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10 Dec 2007 : Column 157Wcontinued
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) reviews, (b) consultations and (c) taskforces his Department is (i) responsible for and (ii) scheduled to undertake; on what date each (A) started and (B) is expected to be completed; and what the purpose is of each. 
David Miliband: Information relating to ad hoc reviews, groups and taskforces is published at www.fco.gov.uk. Information on consultations is published on the 10 Downing street website at:
I announced in July a review of priorities for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This review, alongside the comprehensive spending review and the capability review, provides us with the opportunity to align our departmental priorities, resources and people. Following input from the public and other stakeholders, this exercise is now reaching a conclusion. We are working out the details and will inform Parliament and key stakeholders in due course. In addition the FCO is conducting a number of internal reviews aimed at improving our effectiveness. The FCO is participating in several cross-Whitehall reviews led by other Government Departments.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British embassies and consulates have been (a) closed and (b) opened in each of the last 10 years; and if he will list the closures by country. 
David Miliband: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has closed eight British embassies, six British high commissions, and 18 British consulates since May 1997. Operations were also suspended at the British embassy, Abidjan, in April 2005 and the British consulate at Port-au-Prince in July 2005 owing to the security situation there.
During the same period, the FCO opened seven British embassies, four British embassy offices, one British office and six British consulates. Three British consulates were also upgraded to British embassies.
The FCO continuously reviews the deployment of its resources and aligns them flexibly in line with UK interests.
In respect of the missions that have closed in the last 10 years, I refer the right hon. Member to the reply my right hon. Friend the then Minister for Europe (Mr. Hoon) gave to the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) on 6 February 2007, Official Report, columns 821-22W. Since this reply was given, the following missions have closed:
In 2006-07, the British high commission in Kingstown, St.Vincent and the Grenadines.
In 2007-08, the British high commissions in St. Johns, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Georges, Grenada are to be closed.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of the likely training requirements for officials of the EU External Action Service if the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified; 
(2) what estimate he has made of the likely (a) size and (b) budget of the EU External Action Service if the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified; 
(3) what assessment he has made of the likely recruitment procedure for officials of the EU External Action Service if the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified; 
(4) whether his Department will have access to all documents produced by the EU External Action Service after ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: No decisions have yet been taken on the organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service (EEAS), which will be agreed by member states. It is therefore too early to make an accurate assessment of its size, budget, information sharing procedures, staff training requirements, recruitment process or the funding arrangements for staff seconded from member states diplomatic services to the EEAS.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to ensure that the final version of the European Union Reform Treaty is made available to hon. Members before the Treaty is signed on 14 December. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The final draft version of the EU Reform Treaty text, which will be prepared for formal signature on 13 December, was sent to the Clerks of the Foreign Affairs Committee, European Scrutiny Committee and the Lords EU Select Committee and to the Libraries of both Houses on 4 December. Once the Treaty is signed it will be laid before Parliament.
Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent bilateral contacts he has had with the Foreign Minister of Germany. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has frequent meetings and telephone contact with his German counterpart, in London, Berlin and in international fora, not least every month at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council.
We use these contacts to discuss the full range of bilateral, EU and international issues.
I also have regular contact with my German counterpart, Europe Minister GĂ1/4nter Closer and most recently met him during my visit to Berlin in November. Discussions covered the Global Europe agenda, the EU Reform Treaty, Kosovo and the forthcoming EU/Africa Summit.
Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date he formally requested the return of British residents from Guantanamo detention facility; when he expects this to occur; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Government requested on 7 August 2007 the release from Guantanamo Bay and return to the UK of five men who, while not UK nationals, were legally resident here prior to their detention. We have made representations to the US in respect of these individuals. In some cases the resulting discussions are still ongoing; and despite media coverage over the weekend we cannot guarantee that representations in respect of any of these individuals will be successful. We are in touch with the families and legal representatives of all five individuals about the status of these discussions.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what checks are initiated by High Commission staff in New Delhi to ensure that no medical staff recommended by the High Commission are involved in practices associated with female foeticide. 
Dr. Howells: Our high commission in New Delhi selects doctors on the basis of their professional qualifications and skills, English language proficiency, experience with foreign patients, and on account of their exposure to and acknowledged adherence to a high standard of ethical medical practice. They are interviewed, visited, monitored and regularly assessed by the regional medical officer (a UK general practitioner) and by the health care team at the high commission.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date the decision to close his Department's Diplomatic Service Language Centre was made; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: I am committed to maintaining the excellent language skills of Diplomatic Service staff and to modernising the ways in which those skills are acquired. Following a review of the provision of language training, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Services concluded in 2006 that its language teaching services cost between 15 and 40 per cent. more than comparable providers and that it should no longer provide language teaching services to the FCO.
