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14 July 2008 : Column 126W—continued

Pakistan: BBC

Mr. Galloway: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements have been made by the BBC World Service with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority for control of content of re-broadcast BBC material in Pakistan; what level of Ministerial consent was required for this arrangement; and if he will make a statement. [217389]

Mr. Jim Murphy: BBC World Service content, including what is re-broadcast by partners on FM frequencies, conforms only to BBC editorial values and guidelines. The BBC World Service has total editorial control over its programming whether that programming is broadcast directly by it on short wave or medium wave or via third party distribution arrangements. This is at the core to any agreement with any partner station.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority does not regulate the BBC World Service. It regulates the stations which are licence holders in Pakistan. The BBC World Service does not hold a licence. The BBC
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World Service is a content supplier in Pakistan in the same way as it supplies content to its partners throughout the world.

No ministerial agreement was required for this arrangement as none is required in the Broadcasting Agreement, between the BBC World Service and the Foreign Commonwealth Office.

Russia: Anti-Semitism

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent discussions he has had with the government of Russia on (a) anti-semitism and (b) anti-semitic (i) organisations and (ii) publications in Russia; what response was received; and if he will make a statement; [217920]

(2) what recent assessment he has made of levels of anti-semitism in Russia; and if he will make a statement. [217921]

Mr. Jim Murphy: We have concerns about human rights and political freedoms in Russia, including the reported rise in violent attacks on ethnic and religious minorities. An outline of our assessment can be found in the 2007 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Human Rights Annual Report.

We hold annual bilateral human rights discussions with Russia. These were last held in January 2007 and they included discussion on the rights of ethnic and religious minorities: The next meeting is planned for later this year. We also raise our concerns through the EU/Russia human rights consultations, which were last held in April 2008. At the consultations, the EU raised a number of concerns related to specific human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Russian Federation including the rights of persons belonging to minorities and combating racism and xenophobia. We welcome President Medvedev's condemnation of “any ethnic or religious enmity” in his speech on 9 May.

The FCO supports projects in Russia which promote human rights, including strengthening state and civil society capacity to combat religious and ethnic discrimination. Last year, we spent £15,000 on such projects (out of a total spend of £700,000 to support human rights, good governance and reform in Russia).

The UK is committed to combating anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. At the 2007 Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, held in Warsaw from 24 September to 5 October 2007, we were the first country to report in detail on how we have implemented the Berlin Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism. We urged other participating states of the OSCE to do likewise. We will continue to work with our OSCE partners, including Russia, on intensifying efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

Russia: Politics and Government

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political situation in South Ossetia. [217425]

Mr. Jim Murphy: Recently, there has been a serious escalation of tension in the Georgian-South Ossetian
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conflict zone. Three incidents have contributed to this: an explosion which killed the head of the de facto South Ossetian Militia; an attack on the convoy carrying the head of the Georgian-backed South Ossetian provisional administration; and a mortar attack on Tskhinvali, the main town of South Ossetia. There have been reports of casualties on both the Georgian and Ossetian sides.

The EU presidency has issued a statement, which we support, expressing concern over the incidents and has appealed to both sides for resumption of dialogue and restraint. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Transparency International: Finance

Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what funding his Department provided to Transparency International in (a) 2005, (b) 2006 and (c) 2007; and how much of such funding was to fund projects in Venezuela. [218602]

Dr. Howells: Globally, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has provided the following amounts to Transparency International and their local partner organisations for specific anti-corruption projects in 2005-07:

Financial year £







Our embassies around the global network will also have provided limited funds to local Transparency International partners for micro-projects on anti-corruption, not captured in these amounts.

In Venezuela, the FCO has supported a successful project on institutional capacity building against corruption, money laundering and organised crime for administrators of justice. While Transparencia Venezuela generated the idea, the training is run by the Caracas Metropolitan University. The course offers a diploma for professionals on key principles of how to work against money laundering and other financial crime, which has been endorsed by the national council of universities. Participants in the diploma course have come from both the private and public sector, including private banks, the Venezuelan Ombudsman's office, the office of the prosecutor general, the Venezuelan Supreme Court and other courts. FCO support for this project is as follows:

Financial year £









USA: Bank Services

Lorely Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the oral statement of 25 October 2007, Official Report, column 510, on the Office of Foreign Assets Control List, when the Government will approve the set of principles that will guide the
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Government's intervention in extraterritoriality cases referred to by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in his Department. [216884]

Meg Munn: Discussions in Government on this issue are still ongoing.

Zimbabwe: Asylum

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent meetings he has held in South Africa with refugees from Zimbabwe; what assessment he has made of the safety of Zimbabwe as a country to which asylum seekers may be returned; and if he will make a statement. [218349]

Meg Munn: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary took the opportunity of his visit to South Africa to meet some of the 2,000 refugees who had taken refuge at the Central Methodist church in Johannesburg on 6 July. He listened to a number of traumatic tales from victims of the violence, including from those whose relatives had been killed and orphans as young as 12 years of age who had fled hundreds of miles to seek refuge in Johannesburg.

The situation in Zimbabwe is kept under constant review. Asylum claims are considered on a case by case basis. We have no current plans to enforce returns of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe.

Work and Pensions

Crisis Loans

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether there are any circumstances in which 100 per cent. benefit payments can be appropriated by Jobcentre Plus for repayment of (a) a crisis loan and (b) a budget loan when the recipient has defaulted on repayments; and if he will make a statement. [215813]

Mr. Plaskitt: No; there are no circumstances in which 100 per cent. of an applicant’s benefit payments can be taken by Jobcentre Plus for repayment of a Social Fund loan.

Crisis Loans: Telephone Services

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in implementing the 0800 crisis loan number; and if he will make a statement. [215753]

Mr. Plaskitt: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie, dated 14 July 2008:

14 July 2008 : Column 130W

Economic and Monetary Union

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on what date the euro changeover plan of (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies was last updated; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the most recent version of each. [215526]

Mr. Plaskitt: The euro changeover plan for the Department for Work and Pensions and its agencies received its last full update in September 2004. We are currently updating this plan, and expect it to be completed later this year.

Housing Benefit: Greater London

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many new claims for housing benefit were received in each London local authority in the most recent year for which figures are available. [217101]

Mr. Plaskitt: The available information is in the following table.

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Number of new housing benefit claims received by London local authorities in 2007-08














City of London












Hammersmith and Fulham














Kensington and Chelsea


Kingston upon Thames












Richmond upon Thames






Tower Hamlets


Waltham Forest






1. The total number of new housing benefit claims includes successful, unsuccessful, defective and withdrawn claims.
2. The information is reported performance from local authorities.

Housing: Low Incomes

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will reconsider his decision to apply local housing allowance to claimants who are required to change address; and if he will make a statement; [217924]

(2) if he will amend the arrangements for local housing allowance to make a distinction between those persons who are required by unforeseen circumstances to change address and those who choose to change address; and if he will make a statement. [217925]

Mr. Plaskitt: No; it was always our intention to apply the local housing allowance to all customers who move address. As from 7 April 2008, all customers who make a new claim for housing benefit, or move address in the deregulated private rented sector have their claims assessed according to local housing allowance rules. This applies regardless of the reason for the change of address.

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