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6 Feb 2008 : Column 1155W—continued

Afghanistan: Capital Punishment

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations his Department (a) has made and (b) plans to make on the arrest and sentencing to death of Afghan resident Sayed Pervez Kambaksh. [184798]

Dr. Howells: The Government were concerned to hear about the case of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh. We are opposed to the death penalty. We fully support the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. We are pursuing the matter in Afghanistan through the EU and UN. The office of the UN special representative in Afghanistan has already called publicly for a review of the case.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Afghanistan on the death sentence imposed on Sayed Pervez Kambaksh; and if he will make a statement. [184803]

Dr. Howells: The Government were concerned to hear about the case of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh. We are opposed to the death penalty. We fully support the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. We are pursuing the matter in Afghanistan through the EU and UN. The office of the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan has already called publicly for a review of the case.

Antarctic: Research

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what research activity the UK is conducting in the Antarctic; what the objectives of such research are; what reports he has received of research activities by other states in the Antarctic; and if he will make a statement. [184981]

Meg Munn: The UK is committed to maintaining its leading role in Antarctic science and research, including in areas such as climate change, sea level rise and the sustainable use of natural resources. The contribution of UK scientists, especially those at the British Antarctic Survey, a research institute of the Natural Environment Research Council, not only helps increase our understanding of the complex natural systems that are vital to the health of the planet, but also underpins the UK’s high profile within the Antarctic Treaty System. UK scientists are also playing a full and active role in the International Polar Year 2007-09. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, based at the Scott Polar Research Institute in
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Cambridge, is responsible for coordinating international research programmes in Antarctica. Details of other states’ research activities are communicated using a combination of reports from national Antarctic research programmes, science conferences and published scientific journals and publications.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on oil exploration and research in the Antarctic by other countries; and if he will make a statement. [184986]

Meg Munn: We have received no such reports on oil research and exploration in the Antarctic. The UK is fully committed to upholding the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty including the Protocol on Environmental Protection and its clear prohibition on any activity related to mineral resources, other than scientific research.

Aral Sea

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the impact on the Aral sea of cotton farm irrigation in Uzbekistan, with particular reference to the effect on the population of Karakalpakstan. [183750]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The Aral sea has been recognised as the world’s worst artificial ecological and environmental disaster. From 1960 to 2000, it lost 75 per cent. of its volume and 50 per cent. of its surface area. Its degradation has been ruinous to the people, plant and animal life in the region, including Karakalpakstan. The degradation has been caused primarily by excessive use, dating back to Soviet times, of the waters of the two main rivers flowing into it, the Syr-Daria and Amu-Daria, to irrigate the cotton fields in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. None of the 20 species of fish once found in the Aral survived. However, a dam has now been built between the northern and southern part of the Aral sea with international assistance from the World Bank. Since completion in 2005, the World Bank reports that the water level in the northern part of the sea has gradually risen and, between 2003 and 2006, increased by 13 per cent. in surface area (from 2,850 km square to 3,250 km square).

A spillway passing excess water from the northern to the southern part of the Aral sea has been operational since February 2006 and the water level in the southern part is also now likely to increase in the future, though probably only marginally. Salinity levels of both parts of the sea have been reduced over the last two years and several freshwater fish have been returned to the sea. As a result, fish harvests have considerably increased during the past two years.

According to the World Bank, the next step is to improve the irrigation efficiency of the land in the Kazakh part of the Aral sea basin. Additional waterworks are also planned to restore wetlands and fishing lakes in the delta region. A World Bank project to this end began in 2007.


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Details of the World Bank project can be found at:

The Aral sea is an international problem which will require an international solution. In its “Strategy for Central Asia”, which will be adopted at the European Council on 21-22 June, the EU commits itself, inter alia, to support the implementation of the EU Water Initiative for safe water supply and integrated water resources management; promotion of transboundary river basin management and regional co-operation and support the integrated management of surface and underground transboundary water resources, including the introduction of techniques for more efficient water use particularly in irrigation.

British Overseas Territories: Nature Conservation

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to protect sea birds in the overseas territories. [184903]

Meg Munn: The Government have provided over £820,000 since 2004 for projects and activities for the protection of seabirds in the overseas territories. Projects include habitat restoration, the production of management plans to guard against the negative impact of human activity on the environment and education projects on Ascension Island and in the Falkland Islands to inform school children about the local environment. The Government have also agreed to fund an agreement for the conservation of Albatross and Petrels co-ordinator to assist territories in the South Atlantic to monitor and report on seabird populations.

Brunei: Gurkhas

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the Government of Brunei on increasing the provision of married quarters for Royal Ghurkha Rifles personnel stationed in Brunei. [185211]

Meg Munn: We hold regular bilateral meetings with the Government of Brunei, at which accommodation, including service family accommodation for the Brunei garrison is discussed. A multi-million pound build programme for the garrison is in progress and is already delivering new housing for the battalion and its families.

