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Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department's new content management system and website was originally scheduled to be operational; what the reasons are for the time taken; and whether the private sector contractor was required to make penalty payments for the time taken. [208729]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The project to deliver a new Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Web Platform is scheduled to be complete in 2008. We remain on target to deliver by this date. The main FCO ( and UKvisas ( websites were launched in March 2008. We are currently migrating our embassy and high commission websites to the new platform.

Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many officials were involved in the development of his Department's new content management system and website. [208730]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The e-Media team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) worked with private contractors and consultants to develop the new FCO Web Platform. The e-media team is made up of 16 home civil servants. During the development process, the e-media team were not fully deployed on the development of the new platform but carried out other tasks including management and maintenance of the old web platform and other online communications projects.

Iraq: Iran

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political implications of the recent missile attack by Iran upon Ashraf City in Iraq. [208911]

Dr. Howells: This issue is a matter for the Iraqi government.

Pakistan: Blasphemy

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make representations to the government of Pakistan to encourage it to repeal that country's blasphemy laws; [208763]

(2) whether he has made recent representations to the government of Pakistan on behalf of the Christian community in Pakistan, with particular reference to alleged apostasy. [208762]

Dr. Howells: The UK supports freedom of religion and condemns instances where individuals are persecuted because of their faith or belief. With our EU partners, we have raised our concerns over the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan and the frequent abuse of the blasphemy legislation. In addition, officials in London and Islamabad have met with representatives of minority organisations to monitor the treatment of minorities. We will continue to raise our concerns with the Government of Pakistan about the treatment of minorities and to encourage reform or repeal of discriminatory legislation through the National Assembly.

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The UN Human Rights Council undertook a Universal Periodic Review on the human rights records of a number of countries, including Pakistan, in May. The UK participated in this dialogue and obtained a commitment from the Pakistani delegation that checks would be introduced to regulate investigations into allegations of blasphemy and apostasy.

Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of alleged child abuse by peacekeepers and aid workers in (a) the Ivory Coast, (b) southern Sudan and (c) Haiti. [209045]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 6 June 2008]: The UK takes all allegations of misconduct by peacekeepers and aid workers extremely seriously.

We receive regular reports on a range of human rights issues in all three countries, through, inter alia, our embassies, the UN, non-governmental organisations and the media. Sexual abuse of children was raised in reports of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in the Ivory Coast (August 2007) and Sudan (September 2008). Allegations of child abuse by peacekeepers and aid workers in the Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti were also detailed in a report published by Save the Children in May 2008. The report throws a spotlight on this serious issue and we are supportive of any efforts to protect some of the world's most vulnerable children.

The overwhelming majority of UN peacekeepers uphold the very highest of standards. But there have been cases where peacekeepers and aid officials have abused the trust placed in them by the very populations they are there to protect.

We are committed to working with the UN to tackle this problem. We support the UN's 'zero tolerance' policy towards incidents of abuse and are confident that allegations of wrongdoing are investigated comprehensively by the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations. But more must be done to eradicate this problem, so we are also helping to support the UN's efforts to prevent exploitation and abuse by improving the conduct and discipline of its personnel. The peace support operations training that we provide for troops of other countries also covers matters of conduct, including the importance of protecting civilians (including women and children) in accordance with international law.

We are also committed to reducing the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse by its humanitarian partners' personnel. The Department for International Development's (DFID) guidelines for humanitarian funding for non-governmental organisations (2007) clearly state that:

DFID has committed £1.3 million to support a project by Save the Children to train and deploy a cadre of highly skilled child protection personnel in the humanitarian sector. As a result of this project, over 360,000 vulnerable children will benefit, in addition to further multiplier effects, as the experience of trained staff impacts in the wider humanitarian system. From
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2008, DFID's Civil Society Challenge Fund has included child protection criteria for applicants who applied for funding that involves working with children. This includes a requirement to meet a set of non-negotiable criteria and reporting requirements around child protection policy and its implementation.

The Government will continue to strive toward eradicating the tragedy of sexual abuse and exploitation of children in conflict situations by all parties.

Sri Lanka: Armed Conflict

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of levels of violence in Sri Lanka, with particular reference to the recent incident at Dehiwala station. [208912]

Dr. Howells: We are concerned about the recent marked increase in violence throughout Sri Lanka. The 26 May attack on the Colombo-Panadura train at Dehiwala station and the explosion on 4 June between Wellawatta and Dehiwala railway stations are examples of this. On 6 February, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary condemned attacks upon civilians and those responsible. He called for an end to the targeting of civilians and emphasised that only a just political process involving all communities could produce a sustainable solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Treaty of Lisbon

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 9 May 2008, Official Report, column 1250W, on the Treaty of Lisbon, whether the contacts described have included discussions on the referendum in the Republic of Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty; and if he will make a statement. [208815]

Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 5 June 2008]: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have regular contact with our Irish counterparts. Discussions have included the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, as well as other European and bilateral issues.

Uzbekistan: Politics and Government

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the government of Uzbekistan on human rights and the promotion of democracy. [208861]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK remains seriously concerned at the overall level of human rights in Uzbekistan. The UK regularly raises concerns on human rights issues with the Uzbek authorities, both bilaterally and with EU partners. Most recently, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials raised concerns with the Uzbek government during a visit to Tashkent in May 2008. We also raise human rights and democracy issues frequently during discussions with the Uzbek embassy in London.

