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Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a statement to the House on 23 June 2008, Official Report, columns 23-26 on the outcome of discussions on the Lisbon treaty among all Heads of State and Government at the June European Council.
Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office offers the right to request flexible working to all staff as a way to improve work/life balance, where operational and business constraints permit. Records of the number of staff working at home are not held centrally, as flexible working is arranged on a section by section basis with line management.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 16 June 2008, Official Report, column 666W, on departmental information officers, what the pay band of the two press or communications officers appointed is; and whether they work (a) directly or (b) specifically for (i) the Foreign Secretary and (ii) another Minister in his Department. 
Meg Munn [holding answer 30 June 2008]: The two press or communications officers do not work directly or specifically for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. One officer is employed in the senior management structure (senior civil service) and the other is employed as a higher executive officer (FCO Grade C4), in the applicable respective pay bands.
Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) pays its UK-based staff their normal rate of pay when they take short periods of absence for ill health. After accumulating a six months sick absence during any rolling period of twelve months, they are paid at 50 per cent. of their normal salary for up to a maximum of a further six months during any rolling period of four years or less.
We have estimated the total amount of salary which the FCO paid to its UK civil servants during sickness absences in the calendar years 2005 to 2007. These figures are set out in the following table. We do not, unfortunately, hold data on sickness pay before 2005. These figures do not include sick pay to locally-engaged staff, details of which are not held centrally.
|Calendar year||Total salary paid to staff on sick leave (£)|
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much (a) his Department and (b) its agencies spent on training courses for staff in the last (i) 12 months and (ii) five years. 
£9,478,424 in financial year 2006-07; and
£12,153,081 in financial year 2007-08.
These figures include e-learning, language and other training courses. Policy and technical training courses provided by other FCO directorates, individual home
Departments and overseas posts have not been included, as the collation of this information would incur disproportionate cost. Spend figures for previous years are also unavailable, except at disproportionate cost.
£2,505,412 in financial year 2006-07; and
£955,082 in financial year 2007-08.
These figures include the cost of specialist, generalist and language training. They do not include any additional costs for e-learning, which is a single system across the FCO and has been costed in the FCO figures above. Spend figures for previous years are unavailable, except at disproportionate cost.
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will put in place measures to ensure that when a UK Ambassador returns from their posting abroad other senior diplomatic staff in the same embassy are not relocated at the same time. 
Meg Munn: Our ambassadors and other diplomatic staff at our embassies are appointed to their positions for agreed tour lengths. These vary according to the nature of the job and the demands of the country in which they are serving. Where two senior staff, for example an ambassador and a deputy head of mission, are due to leave a post at the same time, arrangements will normally be made for one or other of them to vary their departure date to ensure continuity. Each case will however be judged on its merits, taking into account the operational needs of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office world wide.
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Qods Force (QF) is a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and as such is an agency of the Iranian state. We assess that the IRGC and the IRGC-QF is involved in training, equipping and supplying Iraqi armed groups. Any Iranian support to armed groups operating outside the political process in Iraq is unacceptable. Both the Government and the sovereign Government of Iraq have made this clear to the Iranian authorities on many occasions.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the situation of the Christian minority communities in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy:
Like all sectors of Iraqi society, the Christian community has been affected by the unacceptable level of violence in Iraq which continues
despite improvements in the overall security environment. Our diplomatic missions and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), Prime Ministers Special Envoy on Human Rights in Iraq, regularly raise with the Government of Iraq the need for adequate protection of all minority groups.
Progress on national reconciliation is the fundamental requirement to create a sustainable and secure environment for all Iraqis and we continue to support the Government of Iraq in efforts to achieve that goal.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to Iran since January 2008 on using its influence to try to secure the release of the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by (a) Hamas and (b) Hezbollah in June and July 2006; what representations he has received since January 2008 about this issue; what response he gave; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK has not made any specific representations to the Iranian government on this issue. And while the fate of the three captured soldiers is a regular part of the UK's dialogue with a range of partners, including Israel, Egypt and the UN, we have not received any direct representations about this issue. However, we would encourage all who have influence to use that responsibly to ensure the safe release of these soldiers.
