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14 July 2008 : Column 122Wcontinued
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the government of Cuba on detention of political prisoners. 
Meg Munn: Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and Officials raise the continuing detention of political prisoners in Cuba with representatives of the Cuban government, including the Cuban ambassador, on a regular basis. I raised the issue with Cuban Vice Foreign Minister Eumelio Caballero on 3 April and with the Cuban ambassador on 11 June.
Last month the EU lifted the suspended diplomatic measures that were imposed on Cuba following the arrest of 75 dissidents in 2003. This decision was taken as a means of facilitating a political dialogue between the EU and Cuba, including on human rights.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on which buildings occupied by his Department's agencies and non-departmental public bodies the lease will be due for renewal in the next four years. 
Meg Munn: Of the buildings occupied by Foreign and Commonwealth Office agencies and non-departmental public bodies, only the lease on the property occupied by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in London is due for renewal in the next four years.
Central records are not held by the British Council and it would incur disproportionate cost to provide the information requested.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in delivering the FCO-DfID Shared Service Delivery plan objectives of increasing the proportion of (a) co-located offices by over 10 per cent. and (b) Department for International Development staff in co-located offices by over 25 per cent. by the end of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 period. 
David Miliband: There has been a small increase (4 per cent.) in the number of staff from the Department for International Development (DFID) in co-located offices since the shared service delivery plan was developed in October 2006.
The overall number of co-located offices has reduced, primarily as a result of restructuring which has involved the closure of DFID offices in several countries. However, additional co-locations have taken place at our missions in Harare, Lilongwe, Georgetown and Kampala. We also plan to co-locate at Abuja, Bridgetown, Delhi, Dhaka, Kabul and Jerusalem over the course of the current comprehensive spending review period. We are currently co-located in a total of 33 sites.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in which countries his Department shares offices with the Department for International Development; and how many staff from each department work at each office. 
David Miliband: The following table shows in which countries the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) shares offices with the Department for International Development (DFID) and how many UK based and local staff currently work at each office:
|Country||FCO staff||DFID staff|
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of staff in his Department and its agencies did not receive the maximum bonus possible under a bonus scheme applying to them in the last two years. 
Meg Munn: The following proportion of staff in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) did not receive the maximum bonus possible under the bonus scheme applying to them in each of the last two years:
The FCO uses non-consolidated, non-pensionable, performance-related bonuses to encourage high performance. We pay annual bonuses to staff in the grades below senior managers based on appraisal evidence of annual performance. The highest rating and bonus award is applicable where performance significantly exceeds a challenging performance agreement to a greater extent than considered possible at the start of the appraisal period, and may have radically transformed delivery of policy and/or services.
Variable pay (bonus) arrangements for staff in the SMS/senior civil service (SCS) follow a framework set for Whitehall Departments by the Cabinet Office. We use variable pay for SMS/SCS staff to reward excellent individual performance and achievement during the year. Variable pay decisions are based on a judgment by pay committees of what an individual has achieved in comparison with peers. Those who have delivered the best results, and shown real leadership in doing so, receive the biggest bonuses. Those who have delivered least receive nothing. Whitehall Departments were authorised to spend a sum equivalent to 7.6 per cent. of
their SMS pay budget on non-consolidated variable pay for senior staff in 2007 and 8.6 per cent. in 2008. 25 per cent. of senior staff will not receive a bonus in 2008.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what procedures his Department uses to ensure equal opportunities in relation to staff secondments to the Department. 
Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is an equal opportunities employer. Staff are recruited in accordance with the Civil Service Commission Recruitment Code and the Diplomatic Service Order in Council 1991. Interchange opportunities with other Government Departments are advertised on a Whitehall-wide basis. Secondments from outside the civil service into the FCO promote the exchange of wider ideas and experience.
For the duration of the loan period, staff on secondment or interchange to the FCO are subject to FCO terms and conditions of service as set out in the Home Service Regulations. As such, the FCO's Dignity at Work policy is applicable to secondees and those on interchange. We listen to their concerns through the Secondees Group, a support network that was set up by and consists of FCO employees who are on loan or seconded from other Government Departments or other organisations.
Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the French government has proposed a military ERASMUS programme for the exchange of members of EU member states armed forces. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The French Government have made a proposal for officer exchanges between EU member states. They have made clear that any scheme would be voluntary and impose no obligations on any member state. We welcome this proposal as a means to increase interoperability amongst EU member states.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to convene a peace conference to bring together representatives of Kurdistan, Turkey, Armenia and Iraq. 
Dr. Howells: We are in frequent contact with the Governments of Iraq, Armenia and Turkey and the Kurdistan regional government in Iraq and encourage them to strengthen their bilateral relationships and resolve any disputes they have through dialogue. We have no plans to convene or support a conference specifically for these countries.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make
representations to the government of Laos on the treatment of Christians in that country. 
Meg Munn: We are aware of reports of the detention and mistreatment of Christians in Laos. Our ambassador in Bangkok, who is accredited to Laos, raised the issue of human rights with the authorities when he visited that country from 8-10 April.
The Like-Minded Group (a group of resident embassies and international organisations) have regular meetings in Vientiane that discuss human rights issues in Laos and the EU Commission held a Human Rights working group with the Lao government from 2-3 March.
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 will continue to raise our concerns with the Lao authorities as and when the opportunity arises.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of relations between Hezbollah and (a) Hamas, (b) Islamic Jihad and (c) the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade; what recent discussions he has had with the government of the State of Israel on this issue; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: Hezbollahs military wing provides support to rejectionist groups in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. On 2 July my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary laid an order in Parliament which, if approved, will proscribe the entirety of Hezbollahs military wing. Proscription will not affect the political, social and humanitarian role Hezbollah plays in Lebanon, but it sends out a clear message that we condemn Hezbollahs violence and support for terrorism carried out by its military wing.
We have regular discussions with the Israeli authorities, which address this issue among many others.
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