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The Department for Work and Pensions Three Year Plan sets out the intention during 2008-11 to identify further opportunities to develop new processes to meet the accessibility needs of our customers so that they are able to receive the services appropriate to their needs. This will also ensure that our businesses across the Department are able to collect, share and act upon information about a customers additional requirements.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of expenditure on (a) housing benefit, (b) council tax benefit, (c) jobseekers allowance, (d) incapacity benefit and (e) income support in (i) real and (ii) nominal terms in each year since 1997 . 
Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 24 April 2008, Official Report, columns 2205-06W, to the hon. Member for Hertsmere, (Mr. Clappison) from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on unemployment: young people, what assessment he has made of the reasons for (a) the fall in the employment rate of UK nationals and (b) the fall in the level of unemployment of UK nationals; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms [holding answer 12 May 2008]: The employment rate of UK nationals in the first quarter of 2008 was 75.1 per cent., a 0.4 percentage point rise on the same period in 2007 and 2.3 percentage points higher than in the first quarter of 1997.
The improvement in the labour market position of UK nationals reflects a combination of stable economic growth, a flexible and dynamic labour market in which new job opportunities are coming up all the time, and active labour market policies which have helped jobless individuals, particularly the most disadvantaged, to move back into the labour market and from there into work.
The position of young people is affected by the interaction between the labour market and the education system, with more people now staying on in education than 10 years ago. For UK nationals aged under 25 who have left full-time education, the employment rate was 74.3 per cent. in the first quarter of 2008, up 0.6 percentage points over the last year but 0.2 percentage points lower than in the same quarter of 1997. The ILO unemployment rate for UK nationals aged under 25 who have left full-time education, in the first quarter of 2008 was 12.9 per cent., down from 13.6 per cent. in the first quarter of 2007 and 14.3 per cent. in the first quarter of 1997.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to hold discussions with his (a) US, (b) Russian, (c) Chinese and (d) Indian counterparts on the Dublin Convention on cluster munitions. 
Dr. Howells: We are in regular contact with these and other countries on the issue of cluster munitions. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear on 4 June 2008, Official Report, column 769, we will be working to promote the widest possible support for the future convention on cluster munitions, the text of which was adopted at Dublin on 30 May, with a view to its early entry into force and eventual universalisation.
We are also continuing to take forward work on cluster munitions within the UN framework of the convention on certain conventional weapons, in which all these countries participate, with a view to it adopting a legally-binding instrument addressing the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions in 2008.
Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many teachers of (a) English and (b) Welsh were employed by the British Council in each country outside the UK, over the last five years. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 20 May 2008]: The table shows the number of teachers employed by the British Council over the last five years. Providing a breakdown by country could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. These data do not include casual staff teachers employed by the British Council at various times during the year.
|Number of teachers employed by the British Council|
The British Council responds to the considerable global demand for English and supports many English language providers. There is limited demand outside the UK for Welsh language teaching, but where the opportunity does arise for the teaching of the Welsh language, the British Council responds. For example, on behalf of the Welsh Assembly, the British Council provides up to three Welsh language teachers to Patagonia per year. 25 local tutors have been trained to teach Welsh.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the conditions under which the 10 May 2008 constitutional referendum in Burma was held; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: It is an indictment of the regime that they chose to go ahead with their flawed constitutional referendum at a time when hundreds of thousands of Burma's citizens were suffering without food, clean water or shelter in the Irrawaddy Delta. The political situation in Burma precludes a free and fair vote. Fundamental rights and freedoms are completely absent and the democratic opposition is persecuted its leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, are locked up and its supporters live in fear of detention and violence. The referendum itself was conducted in an atmosphere of intimidation, where criticism of the process was punishable by long prison sentences. We also have serious doubts about the secrecy of voting. The results, a turnout of 98 per cent. (including those areas hit by the cyclone) and a yes vote of over 92 per cent, lack all credibility.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the number of countries that plan to boycott the Beijing Olympics in protest at the situation in (a) Tibet and (b) Darfur. 
