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For Members who do wish to use this type of service a portable video conference facility can be booked via the room booking service for use in some of the meeting rooms in Portcullis House and PICT can offer some advice to Members on the products that they could consider and their cost if they wish to use this service in their own offices.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Construction: Prices

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform whether he has made a recent assessment of whether construction companies have engaged in price-fixing in the supply of services to the public sector. [205210]

Mr. Thomas: This is a matter for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) which is currently investigating allegations of bid-rigging in the construction sector. Information about this investigation may be found in the OFT’s press release of 17 April 2008 which is published on their website at:

Departmental Carbon Emissions

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much his Department and its predecessor spent on carbon offsetting in each of the last three years; and to which companies payments for carbon offsetting were made in each such year. [204108]

Mr. Thomas: BERR and its predecessor the DTI is part of the cross-government offsetting scheme called Government Carbon Offsetting Fund. All ministerial and official travel is being offset from 1 April 2006. Details are only available from this date.

For the period 2006-07 the total offsetting cost for air travel was £44,294.33 to offset 4469tCO2e. Data are currently being collected for the 2007-08 reporting year and will be available later in the year.

The GCOF is being managed by EEA Fund Management Ltd., who won the contract to source and deliver 255,000 Certified Emission Reduction Credits, with a provision for a further 50,000 credits, over three years from a range of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. Credits will be supplied from the project portfolio of Trading Emissions plc, to whom EEA is the investment adviser.

Grayling Political Strategy

Greg Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what payments (a) the UK Atomic Energy Authority and (b) Postcomm made to Grayling Political Strategy in each of the last five years; on what dates; and for what purpose in each case. [202252]

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Malcolm Wicks: Since the hon. Member has asked for information specifically related to UKAEA and Postcomm’s direct involvement with Grayling, I have asked the companies to write to him directly with the information.

Leader of the House


Mr. Hoban: To ask the Leader of the House how many smoking shelters were built at each of her Department’s London buildings in each of the last five years. [205038]

Helen Goodman: Due to a machinery of government change in May 2007, the Leader of the House of Commons Office now forms part of the Cabinet Office. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will be answering this question shortly on behalf of the Cabinet Office.



Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the environmental implications of airlines running empty or near-empty flights to retain slot allocation. [203388]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 6 May 2008] : The EU airport slot allocation regulations require airlines to use their slots for 80 per cent. of the time or return them to be re-allocated to other airlines by the independent slot co-ordinator. The UK independent slot co-ordinator is not aware of any cases at present where an airline is flying empty aircraft to retain an airport slot. Such cases are very rare, the cost of fuel being a disincentive. Hence we have not made an assessment of the environmental impact.

Aviation: Northern Ireland

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the future of aviation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. [204423]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Under the devolution arrangements for Northern Ireland civil aviation is a reserved matter, for which the Secretary of State for Transport has policy responsibility. Under these arrangements, the Secretary of State and Department for Transport officials correspond with Northern Ireland Ministers and officials about a range of civil aviation policy issues.


Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the proposed starting date is for work on Junction 10A of the M20. [205413]

Mr. Tom Harris: Subject to the satisfactory completion of the necessary statutory procedures and availability of funding, work is due to start in January 2012.

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Speed Limits

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what encouragement the Government is giving to those local authorities that wish to introduce 20 mile per hour limits. [205758]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Local traffic authorities are responsible for setting local speed limits and have powers to introduce 20 mph speed limits and 20 mph zones if they believe it appropriate to do so. The Department encourages and supports any local authority wishing to introduce 20 mph speed limits.

This view is reflected in the Department’s guidance to local authorities on setting local speed limits, published in August 2006. In addition Traffic Advisory Leaflet 9/99 provides best practice guidelines on setting 20 mph speed limits and 20 mph zones.


Statutory Instruments

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many statutory instruments have been (a) made and (b) revoked by Ministers in his Department since 1997. [204760]

Mr. Paul Murphy: The Wales Office was only created in 1999. Since then it has made 57 statutory instruments and revoked none.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Admiralty House

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 5 March 2008, Official Report, column 2564W, on Admiralty House, what the cost of the repainting of Admiralty House for Lord Malloch-Brown's residence was after the former Deputy Prime Minister vacated the residence. [203033]

Meg Munn: The cost of repainting two bedrooms, an adjacent corridor and one bathroom in the flat at Admiralty House totalled £7,137.42 (including value added tax). Admiralty House is a Grade 1 listed building and is maintained in line with that status.

Afghanistan: Education

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by his Department to improve the education system in Afghanistan. [204363]

Meg Munn: Improving access for all to quality education across Afghanistan is a critical element to our comprehensive approach to bring security, stability and reconstruction to Afghanistan.

