|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the (a) reasons for and (b) effects of the suspensions of the BBC Russian language service carried by local FM partners in Russia in the last two years. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The BBC World Service has kept the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) fully briefed on the suspensions of the BBC Russian language service carried by local FM radio partners in Russia. The FCO reported on the most recent incident with Bolshoye Radio to the Foreign Affairs Committee. This partnership was ended because of pressure by the Russian authorities on Bolshoye Radio to remove BBC content. Given the short lifespan of the FM partnership (Bolshoye Radiofour months, Radio Arsenal18 months and Radio Leningrad20 months), the BBC World Service was unable to collate meaningful statistics to measure the impact of the closures.
Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what funding is planned for (a) the BBC World Service and (b) its Russian language service in each of the next three years. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: BBC World Service funding for the next three years was announced in the Governments spending review in October 2007 and will be £265 million/£272 million/£271 million over the next three years. Of this, the amount directly apportioned to the Russian Service will be approximately £4.4 million in year one. In addition to this, there are a number of infrastructure and administration costs which are not allocated out to individual services. Funding for years two and three has not yet been finalised.
Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 1 April 2008, Official Report, column 836W, on Saudi Arabia: overseas residence, if he will make representations to the government of Saudi Arabia to permit non-Muslims to practise their faith in public. 
Dr. Howells: This is an internal matter for the Saudi government. They are well aware that the Government believe freedom of worship is a right that people should enjoy everywhere. There are no additional plans to make representations to the Government of Saudi Arabia to permit non-Muslims to practice their faith in public.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he plans to take in the week beginning 21 April to monitor the (a) treatment and (b) risk of torture of Mr. Simon Mann in Black Beach Prison, Equatorial Guinea; and whether Mr. Mann is still being continuously shackled. 
Meg Munn: Our consul from the British deputy high commission in Lagos was refused consular access to Simon Mann during his last visit to Equatorial Guinea in March 2008. We have expressed our concern to the Equatorial Guinea authorities and are urgently seeking another consular visit. Mr. Mann's welfare remains our primary concern.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to make representations to the government of Sri Lanka on recent attacks against Christians. 
Dr. Howells: Our high commission in Colombo has expressed concern to the Sri Lankan government over recent reports of religious intolerance. We condemn the persecution of individuals or groups because of their faith or belief. We take very seriously issues of discrimination on grounds of religion and press for adherence to the principles of religious freedoms enshrined in the UN Charter and international conventions.
David Miliband: Due to fragmentation among rebel movements and intensified fighting between the Government of Sudan and rebel groups, there has been no recent progress in the political process. The UK set out, at a meeting convened in Geneva on 18 March by the UN and African Union envoys, proposals for a cessation of hostilities and actions to revitalise the political process including the urgent appointment of a single chief mediator and deeper engagement with civil society.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what progress has been made in meeting the helicopter requirements of the UNAMID deployment in Sudan; how many of the six light tactical attack helicopters have been provided; how many of the 18 medium utility transport helicopters have been provided; how many trained crews, including pilots and mechanics, are now available to fly and maintain any helicopters provided; what countries are involved in providing helicopters, crews and training; whether the UK is meeting any of the costs involved; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) if he will make a statement on the offer by Ethiopia of helicopters to the UNAMID mission made in February 2008; how many of each type of helicopter have been offered; and how this deployment will be maintained and paid for; 
David Miliband: The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has lobbied over 60 countries for helicopters and continues to seek offers to fill the remaining shortfalls. We are working closely in support of DKPO to lobby potential providers and we continue to explore all options for provision of helicopters.
DKPO has accepted an Ethiopian offer of four light tactical helicopters, including crew and maintenance personnel. These are Mi-35 type helicopters. Up to 4 April 2008, the requirement for the 18 medium utility transport helicopters remains unfilled.
Helicopter contributions offered by countries must meet the requirements specified by the UN. This ensures there are enough crews and mechanics to operate and maintain the airframes. Ethiopias helicopters will be maintained by Ethiopia and funded through the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur budget, which UN member states pay for through their assessed contributions.
Up to 4 April 2008, Ethiopia is the only country to offer helicopters that the UN considers meets its specifications. The UK is assisting their preparation with expert advice from the UK Joint Helicopter Command on conducting an overseas deployment. We are meeting the costs associated with this ourselves.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Government has had with other EU and NATO countries on providing funding to underwrite the costs of the provision of helicopters, parts and crews for the UNAMID mission to Sudan; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: We have had extensive discussions with several countries, including EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) partners, about options to meet the urgent requirement for helicopters for the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). These options include possible funding and support arrangements for helicopters provided by third countries. We are working closely in support of the UN and we continue to explore all options for provision of helicopters.
