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14 May 2008 : Column 1595W—continued

Diego Garcia: Rendition

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 21 April 2008, Official Report, column 1713W, on Diego Garcia: rendition, whether any UK official met each of the two individuals during their detention. [203522]

Meg Munn [holding answer 6 May 2008]: We have no information to suggest that the two individuals concerned met UK officials during their detention.


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Gaza: Fuels

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on attacks against fuel convoys entering Gaza; and if he will make a statement. [204752]

Meg Munn [holding answer 12 May 2008]: We are aware that Palestinian militants have attacked crossing points at Nahal Oz on 9 April, Kerem Shalom and Nahal Oz on 17 April and Erez on 21 April. We condemn such actions which serve only to increase the suffering of the people of Gaza. We urge all parties to ensure that basic humanitarian supplies, including fuel, are maintained.

India: Family Planning

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the government of India on population control policies. [204370]

Mr. Malik: I have been asked to reply.

The Department for International Development (DFID) has had discussions with officials of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India on population issues in the context of the Reproductive and Child Health Programme (RCH-2), to which DFID contributes. DFID has committed £252 million to the programme from 2005 to 2011.

RCH-2, launched in April 2005, is the Government of India’s key programme to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for reducing maternal and child mortality. The programme seeks to expand the range of information and services available on contraception, particularly to the poorest populations. The programme will increase access to reversible methods of contraception, which will allow young women to delay childbearing and all women to have a longer interval between births. This will improve the health of children as well as mothers.

The most recent joint government and donor review of this programme took place in February 2008. The review found that there has been an increase in the provision of family planning, and particularly of reversible methods of contraception.

Iraq: Administration of Justice

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which prosecuting authority has responsibility to prosecute alleged criminal offences committed by contractors working for HM Government in Iraq. [205426]

Meg Munn: Jurisdiction over contractors working for the government in Iraq is covered by Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 17 (Revised) (CPA17).

Under CPA17, contractors are not subject to Iraqi laws and regulations in matters relating to the terms and conditions of their contracts. But the provisions of CPA17 are without prejudice to the exercise of jurisdiction by the sending state and the state of nationality of a
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contractor in accordance with applicable laws. The sending state may, however, waive immunity for contractors if requested.

If any personnel, employed by organisations contracted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), were suspected of committing a crime in Iraq, but appeared to be immune from Iraqi legal process, the FCO would refer them to the disciplinary authority of their employing organisation with a view to having them removed from our contract in Iraq. The FCO would also bring the matter to the attention of the UK police and/or the authorities of the individual's nationality. The decision whether to pursue a UK criminal investigation, and ultimately whether a prosecution should be undertaken in an individual case, would be a matter for the UK police and prosecuting authorities, acting independently from the Government.

In the case of suspected non-criminal misconduct, we would take up the matter with the employing organisation, and either investigate the matter or have the employing organisation do so and report to us, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the allegations.

Iraq: Embassies

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will initiate an independent inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse on the part of staff contracted to work at HM embassy, Baghdad. [205261]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was made aware of these allegations in June 2007. The complainants were interviewed promptly and in detail by senior members of our embassy staff. However, as the allegations were made both by and against employees of a company contracted by the FCO, we asked the company concerned to send staff from its UK office to take forward the investigation. They did so thoroughly and professionally in June 2007 and we accepted their conclusions and recommendations. We have since reviewed this decision and have concluded that there are no grounds for reopening the case.

KBR

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contracts have been fulfilled for his Department by KBR in the last five years; what the (a) value, (b) purpose and (c) duration was of each such contract; and where the work to fulfill the contract was performed in each case. [205260]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently have one contract with KBR, for the provision of life support services to our Embassy in Baghdad and the Contingency Operating Base in Basra, Iraq:

All FCO contracts are subject to a rigorous selection process so that we obtain best value for money. Any company engaged by the FCO needs to pass through a stringent and transparent procurement process, in line with public procurement guidelines and best practice. The same rigorous process is followed in the contract management and performance monitoring of these contracts.

Maldives: Elections

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contribution the UK is making to international efforts to ensure a fair election in the Maldives; and if he will make a statement. [204593]

Meg Munn: The UK is providing financial support for Commonwealth efforts to improve the Maldivian legislative electoral framework. Free, fair and credible elections are a crucial element of democratic reform in the Maldives. My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch-Brown, emphasised this point to Dr. Mohamad Asim, the Maldivian high commissioner in March. He also pointed out that the freedom of politicians and political parties to be able to campaign and debate freely was a cornerstone of democracy.

Nepal: Human Rights

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the government of Nepal on the observance of human rights. [204366]

Meg Munn: Throughout the recent pre-election period, the UK maintained its strong support for the work of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other local, and international, human rights organisations in Nepal. In a joint public statement, issued on the eve of elections, we noted our deep concern at the election- related killings, abductions, disturbances and intimidation which were taking place in parts of the country. We also condemned those who had sought to disrupt the elections and stressed that the people of Nepal should be able to choose their new representatives, free from fear and threat. Following elections, we will continue to urge the Government of Nepal to investigate all cases of past human rights violations and abuses, and bring an end to the culture of impunity.

On 22 April, the UK joined an EU demarche to the Government of Nepal to protest about the violation of rights of Tibetan demonstrators in Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal, as well as the excessive use offered against them. The actions by Nepalese police violated individuals’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and we have urged a thorough investigation of these incidents.