The Department for International Development (DfID) has the UK lead in supporting education in Afghanistan. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that
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DfID provides funding (£55 million in 2007-08) to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. This fund pays the salaries of over 100,000 teachers and 90 per cent. of the Ministry of Education's wage bill. In this way DfID funding has contributed to an increase from one million pupils in 2001 to six million today, and an increase from approximately 21,000 teachers in 2001 to more than 128,000 today. In addition, since 2002, over 2,000 schools have been built or reconstructed. Officials at our embassy in Kabul work closely with the Afghan Minister for Education, parliamentarians, officials, non-governmental organisations and teachers as they work to improve education in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what critical military gaps in NATO's deployment in Afghanistan remain to be filled. [203775]

Meg Munn: Military requirements in Afghanistan are decided by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and laid out in the Combined Joint Statement of Requirement. Despite the recent increases in commitment made by many of our allies there remain shortfalls in some areas such as training and mentoring teams, combat troops, in the south and east, and support helicopters. The UK continues to work with partners to address these shortfalls.

Information on national contributions can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and NATO websites:

Ballistic Missile Defence

Linda Gilroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the implications of missile defence policy for EU foreign policy. [204806]

Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 13 May 2008]: I have had no discussion with my EU counterparts on the issue of missile defence in the context of EU foreign policy. The European security and defence policy gives the EU the capability to undertake civilian and military crisis management operations. It has no competence to consider ballistic missile defence.

Burma: Politics and Government

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Burmese government on (a) human rights violations and (b) the introduction of democratic institutions in that country. [205094]

Meg Munn [holding answer 13 May 2008]: The lack of respect for democracy and human rights in Burma is of grave concern to the Government. We take every opportunity to raise concerns with the Burmese authorities, at the relevant multilateral organisations,
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and with countries in the region that have an influence over the regime. Before the devastating cyclone hit Burma, we called for urgent action ahead of the 10 May referendum because, as currently conceived, the process designed by the Burmese regime will not deliver the reconciliation, stability and prosperity that Burma needs. Nor will it address the long-standing violations of human rights. Since the cyclone hit Burma, our efforts have focused on seeking to provide humanitarian support.

China: Tibet

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the government of China to encourage it to (a) reach agreement with representatives of the Dalai Lama on Tibet and (b) publish a record of the discussions which it holds with those representatives. [203472]

Meg Munn: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke to Premier Wen about the situation in Tibet on 19 March, urging restraint and dialogue with the Dalai Lama. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary further emphasised the need for dialogue when he spoke to Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on 21 and 28 March, and 7 April. We have been raising the situation with the Chinese, both in Beijing and in London, on a regular basis. We are aware that Chinese officials met with representatives of the Dalai Lama on 4 May. We welcome this as the first step towards resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama and his representatives. We hope that dialogue will now continue, with substantive matters being discussed, in order to resolve the underlying issues.

We continue to urge greater transparency from the Chinese authorities on the issue of Tibet. However, it is for the Government of China and representatives of the Dalai Lama to decide whether or not to publicise the detail of their discussions.

Departmental Buildings

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has made for the future use of 1 Carlton Gardens following the decision not to use the property as a Ministerial residence; and if he will make a statement. [202840]

Meg Munn: We are currently in negotiation with The Crown Estate about the future of the lease on 1 Carlton Gardens.

Departmental Freedom of Information

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many freedom of information requests made to his Department were (a) answered (i) within 20 days, (ii) within 40 days, (iii) within 60 days, (iv) after 60 days, (b) not answered and (c) answered citing an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as a reason not to provide the requested information in each year since the Act came into force. [201726]

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Meg Munn: The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has published two annual reports containing statistical information on freedom of information requests received by monitored bodies including Central Government Departments in 2005 and 2006. These reports can be found at the following web address:

The 2007 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) annual report is currently being drafted for publication in June 2008. However, statistics on requests received in each quarter of 2007 have been published and can be found via the MOJ website:

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) requires public bodies to respond to written requests within 20 working days of receipt, but allows additional time for the consideration of the public interest in disclosing the requested information.

The published reports provide statistics on the number of “non-routine” requests received during each period where: an initial response was provided within 20 working days; an initial response was given outside this time but a public interest test extension had been applied; an initial response was given outside this time and no public interest test extension was applied; and where no initial response had been given at the time the statistics were collected.

The 2006 FCO annual report provides statistics on the duration of the public interest test extensions in that year. Corresponding statistics for 2007 will be available when the 2007 annual report is published.

Information on requests where deadlines were extended beyond 40 days is not collected in the form requested; however the proportion of resolvable requests the Department answered “in time” (that is, meeting the deadline or within a permitted extension) in 2007 was 98 per cent.

For 2005 and 2006, the reports show the number of requests received by the department which were withheld, either in full or in part, where an FOIA exemption or Environmental Information Regulations exception was applied. For 2007, the number of such requests was 254, based on aggregated quarterly statistics from 2007. Requests withheld solely under the exemption applicable to “information available by other means” are not included; statistics on these are not collected centrally because they are dealt with as routine business.

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