On 27 March 2008, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and French President Sarkozy announced the establishment of a trust fund that could improve the availability of helicopters to European partners and NATO allies. This initiative will increase support available to multilateral operations, such as UNAMID.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government of Sudan has placed any obstacles in the way of the deployment of helicopters by UNAMID; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: We understand the Government of Sudan have declared they will not object to any country providing helicopters for the UN-African Union (AU) Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The Government of Sudan signed a Status of Forces Agreement with the AU and the UN on 9 February 2008, which should remove a number of related obstacles to UNAMID deployment, including movement of equipment and visas for UNAMID personnel. The UN, AU and the Government of Sudan continue to negotiate over limitations on UNAMID flights. We have, in regular contacts with the Government of Sudan, pressed the Government of Sudan to co-operate fully with the AU and the UN over UNAMID and remove limitations on flights.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions the Government have had with the government of Chad on Darfur; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: The UK is represented in Chad through our high commission in Yaounde. Officials from the high commission regularly visit Chad and have raised the issue of Darfur on numerous occasions. The last visits to Chad were on 19 November 2007 and 5-8 February 2008, where Darfur was raised with the Chadian Foreign Minister Ahmad Allam-mi and the Deputy Foreign Minister respectively.
The Government will also continue to work multilaterally through the UN and the EU to support initiatives to reduce tensions between Chad and Sudan. We have repeatedly called on the Governments of both Chad and Sudan to end support for armed groups in the region.
David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what advice he has received on the compliance with international law of actions taken by the People's Republic of China in relation to the self-determination movement in Tibet. 
Meg Munn: As noted in the Ministerial Code, the fact and substance of legal advice to the Government remains confidential. This enables the Government to obtain frank and full legal advice in confidence.
China is identified in our recently published Human Rights Annual Report as having a poor human rights record, including in relation to Tibet. We regularly raise our human rights concerns with the Chinese authorities and continue to urge full respect for international human rights standards including; inter alia, rights to freedom of association, expression, religion, access to a fair trial and respect for prisoners' fundamental rights. We have urged the Chinese authorities to exercise maximum restraint in dealing with any further unrest in the Tibetan region.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has
received on reporting restrictions placed on foreign journalists in Tibet; and what representations he has made to the government of the People's Republic of China on the matter. 
Meg Munn [holding answer 3 April 2008]: Foreign journalists, along with all other foreigners, are currently only able to travel to Tibet after acquiring a time-limited entry permit from the Chinese authorities. Applications by journalists for these permits have often been refused in the past. A recent exception to this was the one-day tour of Lhasa organised by the Chinese Ministry for Foreign Affairs for a select group of foreign correspondents on 26 March. We continue to urge the Chinese authorities to allow free media access to Tibet. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did so in his telephone call to Chinese Premier Wen on 19 March. The group of diplomats, including a representative from our embassy in Beijing, which visited Lhasa on 28 and 29 March, also raised the issue of free access for journalists with the Chairman of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Governments policy on (a) water-boarding and (b) other physical and degrading interrogation techniques is; and what mechanisms are in place to ensure that policy is adhered to. 
The UK unreservedly condemns the use of torture. We work hard with our international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice. The UK abides by its obligations under international law, including under the UN Convention Against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights, and expects all other countries to comply with their international obligations.
The Government never use torture for any purpose, including obtaining information, nor would we instigate or encourage others to do so. Our rejection of the use of torture is well known by our liaison partners.
Mr. Caborn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent progress has been made on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights; and if he will make a statement. 
Progress on the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) is considered at the TRIPs Council which meets three times a year Reports of its meetings are available on the WTQ website at:
The most recent meeting of the Council took place on 13 March 2008. It reviewed national implementing measures and discussed technical co-operation and the relationship between the TRIPs agreement and the convention on biological diversity.
It also noted that 41 member states (including EU member states) had accepted the amendment to the agreement which provides flexibility for countries unable to produce pharmaceuticals domestically to obtain supplies of generic versions of patented drugs from other countries. This amendment arose from commitments made by WTO Ministers in the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in 2001, and will formally be written into the agreement when two-thirds of the 151 members accept it. Until that date, a temporary solution, adopted in 2003, will remain in force.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps the Government have taken to increase support for Turkish accession to the European Union amongst EU member states. 
The UK works closely with other EU member states on enlargement issues, co-operating actively to support Turkey's reform process and to ensure that progress remains on track. At the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council in December 2007, EU Foreign Ministers reiterated that the EU will keep its previously agreed commitments towards countries in the enlargement process.
David Miliband: The Government of Zimbabwe stated that unfriendly countries would not be invited to observe the elections. This meant that no formal EU Observation Mission observed the 29 March elections and no formal UK observers were sent. 10 British embassy diplomatic staff, who are based in our embassy in Harare, were permitted to observe the elections informally along with other members of the diplomatic corps in Zimbabwe.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) takes its role of providing consular support to British nationals overseas seriously and their safety is our top priority. As with many other British diplomatic missions across the world, our embassy in Harare holds
a civil contingency plan. The Zimbabwe contingency plan focuses on assisting the departure of British nationals from Zimbabwe by non-military means and is reviewed and updated on a regular basis. At present, we do not anticipate an assisted departure or evacuation, but we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our plans accordingly.
The FCO travel advice for Zimbabwe is under constant review. We are currently advising against all but essential travel to the whole country. We are also advising British nationals in Zimbabwe to avoid specific areas and to have their own contingency plan for how they would leave at short notice. A full copy of the travel advice can be found at:
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|