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18 Jun 2008 : Column 922W—continued

Departmental Training

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what training courses were (a) available to and (b) taken up by civil servants in his Department in the last 12 months. [210577]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office offers a broad range of training opportunities for staff including courses on professional skills for Government, leadership, management and diversity as well as language and functional training. I will write to the hon. Member with a detailed list and place a copy in the Library of the House.

Departmental Video Conferencing

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many facilities for video conferencing his Department has; how much it cost to install them; how much it cost to (a) run and (b) maintain them in the last year for which figures are available; how many times the facilities have been used (i) since installation and (ii) in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [209920]

David Miliband: There are approximately 160 video conference sets deployed in Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) premises in the UK and around the world, with a further 18 planned for installation during the next few months. The most recent project delivered 76 sets at a total cost of £2.13 million, or approximately £28,000 each, including purchase, freight and installation.

The sets are connected to the FCO's own telecommunications system and incur no specific additional transmission charge. Hitherto, the cost of maintenance has been subsumed within the FCO's annual telephony support charge and is not separately identifiable. The support arrangement for the future is being negotiated at the moment. Until this is agreed a precise figure cannot be given, but is expected to be less than 10 per cent. of the initial cost per annum.


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Prior to September 2007, the software necessary to monitor usage was not available to the FCO. The figures recorded since then, for the recently installed sets, are given in the following table:

Month Total hours of usage over network

September 2007

268

October 2007

368

November 2007

491

December 2007

282

January 2008

491

February 2008

545

March 2008

405

April 2008

630

Total

3,480


Fair Trade Initiative

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Answer of 6 March 2008, Official Report, column 2568W, on the Fair Trade initiative, how much his Department spent on refreshments for official departmental meetings and engagements in each of the last three financial years; and what percentage of this expenditure was on Fair Trade products. [211568]

Meg Munn: Expenditure on refreshments can be identified only by examining individual transactions in the UK and at overseas posts for the periods concerned. The information requested is not held centrally and could therefore be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Gaza: Overseas Students

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received on the case of Mr. Wissam Abuajwa of Gaza; and what steps he is taking to enable Mr. Abuajwa to take up his place to study in the UK. [210734]

Meg Munn: The UK is concerned that students due to study in the UK have been unable to obtain permission to leave Gaza. We have raised the issue with the Israeli authorities on a number of occasions and will continue to do so.

As this issue also affects our European partners, we lobby Israel jointly—through the European Commission —on all such individual cases. Wissam Abuajwa's case is one of those we are collectively raising with the Israeli authorities.

Iran: Prisoners

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department has made any representations to the government of Iran on the detention of Dr Frood Fouladvand. [211158]

Meg Munn: We are aware of reports that Dr. Frood Fouladvand, an Iranian national resident in the UK, has been detained in Iran. On 31 May our ambassador in Tehran sought clarification of this matter in a
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meeting with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our embassy in Tehran followed this up with a Note Verbale on 1 June. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Political Director also raised Dr. Fouladvand’s case in a meeting with the Iranian ambassador on 4 June. We will continue to follow this issue closely.

Iran: Proscribed Organisations

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which representations he plans to make to the EU following plans to de-proscribe the People’s Mujahadeen Organisation of Iran. [211989]

Meg Munn: We have informed EU partners of the steps my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is taking to de-proscribe the People’s Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) following the judgment by the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission and the Court of Appeal.

We are in discussion with EU partners about the implications of the de-proscription of the PMOI in the UK for the listing of the PMOI under EU Common Position 931.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to ensure that Government contracts with British and Iraqi contractors comply with British and international law and are publicly accountable and transparent; and if he will make a statement. [211189]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is not able to comment on contracts with British and Iraqi contractors held by other Government Departments.

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, through a combination of local in-country management and UK-based support.

Contracts awarded for FCO estate works projects in Iraq are based on standard Government forms of contract which are subject to English law and jurisdiction. In general, these act in harmony with international laws to produce a code of conduct which binds contractors, both explicitly and implicitly, to the code during execution of the contract agreements.

Languages

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many of those employed by his Department, other than those engaged locally, hold language qualifications in (a) Arabic, (b) Farsi, (c) Dari or Pashto, (d) Mandarin, (e) Swahili and (f) Japanese. [209382]


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David Miliband: The following table shows the total number of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff employed as of June 2008 that have a qualification in the languages specified which is recorded on the FCO management information system. Staff will have varying degrees of fluency in these languages:

Language Total number of FCO staff with a language qualification recorded on the FCO management information system (June 2008)

Arabic

263

Farsi

21

Dari or Pashto

7

Mandarin

122

Swahili

36

Japanese

153


Nuclear Disarmament

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 9 June 2008, Official Report, column 3W, on nuclear disarmament, if he will place in the Library a copy of the research undertaken on verification of multilateral nuclear disarmament by AWE the Atomic Weapons Establishment in partnership with Norway and Vertic; and what the cost was of the contract with the International Institute for Strategic Studies to which reference is made. [211941]

Meg Munn: The Atomic Weapons Establishment reported to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee in May on the progress of their work to date and the future direction of their studies. I will place a copy of this report in the Library of the House.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provided £10,000 last financial year to support the study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies through a technical workshop. We are also prepared to offer funding for a launch event and discussion in Geneva in September.