At the same time, the FCO conducted a policy review of language training which recommended a number of reforms, including more group and in-country teaching. These changes would further increase the cost of in-house teaching. The FCO therefore concluded that it would be a better use of public money to outsource the language teaching requirement. A key element in the new arrangements was a strict quality control and monitoring component to ensure that the quality of teaching was maintained.
My right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Margaret Beckett) approved the decision to close the Language Centre on 9 March 2007. Since then we have taken a number of further actions to implement this decision, culminating in the closure of the Language Centre in October 2007.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 25 June 2007, Official Report, column 205W, on languages: education, if he will place in the Library copies of the two reviews FCO Services conducted of its language training provision; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: A copy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) review of language training policy (1 May 2007) has been placed in the Library of the House.
The FCO Services review, in relation to the competitiveness of FCO Services provision of language training, contains commercially sensitive information and therefore will not be placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Mexico on the safety of human rights defenders in that country with particular regards to Francisco, Emiliana and Alejandro Cerezo; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: The EU has guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders. Human rights and the protection of human rights defenders, is a regular part of the dialogue between our embassy in Mexico City and the Mexican Government.
Specific representations have not been made to the Mexican authorities about Francisco, Emiliana and Alejandro Cerezo. However, our embassy in Mexico City was represented at a meeting with Francisco Cerezo and Peace Brigades International on 3 December along with several other EU member states representatives.
James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) financial, (b) staffing and (c) other resources the Government have provided for the former Prime Minister in his role as Middle East Envoy for the Quartet. 
Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the reply my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Moore) on 15 November 2007, Official Report, column 392W.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) financial, (b) staffing and (c) other resources the
Government plan to provide over each of the next three years for the former Prime Minister in his role as Middle East Envoy for the Quartet. 
Dr. Howells: The Government will keep under close review how it can best support Mr. Blairs work.
The UK has so far provided £400,000 to a UN Development Programme Trust Fund which provides operational and technical support to Mr. Blairs office in Jerusalem. The UK has also seconded four staff to his team. Other international donors are also supporting his work.
The Government strongly support the work of the right hon. Tony Blair as Quartet representative. He is well placed to drive forward Palestinian capacity building, which is a clear priority. The Middle East Peace Process is one of our top priorities and the UK will continue to support the Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) and their representative, Mr. Blair, in their work.
James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether details of (a) the role of the right hon. Tony Blair as the Middle East Envoy for the Quartet, (b) his salary, (c) his team, (d) his costs and (e) funding for the role will be published by the Quartet. 
Dr. Howells: The right hon. Tony Blair has been appointed by, and reports to, the Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia). On 27 June, the Quartet principals announced the right hon. Tony Blairs appointment as Quartet representative. As set out in the Quartet statement of 27 June, his mandate is to:
mobilise international assistance to the Palestinians, working closely with donors and existing co-ordination bodies;
help to identify, and secure appropriate international support in addressing, the institutional governance needs of the Palestinian state, focusing as a matter of urgency on the rule of law;
develop plans to promote Palestinian economic development, including private sector partnerships, building on previously agreed frameworks, especially concerning access and movement; and
liaise with other countries as appropriate in support of the agreed Quartet objectives.
Mr Blair is not paid a salary.
It will be a matter for the Quartet to determine whether to publish details of Mr. Blairs team, costs and funding.
Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political situation in Pakistan. 
The progress that has been made in recent weeks in Pakistan is to be welcomed. President Musharrafs announcement of elections on 8 January, his stepping down as Chief of the Army on 28 November and the declaration that the State of Emergency will be lifted on 16 December and the constitution restored are all important steps forward. The UK looks forward to the lifting of all remaining restrictions so that all parties are able to participate
fully in the elections. There must be a level playing field for all to ensure the elections are free and fair. We fully support the decision of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala last month to suspend Pakistan from the Councils of the Commonwealth. We hope that Pakistan will rapidly meet the conditions which will allow full membership of the Commonwealth to be restored.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Russian government on the recent incident in November when a Russian military aircraft penetrated UK airspace along the Wash. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: Russian military aircraft have not entered UK national airspace without permission and we have not made any representations to the Russian government.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of negotiations between Russia and the Ukraine on the price of gas; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The hon. Member will be aware that Russia and the Ukraine announced an agreed gas price for 2008 of US$179.5 per 1,000 cubic metres on 4 December 2007. The Government encourage parties to negotiations such as these to come to a commercially viable, transparent price settlement that ensures predictability and reliability of supply, both to domestic and external customers.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met representatives of the Saudi Arabian government; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last met his Royal Highness Prince Saud at Annapolis on 26 to 27 November.
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations has he received from the government of Ethiopia requesting military (a) equipment and (b) advice to assist them in operations in Somalia. 
Meg Munn: The Government have not received any requests from Ethiopia to provide military equipment for, or advice on, Ethiopia's operations in Somalia. Nor has any such assistance been offered.
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