9 Jun 2008 : Column 1W

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 9 June 2008

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan: Politics and Government

Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the continued suspension from the Afghan parliament of Malalai Joya; and if he will make a statement. [208251]

Dr. Howells: In May 2007 Malalai Joya was suspended for three years (until the end of the legislative term) by her peers in the Afghan parliament for contravening Article 70 of the Afghan parliament's rules of procedure. Article 70 states that members of parliament who insult others are subject to disciplinary action. Action was taken against Ms Joya after a media interview in which she said that the Afghan parliament was worse than a 'stable or zoo'. Ms Joya has the right to challenge the decision and has indicated her intention to do so. Together with EU partners, we regularly raise the issue of freedom of expression in Afghanistan and look forward to Ms Joya and the Afghan parliament resolving this internal parliamentary issue.

A member of our embassy staff met with Malalai Joya on 1 May 2008. Ms Joya gave an account of her suspension by the Afghan parliament and discussed Afghan politics.

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he or his Department has had with Wali Karzai; and what his role is in the Afghan Government. [208800]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 5 June 2008]: Our officials last met with Ahmad Wali Karzai on 21 November 2007. The meeting was to discuss routine Afghan political issues. Ahmad Wali Karzai was elected head of the Kandahar Provincial Council in 2005 and is also President Karzai’s special adviser to the South.

Burma: Democracy

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions the British Ambassador to Thailand has had with representatives of Burma’s democracy movement. [208465]

Meg Munn: Our ambassador in Bangkok has held discussions with Burmese political organisations and other civil society representatives six times in 2008. We continue to maintain a dialogue with groups campaigning for democracy in Burma, in the UK and in the region.


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Burma: Ethnic Groups

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what meetings his Department’s officials held with Karen National Union General Secretary Padoh Mahn Sha in the 12 months before he was assassinated in February 2008; [208467]

(2) what reports he has received on the alleged involvement of Col Htin Maung and Pastor Timothy Laklem of the KNU Peace Council in the assassination of Padoh Mahn Sha, General Secretary of the Karen National Union, Burma. [208468]

Meg Munn: To date, we have received no conclusive reports on which person or parties were involved in the assassination of Pado Mahn Sha on 14 February 2008. The case is still under investigation by the Thai police. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials had no meeting with Pado Mahn Sha in the 12 months prior to his assassination. I sent a message of condolence to his daughter, Zoya Phan.

Burma: Storms

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the Government issued warnings about Cyclone Nargis to British residents in Burma; and whether such warnings were also given to the regime ruling Burma. [208462]

Meg Munn: Based on data from the Meteorological Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice for Burma was updated on 30 April to inform British nationals that tropical Cyclone Nargis was forecast to make landfall on the Burmese coast between 2-3 May. This advice was again updated on 1 May to inform that the cyclone would make landfall on 2 May on the central Burmese coast. On 1 May, our embassy in Rangoon sent a notice to all registered British nationals and other nationals to whom we provide consular assistance. The notice warned of the cyclone and included links to websites with information on extreme weather.

The Burmese Department of Meteorology and Hydrology has said that it tracked the storm from 29 April 2008 and, in doing so, claims to have been in contact with Indian, Thai, UK and US meteorological authorities and agencies. The Burmese Government said that on 1 May and 2 May, local television and radio warned of the storm and specifically that the wind could be strong and destructive.

Enrichment Bond

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the National Security Strategy, Cm 7291, what definition he uses of enrichment bond; and if he will make a statement. [208207]

Dr. Howells: The UK supports efforts to develop a viable regime of nuclear fuel assurances under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that would support states' rights to safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technology under Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.


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The Enrichment Bond is one such proposal. It would involve an agreement between supplier state government or governments, the recipient state and the IAEA, in which the supplier government or governments would guarantee that, subject to compliance with international law and to meeting non-proliferation commitments to be assessed by the IAEA, national enrichment providers will not be prevented from supplying the recipient state with uranium enrichment services in the event that the guarantee is invoked.

Nuclear Disarmament

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 18 July 2007, Official Report, column 409W, on nuclear disarmament, what progress has been made by the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston in taking forward proposals to develop a disarmament laboratory. [208320]

Dr. Howells: The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) is continuing to undertake research into the technical aspects of verifying multilateral nuclear disarmament. This forms part of a series of wider activities announced in June 2007 by my right hon. Friend, the then Foreign Secretary (Margaret Beckett) to make the UK a ‘Disarmament Laboratory’.

AWE’s research so far, partly in partnership with Norway and the non-governmental organisation, Verification Education, Research and Information Centre, was presented to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee in Geneva in May. Although this research is expected to take a number of years, we have made a good start. For example, we are looking forward to undertaking ‘managed access’ simulation to a nuclear facility in Norway within the year.

In addition to the work being undertaken by AWE, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) announced in February our offer to host a technical conference of scientists from the P5 nuclear laboratories to discuss the issues surrounding the verification of nuclear disarmament. Also, the UK is supporting a study by the International Institute of Strategic Studies into the political and technical requirements for a world free from nuclear weapons which will be published in September.

Saudi Arabia: Embassies

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff work at the British consulate in Riyadh; and how many of those deal with complaints from British citizens about Hajj pilgrimages. [208290]

Meg Munn: The consular section of our embassy in Riyadh comprises six full time members of staff. Any complaints from British citizens about Hajj pilgrimages are passed to our consul for investigation and reply.

