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Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) on what date the National Offender Management Service received the request to meet the costs of the exhumation and reburial of George Kelly at Walton Prison, Liverpool; 
(2) what requests for interim payments have been received by his Department and its agencies in respect of work conducted in connection with the exhumation and reburial of George Kelly; and when and how they were processed; 
(3) what agreement the National Offender Management Service reached on the costs incurred in the exhumation and reburial of the remains of George Kelly at Walton Prison, Liverpool; with whom the agreement was reached; and on what date; 
(4) what (a) guidance and (b) training is given to personnel working in Prison Service custodial property and estates management on (i) dealing with members of the public and (ii) settlement of disputes using alternative dispute resolution; 
(5) when the decision was taken to construct a car park over the grave area of executed persons at Walton Prison, Liverpool; who was responsible for the decision; what consideration was given to providing access to each grave; and if he will make a statement; 
(6) what his policy is on building over graves sited on land (a) owned and (b) occupied by the National Offender Management Service; what regulations apply to building on such land; what guidance he issues on building on such land; what sanctions apply to breaches of (i) regulations and (ii) policy; and if he will make a statement; 
(7) what requests his Department and its agencies have received for alternative dispute resolution of outstanding issues regarding the costs involved in connection with the exhumation and reburial of George Kelly at Walton Prison, Liverpool; and what steps were taken to (a) respond to and (b) comply with such requests. 
Mr. Hanson: A request was received in November 2005 before the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Mr. Kelly. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Custodial Property Estates Section agreed to meet the reasonable costs.
Following the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Mr. Kelly, NOMS received in May 2006 invoices for the funeral directors and other services relating to the exhumation and reburial. These were settled the same month by final payment made to the solicitors who had requested the exhumation and reburial. There were two remaining claims for costs in respect of which requests for interim payments were made. The first claim related to the role of a person asked by the same solicitors to make the arrangements for the exhumation and reburial. However, no breakdown of the costs was supplied with the claim and as, despite several requests, such a breakdown was not provided no interim payment could be made. The information was eventually provided and the amount payable agreed and paid. The second claim related to the services of a psychologist. Following a meeting in August 2006 an offer to settle the claim was made that month but there was a delay in a formal response. NOMS is endeavouring to seek to settle this account appropriately.
In November 2005, following an approach by solicitors about the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Mr. Kelly, the then Department of Constitutional Affairs contacted the head of NOMS Custodial Property Estates section who agreed to meet the reasonable costs of the exhumation and reburial. Invoices submitted by those solicitors for the funeral directors and other services relating to the exhumation and reburial were agreed and paid in May 2006. The claim for costs for the role of the person asked by the same solicitors to arrange the exhumation and reburial was agreed with the solicitors and paid in January 2008. The claim made by the solicitors for the services of a psychologist has yet to be resolved.
The staff in Custodial Property Estates section dealing with estate management matters are professionally trained surveyors experienced in dealing with members of the public and all aspects relating to contracts which include alternative dispute resolution. If any specific training need were to be identified appropriate training would be arranged.
The car parking area has been in use for a considerable number of years and to search for the information about decisions, as requested, could only be undertaken at disproportionate cost, if such information is still in existence. The brick paving and sand base over the graves can be removed to facilitate exhumation of remains.
In cases where it is proposed to erect a building on land where there are graves it is normal practice for the remains to be exhumed and reburied away from the site. Such buildings are subject to the building regulations in the same way as other new prison buildings. The Coroners Office has previously advised that there is no legislation or rules relating to burials preventing the use of such areas for car parking.
Alternative dispute resolution and other such processes in relation to two claims in respect of costs relating to the exhumation and reburial of the remains of Mr. Kelly was raised in August 2006 by the solicitors who had requested the exhumation and reburial. With regard to the first claim from the person engaged by those solicitors to make the arrangements for the exhumation and reburial, in September 2006 that person served a claim against the solicitors who then served a claim against NOMS. The claim was resolved out of court. The second claim relates to the services of a psychologist. The NOMS Custodial Property Estates Section is endeavouring to resolve this matter without the need for a process such as the alternative dispute resolution as the sum in dispute is some £1,500.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent discussions he has had with the government of Afghanistan on the status of women in that country; 
Meg Munn: We are aware of the difficult situation many women in Afghanistan still face. Our Embassy officials in Kabul regularly discuss womens rights with members of the Afghan Government, non-governmental organisations and parliamentarians, highlighting their importance.