The EU also regularly raises its concerns on human rights issues with the Uzbek government. The EU has
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welcomed the recent progress achieved in Uzbekistan in the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law, notably the abolition of the death penalty, the introduction of habeas corpus and the ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. The EU also welcomed the release by the Uzbek authorities of several prominent human rights defenders in February 2008, including Saidjahon Zainabitinov. On 2 June, the Uzbek authorities also released Mutabar Tadjibaeva—a development we warmly welcome.

The EU is prepared to support further Uzbek reforms in these areas while at the same time making it clear where we would like to see further progress. We welcome the Uzbek commitment to continuing the comprehensive and results-oriented human rights dialogue with the EU and look forward to concrete outcomes from this dialogue on 5 June.

Duchy of Lancaster

Children: Databases

Mrs. Maria Miller: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what changes will be made to his Department's Manual of Protective Security in light of the security recommendations made by Deloitte as part of their review of the ContactPoint database published on 21 February. [190729]

Mr. Watson: The Manual of Protective Security (MPS) is updated regularly. The implications of the Deloitte Review for the MPS are being considered at present.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has accepted in full the recommendations of the Deloitte review. I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families (Kevin Brennan) on 21 February 2008, Official Report, column 55WS.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when the next edition of The Effects of Taxes and Benefits on Household Income will be published. [208351]

Mr. Watson: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the Authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated June 2008:

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Batteries: Recycling

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government has taken to increase recycling of batteries. [209169]

Joan Ruddock: We have recently consulted on the transposition of the EU Batteries Directive. When transposed, the directive will reduce the quantity of hazardous and non hazardous waste batteries going to landfill and increase the recovery of the materials they contain. Collection targets set by the directive for portable batteries are 25 per cent. by 2012, rising to 45 per cent. by 2016. The prohibition on incinerating or landfilling industrial and automotive batteries implies a 100 per cent. collection and recycling target for these batteries. The consultation closed on 13 March.

We are in the process of analysing the responses to the consultation. We will publish a summary shortly, followed by a second consultation later this year.

Research and trials to provide evidence for the consultation and to investigate the best ways of implementing the Batteries Directive have been carried out on portable batteries. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has been working in partnership with a range of local authorities and not-for-profit organisations that already run recycling collection services to pilot portable waste battery collection trials in the UK. Trials include establishing ‘drop off’ points at supermarkets, as well as other methods of collection such as at the kerbside.

Supported by funding from DEFRA and the devolved administrations, the trials form part of a wider effort to develop cost-effective ways for the UK to meet the targets of the Batteries Directive. The results of the various trials will be published shortly, and these will be used to help the Government and batteries producers identify the best methods of collecting batteries to meet the directive’s targets.

It is important to stress that under the Batteries Directive, which is a Producer Responsibility Directive, responsibility for the collection, treatment and recycling of waste batteries will lie with the producers of batteries. In order to fulfil their obligations, they may need to engage with local authorities to improve their collection network. Therefore, when the directive is enforced, the Compliance Scheme or schemes representing producers of batteries may need to make contractual agreements with local authorities if they wish to increase the level of batteries being recycled.

Environment Agency: Finance

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the estimated shortfall in the Environment Agency's budget for operating and maintaining its navigations is for 2008-09. [207605]

Jonathan Shaw: The Environment Agency estimates the budget shortfall for operating and maintaining its navigations to be £11.3 million for 2008-09.

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The Environment Agency is implementing a new funding strategy to address the navigation funding shortfall. This focuses on increasing navigation income, driving down costs and maximising the benefits delivered by Environment Agency waterways. Income will be increased through commercial ventures, greater external funding, securing funding from all beneficiaries and promoting greater use and public benefit from Environment Agency waterways. The strategy plans to close the funding gap by 2012 and achieve sustainability by 2020.

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the estimated cost is of completing the backlog of capital work on the Environment Agency's waterways structures. [207606]

Jonathan Shaw: The Environment Agency estimates the cost of completing the backlog of capital work to its waterway structures to be £30 million as at May 2008. This was estimated at £60 million in 2004 and consists of works outstanding for more than five years.

The Government and the Environment Agency Board have provided support in addressing the backlog of capital work, providing an additional £30 million to March 2008. This leaves £30 million of the 2004 backlog remaining. A further £10 million has been provided this year with a commitment to address the remainder by April 2011.

Environment Protection

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to contribute towards the take-up of sustainable development practices and technologies and the establishment of a low-carbon and resource efficient economy. [209332]

Joan Ruddock: On 1 May 2008 the Government published its response to the Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance (CEMEP): “Building a low carbon economy: Unlocking Innovation and Skills”. The final report from CEMEP, published in November 2007, provided an analysis of the scale of opportunities for the UK in moving to a low carbon, resource efficient and more sustainable economy. The Global Environmental Industries Sector, estimated to be worth £274 billion in 2005, is expected to grow to £342 billion by 2010 and just under £400 billion by 2015. But CEMEP also made it clear these opportunities will only be available to those countries and businesses with the foresight to seize them, and made a number of recommendations to business and Governments to do this.

The Government fully recognises the scale of these new opportunities and is working with partners to realise them, as outlined in “Building a low carbon economy.” The Government have set out four key challenges: the need for long-term, clear, consistent and credible policies to encourage the confidence for businesses to invest and enable the timely development of innovative products and services to speed the transition to a low-carbon economy; the need to create the conditions that allow innovation to flourish, by removing barriers and other disincentives and through support for research, development and demonstration; that we have to draw on the talent
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and creativity of the British people and ensure that the economy has the skills it needs to be successful; and the need for partnership working between all levels of Government and business.

The CEMEP reports are available on the DEFRA website.

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