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6 Mar 2008 : Column 2787W—continued

Kosovo: Organised Crime

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect of the recent EU rule of law mission in Kosovo on relations between the EU and the UN; and what work the mission will undertake to combat organised crime. [191053]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The EU's police and rule of law mission to Kosovo (EULEX) will work closely and in coordination with the UN and other relevant international actors to uphold the rule of law. EULEX will ensure that organised crime, corruption, inter-ethnic crimes, financial/economic crimes and other serious crimes are properly investigated, prosecuted, adjudicated and enforced, according to the applicable law.

Middle East: Armed Conflict

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the number of (a) Qassam rocket, (b) Katyusha rocket and (c) mortar bomb attacks from Gaza into Israel in (i) 2005, (ii) 2006, (iii) 2007 and (iv) 2008; and if he will make a statement. [191132]

Dr. Howells: The UK condemns all rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and is concerned at the recent rise in rocket attacks over the last two days. On 28 February, I made the following statement in response to the barrage of rockets that hit south Israel:

871 Qassam rockets landed in Israel from Gaza in 2007; 962 in 2006; and 296 in 2005. 1,511 mortar shells landed in Israel from Gaza in 2007; 55 in 2006; and 854 in 2005. In January 2008, 267 Qassam rockets and 256 mortar shells were fired into Israel from the Gaza strip.
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We are aware that several Katyusha rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel, but we do not have an exact breakdown.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Palestinians on rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza into Israel. [191133]

Dr. Howells: I issued statements on 27 and 28 February condemning unreservedly the barrage of rockets on southern Israel that left one man dead and several others injured that day. There can be no justification for the almost daily rocket and mortar attacks on Sderot and the surrounding area. The Government continue to call on all Palestinian factions to stop attacks, including rocket attacks, which target civilians and only escalate an already tense situation. At the same time, Israel must ensure its actions are in accordance with international law. It is important that all parties find a way to restore calm, stopping the reciprocal attacks, for the sake of the populations on both sides.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak conveying his deep concerns and condolences on 28 February.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what reports he has received on the impact on (a) commercial, (b) social and (c) educational life in Israeli towns of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza; [191135]

(2) what reports he has received of the number of Israeli residents (a) killed, (b) injured and (c) diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in each year since August 2005; [191134]

(3) what estimate he has made of the cost to Israel of physical damage to buildings and structures caused by rockets and mortars fired from Gaza in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement; [191138]

(4) what reports he has received of the impact on the economy of Israeli towns which have been subject to rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza; and if he will make a statement. [191139]

Dr. Howells: Our embassy in Tel Aviv continues to report on the impact these rockets have on the day to day lives of Israelis living in southern Israel. The barrage of rockets reportedly has a huge psychological effect on the communities of Sderot, Ashkelon and other nearby Israeli areas. While we do not have any reports on the impact to the local economy, the rocket attacks have caused damage to infrastructure. Rocket fire has caused damage to homes, schools and offices resulting in large disruption to resident’s lives. As a direct consequence of these rocket attacks, the local economy has suffered.

Five Israelis have been killed by rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel since August 2005. Several hundred people have been injured. We do not have figures available on how many people have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of these rocket attacks.


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I issued a statement on 27 February condemning unreservedly the barrage of rockets on southern Israel that left one man dead and several others injured that day. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to Israeli Defence Secretary Ehud Barak on 28 February expressing his concerns and condolences about the situation in southern Israel and Gaza. There can be no justification for the almost daily rocket and mortar attacks on Sderot and the surrounding area. The Government continue to call on all Palestinian factions to stop attacks, including rocket attacks, that can only escalate an already tense situation. At the same time, Israel must ensure its actions are in accordance with international law. It is important that all parties find a way to restore calm for the sake of the populations on both sides.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance he plans to provide to Israel to protect its citizens from rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza; and what recent discussions he has had with the Israeli Government on ways for it to protect its citizens from such attacks. [191136]

Dr. Howells: I issued a statement on 27 February condemning unreservedly the barrage of rockets on southern Israel that left one man dead and several others injured that day. There can be no justification for the almost daily rocket and mortar attacks on Sderot and the surrounding area. The Government continue to call on all Palestinian factions to stop attacks, including rocket attacks, which target civilians and only escalate an already tense situation. At the same time, Israel must ensure its actions are in accordance with international law. It is important that all parties find a way to restore calm, stopping the reciprocal attacks, for the sake of the populations on both sides.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, conveying his deep concerns and condolences on 28 February. Their discussions focused on southern Israel and Gaza.

Middle East: Jordan Valley

David Lepper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to the Government of Israel about the demolition of Palestinian homes in the village of Hadidiya in the Jordan Valley by the Israeli army on 6 February. [190940]

Dr. Howells: We raised the alleged issue with the Israeli embassy in London on 29 February. Our embassy in Tel Aviv and Consulate-General in Jerusalem continue to monitor the situation in the Jordan Valley and raise our concerns when appropriate.

