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26 Feb 2008 : Column 1374W—continued

Maldives: Politics and Government

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the constitutional and democratic reform process in the Maldives; and if he will make a statement. [187561]

Dr. Howells: My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch-Brown, has personally emphasised to President Gayoom the need to keep the reform process on track and the importance of the elections due this year being seen as free, fair, inclusive and enjoying the support of all the people of Maldives. As I made clear to the House during a debate on Maldives on 17 October 2007, Official Report, columns 935-42, we do not underestimate the challenges Maldives faces moving from a political system based heavily on patronage and state control to multi-party liberal democracy.

Officials from our High Commission resident in Colombo visit Maldives periodically. The UK has made clear our continued support for the reform process and willingness to provide practical support if that is the wish of the political parties in Maldives. We continue to underline the need for good faith among all political parties and for all to redouble efforts to implement democratic change in Maldives.

Overseas Trade

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to promote UK industry and business through UK Trade and Industry in the Caribbean, Central America and South East Asia. [189190]

Dr. Howells: UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) operates an extensive network overseas that offers a full range of services to help British companies access business opportunities including in the Caribbean, Latin America and South East Asia. In line with UKTI’s five-year strategy “Prosperity in a Changing World”, key high-growth markets in South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam) have benefited from additional resources to help achieve a step change in the UK’s profile.

Pakistan: Elections

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether he has received representations on the number of candidates from religious minorities in the elections in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement; [188022]

(2) whether he has had discussions with the Pakistani government on the political representation of minorities in Pakistan. [188023]


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Dr. Howells [holding answer 26 February 2008]: In our regular contact with the Government of Pakistan at ministerial and official level, bilaterally and through the EU, we have stressed the need for free and fair elections. The elections, which took place on 18 February, were an opportunity for the people of Pakistan to exercise their democratic voice and participate fully in the process of electing their new government. We welcome the EU electoral observer mission (EOM) report, released on 20 February, which assessed that the elections were competitive, despite the well-documented procedural problems.

We will want to work with the new government to help build the institutional framework necessary for a sustained democratic transition and ensure that the fundamental rights of all Pakistani citizens particularly the most vulnerable (women, minorities and children) are guaranteed as laid down in the Constitution of Pakistan and in accordance with international human rights standards. An important part of this will be addressing the weaknesses in the electoral system identified in the EU EOM's report.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials recently met with representatives from the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, a non-governmental organisation working on behalf of Christians in Pakistan, as part of our ongoing engagement with stakeholder communities. Officials remain in regular contact with them on minority religious rights issues.

Simon Mann

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has received on whether Mr. Simon Mann is being held in shackles in Black Beach prison. [189592]

Dr. Howells: Consular officials visited Mr. Mann in Black Beach prison on 12 February. He was being held in shackles at this time. Our deputy high commission in Lagos which provides consular assistance to British nationals in Equatorial Guinea, has urgently taken the matter up with the Equatorial Guinean authorities.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria he will apply in deciding whether or not Mr. Simon Mann is being treated well in detention; and what specific conditions of treatment Mr. Mann should be entitled to to meet those criteria. [189593]

Dr. Howells: We are providing consular assistance to Mr. Mann, including with regard to his treatment and welfare. In considering whether he is being treated well, the Government will refer to international instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Equatorial Guinea is a party. We will also refer to non-binding instruments, such as the UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners, that provide guidance for appropriate conditions of detention.


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South Africa: Power Failures

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made representations to the government of South Africa on the hardship caused to the citizens of that country and adjoining nation states as a result of recent substantial power cuts affecting the region. [188666]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 25 February 2008]: The government of South Africa is acutely aware of the impact of power cuts and our high commission in Pretoria is following the situation. In his 20 February budget, Finance Minister Manuel allocated a further £60 billion Rand for energy infrastructure investment. The South African government has also committed itself to launch a large-scale energy saving campaign in the near future. At the Southern Africa Development Community Energy Ministers meeting last week, South Africa agreed to honour her contractual obligations with regard to the power supply to the rest of the region.

Treaty of Lisbon

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has held with his EU counterparts on the operation of the proposed investigatory powers in the Lisbon Treaty. [189114]

Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 26 February 2008]: Both my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I, as well as our ministerial colleagues in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, have regular discussions with our EU counterparts on a wide range of EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) issues, including the JHA provisions of the Lisbon treaty.

The UK has secured an across-the-board opt-in on all JHA issues. We will not opt-in to any proposal that is not in the UK national interest.

House of Commons Commission

Criminal Investigation

David Taylor: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what guidance is available on the conduct of criminal investigations involving hon. Members by the police within the precincts of the parliamentary estate. [189220]

Nick Harvey: The Serjeant at Arms is always consulted regarding criminal investigations involving hon. Members which may involve police officers entering the parliamentary estate. The Metropolitan police acts as a conduit for matters involving other forces. In general, such issues are dealt with away from the parliamentary estate. The conduct of the inquiry would be a matter for the investigating force, however, the Serjeant is always concerned to ensure that no action should be taken within the estate which would be detrimental to the status and reputation of Parliament. No formal guidance exists but Mr. Speaker or the Clerk of the House would be consulted in exceptional circumstances.


