainees is not known.

Our high commission in Islamabad has raised its concern for the welfare and safety of all those in detention at the highest levels. Close attention is being paid to their treatment and preparations are under way to visit or contact as many as possible.

Pakistan: Overseas Aid

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the (a) nature and (b) financial value was of (i) military and (ii) other assistance given to the Pakistani Government in each of the last three financial years; what the planned expenditure for each category is in the (A) current and (B) next financial year; which elements of assistance are under review following the suspension of the Pakistani constitution; and if he will make a statement on other areas of bilateral co-operation. [162096]


20 Nov 2007 : Column 744W

David Miliband [holding answer 12 November 2007]: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through the Global Opportunity Fund (GOF), bilateral programme budgets and the Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP), funds programmes which work with various levels of the Government of Pakistan. There are no plans at present to make significant changes to this year’s programme, but we will continue to keep all our funding under review in the light of the State of Emergency, suspension of the constitution and related developments.

£
Fund 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09

(GOF) Drugs and Crime

135,527

275,416

391,088

(1)295,730

(2)

(GOF) Migration

67,311

175,612

97,020

282,107

(2)

(GOF) Counter Terrorism

93,048

100,552

181,977

(1)2,322,793

(2)

Bilateral Programme Budget

(3)

15,928

16,597

31,306

(2)

GCPP

19,843

0

0

0

(2)

(1) Committed.
(2) Not yet committed.
(3) Specific figure not available.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency co-operates with the Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Force and other agencies. This co-operation includes the provision of a moderate amount of training and expertise, which currently costs the UK £100,000 per annum.

The Government, under a Home Office grant, is planning to make up to £6 million available this financial year to pay for two helicopters for the Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Force.

The Ministry of Defence has a long standing defence relationship with Pakistan. The comprehensive Defence Relations Activity Programme includes attendance by Pakistani military on UK training courses, British attendance on selected Pakistani courses, exchange visits, joint training exercises, annual staff talks, provision for visits by senior officers to Pakistan to meet their counterparts and for reciprocal visits made by Pakistani senior military to the UK. While activities are constantly reviewed throughout the course of a year, there are no plans at present to make significant changes to this year’s programme. The plan for 2008-09 is under development but expected to be of a similar scale.

Fund—Defence Relations Activity Programme
Amount

2004-05

£535,000

2005-06

£1.103 million

2006-07

£1.291 million

2007-08

£1.67 million

2008-09

(1)

(1) Currently under development.

Department for International Development spending is covered by the reply given to the hon. Member by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development on 19 November 2007, Official Report, columns 533-34 W.

Further information on bilateral co-operation can be found in my statement to the House on 7 November 2007, Official Report, columns 130-32.


20 Nov 2007 : Column 745W

Pakistan: Politics and Government

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Pakistan in relation to the situation in that country; and if he will make a statement. [165140]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the then Pakistan Prime Minister Aziz and the then Foreign Minister Kasuri on 5 November. In both cases he urged the Pakistani Government to act quickly to restore the Constitution and in particular to ensure that free and fair elections are held by 15 January 2008, that political prisoners are released, that media restrictions are lifted and that President Musharraf honours his commitment to resign as head of the Army.

My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch-Brown, spoke to the then Prime Minister Aziz on 12 November when he reiterated our concerns and stressed that elections be free and fair.

I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's statement to the House on 7 November 2007, Official Report, columns 130-32.

Pakistan: Taliban

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress was made on the co-ordination of border control between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the course of the meeting referred to in the answer of 9 October 2007, Official Report, columns 549-50W, on Pakistan: Taliban. [165549]

Dr. Howells: During the 26 July meeting in Islamabad, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the then Foreign Minister Kasuri discussed Pakistani initiatives for border security and the need to work bilaterally and internationally in a consistent and coherent manner.

A transcript of the press statement following this meeting is available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at:

We continue to encourage Afghanistan and Pakistan to seek ways to improve their bilateral relationship. This includes maintaining momentum after the Joint Peace Jirga in August. We also continue to work with our international partners, including in the G8, to offer assistance to both countries to work closely on border security. Such co-operation is essential if a sustainable long-term solution is to be found.


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