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the total cost to his Department of hiring Jonathan Sumption QC in relation to his work for the Department on the legal proceedings brought by Mr Stuart Wheeler. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 2 June 2008]: As with all litigation, costs will depend on a number of factors including the length of the case. The Government always ensure that they are represented at the appropriate level and secure an hourly rate which represents value for money for the tax payer. The Government are very confident of the strength of their case and, in responding to this action, will apply to recover their costs from the applicant.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the amount his Department will pay to lawyers defending the legal proceedings brought by Mr Stuart Wheeler. 
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the human rights of Eritrean refugees imprisoned in
Egypt; and if he will request the Egyptian authorities not to repatriate them to Eritrea. 
Meg Munn: On 2 June, the UK National Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide informed Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials of the possibility of Eritrean prisoners in Egypt being returned to Eritrea by the Government of Egypt.
Our ambassador in Asmara and FCO officials in London raise the issue of human rights with Eritrean officials and the Eritrean ambassador on a regular basis. Following up on human rights abuses in Eritrea is difficult. UK diplomatslike other diplomatsare only given intermittent access to follow up on reported abuses, and travel outside Asmara is restricted.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on Ethiopian troops' withdrawal from Somalia; and what discussions he has had with that government on the subject. 
Meg Munn: We have made clear to the Ethiopian Government, including at the highest levels, that we believe their troops should withdraw from Somalia as soon as is possible. The Ethiopian Government has indicated that they will withdraw from Somalia as soon as a credible replacement security force is established.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) EU partners and (b) the European Commission on whether the timing of policy announcements has been influenced by the timing of the referendum in the Republic of Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 5 June 2008]: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have regular contact with our EU counterparts in other member states and with the European Commission. These discussions include a wide range of bilateral, European and international issues.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much food waste his Department generated in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: The Friends of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) group is an informal forum of countries, including the UK, that supports the efforts of the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations to deploy UNAMID. The group co-ordinates donor support for the training and equipping of countries contributing troops to UNAMID, including £4 million of UK support to African troop contributors.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters relating to West Papua he plans to discuss with the President of Indonesia on his forthcoming visit to London; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to what events held in Israel to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of that State, (a) he, (b) Ministers in his Department and (c) officials have been invited; what invitations have been (i) accepted and (ii) declined; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not receive any invitations to go to Israel to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister received an invitation but was unfortunately unable to attend. Our ambassador in Tel Aviv attended an official celebration in Israel on 8 May.
We do not hold a register of invitations issued to officials. To establish answers to all sections of part (c) of the hon. Member's question would therefore be resource intensive and incur a disproportionate cost.
Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many applications for the forthcoming vacancy for the post of High Commissioner to Malawi have been received; and how many have been received from officials of each Government department. 
Meg Munn [holding answer 10 June 2008]: The right hon. Jack McConnell MSP has been nominated to be our next high commissioner in Lilongwe. The appointment will be made under the Diplomatic Service Order in Council 1991 and is in line with the Government's policy of recruiting appropriate skills and experience from all areas of public life.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of (a) Indonesian military operations in the highlands of West Papua, Jayawijaya Regency and (b) the effect of such operations on the civilian populations; whether he has made representations to the Indonesian Government on this matter; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 6 June 2008]: Our embassy in Jakarta follows the situation in the Indonesian province of Papua closely and has sought confirmation of recent press reports of increased military activity in the Papuan highlands. Human rights activists and local church organisations, based in Wamena, have advised our embassy that these reports are unfounded.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on violence occurring at Abyei, Sudan; if he will take steps to encourage mediation between the National Congress Party and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement on this matter; what reports he has received on how this conflict impacts on the wealth-sharing arrangements under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; what assessment he has made of the effect on the Abyei Border Commissions recommendations; and if he will put pressure on both sides to come to an agreement over the Commissions report. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 5 June 2008]: We have received reports that the clashes between the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, local militias and Sudanese armed forces of 14-21 May in Abyei resulted in the displacement of over 60,000 people from the town, and that a ceasefire of 18 May is now being respected.
We have urged both the National Congress Party and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement, including during the visit to Sudan of the permanent secretaries of the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (18-21 May), to engage with the Assessment and Evaluation Commission as a suitable body to broker a resolution for the border disputes.
Full implementation of the Abyei Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement requires resolution of differences over wealth sharing and access to land. Our embassy in Khartoum, in close co-ordination with key partners, continues to apply pressure to both sides to resolve them.
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