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7 Jan 2008 : Column 84W—continued


UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) if he will place in the Library copies of the contracts relating to the sale of the British Library site on which it is proposed to establish the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation; [174371]

(2) what the value is of the British Library site on which it is proposed to establish the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation. [174372]

Ian Pearson: The UKCMRI consortium have acquired Brill Place as the site for the proposed centre for £85 million through a competitive exercise run by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The contracts for the sale of the land to the consortium are being finalised between the parties. I will not be able to place copies of the contracts in the Libraries as they will be commercial in confidence between parties.

Vocational Training: Complaints

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many formal complaints have been received by his Department about skills brokers. [174369]

Mr. Lammy: No formal complaints have been received by this Department about skills brokers. Employer satisfaction with brokerage remains high with 86 per cent. of employers being very satisfied with the service they received.

Duchy of Lancaster

Catering

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the expenditure by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office on food and drink was in 2006-07. [176508]

Gillian Merron: In financial year 2006-07 expenditure by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office on food and drink was £6,984.94.

All DPMO expenditure on official hospitality was made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in “Government Accounting” and the Treasury handbook on “Regularity and Propriety”.

Communication: Finance

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the annual Number 10 digital communications budget is, broken down by main headings. [173193]

Gillian Merron: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on 17 October, 2007 Official Report, columns 1134-35W.

Departmental Procurement

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the standard terms and conditions of purchase used by his Department in procurement of goods and services from the private sector prohibits the assignment of debt. [172351]


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Gillian Merron: The Cabinet Office’s standard terms and conditions are based on the model terms and conditions issued by the Office of Government Commerce for contracting authorities in central civil Government. Although these do not specifically prohibit the assignment of debt, they do require the contractor to obtain Cabinet Office prior approval to assign debt.

Departmental Public Expenditure

Mr. Letwin: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the Winter Supplementary Estimates (HC 29), if he will break down his Department's (a) main estimate and (b) winter supplementary estimate provision by subhead in (i) near cash and (ii) non-cash terms. [174996]

Gillian Merron: The Department's estimate provision in “Part II: Subhead detail” is broken down as follows:

(a) Main estimate

(i) Near cash

(ii) Non-Cash

Total non-cash of £44.861 million is reported as follows:

(b) Winter Supplementary Estimate

(i) Near Cash

(ii) Non-Cash


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There are no non-cash amounts reported on all other rows and columns in “Part II: Subhead detail”.

Departmental Publicity

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much his Department and its agencies spent on managing their corporate identities in the last 12 month period for which figures are available. [167354]

Gillian Merron: In the period from 1 November 2006 to 31 October 2007 the Cabinet Office spent an estimated £52,000 on developing and implementing a more cohesive corporate identity, following changes to the Department’s remit and the findings of its capability review. This figure includes the cost of sub-brands for the Office of the Third Sector and the Social Exclusion Taskforce, both of which joined Cabinet Office during 2006.

Departmental Recycling

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what recycling scheme is in operation in each building operated by the Cabinet Office. [176513]

Gillian Merron: Recycling facilities are provided in our central London offices for the disposal of paper, cardboard, cans, tins, rigid plastic containers and batteries. An aerosol recycling bin is provided in the staff gym. Glass, CDs and DVDs, mobile phones, fluorescent tubes, toner cartridges and furniture are collected and held in secure locations before being sent for recycling. Waste cooking oil is supplied to the bio-diesel market or for technical use. We have installed wormeries in those buildings where we have restaurants to allow us to compost some food waste. Similar recycling schemes are in operation at our Basingstoke and York offices.

Licensing

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which buildings for which his Department is responsible have premises licences under the Licensing Act 2003. [175167]

Gillian Merron: The Cabinet Office has a premises licence for the Emergency Planning college.

Minimum Wage

Jon Trickett: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many London-based staff are employed by his Department on the national minimum wage. [175976]

Gillian Merron: As at 31 November 2007 the Cabinet Office had no London-based staff on the minimum wage.


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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the statement by the Prime Minister of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 304, on Afghanistan, what plans his Department has to recruit and deploy specialists who speak Afghan languages and understand tribal dynamics. [175461]

Dr. Howells: Officials are examining a variety of options for recruiting and deploying such specialists, particularly in support of the government of Afghanistan's work on reconciliation.

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the statement by the Prime Minister of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 304, on Afghanistan, how many of his Department's personnel serve in the collocated headquarters. [175465]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK employs a broad range of staff in support of the government of Afghanistan to help develop a stable and secure Afghanistan. Over 100 civilian staff in Kabul and over 30 staff in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar are employed from across the Government, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Afghanistan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit. Their roles include work in governance, reconstruction and development, and counter narcotics. The work of Task Force Helmand and of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Lashkar Gah are co-ordinated through the combined civil-military Helmand Executive Group.