The Government work to enhance the status of women in three main ways: through policy engagement with the Afghan Government; through support for national programmes and services, which benefit women; and through bilateral programmes.
Despite the challenges, progress has been made. Over a third of children now in school are girls. We have
committed over £35 million to support the Afghan governments micro-finance programme, giving women in particular better access to finance. 27 per cent. of seats in the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament are now held by womenmore than in the House of Commons, which is around 20 per cent.
Our major support is channelled through the Afghan government, since gender inequality is a deeply embedded and long-term problem which needs a strategic approach. We have worked, for example, with the government to ensure that gender equality is integrated into the Afghanistan National Development Strategy.
We are also giving £500,000 to support a five-year Womens Empowerment programme (2005-10), implemented by the non-governmental organisation, Womankind. The programme focuses on promoting womens equal participation in governance, building awareness of womens rights among civil society and policy makers, and on providing educational, health, community and psycho-social support to women affected by violence and conflict.
We funded the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, with £500,000, to implement its three-year Action Plan (2006-08). A large part of the Commission's work focuses on womens rights, including documenting and tackling violence against women. In addition we have funded a non-governmental organisation, Global Rights, to produce a detailed report on domestic abuse in Afghanistan, due to be published shortly.
Meg Munn: When the Chief Adviser of the Bangladesh caretaker Government., Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, met with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in March, he reaffirmed his Government's firm resolve to hold free, fair and credible parliamentary elections in Bangladesh by December 2008. The UK welcomes efforts made by the caretaker Government towards achieving this goal. We continue to encourage the caretaker Government to ensure all commitments are fulfilled. We believe credible elections that can sustain democracy in the longer term are essential for Bangladesh.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government has taken to encourage the Burmese government to respond rapidly to the humanitarian situation caused by Cyclone Nargis. 
Meg Munn: The UK has pledged £5 million for emergency relief and we are willing to do more for the victims of Cyclone Nargis. The obstacles being placed in the way of the international donor effort by the Burmese regime are totally unacceptable.
The Government have pressed the Burmese regime to allow international assistance to be delivered to those in urgent need. We have, as chair of the UN Security Council, called for action by Burma to work with the UN and international donors and expedite access. We are pressing regional powers such as Thailand, China, India and Indonesia at senior political and official level to use their influence on Burma to accept unfettered international assistance. We have said that we would use whatever delivery mechanism they are able to negotiate with the Burmese and channel our relief effort through them. My noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown, is visiting key Asian capitals to mobilise support for a significant increase in the amount of assistance reaching Burma and the delta region in particular.
Meg Munn: We have regular discussions with the Chinese authorities about HIV/AIDS. Through the Department for International Development (DFID), the Government are currently providing £30 million in support of HIV/AIDS work both to the Chinese government and also directly to seven provinces. HIV/AIDS work forms the largest part of DFIDs bilateral programme in China. DFID continues to exert its influence in shaping Chinese HIV and AIDS policy and strategy, and works very closely with the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, the World Health Organisation and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
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 tackling (a) child trafficking and (b) the child sex industry. 
Meg Munn: We discuss human rights issues with the Government of India on a regular basis. Child rights were discussed at the latest round of the EU-India Human Rights Dialogue in New Delhi on 15 February. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials discussed human rights issues with the Indian National Human Rights Commission on 15 April underlining the importance we place on it and the close watch we keep on such issues. The Government will continue to work withand supportthe Government of India in tackling all human rights issues.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received of the level of violence and persecution aimed at gay men in (a) Iraq and (b) Iran. 
We are particularly concerned that homosexual activities are illegal and can carry the death penalty in Iran although we have not been able to confirm any executions that have taken place solely on the grounds of homosexuality in recent years. We are aware of concerns that some people charged and executed for other crimes (such as rape and kidnap) may have been homosexual.
