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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Colombian government on the recent murders of trades unionists (a) Carlos Burbano and (b) Leonidas Gomez Rozo; and if he will make a statement. 
We regard human rights defenders and trade unionists as a fundamental part of Colombian civil society. We have repeatedly urged the Colombian
government to do their utmost to ensure that these brave people can take forward their essential work safely and with adequate protection. I did so when visiting Colombia in November 2007 and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did so with the Colombian Vice President in March. I also reiterated the Government's strong support to a delegation of Colombian trade unionists who visited the UK in early March, a visit co-organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
I have urged the Colombian government to continue with its programme of expanding protection to trade unions and other human rights defenders, including when I spoke to Vice President Santos and the new Colombian ambassador to London in March 2008. We will continue to discuss with the Colombian TUC, and their UK counterparts, how this Government can offer their practical support to Colombian trade unionists.
Officials from our embassy in Bogota visited the offices of the National Union of Bank Employees on 27 March to show the Government's support, following the murder of Leonidas Gomez Rozo and the attempted murder of Rafael Boada.
We make regular and numerous representations to the Colombian government on specific cases of abuse of trade unionists. Our embassy in Bogota has made representations to the Colombian government on the case of Leonidas Gomez Rozo and will do so on Carlos Burbano. I will write to the hon. Member with the outcome of those representations once the embassy receives a response. I will also arrange for copies of the letter to be placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations took place with (a) the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission and (b) other external interests before the announcement to end his Departments funding for new awards from 2009-10; and if he will publish the review associated with this decision. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had no prior consultations with the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission on the specific issue of the ending of FCO funding for new Commonwealth scholars from 2009-10. Officials have regular, close contact with the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. The 2006 review of FCO scholarships was based on broad consultations with a range of stakeholders. A copy of the 2006 review has been placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contracts were awarded by his Department to (a) KPMG, (b) PricewaterhouseCoopers, (c) Ernst and Young, (d) McKinsey, (e) Deloitte and (f) other consultancy firms in each of the last 12 months; and what the (i) purpose and (ii) value was of each of these contracts. 
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many officials of the diplomatic service notified his Department that they intended to work in any capacity for (a) British Aerospace, (b) British Airways, (c) BP, (d) Shell, (e) Rolls Royce, (f) HSBC, (g) Standard Chartered, (h) RBS, (i) HBOS, (j) Barclays and (k) another company on leaving the service in each of the last five years. 
Meg Munn: Civil servants are required to comply with the Business Appointment Rules as set out in the civil service management code. The detailed information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to work closely with (a) Poland and (b) the Czech Republic on EU matters; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: It is our policy to work closely with all the EU member states. The Government have frequent discussions on a wide range of EU matters with Ministers and officials from both Poland and the Czech Republic. In 2007 there were several ministerial exchanges with the Czechs and Poles, including a guest of Government visit by President Klaus of the Czech Republic and a European Dialogue which was launched between the UK and Poland.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be able to represent the UK's interests when representing the EU. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The high representative for foreign affairs and security policy will be responsible for implementing the Common Foreign and Security Policy, as mandated by the member states in the Council. He or she will represent the EU on matters on which there is an agreed policy; the president of the European Council will represent the EU at his or her level. As is the case now, it will be for member states to decide by unanimity the matters to be addressed through the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Where we do not agree, the UK will still act independently.
Mr. Cash: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will ensure that the criteria for the distribution of the UKs portion of the fund to be allocated to public communication under the provisions of the documents Communicating Europe (COM (07) 568) and Proposal for an Interinstitutional Agreement on Communicating European Partnership (COM (07) 569) will include making the monies available in equal proportions to those for and those against European integration. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Governments position on Communicating Europe in Partnership was set out in our explanatory memorandum of 26 October 2007 and my subsequent letters to the European Scrutiny Committee of 6 December 2007 and 17 March 2008.
As these documents made clear, the purpose of Communicating Europe in Partnership is to improve the coherence, integration and effectiveness of the EU's communications efforts. EU funds will be disbursed in support of these objectives. The Government welcomes the concept of openness underlying the Commissions proposals on Communicating Europe in Partnership. We also welcome the Commission's confirmation that proposals under Communicating Europe in Partnership will be developed through existing Commission funding.
As set out in my letter of 17 March to the chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, I can confirm that the European Commission's proposal for an Inter-Institutional Agreement under Communicating Europe in Partnership (Commission Document COM 569 2007) has been abandoned, following member state discussions at the Information Working Group in Brussels.
Dr. Ladyman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the French government on that government's duty under EU rules to (a) keep open French ports during industrial action in France and (b) to compensate UK businesses for the disruption caused during the current Sea France strike. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised this issue with Mr. Bernard Kouchner, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, during a meeting at the UK-France summit on 27 March 2008.
During the industrial action taken by Sea France officers in February and March we maintained constant contact with the relevant French authorities through our embassy in Paris and consul-general in Lille. During this time, the French Government fulfilled their obligations to ensure that the industrial action did not lead to closure of ports and ports were closed only due to adverse weather conditions.
