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Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the rate of increase was of (a) the basic state pension, (b) jobseeker's allowance and (c) incapacity benefit in each year since 1997. [166573]

Mr. Plaskitt: The answer is in the following table.

Rate of increase in the basic state pension, jobseeker’s allowance and incapacity benefit 1997-2007
Percentage increase over previous rate
Basic state pension Jobseeker’s allowance Incapacity benefit













































Department for Work and Pensions Abstract of Statistics 2006 and Uprating Order 2007

Social Security Benefits: Chronically Sick

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will assess the merits of providing financial support to terminally ill people without an estate, next of kin or life insurance to allow them to make personal arrangements for their funerals. [169379]

Mr. Plaskitt: The Department does not provide financial support to people to assist them in making arrangements for their own funerals. The purpose of the funeral payment scheme is to assist the person who has taken responsibility for arranging the funeral where the person who has died has not made provision. Although the scheme is kept under review there are no plans to make fundamental changes to the Funeral Payments scheme to provide financial assistance to people for arranging their own funeral.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Africa: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 22 November 2007, Official Report, column 1035W, on Africa: peacekeeping operations, when the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations will complete its pre-deployment assessment for the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission to Darfur. [169909]

Meg Munn: The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is carrying out pre-deployment assessment visits in November and December to countries that have offered troops. We understand that the visits will be completed by 5 December and that the DPKO will prepare reports for further consultation with the countries concerned.

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Bosnia: Embassies

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans there are for the Office of High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina to be closed and its responsibilities and authorities, including the Bonn powers, to be fully transferred to the EU and exercised through the EUSR. [170325]

David Miliband: The Peace Implementation Committee (PIC) Steering Board, of which the UK is a member, has stated that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) will remain in place and continue to carry out its mandate under the Dayton Peace Agreement. While the aim of the PIC is OHR closure by 30 June 2008, this will clearly need to be reviewed in light of the situation on the ground and, in particular, whether BiH’s political leaders are overcoming ethnic divisions and history to move BiH forward. The PIC will review the situation again at its meeting in February 2008.

Bosnia: Politics and Government

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of progress made in (a) (i) police, (ii) military and (iii) judicial reform, (b) disarmament, (c) refugee return, (d) human rights guarantees and (e) protection of cultural and religious monuments in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the Dayton Peace Accords in November 1995. [170774]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Over the last 12 years there has been significant progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). There has been a transition from conflict to stability; free elections held across the country on seven occasions; over 1 million returns of refugees and internally displaced persons; membership of the Partnership For Peace; and significant defence reforms. Nonetheless, important challenges remain, including in the areas highlighted in the hon. Member’s question.

BiH urgently needs to bring its policing into line with European and international standards. This is essential if the country is to establish and maintain the rule of law. The EU police mission refocused its priorities in early 2006 to concentrate on the process of police reform and building capacity to tackle organised crime. Agreement on police restructuring is a key condition for the conclusion of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU. The politicisation of the police reform issue has obstructed the work of the Directorate for Police Restructuring and thus far prevented agreement on a way forward. The UK remains closely involved in trying to facilitate cross party political agreement. Progress on judicial reform has been reasonable, but implementation of a National Justice Sector Reform Strategy remains a priority. Defence reform is progressing well.

BiH continues to make mixed progress on human rights. There is still a need to resolve outstanding issues from the 1992-95 conflict and ensure the sustainable return of displaced persons. BiH’s co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia improved in 2007. The Republika Srpska
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authorities assisted in the arrest of Zdravko Tolimir (one of the six high-profile indictees who remained at large at the start of 2007, wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity) in May 2007. BiH has established a State Commission for the Preservation of National monuments. The UK supported the building of a memorial room near the site of the Srebrenica massacre, which opened in July 2007. We hope this will serve as a moving memorial to the victims.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the (a) political and (b) security situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. [171233]

David Miliband [holding answer 4 December 2007]: We have been concerned over the recent deterioration of the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and in particular the increased level of ethnic nationalistic political rhetoric. We are urging politicians from all sides to ensure the efficient operation of state institutions and to take forward reforms which are necessary for BiH and its EU perspective. We fully support High Representative Lajcak and have also been urging all parties to uphold their obligations to respect and implement his decisions. Despite recent political tensions the security situation within BiH remains stable.

British Overseas Territories: Nature Conservation

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government intends to take to attempt to increase the number of critically endangered animal species in UK Overseas Territories. [171208]

Meg Munn: The Government recognise the importance of protecting endangered species in the Overseas Territories and is working with the Overseas Territories to achieve this, through funding for programmes and projects and the provision of technical support.

There are a number of Government funded programmes that contribute to the protection of endangered species in the Overseas Territories. Programmes include:

The Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP), a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development funded programme, makes available approximately £1 million a year to assist the Overseas Territories with the implementation of their Environment Charters. The Charters include a list of commitments agreed by the Government and individual Overseas Territory governments to support sustainable use of environmental resources in the Overseas Territories. Among these are the protection and restoration of key habitats and species and support for general environmental management including protection of endangered species. OTEP has funded a feasibility study on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island on the eradication of rodents to safeguard the Albatross and the Gough Bunting. The results of the study are expected in March 2008. Funding has also been provided this year to produce a management plan for Steeple Jason Island in the Falkland Islands aimed at better management and protection of Albatross and Petrels from outside influences including visitors and non-native invasive plants and animals.