Homosexuals, along with other minority groups in Iran, do experience discrimination but we do not have any evidence of a state-led campaign of persecution targeting Iran's gay community. It is difficult to get reliable information about the situation of homosexuals in Iran as the issue is not generally discussed in public.
The UK and the EU regularly raise human rights concerns with the Iranian Government. Most recently, in a demarche to the Iranian authorities on 27 April, the EU raised concerns about a report that over 30 men had been arrested when police raided a party at a home in Esfahan in February. The men were reportedly referred to a forensic medical examiner to look for evidence that they had engaged in homosexual conduct.
The UK is concerned about reports of violence and persecution of homosexuals in Iraq. We do not have any direct evidence of targeted or systematic abuses taking place against the homosexual community within Iraq, although random acts of violence have taken place. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials, together with the private secretary to Ann Clwyd MP, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's Special Envoy to Iraq on Human Rights, will soon be arranging a meeting with the Iraqi lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group to discuss the issues and challenges that face them in Iraq.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the prospects for a free and fair presidential election in (a) Lebanon and (b) the Ivory Coast. 
Meg Munn: We are deeply concerned by the ongoing violence in Beirut, and elsewhere in the Lebanon, recently. Such violence makes the election of a new president more difficult than ever. A parliamentary vote, on the election of a new president, was postponed for the 19th time to 10 June. Any deal will need to find an accommodation between the two sides on the key issues of disagreement which include: the presidency; the make up of a future government and a future electoral law.
We fully support the high-level Arab League mission, which arrived in Beirut on 14 May. The UN Security Council, under British presidency, addressed the situation recently. Informal discussions have continued since then and we are working towards a formal meeting this week to ensure strong UN backing for efforts to restore calm and support democratic politics in Lebanon.
We welcome the Ivorian government's decision to hold presidential elections on 30 November 2008, with the agreement of all the major Ivorian political parties. This is a tight deadline which can only be met through a concerted effort from both Ivorian and international institutions. The UN Operation in the Ivory Coast has a mandate to certify the election process. Its most recent report on 15 April, which can be found at:
indicated that while there was a political consensus on holding elections there was still much work to be done, such as finalising the legal framework for the electoral process. It also noted the elections would bear serious risks if they were not conducted in a transparent, free and credible manner.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the conformity of the policy of Spain on military freight crossing the Spain-Gibraltar border with Spain's NATO obligations; and what representations he has made to the Spanish government on the matter. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Government have raised the issues of restrictions with the Spanish Government directly and will continue to do so. We believe the imposition of such restrictions is inappropriate. Spain is an important NATO ally and we are therefore determined to work closely with Spain to find a constructive solution.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the government of Spain on restrictions on military freight crossing the Spain-Gibraltar border; and what steps he plans to take on the matter. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 13 May 2008]: The Government have raised the issues of restrictions with the Spanish Government directly and will continue to do so. We believe the imposition of such restrictions is inappropriate. Spain is an important North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally and we are therefore determined to work closely with Spain to find a constructive solution.
Meg Munn: The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) is now fully up and running after an institution building phase begun in 2006. Achieving UK human rights priorities remains difficult with the majority of members wishing to prevent the body effectively tackling country specific problems. However, the HRC has, largely through UK/EU action, taken some encouraging steps, including special sessions on Burma and Darfur and discussions of a wide range of country specific situations during open session. These sessions are webcast and open to non-governmental organisations and interest groups.
The introduction of the HRCs Universal Periodic Review marks the first time that every UN members human rights record will be systematically examined. The UK was one of the first countries to be examined in April. We used this opportunity to provide a model for engagement that we encourage others to follow, including by addressing the challenges we face.
The UK remains committed to seeing complementary action on human rights in other parts of the UN, in particular through the General Assemblys Third Committee. We will continue to resist those who argue that human rights are only a matter for the HRC in Geneva. They must be promoted in all parts of the UN.
We continue to see the HRC as a body that can deliver valuable results in human rights on the ground. It will take time and effort to realise this aim. The UK is ready to engage fully to see the Council increasingly fulfil its potential.
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