The demolition of Palestinian homes and property is an issue over which we are greatly concerned. While the UK recognises Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist attack, the Israeli Government must act within international law. The demolition of homes harms
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innocent civilians. It only fuels anger among Palestinians and consequently risks undermining prospects for peace in the longer term. We have called on the Israeli authorities to end house demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Middle East: EUBAM

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on restoring the EU monitoring force, EUBAM, on the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza; and if he will make a statement. [191140]

Dr. Howells: The UK is deeply concerned about recent events at the crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The 28 January EU General Affairs and External Relations Council made clear that

We support the efforts of our EU and UN colleagues to promote an effective Palestinian security force and the reopening of the Gaza crossings.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the situation at Rafah with his Egyptian counterpart, Aboul Gheit, on 19 February. We support the efforts by the Government of Egypt to find a peaceful and orderly solution to the current situation.

Nuclear Fuels

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in securing international agreement to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) administered mechanism for reliable access to nuclear fuel since it was presented to the IAEA Board of Governors' meeting, 12 to 15 June 2006; and if he will make a statement. [185079]

David Miliband: Detailed proposals comprising nuclear fuel assurances, enriched uranium reserves and new multinational enrichment facilities have been put forward by Germany, Russia, the United States, the UK and others. Many are complementary and compatible. The UK Enrichment Bond is an assurance of supply initiative. The UK, Germany and the Netherlands will host a conference on 17-18 April to bring together potential customer and supplier States to exchange views and inform further development of these proposals. We expect at least two proposals to be discussed at the June 2008 International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors.

Russia: Foreign Policy

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact on the EU of recent developments in Russian foreign policy; and whether the Government supports the development of an EU common policy toward the Russian Federation. [191068]


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Mr. Jim Murphy: The EU and the Russian Federation have a substantive dialogue on foreign policy issues, as provided for by the EU-Russia Common Space on External Security. Where Russian foreign policy impacts on the EU, the EU seeks a common EU response.

The Government support the commencement of negotiations between the EU and the Russian Federation on an agreement to replace the current EU-Russia Partnership and Co-operation Agreement. A new agreement should provide a comprehensive and robust framework for relations between the EU and Russia.

Television Screens

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many plasma television screens have been purchased by his Department and its agencies, and at what cost, in the last 24 months. [191083]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) delegates budgets for such equipment to individual internal departments and does not hold a centralised record of such purchases. The information could therefore only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Standard FCO guidance applies to the purchase of plasma television screens. This is based on achieving value for money.

Treasury

Northern Rock

11. Mr. Mackay: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on Northern Rock’s relationship with Granite. [191853]

13. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what Northern Rock’s relationship with Granite is. [191855]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Gentlemen to the answer I gave on the Floor of the House to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) earlier today, Official Report, column 1898.

20. Peter Viggers: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the Government’s financial exposure to Northern Rock and its associated financial entities is. [191862]

Yvette Cooper: Parliament has been notified of all contingent liabilities relating to Northern Rock.

Mr. David Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what Northern Rock’s relationship with Granite is; and if he will make a statement. [191842]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave on the Floor of the House to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) earlier today.


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Gold Sales

12. Mr. Lilley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish the advice he received from the Bank of England and his Department’s officials prior to the sale of gold in 1999 and 2000. [191854]

Angela Eagle: Full details of the rationale for the gold sales is set out in the Treasury publication, Review of the Sale of part of the UK Reserves, which was published in October 2002. We have no plans to publish officials’ advice.

Climate Change

14. Mr. Bailey: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with international finance ministers on the economic impact of climate change. [R] [191856]

Angela Eagle: The UK is working to ensure that the economic impacts of climate change, highlighted by the Stern Review, are a central topic for Finance Ministers. Recently, the Chancellor has discussed these issues with colleagues from the G20, the G7 and other EU member states. The UK is working closely with our partners to develop a new suite of strategic climate funds to support developing countries in adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change.

16. Dr. Whitehead: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent assessment he has made of the effects on the economy of climate change. [191858]

Angela Eagle: The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change assessed a wide range of evidence on the impacts of climate change and the economic costs, and concluded that the benefits of strong and early action far outweigh the economic costs of inaction. The Government are committed to creating the conditions necessary for cost-effective emissions reductions in the UK, and encouraging multi-lateral effort and international trading to reduce the costs to the UK and the world.

Health Expenditure

15. Lynda Waltho: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent assessment he has made of the effects on the economy of expenditure on health care. [191857]

Yvette Cooper: Health care investment supports the health of the working population and so UK productivity. The NHS’s £11 billion spend on drugs also supports an innovative pharmaceutical sector. Recognising the importance of health care to the economy, Dame Carol Black will this year publish the first ever review into the health of Britain’s working age population. This will look at what more the NHS, working with employers, can do to improve productivity in the wider economy.


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Interest Rates

17. Dr. Ladyman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent assessment he has made of the effects of the current level of interest rates on the economy. [191859]

Angela Eagle: The Chancellor will update his economic forecasts in the Budget on March 12 in the normal way, taking into account all relevant factors.

Energy Prices

18. Mr. David Hamilton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effect that energy prices will have on consumer price inflation over the next year. [191860]

Angela Eagle: Overall, CPI inflation has remained very close to its 2 per cent. target over the last seven months. The Government will publish their latest assessment of recent economic developments and prospects in the financial statement and Budget report on 12 March, in the normal way.


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