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The Darwin Initiative is a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) funded programme that contributes to the conservation and sustainable use of the world’s biodiversity, including protection of endangered species. UK experts work with local communities and organisations to help countries rich in biodiversity but who, through lack of resources, are unable to meet their obligations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The Initiative has funded 13 projects totalling around £1.5 million in the Overseas Territories since it was launched in 1992. Projects have included the Montserrat Centre Hills and the Cayman Island “In Ivan's Wake” projects to put in place measures and legislation to protect and safeguard their native flora and fauna and endangered species.

DEFRA also pay an annual subscription of £36,000 to the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels (ACAP) Secretariat. DEFRA has also agreed to co-fund, with OTEP and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the establishment of an ACAP Co-ordinator for the Falkland Islands and the South Atlantic Overseas Territories. The co-ordinator will be responsible for ensuring up to date information concerning Albatross and Petrel populations in the South Atlantic Overseas Territories is fed into the ACAP Secretariat for dissemination to other interested parties.

The Flagship Species Fund, administered by Fauna and Flora International, an international conservation charity supported by DEFRA has made approximately £100,000 a year available since 2002 to provide practical support for the conservation of endangered species and their habitats in developing countries, including in the Overseas Territories. The Flagship Species Fund provided £21,800 to support a project to eradicate rodents on Eagle Island in the British Indian Ocean Territory to safeguard native birds and turtles. DEFRA has allocated £75,000 to the Flagship Species Fund for 2008-09.

Cuba: Politics and Government

Mr. Boris Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the (a) level of corruption, (b) human rights situation and (c) government policy on homosexuality in Cuba. [169818]

Meg Munn: Our assessment reveals that respect for human rights falls far below international standards. Of particular concern to us are the high numbers of political prisoners, violation of civil, political and economic rights and continued government repression of dissidents. Further information on our views of the human rights situation can be found in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's annual human rights report. A copy of the most recent report can be found in the Library of the House.

Transparency International rated Cuba 10 out of 32 in the Americas in its 2007 corruption survey. The Cuban government is aware of the risks of corruption and take active measures to counter it. The Government supports this aim and indeed a Government representative attended an international anti-corruption conference in Havana in November 2007.

Our assessment of Cuban government policy on homosexuality is positive overall. The Cuban National Center for Sex Education is a government funded body
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which advocates tolerance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues on the island and which has recently proposed legislation on some of these issues.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Politics and Government

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions on security and long-term stability took place at the recent meeting in Washington of the Great Lakes Contact Group. [169903]

Meg Munn: The International Contact Group on the Great Lakes met on 16 November. Topics for discussion included: the international community's response to the communiqué signed in Nairobi on 9 November by the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda and support for those countries in fulfilling their commitments; strategies to defeat the armed groups operating in eastern DRC; the renewal of the mandate for the UN peacekeeping force; security sector reform in DRC; and the UN arms embargo on DRC. All of these issues directly affect security and stability in the Great Lakes region.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking in co-operation with their EU partners to prevent an escalation of conflict in the Great Lakes region of the Democratic Republic of Congo following the ACP-EU joint parliamentary meeting earlier this month. [169904]

Meg Munn: The UK and our partners have regularly urged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to find a political solution to the conflict in eastern DRC. The EU’s special representative was involved in the negotiations which led to the joint DRC-Rwandan communiqué signed in Nairobi on 9 November, a potentially important step towards peace in the region. The DRC has agreed to produce a detailed plan of action for both countries to follow on 1 December. We, and our international partners, will encourage them to fulfil the commitments they make.

The African, Caribbean and pacific-EU joint parliamentary meeting resulted in a resolution urging that those guilty of atrocities in eastern DRC be held to account for their actions. EU ambassadors have recently lobbied the DRC Minster for Foreign Affairs to ask for proceedings relating to the death of the human rights defender Serge Maheshe to resume. The EU also leads a project to promote reform of the security sector in DRC. One of its aims is to improve discipline and accountability among members of the armed forces. The UK is active on the issue of sexual violence in DRC, and staff from our Embassy and the Department for International Development office in Kinshasa have lobbied the government and carried out other initiatives targeted at this problem, including work to promote justice and reduce impunity.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the security situation in the North Kivu
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Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement. [169905]

Meg Munn: The Government are gravely concerned at the situation in North Kivu, which has severe humanitarian consequences, hinders development and has the potential to undermine peace and stability in the region. It has led to around 375,000 people being displaced since December 2006 and a widespread problem of brutal sexual violence and other atrocities.

The UK is committed to finding a lasting solution to the violence. My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, Lord Malloch-Brown, and other Ministers have spoken with President Kabila recently, urging the Congolese Government to continue to look for a political solution to the problems affecting the east of the country. We are closely engaged with our international partners in efforts to bring the violence to an end.

Departmental Data Protection

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he proposes to review how his Department transports data; and whether his Department uses TNT to transport data. [169215]

Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998 requiring investigation there have been in the last five years in his Department; what the nature of such breaches were; and what the results of the investigations were in each case. [169258]

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many confirmed data security breaches there have been in his Department in the last 36 months; and what action was taken after each occurrence. [170253]

Meg Munn: I refer the hon. Members to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 21 November 2007, Official Report, column 1179. The review by the Cabinet Secretary and security experts is looking at procedures within Departments and agencies for the storage and use of data. A statement on Departments’ procedures will be made on completion of the review.

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