Afghanistan: Frontiers

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the United Kingdom recognises the 1893 Durand Line as the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan; and if he will make a statement. [175450]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 7 January 2008]: We regard the treaties establishing the Durand Line as an international border as valid. However, it has a complicated history and there are sensitivities in the region surrounding its status. It is therefore for the sovereign parties concerned to determine their territorial border and any related disputes.

Chernobyl: Children

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent (a) discussions he has held with and (b) representations he has received from (i) ministerial colleagues, (ii) the Belarus ambassador and (iii) charities on Chernobyl-affected children being able to enter the UK; and if he will make a statement. [174198]


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Dr. Howells: We appreciate the important work being undertaken by United Kingdom charities to provide respite care and medical treatment for children affected by the Chernobyl disaster. We have held no recent discussions with the Belarus ambassador to London in respect of Chernobyl children. We have, however, recently received correspondence from hon. Members and Peers, from the Belarus ambassador to London, and from charities concerning the visa processes for visits to the United Kingdom by Chernobyl-affected children. UKvisas continues to work with the Chernobyl charities with regard to the visa procedures and the collection of biometrics from visa applicants.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Chernobyl-affected children received visas to visit the UK in 2007 (a) prior to 31 August and (b) since 1 September; what his assessment is of the reasons for any difference; and if he will make a statement. [174199]

Mr. Jim Murphy: 3,167 gratis visas were issued to Chernobyl-affected children prior to 31 August 2007, while 111 visas have been issued in the subsequent period to 13 December 2007. The autumn is, historically, a slow period for such applications, 292 such visas being issued in the final four months of 2006. The Chernobyl charities advise that the Christmas holiday period is a busy period and UKvisas anticipated an upsurge in applications at this time. Application rates during this period may have been further affected by the collection of biometric data in Minsk. Furthermore, one charity was, temporarily, asked not to submit applications while investigations concerning one of its former hosts were ongoing. This charity has now been advised that it may resume submission of such applications.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has held with (a) the Belarus ambassador to London and (b) directly with the Belarus Government on the establishment of a seasonal visa application centre in Gomel Oblast, Belarus. [174200]

Dr. Howells: We have held no recent discussions with the Belarus ambassador to London in respect of Chernobyl children. It was intended that a seasonal biometrics collection facility in Gomel Oblast specifically for children wishing to come to the UK for respite care would be offered. This would have been in addition to the service offered in our embassy in Minsk. However, the Government of Belarus would not allow the delivery of this visa service, including the collection of biometrics, through our commercial partnerships in the country and the embassy was compelled to adjust its plans. Correspondence with the Belarus embassy in London is ongoing. Given the lack of agreement with the Belarus authorities in respect to our commercial partnerships in Belarus, it has now been agreed that a seasonal mobile biometrics data collection service will operate on a pilot basis outside Minsk in the summer of 2008 for children in need of recuperative holidays. The pilot will involve the use of mobile biometric collection equipment in one or more regional locations between April and July. UKvisas are prepared to receive applications in Kiev, in Ukraine, where that proves to be more convenient.


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Mr. Goodwill: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from (a) charities and (b) others on the effects of changes to visa arrangements and charges on numbers of children able to visit the UK from the Chernobyl-affected parts of Belarus. [174576]

Dr. Howells: We appreciate the important work being undertaken by United Kingdom charities to provide respite care and medical treatment for children affected by the Chernobyl disaster. We have recently received correspondence from hon. Members and Peers, from the Belarus ambassador to London, and from charities, concerning the visa processes for visits to the United Kingdom by Chernobyl-affected children. UKvisas continues to work with the Chernobyl charities with regard to the visa procedures and the collection of biometrics from visa applicants. Up to 4,000 visas a year are issued to children travelling to the United Kingdom from Belarus under the auspices of the Chernobyl charities and these visas are all issued gratis. There are no plans to change this arrangement.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 19 October 2007, Official Report, columns 1375-76W, on Chernobyl: children, at what level in Belarus the UK Government application was made; and how that refusal was conveyed. [174643]

Dr. Howells: The Deputy Head of Mission, Entry Clearance Officer and Regional Deputy Director of Visa Services at our embassy in Minsk held a meeting in June 2007 with the Deputy Head of the Consular Department and other officials of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The embassy asked whether they could open Visa Application Centres (VACs) operated by their commercial partner in Belarus. The MFA said that if the embassy did open such premises they would be subject to frequent searches and/or closures by the Belarus authorities. The embassy therefore considered that they would not be able to protect the data of visa customers satisfactorily and decided not to open VACs in Belarus.

Given the lack of agreement with the Belarus authorities in respect of our commercial partner in Belarus, UKvisas and our embassy in Minsk have now agreed to invest additional resources in a seasonal mobile biometric pilot project in the summer of 2008 for Chernobyl children in need of recuperative holidays. The pilot will involve visits by embassy officials, with a mobile biometric kit, to the region where the largest number of such children live. UKvisas are also prepared to receive applications in Kiev, in Ukraine, where that proves to be more convenient.


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