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Hearing Impaired

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what services are provided within the parliamentary estate for hon. Members to facilitate meetings with constituents who are deaf; and if he will make a statement. [189486]

Nick Harvey: There are deaf loop facilities in all Committee Rooms in the Palace and in all Committee and Conference Rooms on the first floor of Portcullis House. Portable equipment is available for the smaller meeting rooms in both buildings. Deaf loop facilities are also provided in the Public Gallery of the House of Commons Chamber and in Westminster Hall Chamber.

When sign language facilities are required in meeting rooms, House staff liaise closely with the Member concerned to ensure that the best possible solution is achieved for the deaf person and the sign language interpreter, depending on which room is being used.

The House provides advice and assistance to Members, but does not meet the cost of providing sign language interpreter services directly from central funds. Members are entitled to reclaim the costs incurred in engaging and using interpreter services from their individual Incidental Expenses Provision. This is set out explicitly in the Green Book which states, in section 5.13.2, on Incidental Expenses Provision, that an allowable expenditure would be:

The Diversity Manager in the Department of Resources can provide contact details at the RNID for obtaining sign language interpreter services, which cost between £120 and £160 for a two hour period.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Actis Capital LLP

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what value the Shareholder Executive currently places on its 40 per cent. share of Actis Capital LLP; and if he will make a statement. [189573]

Malcolm Wicks: The Department of International Development (DFID) holds the 40 per cent. share of Actis LLP and this is managed, on its behalf, by the Shareholder Executive within BERR.

Although a valuation was commissioned prior to the set up of Actis, the Shareholder Executive has not undertaken any subsequent valuation of the 40 per cent. share. However it is understood that the value of DFID's investment in Actis, reflected in DFID's resource accounts, is £1.677 million.


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Electronic Equipment: Waste Management

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether the UK has fully implemented the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive; and what steps he is taking to ensure the continuing compliance with WEEE obligations. [188611]

Malcolm Wicks [holding answer 25 February 2008]: The waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive was transposed into UK law on 12 December 2006. The transposition into UK law centred on the requirement to establish a system of collective responsibility for the collection, treatment, reprocessing and environmentally sound disposal of historical WEEE—that is electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) placed on the UK market before 13 August 2005

Further consideration will be given to the transposition of article 8.2 of the directive, which requires the introduction of individual producer responsibility (IPR) for all EEE placed on the market after 13 August 2005. This will include discussion with the Commission and other member states on the precise requirement of this article and the practical consideration for the introduction of an effective and cost-efficient system.

The Government have established the WEEE Advisory Body (WAB), an independent non-governmental public body to provide advice on the issues arising from the implementation and operation of the UK WEEE system. One area for consideration will be recommendations by the WAB on how the UK can move to a system of IPR.

The Department will be monitoring compliance of the WEEE regulations and working with enforcement authorities who will be undertaking activities to raise awareness within the producer and retail sectors to ensure those affected by the WEEE regulations are aware of their requirements.

Post Office: Personal Savings

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many depositors have withdrawn their savings from the Post Office network since 17 February 2008; and if he will make a statement. [188496]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 22 February 2008]: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. (POL). I have therefore asked Alan Cook, Managing Director of POL, to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Post Offices

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether compensation for the compulsory purchase of a community-owned post office branch is payable to (a) the not-for-profit company which owns the post office franchise and (b) the individual who rents and runs the franchise. [188654]


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Mr. McFadden: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd (POL). I have therefore asked Alan Cook, managing director of POL, to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what provision there is for a community-owned post office branch earmarked for closure to remain open if (a) the local community is prepared to forego the post office salary and (b) a third party is prepared to pay the operating costs. [188656]

Mr. McFadden: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd (POL). I have therefore asked Alan Cook, managing director of POL, to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Post Offices: Closures

Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 18 February 2008, Official Report, column 397W, on post offices: closures, why Post Office Ltd has not released relevant financial information to Essex county council to help the council explore the viability of financially supporting some of those post offices set for closure. [188896]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 25 February 2008]: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd (POL). I have therefore asked Alan Cook, managing director of POL, to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Postal Services

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions he has had with the Post Office and the other major carriers over the future of the universal service obligation. [188298]

Mr. McFadden: The Government consider the maintenance of a universal postal service to be of the highest importance. Under the terms of the Postal Services Act 2000, the universal service is a matter for the postal regulator (Postcomm), which has the primary statutory duty to ensure the provision of a universal postal service at an affordable uniform tariff.

BERR Ministers and officials regularly hold discussions with Royal Mail on strategic postal issues and also meet with other licensed operators to discuss their operations within the market.

The Government have commissioned an independent review of the postal services sector. One of the review terms of reference will consider how to maintain the universal service obligation. The review will provide all postal carriers with a formal opportunity to contribute their thinking on this and on the future of postal services in the UK.


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Regional Development Agencies: Manpower

Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many staff are employed by each of the regional development agencies; what each agency's expenditure was in each of the last five years; and what the staffing cost of each agency was in the last year for which figures are available. [188922]

Mr. McFadden: The following table shows staff employed and costs by RDAs in 2006-07.

RDAs Staff employed Staffing cost (£000)

AWM

327

15,238

EEDA

223

11,382

EMDA

247

10,084

LDA

488

30,656

NWDA

402

19,321

ONE

446

15,394

SEEDA

342

17,248

SWRDA

303

13,538

YF

428

17,957

Note: Costs include salaries, national insurance, pensions, staff and board members

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