Any UK business which suffered financial loss as a result of the strikes could seek to bring legal action through the French courts. Any claim for compensation would depend on the facts of the individual case, on which independent legal advice should be sought.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions (a) he and (b) his officials have had with (i) the Government of Israel, (ii) the Government of Egypt and (iii) the European Commission on moves to open the Rafah border crossing to cargo; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK wholly supports opening of the Rafah crossing and the restoration of the EU border assistance mission as soon as conditions allow. At the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on 28 January, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary (David Miliband) and his EU colleagues supported the Egyptian efforts to find a compromise between the parties in order to open the crossing and made clear that
the EU is ready to consider resuming its monitoring mission at Rafah under the provisions of the relevant international agreements related to Access and Movement concluded in November 2005.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Livni and Egyptian Foreign Minister Abu Gheit on this issue. Our embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv are also in regular contact with their host governments.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with (a) EU partners and (b) the wider international community on the eradication of cluster munitions; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK has had regular discussions with EU partners and the wider international community on cluster munitions at a number of levels. We are working hard with these partners to ensure we secure legally binding instruments on the production, transfer and stockpiling of those cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.
In his speech on the publication of the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices 2007 Human Rights Report on 25 March my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated the Governments commitment to achieving a good result on cluster munitions.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions (a) he, (b) Ministers and (c) officials in his Department have had with (i) Arab states and (ii) the Government of Israel on the reported storage of (A) rockets and (B) arms by Hamas in civilian areas in Gaza; what response was received from each; and if he will make a statement. 
We regularly have discussions with Arab states on the issue of Israeli security. However, we have not discussed this particular matter with Arab states. Israel has made clear to us that it condemns the use of civilians as human shields. The UK condemns the
storage of arms and rockets by Hamas in civilian areas. The UK urges all parties to adopt a peaceful, political resolution to the conflict.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions (a) he, (b) members of his Department and (c) UK representatives have had with (i) members and (ii) representatives of the Governments of (A) Russia and (B) Serbia on developments in Kosovo (1) since the referendum on 17 February 2007 and (2) with regard to the civil unrest in Mitrovica on 18 March 2008; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: Since Kosovos declaration of independence on 17 February 2008, the UK has continued its engagement with the Governments of Russia and Serbia, including on the issue of Kosovo. The UK also continues to work with Russia in multilateral fora, discussing Kosovo in the UN Security Council on 17 and 18 February and on 11 March, and at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-Russia Council on 27 February.
Meg Munn [holding answer of 2 April 2008]: The UK regularly stresses the importance of transparency and democratic reform to the Nigerian Government. Following widespread concerns about the conduct of the Nigerian elections in April 2007, we have continued to pursue a range of programmes designed to promote democratisation.
Over the past three years, the Department for International Development (DFID) has committed up to £7 million to support Nigerian electoral processes, including support to non-governmental organisations involved in voter education and media and conflict monitoring. DFID also works to strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian National Assembly through technical assistance to key parliamentary committees. Its programme Coalitions for Change supports groups from civil society, the private sector, the media and government to work together to change the formal and informal rules that have entrenched poor accountability and poor resource management in Nigeria.
The British Council has commissioned a report investigating the impact of demographics on electoral inclusion in Nigeria. It has helped develop a number of Youth Assemblies in Nigeria, which provide access to democratic processes to young people. It also supports a youth newspaper and radio broadcasts on governance related issues.
This year, our High Commission in Abuja initiated a Public Diplomacy programme on Supporting Democratic Development. Other programmes include those to support freedom of expression and association, which also contribute to democratic reform.
Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of (a) progress on implementation of the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan and (b) the effect of Hamas' control of Gaza on the overall development of the Palestinian economy. 
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is shortly due to finalise its budget for 2008 and the list of Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PROP) projects and recurrent costs for donor support. Progress in implementing the PROP will be reported at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting in London on 2 May. The World Bank and European Commission have established funding mechanisms to co-ordinate donor financial support for the PROP.
The takeover of Gaza by Hamas in June 2007 led to severe Israeli restrictions on imports into Gaza and a near complete-ban on exports. This has had a profound impact on the Gazan economy. The Palestinian Trade Centre (PalTrade) states that 95 per cent. of industrial working establishments in Gaza closed between July 2007 and February 2008, with the construction, export agriculture, furniture and garment sectors hardest hit. PalTrade estimates that in the construction sector alone, 42,000 workers have been laid off since January 2007.
The impact of the Hamas takeover and closure of Gaza by Israel on the whole Palestinian economy is more difficult to assess. The Occupied Palestinian Territories' economy was stagnant in 2007 despite large donor inflows. It is likely that without the closure of Gaza, GDP would have grown slightly. According to the World Bank, real GDP per head in the OPTs is now 40 per cent. lower than in 1999.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what mechanisms are in place to ensure that UK funding to the Palestinian Authority is spent on frontline services to help the Palestinian people. 
UK aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is subject to the high levels of scrutiny to ensure it reaches those most in need. Funding is provided through the European Commission's PEGASE mechanism (the replacement for the Temporary International Mechanism) and the new World Bank fund. These mechanisms conduct rigorous checks against each payment, independent auditing, tracking and monitoring.
The UK is also working with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the IMF to improve the PA's own financial management systems, which is essential if they are to deliver their frontline services effectively.
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