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Nepal: Politics and Government

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the political situation in Nepal following the constituent assembly elections on 10 April 2008. [204365]

Meg Munn: Along with the international community, the UK welcomed the largely peaceful elections to a Constituent Assembly which were held on 10 April. The election results clearly demonstrated the people of Nepal’s desire for peace and change and we are urging all parties to respect this mandate and work together to deliver lasting peace and development in Nepal. As a long-standing friend of Nepal, the UK stands ready to help support the new government at this critical juncture in the country’s transition.

Syria: Human Rights

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the government of Syria on human rights in relation to the universal periodic review conducted by the UN Human Rights Council. [204342]

Meg Munn: Our ambassador in Damascus raised the periodic review of the UK by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) with officials at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 28 April. He welcomed the review, underlined our support for these mechanisms and looked forward to other states working with the HRC in the same constructive way.

Syria will be one of the last countries to be reviewed under the UN's new universal periodic review process in 2011. The UK has not yet engaged in dialogue with Syria on its review. However, we are prepared to do so when they start to prepare for this important process.

In the meantime, the UK continues to have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Syria, which has deteriorated worryingly in recent months. We continue to call on Syria to abide by its international obligations on human rights. Our embassy in Damascus, working with other EU missions, continues to press the Syrians to improve conditions in general as well as raising individual cases of concern.

Zimbabwe: Arms Trade

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Chinese authorities on the delivery of arms to Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. [203892]

Meg Munn: We have lobbied the Chinese Government in Beijing not to supply arms to Zimbabwe on four occasions since a Chinese ship attempted to unload in Durban. The EU already has in place a ban on the sales of arms to Zimbabwe. We support a moratorium on arms sales until there is a return to democracy and good governance. We raised this with the support of other states in the UN Security Council.


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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture: Wastes

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the abolition of the agricultural buildings allowance for slurry storage facilities on (a) the average net income of farmers, (b) implementation of nitrate vulnerable zones and (c) trends in nitrate levels. [204211]

Jane Kennedy: I have been asked to reply.

The withdrawal of the Agricultural Buildings Allowance (ABA) is part of a package of measures introduced at Budget 2007 which also saw the reduction of the main rate of corporation tax and the introduction of a £50,000 Annual Investment Allowance (AIA), allowing 95 per cent. of businesses to write off all their expenditure on plant and machinery (excluding cars) in the year in which it is made. The effect of this package will vary according to the particular circumstances of a business.

Slurry storage facilities may be considered plant and machinery and therefore be eligible for plant and machinery capital allowances (both the AIA and writing-down allowances) at 20 per cent. a year on any balance of expenditure not covered by the AIA where the storage of the slurry is incidental to its final use.

Departmental Aviation

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost to his Department of air travel excluding carbon offsetting was in 2006-07. [198223]

Jonathan Shaw: For the period April 2006 to December 2007 inclusive, and from information held centrally, for core-DEFRA, the Animal Health Agency, the Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquacultural Science, the Government Decontamination Service, and the Rural Payments Agency, expenditure on air travel by Ministers and officials was £3,447,090. Expenditure on travel is undertaken in accordance with departmental travel policy. For the financial year 2006-07, DEFRA will procure credits through the Government's Carbon Offsetting Fund to offset 2,864 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for its flights.

Details of overseas travel by Cabinet Ministers are published annually by Government and is accessible at:

The list includes details about the number of officials accompanying a Minister when non-scheduled travel is used for the trip. Copies of lists covering information going back to the 1997-98 financial year are available in the Libraries of the House.

Expenditure on travel is undertaken in accordance with departmental travel policy.

Departmental Internet

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much was spent on the most recent redesign and implementation of his Departmental website. [200167]


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Jonathan Shaw: The most recent redesign and implementation of the DEFRA website took place between January and April 2007. Redesign work was undertaken by a third party at a cost of £27,342; implementation was achieved using existing in-house resources.

Specifically, the cost of this work related to the development of new design options and usage guidelines, page templates and stylesheets, and improvements to the general accessibility of the site.

Departmental Pensions

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his most recent estimate is of the unfunded liability in present value terms of each public sector pension scheme for which his Department is responsible; and on what assumptions for (a) discount and (b) longevity the estimate is based. [200716]

Jonathan Shaw: DEFRA is not responsible for the administration of any public sector pension scheme but most of its staff are members of the Principal Civil Service Pension scheme (PCSPS). The information requested and other useful information is contained in the scheme's annual resource accounts which can be accessed via its website:

and is also available from the House of Commons Library.

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the unfunded liability in present value terms was of each public sector pension scheme for which his Department is responsible in each year since 1990-91. [200717]

Jonathan Shaw: Information on liabilities in present value terms is in the scheme's annual Resource Accounts (since 2000-01) although these are produced under differing sets of assumptions (e.g. on longevity), so are not directly comparable across years. The vast majority of DEFRA staff are members of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS) and the Resource Accounts can be accessed via the scheme's website at:

and are also available from the House of Commons Library.

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) rate and (b) cost was of employer contributions for each public sector pension scheme for which his Department has responsibility in each year since 1990-91; and if he will make a statement. [200718]

Jonathan Shaw: The vast majority of DEFRA staff are members of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS). The information requested is contained in the scheme's annual Resource Accounts since 2000-01.


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