Saudi Arabia: Festivals and Special Occasions

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received from the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia on the Hajj pilgrimage. [208287]


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Dr. Howells: Our embassy in Riyadh sent a report to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary following the conclusion of the 2007 Hajj pilgrimage.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia to discuss the Hajj pilgrimage; and when he last discussed the case of Mr. Rafiq Gorji with the ambassador. [208288]

Dr. Howells: Our ambassador in Riyadh briefed my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on general issues around the Hajj during his visit to Saudi Arabia in April 2008.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and our ambassador in Riyadh have not discussed the case of Mr. Rafiq Gorji. Consular officials in Saudi Arabia provided Mr. Gorji with all appropriate consular assistance following the coach crash in which he lost his wife during the December 2006 Hajj.

USA: Entry Clearances

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he and other Ministers in his Department have had with US Administration representatives on the issuing of US visas to people with HIV/AIDS; and if he will make a statement. [208348]

Dr. Howells: While the UK generally regards a third country's immigration policy as solely a domestic matter for the country involved, officials have previously raised the subject of US entry clearance procedures for individuals with HIV/AIDS with both the US State Department and the US embassy in London and will continue to do so in the future. I will also look for an early opportunity to raise this matter with the US authorities.

International Development

Burma: Asian Tribal Ministries

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether his Department provides funding to Asian Tribal Ministries operations in Burma; and whether officials from his Department have met staff or volunteers from Asian Tribal Ministries. [208473]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Department for International Development (DFID) does not provide funding for Asian Tribal Ministries operations and has no plans to do so. DFID officials have met representatives from a very broad range of Thailand based Burmese organisations, including Asian Tribal Ministries.

Burma: Internally Displaced Persons

Mrs. Hodgson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funding his Department has provided to Burmese people displaced by the military regime. [207662]


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Mr. Douglas Alexander: In 2007-08 the Department for International Development (DFID) contributed £770,000 to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) which provides food and other support to Burmese refugees in Thailand and to displaced people inside Burma. We are discussing DFID's contribution for 2008-09 with TBBC and Christian Aid, through which this funding is channelled. DFID also provides support from within Burma to people living in and near conflict and ceasefire areas in the border regions, many of whom have been displaced. In all, about 20 per cent. of DFID's regular programme of assistance for Burma (which is doubling from £9 million in 2007-09 to £18 million in 2010-11) benefits people in areas affected by conflict. The £17 million which DFID has pledged so far in emergency assistance following Cyclone Nargis is additional to the regular programme.

Burma: International Red Cross

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps the Government has taken to persuade the Burmese junta to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross into areas of conflict in Eastern Burma. [208466]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: In November 2006 the UK Government made two ministerial statements strongly condemning the Burmese Government’s decision to order the closure of the field offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross. These statements were transmitted to the Burmese Ministers of Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Health, Labour, and National Economic Planning and Development. The Department for International Development (DFID) Office and British embassy in Rangoon continue to press the Burmese authorities to reverse their decision.

Burma: Overseas Aid

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether his Department has made an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Three Diseases Fund for Burma. [208469]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Department for International Development (DFID) closely monitors the performance of the Three Diseases Fund and participated in the fund’s first annual review meeting on 1-2 April 2008. This meeting reviewed the fund’s overall performance and identified its achievements, areas where strengthening is required, and policy and programme priorities for the next year. The meeting was attended by 156 representatives of donors, United Nations agencies, international and local non-governmental organisations, and the Burmese Ministry of Health.

Further details of the fund board’s conclusions and recommendations from the meeting are set out in an aide-mémoire which is available on the Three Diseases Fund website:

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which organisations were the top 10 recipients of UK aid to Burma in 2007-08; and how much each received. [208470]


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Mr. Douglas Alexander: The top 10 recipients of UK aid to Burma in 2007-08 were:

£

The Three Diseases Fund

3,900,000

UNICEF Multi-donor education fund

1,000,000

Save the Children Fund—Early Learning Opportunities Transition Initiative

899,922

United Nations Development Programme—Human Development Initiative

755,435

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium

670,662

Health Unlimited, Primary Health Care

425,897

United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator’s Multi-donor Stakeholder Fund

400,000

World Food Programme, Food Security

250,000

Pyoe Pin

124,498

HOPE International

118,446


A further £100,000 was allocated to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium during the financial year, and has been disbursed, but will be accounted for in 2008-09.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his Department’s aid budgets for Burma, excluding cyclone funding, are for (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11. [208471]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Department for International Development’s planned expenditure on Burma, excluding cyclone funding, is:

£ million

2008-09

12

2009-10

15

2010-11

18


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much British aid has reached internally displaced people in Karen state, Burma; and how many people have received such aid. [208472]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: In 2007-08, the Department for International Development (DFID) provided £400,000 for assistance to displaced people through community-based organisations inside Burma. This assistance reached around 106,000 displaced people, mostly in Karen communities, living near Burma’s border with Thailand.

In 2007, DFID agreed that its funding to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) could be used to support cross-border relief programmes for displaced people inside Burma as well as Burmese refugees in Thailand. TBBC estimates that its cross-border support reached 80,420 people in 2007. DFID has agreed to provide £1 million to TBBC for 2008-09, an increase of 30 per cent. over our total allocation for 2007-08.


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