We believe that the most effective way to achieve the release of the soldiers captured by Hezbollah is to support efforts by the UN to mediate between the parties as part of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. We continue to support the efforts of the Governments of Israel, Egypt and others to negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit.
Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the capacity of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon troops to prevent Hezbollah re-arming. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The deployment of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701 has been a success. There are now approximately 13,000 UN troops deployed as part of the enhanced UNIFIL contingent alongside a similar number from the Lebanese army. Since the expansion of the UNIFIL force following the passage of UNSCR 1701 in August 2006, the cessation of hostilities has largely been maintained and the area of operations has been largely stabilised. The UK fully supports UNIFIL, whose presence has been critical in maintaining peace and security in south Lebanon.
We continue to work for the full implementation of UNSCR 1701. UNIFILs presence has had an impact on Hezbollahs ability to rearm and operate south of the Litani river. Nevertheless, we continue to be concerned by reports by the UN Secretary-General that Hezbollah is rearming and smuggling arms across the Syria/Lebanon border.
Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the proposal by President Sarkozy for a nuclear disarmament action plan; and whether he plans to discuss this matter with his French counterpart. 
Dr. Howells: The Government welcomes the proposals made by President Sarkozy in his 21 March 2008 speech and expanded upon in Frances White Paper on Defence and National Security, published 17 June 2008. UK officials are working closely with their French opposite numbers to explore how progress can be made on each element of the plan. The UK is currently pursuing a number of disarmament initiatives, which complement the French proposals.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department has taken to promote religious tolerance in other countries in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: We strongly support the right to freedom of religion or belief, including full implementation of those norms laid out in the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. We condemn all instances of violence and discrimination against individuals and groups because of their faith or belief, wherever they happen or whatever the religion of the individual or group concerned. We have made representations in several countries bilaterally and in conjunction with EU partners. More detailed information is contained in the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices Annual Report on Human Rights that can be found at:
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions has he had with President Karzai of Afghanistan on pursuing Taliban insurgents in Pakistani territory. 
Dr. Howells: Afghanistan and Pakistan have a strategic interest in working together. We continue to encourage both governments to take forward their shared commitment to combat the Taliban and other insurgent groups who oppose both Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction and the authorities on both sides of the border.
It is difficult to provide an accurate estimate of the total number of political detainees in Zimbabwe, with opposition supporters and activists
being arrested and detained on the most tenuous grounds on a daily basis. Latest reports suggest that over 650 people were detained in the last week. In addition, since the first round of presidential elections on 29 March, international organisations have dealt with 34,000 displaced people and 2,700 injured by the ZANU-PF campaign of violence. The real numbers will likely be much higher. We have had confirmation of at least 84 opposition supporters murdered.
John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate his Department has made of the proportion of global oil that will be consumed by (a) Congo, (b) Angola, (c) Namibia and (d) South Africa in the next 10 years; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: The current (2007) consumption of fuel oil in South Africa is about 0.7 per cent. of global demand. Figures are not available for Congo, Angola and Namibia where consumption is much less and globally insignificant.
Future trends are uncertain, but Africas overall share of the total is likely to remain much the same as at present over the next few years, though will gradually increase over time if it continues to achieve economic growth at above the world average rate.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much of the Congo Basin Fund has been allocated for the manufacture of a satellite monitoring system by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory; and what organisation will operate the system once launched in 2010. 
Mr. Thomas: Funds from the Congo Basin Forest Fund have not yet been allocated. However, the UK has allocated an additional £8 million to support start-up projects that have an immediate impact on the lives of people who live in the rainforest. One of the start-up projects includes allocation of funding of up to £1.14 million for a British-made high-resolution camera made by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and £1.5 million for the first ever satellite data receiver in Central Africa so that images can be easily accessed by the Governments and civil society in the region and help provide evidence against illegal loggers. Technical discussions are ongoing.
Stewart Hosie: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the value of the property held by (a) his Department and (b) associated public bodies was at the most recent date for which figures are available. 
Mr. Malik: The only property owned by the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK is our office in East Kilbride. This was last valued in April 2006, at £9,250,000. We also own property in a number of overseas countries, which are valued in total at £5,596,644.
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