Departmental Telephone Services

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much revenue was generated by each (a) 0845 and (b) 0870 telephone code used by his Department’s agencies for customer enquiry lines in each of the last five years. [183952]

Meg Munn: The 0845/0870 numbers, in use by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, are provided free of charge and for our convenience by the service provider.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office generates no revenue from their use.


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EU Reform: Treaties

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on plans for the forthcoming Irish referendum on the EU Constitution; and if he will make a statement. [178896]

Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has regular contact with his Irish counterpart on a variety of issues. He has received no representations on the forthcoming Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon.

Falkland Islands: Fisheries

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures the Government are taking to protect the fisheries around the Falkland Islands from unauthorised fishing by foreign vessels. [184982]

Meg Munn: The Falkland Islands Government exercise responsibility for protecting fisheries around the Falkland Islands from unauthorised fishing. In order to achieve this task the Falkland Islands Government have two maritime surveillance aircraft, a chartered fisheries protection vessel and a satellite based vessel monitoring system. Additionally, a small number of fisheries observers are deployed on the commercial fleet. Their primary role is the collection of scientific data but they also monitor compliance with regulations.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what forecasts have been made of the future level of fish stocks in the Falkland Islands waters. [184983]

Meg Munn: Since the introduction of the first fisheries conservation zone around the Falkland Islands in 1986 and the beginning of the regulated fishery, fin fish stocks in the Falkland Islands have been relatively stable. Squid stocks are less stable due to their short life cycle (one-year) and dependence on favourable environmental conditions. After a period of decline, stocks of the main squid species now appear to have returned to normal levels. Apart from the noted volatility of squid stocks, we expect conservation action to generally maintain stock levels and catches at current levels.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Argentine Government on the issuing of licences to fish in Falkland Islands waters. [184987]

Meg Munn: We have had no recent discussions with the Argentine Government on the issue of licences to fish in Falkland Islands waters. The Falkland Islands Government has responsibility for the licensing of fishing in its waters, in line with international best practice. We do participate in fisheries discussions with Argentina through the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission. We last met the Argentine Government to discuss the mandate of the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission in March 2007.


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Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what regulations govern the activity of fishing vessels in Falkland Islands waters. [184988]

Meg Munn: The Falkland Islands Government license commercial fishing in Falkland Islands waters in line with their legislation on conservation and management of fish stocks. The legal and regulatory framework in which the Falkland Islands’ fishery operates has been modernised and re-stated recently with the enactment of the Fisheries (Conservation and Management) Ordinance 2005. These regulations are similar to those used in other fisheries around the world where international best practice is adhered to.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much revenue the issuing of fishing licences to foreign vessels generated for the Falkland Islands in each year for which figures are available. [185022]

Meg Munn: The issuing of fishing licences by the Falkland Islands Government has generated the following amounts for each of the calendar years since 1989 (the earliest year for which figures are available):

Income generated from fishing licences (£)

1989

29,001,223

1990

27,942,586

1991

26,360,901

1992

26,513,702

1993

21,073,205

1994

26,690,547

1995

20,348,929

1996

21,977,242

1997

21,296,309

1998

19,577,548

1999

20,182,480

2000

24,780,401

2001

27,685,053

2002

26,552,083

2003

20,466,419

2004

11,912,319

2005

10,552,357

2006

14,401,541


Figures for income generated by the sale of licences specifically to foreign vessels is only available for the last three years. These amounts are:

Income generated from fishing licences to foreign vessels (£)

2005

5,268,712

2006

7,655,134

2007

8,788,340


The Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department supplied these figures. The responsibility for the sale of fishing licences lies with the Falkland Islands Government.


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Falkland Islands: Nature Conservation

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many species of endangered (a) animals and (b) birds there are in the Falkland Islands; and what estimate he has made of the numbers of each. [184985]

Meg Munn: There are four species of animals and two species of birds found in the Falkland Islands and their waters that are listed as endangered in the 2007 IUCN (the World Conservation Union) Redlist. The animals listed are the Grey Skate, Blue Whale, Fin Whale and Sei Whale. The birds are the Northern Royal Albatross and Black-browed Albatross. The Falklands Island Government are responsible for the protection of endangered species in the Falkland Islands. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not carried out research to estimate the numbers of those endangered animals or birds in the Falkland Islands.

Falkland Islands: Seals

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the populations of seals and sealions in the Falkland Islands and its waters; and what steps the Government is taking to protect them. [184984]

Meg Munn: In 2003, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provided 20,000 to Falklands Conservation, an environmental non-governmental organisation, to carry out a sea-lion census. The Sea Mammal Research Unit of the University of St. Andrews, a specialist marine unit with the relevant marine experience, carried out the census on behalf of Falklands Conservation. Its report estimated there to be 7,047 sea-lions, including 2,747 pups. The census did not include seals, for which there are no estimates available. No further census of sea-lions or seals has taken place since 2003. The responsibility for the protection of seals and sea-lions in the Falkland Islands lies with the Falkland Islands Government. Seals and sea-lions are protected by Falkland Islands legislation.


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