Pakistan: Blasphemy

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made recent representations to the Government of Pakistan on the use of blasphemy laws against religious minorities; and if he will make a statement. [211250]

Meg Munn: At the UN Human Rights Council in May, the UK asked about measures to safeguard the rights of minorities in Pakistan. In reply, the Pakistani delegation reaffirmed their commitment to introduce checks to prevent abuse of the blasphemy law.

Papua: Political Prisoners

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the detention of (a) Filep Karma, (b) Yusak Pakage and (c) other political prisoners in West Papua; what steps he has taken as a result of those reports; and if he will make a statement. [210721]


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Meg Munn: We are aware of the detention of Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr. Manfred Novak’s report, following his visit to Indonesia in 2007, includes evidence from Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage on their detention. Officials from our embassy in Jakarta have previously raised their detention with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Their defence lawyer has told embassy officials that prison conditions were adequate and the two men had been treated reasonably.

Embassy officials continue to follow closely the cases of those convicted of flag-raising and other political activities in Papua. We have urged the Government of Indonesia to uphold the rights guaranteed through the International Conventions on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified by Indonesia in September 2005.

Republic of Ireland: Treaty of Lisbon

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his Irish counterpart since the result of the referendum in the Republic of Ireland on the Lisbon treaty; and if he will make a statement. [212095]

Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been in close contact with his Irish counterpart since the result of the referendum and spoke with him in the margins of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg on 16 June.

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he (a) has had and (b) plans to have with the (i) President of the European Commission and (ii) other members of the European Commission following the result of the referendum in the Republic of Ireland on the Lisbon treaty; and if he will make a statement. [212096]

Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a statement to the House on 16 June on the result of the referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon treaty. The statement followed discussions with his counterparts at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg on the same day.

There will be a meeting of the European Council from!9-20 June.

Timor-Leste: Crimes Against Humanity

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the Indonesian Government to ascertain the status of Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian following his indictment on 3 February 2003 by the United Nations Special Panel for Serious Crimes in Dili, East Timor, for crimes against humanity. [210715]

Meg Munn: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no plans to hold discussions with the Indonesian Government on the status of Indonesian Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian. We believe that it is for the Indonesian and East Timorese Governments to pursue the indictment by the UN Special Panel for Serious Crimes.


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The UK has consistently expressed concern to both the Indonesian and East Timorese Governments about impunity for those responsible for human rights abuses in East Timor. These issues are pursued through their bilateral Commission for Truth and Friendship. We have encouraged both Governments to make the Commission for Truth and Friendship a process that enjoys the confidence of the victims and the international community.

Uzbekistan: Forced Labour

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what report his Department has received of forced labour in Uzbekistan; and what representations his Department has made to Uzbek authorities on this matter. [211892]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK remains seriously concerned about allegations of the use of forced child labour in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan. The UK has raised its concerns through the EU and has discussed the issue with the Uzbek government. Most recently, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials raised concerns with the Uzbek Government during a visit to Tashkent in May 2008. This followed a meeting earlier this year between our ambassador in Tashkent and the Uzbek Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, which focused on cotton and child labour issues. We have also raised child labour and cotton issues with the local UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative. The UK supports calls from UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation for a “participatory assessment” involving the International Cotton Association and a number of embassies in Tashkent, which would be open to the media.

Welsh Language

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the level of demand for the services provided by (a) his Department and (b) its agencies and non-departmental bodies to be provided in the Welsh language; and if he will make a statement. [210544]

Meg Munn: While the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not have a unified Welsh language policy, it does have a general language policy which ensures that FCO publications and communications enter into the spirit of the Welsh Language Act 1993.

The FCO has published a number of documents over the past few years in Welsh. These include an explanatory handbook on the EU, a booklet on foreign policy and flyers describing the FCO's activities during outreach events in Wales. A Welsh language version of the Consular Guide is available electronically on the FCO website alongside several other language versions.

On 10 July 2007 my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy) wrote to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Wales Office, (Huw Irranca-Davies), to explain that while the FCO does recognise the importance of the Welsh language we do not have the resources to ensure that
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any changes to FCO Travel Advice, which is updated regularly, would appear simultaneously in different languages.

The FCO has access to translation services and can deal with correspondence in Welsh. Our Ministerial Correspondence Unit last received correspondence in Welsh in 2005.


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