Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions the working groups on (a) energy, (b) security and (c) refugees have met since their establishment under the Iraq Neighbours Conference; and what progress has been achieved by each. 
The Energy Working Group met in Istanbul on 28-29 June and agreed to exchanges of information on energy issues and to provide technical assistance and support for the oil, gas and electricity sectors.
The Refugee and Displaced Persons Working Group met in Amman on 26 July and agreed to support the efforts of the Government of Iraq to improve the humanitarian and security situation to accelerate the return of displaced Iraqis. There was also discussion of health care provisions in the host countries.
The Security Working Group met in Damascus on 8-9 August and agreed to continue efforts to combat terrorist groups and those supporting them, in particular by cutting off financing and activating existing bilateral security agreements.
We hope that the ministerial meeting held in Istanbul on 2-3 November, together with the decision to establish a permanent support mechanism for the
Neighbours process, will add further impetus to the process and allow the working groups to build on their welcome initial progress.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Japan about (a) the hunting of endangered whales and (b) whaling claimed to be scientific; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: The Government are deeply concerned at the latest Japanese proposals which include plans to take 50 of the endangered species of Humpback whales. In response, we are considering a high level diplomatic protest to the Japanese Government, following consultation with like-minded anti-whaling countries. In the meantime, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has conveyed the UKs concerns at an official level in both London and Tokyo.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on the stability of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia of a declaration of Kosovan independence. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: Macedonias political stability is underpinned by the Ohrid Framework Agreement which provides for far-reaching and comprehensive rights and safeguards for the countrys minority communities.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether any settlement on the final status of Kosovo will secure the backing of the UN Security Council. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The UN Secretary-General and the Contact Group as a whole agree that the status quo in Kosovo is unsustainable and that a solution has to be found without further delay. In keeping with this spirit, we hope all members of the UN Security Council will engage constructively in international efforts to bring the process through to successful completion.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the Prime Minister of Serbias comments on the Dayton peace agreement and UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo. 
David Miliband: We do not agree with Prime Minister Kostunicas recent statements on Bosnia and Herzegovina which called on the High Representative to withdraw his recent measures or resign, drew parallels with the situation in Kosovo and suggested efforts were being made to undermine the Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia and Security Council Resolution 1244 in Kosovo. We have made our concerns clear to the Serb Government.
We hope Serbia will work to help ease recent tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The UK fully supports High Representative Lajcak, whose authority derives from Dayton. We call on all parties to comply with the High Representatives decisions as they are obliged to do under the Dayton Accords.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 November 2007, Official Report, column 392W, on Middle East: peace negotiations, what rank or grade is held by the seconded civil servants to Mr. Blair's office; what their combined salary and expenses costs have been; from what budget these costs are being drawn; what financial and logistical contributions have been made by (a) the United States of America, (b) Russia and (c) the European Union to the United Nations Development Programme Trust Fund to support the work of Mr. Blair and his office; and if he will make a statement. [Official Report, 3 July 2008, Vol. 478, c. 1056W.] 
David Miliband [holding answer 3 December 2007]: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has seconded: one executive officer equivalent; one higher executive officer equivalent; and one senior civil servant equivalent to work in the right hon. Tony Blair's office. The FCO is funding their salaries. It would not be appropriate to give salary details as to do so could reveal individuals' salaries.
We strongly support the work of the right hon. Tony Blair. He is exceptionally well placed to take on this role. His work will be key in delivering a future Palestinian state with strong institutions and a robust economy.
Sir Paul Beresford: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many cases referred to the National Technical Assistance Centre since its inception have been child protection inquiries, broken down by the referring police force; 
(2) pursuant to the Answer of 12 November 2007, Official Report, columns 759-61W, on National Technical Assistance Centre, how many cases referred to the National Technical Assistance Centre, since its inception, have related to child protection. 
David Miliband [holding answer 27 November 2007]: The National Technical Assistance Centre was formally transferred from the Home Office to Government Communications Headquarters in April 2006. It is the long-standing policy of the Government not to comment on intelligence matters, including the work of the Intelligence Agencies.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to ensure that economic development in the north of Cyprus proceeds with a view to integration and convergence with the economy in the south; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK fully supports the efforts to place market forces at the service of a settlement. We continue to support the efforts of the Commission and successive presidencies to promote the economic integration of the Turkish Cypriot community with the Greek Cypriot community and the rest of the EU. We are disappointed by the lack of progress in this area.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the account taken by Turkish Cypriots of the EC environmental assessment on the Karpas electrification project; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Turkish Cypriots on the development of the Karpas region with particular reference to (a) the electrification project and (b) the hotel and tourism building programme; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK has supported the European Commission's recommendations regarding the protection of the Karpas region, including through the establishment of a properly regulated conservation area. We have urged the Turkish Cypriot leadership to take steps to ensure that the fragile environment of the Karpas is protected from uncontrolled development.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of the dismissal in 2006 of imans in northern Cyprus and their replacement with imans from Turkey; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the risk of smuggling (a) people and (b) narcotics from Syria to Northern Cyprus and into the EU through the green line, with particular reference to the new ferry service from Syria to Famagusta; and if he will make a statement. 
The UK is concerned about the risk of people and narcotics smuggling to north Cyprus, and through the Green Line. We have sought to build the capacity of the Turkish Cypriot community to counter these threats to Cyprus and the EU, by whatever route they arrive.
Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made towards the achievement of the 13 practical steps towards nuclear disarmament agreed at the NPT Review Conference in 2000; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The UK is fulfilling all its obligations under the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT), including those on disarmament under article VI of the treaty. We continue to support the relevant disarmament measures contained in the Final Document from the NPT Review Conference in 2000, including the 13 practical steps towards disarmament, and we have a good record on meeting the priorities they set out. Not all the 13 steps are relevant to the UK, such as those relating to bilateral measures between the US and Russia. However, we have made progress on the majority of those that are. The 2006 White Paper on the future of the UK nuclear deterrent committed us to a further 20 per cent. reduction in our stockpile of operationally available warheads and my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Margaret Beckett) announced on 25 June, at the Carnegie Institute, further work on the development of expertise in methods and techniques to verify the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. We continue to call for the entry into force of the comprehensive test ban treaty as soon as possible and, pending its entry into force, maintain a moratorium on nuclear weapons test explosions and any other nuclear explosions. The UK is also pressing for the immediate commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, without pre-conditions, at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reason the UK voted against the resolution on reducing nuclear danger in the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament on 17 October 2003. 
The resolution on Reducing Nuclear Danger at the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament on 17 October 2007 contains a number
of elements that the United Kingdom does not support. These include assertions on the alert status of nuclear weapons that we do not accept. Our reasoning is explained in an 'Explanation of Vote' (EoV) on the resolution at the same Committee on Nuclear De-Alerting. A copy of the EoV will be placed in the Library of the House.
Dr. Howells: The United Kingdom has already taken steps to reduce the alert status of our nuclear deterrent. We also note the statements made by nuclear weapon states regarding the de-targeting and de-alerting of their nuclear forces. As we made clear in our Explanation of Vote on the Resolution on nuclear de-alerting in the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament on 17 October 2007, we do not accept that the world is at risk due to large numbers of nuclear weapons at dangerously high levels of alert.
Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government plan to take in the next six months to encourage the governments of Russia and the USA to remove their nuclear missiles from hair-trigger-alert. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: There is no internationally agreed definition of the term 'hair-trigger-alert', and it is not a term the UK uses. The Permanent Representative of the United States to the Conference on Disarmament recently stated that:
US nuclear forces are not and have never been on hair-trigger-alert.
Dr. Howells: We are aware of the case of Qamar David, but we do not raise every individual blasphemy case and we have not made any representations on this case to the Government of Pakistan. However, we regularly raise our concerns about blasphemy legislation and its effects on minority groups with the Government of Pakistan, both bilaterally and with our EU partners, and will continue to do so.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what mechanisms his Department has in place to assess the costs and benefits of the services provided to the Government by private military security companies; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband [holding answer 3 December 2007]: Costs and benefits of Private Military and Security Company (PMSC) services, as with all contractor services, are assessed during the tendering process of a contract, during the contract's lifetime and on completion of that contract.
The Government ensure that all contracts are subject to a rigorous selection process so that we obtain best value for money. Any company engaged by the Government needs to pass through a stringent and transparent procurement process in line with public procurement guidelines and best practice.
All PMSC contracts are subject to ongoing performance monitoring and contract management by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and other Government Departments concerned, both in country on-the-ground and from the UK, in respect of all aspects of the delivery and operation of these contracts. FCO monitors performance by a mixture of key performance indicators, regular visits by overseas security advisors to FCO posts who review and report on the PMSCs' performance, regular review meetings in London with PMSCs, and monitoring expenditure against a fully profiled budget.
In addition, the FCO reviews requirements on completion of the contract and prior to re-tendering in order to highlight any improvements that could be made as a result of experience or lessons learned.