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6 Oct 2008 : Column 234Wcontinued
Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to (a) promote the remembrance and (b) increase public awareness of the 1932-33 Holodomor in Ukraine, as agreed during President Yushchenkos visit on 15 May 2008. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine was an appalling man-made human tragedy. The Government fully recognise their importance in Ukraines history. In August this year, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary laid a wreath at the Famine memorial in Kiev. In November 2007, the UK supported a resolution at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and a joint statement at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe honouring the memory of those who perished in the Famine and encouraging the promotion of its remembrance. The Ukrainian Government plan a ceremony to commemorate the 75(th) anniversary later this year. The UK will support this and other appropriate acts of remembrance. We will continue to seek further ways in which we can promote remembrance and public awareness of the Famine, as agreed during President Yushchenkos visit to the UK.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement as to what representations the UK Mission in Washington DC has made to (a) members of the US Congress and (b) the US Administration on the Congressional Bill that would preclude UK citizens from pursuing civil litigation in US Federal Courts against the Government of Libya in respect of (i) the Lockerbie/Pan Am 103 bombing, (ii) Libyas involvement in IRA bombings and (iii) the bombing of La Belle disco in Berlin; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 10 September 2008]: The conclusion of a Government-to-Government agreement between the US and Libya on 14 August will provide for compensation for many of the victims of Libyas past sponsorship of terrorism, while ruling out the possibility of legal action against Libya before the US courts as regards allegations of Libyan involvement in terrorism before 30 June 2006. The Government regard inclusion of the British families of the victims of the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 in the recipients of compensation as welcome news for these families, but it is regrettable that the deal will not benefit all UK nationals with cases in US courts against Libya.
During the course of negotiations between the US and Libya, the Government made representations to the US Administration that the families of Lockerbie victims and existing UK claimants, with claims before US courts against Libya for its past sponsorship of Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorist acts (the McDonald case), should be included as recipients of any compensation package. In the event, it proved not possible to include the McDonald case claimants in the recipients of compensation under the US/Libya Agreement. The Government did not make representations to the US Administration regarding the Berlin bombing as there are no UK nationals with cases in US courts against Libya regarding this attack.
A key reason for not including the McDonald claimants in the compensation package was that international and US law do not permit the US Administration to espouse the claims of foreign nationals. Also relevant to the US decision was their assessment of how likely it would be that claims would fall within the jurisdiction of US courts and how likely it would be that they would succeed. We understand from the US that US courts would not have jurisdiction to hear such actions by British nationals against Libya.
It was possible for the UK victims in the Lockerbie case to receive payments from the compensation fund due to the unique circumstances of that case. The Lockerbie bombing was subject to a UN Security Council resolution which required that Libya accept responsibility for the Lockerbie bomb and pay victims families appropriate compensation. On this basis, the US assisted in bringing closure to that case on behalf of the entire international community and the Libyan Government agreed in 2003 to the payment of compensation to the victims families. The sums to be paid to those families under the terms of the recent US/Libya agreement reflect the final (so far unpaid) tranche of the previously agreed settlement payments. There is no such mechanism, settlement or court judgment in place in relation to the legal actions regarding the supply of arms by Libya to the IRA.
The Government have already openly responded to queries on the US/Libya deal and will continue to do so. Therefore, we consider that a statement from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is not necessary.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much has been spent on (a) refurbishment, (b) redecorations and (c) furnishings for (i) the embassy and (ii) HM Ambassadors residence to the Holy See in each year since 2006; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: No monies have been spent on our embassys offices in the Holy See in relation to refurbishment, redecoration or furnishing since the beginning of the financial year (FY) 2006-07.
The following table illustrates expenditure on our ambassadors residence in those three categories over the same period. Purchases were made in euros. An average annual exchange rate has been used to give an illustrative sterling figure.
|Holy See residence|
The ambassadors residence moved location in 2006 and an additional €20,619 (£14,027) was therefore incurred for removal costs in FY 2006-07. Certain items that were surplus to requirements in the new, smaller residence were either re-used elsewhere or sold. The proceeds of these sales are not reflected in these figures. A limited amount of more appropriate furnishings were bought specifically for the new residence.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the (a) entertainment budget was and (b) allowances were of HM Ambassador to the Holy See in each year since 2006. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: Our ambassador to the Holy See has been able to draw on an entertainment budget of £36,000 for each of the financial years: 2006-07; 2007-08; and 2008-09. These sums reflect the shift to out-source catering in 2006 and should be seen in the context of savings made from employing fewer full-time permanent domestic staff. In addition the sum of £4,500 was made available to mark the birthday of Her Majesty The Queen, both in 2007 and 2008.
An officer posted as ambassador to the Holy See receives the same allowances as an officer of similar grade posted elsewhere overseas to compensate for the additional costs of living and working overseas. I refer
the hon. Member to the response to written Parliamentary Question 59475 of 23 March 2006, Official Report, column 570W.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has for the future of the British embassy in the Holy See; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK attaches considerable importance to its relations with the Holy See. There are regular high level visitors from the UK. I visited in June for discussions covering a wide range of foreign policy issues with senior officials in the Secretariat of State and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Our embassy will continue to play a critical role in facilitating these links and furthering the warm relationship between the Government and the Holy See.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff were employed by the British embassy in the Holy See in each year since 2006; at what grade each was employed; and how many were locally engaged staff. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The staffing levels at our embassy to the Holy See have remained constant since 2006. Our ambassador is the sole UK based member of staff and his position is graded at D7 level at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is supported by two permanent locally engaged (LE) staff at grades LE II and LE III.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to ensure that fishing by Scottish trawlers in the waters of Western Sahara does not conflict with the UN General Assemblys affirmation of the need to avoid any economic and other activities which adversely affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self Governing Territories. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: All fishing in the waters of Morocco or Western Sahara must be conducted in accordance with the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement 2006. EU member states and the European Commission engaged in detailed discussion about the legality of the Agreement before it was finalised. The EUs Legal Service opinion was that the Agreement was in accordance with international law, including Chapter XI of the Charter of the UN which requires of administering powers that the development of their economic activities in a non-self governing territory does not adversely affect the interests of its peoples. All British vessels and those from other EU member states fishing in the waters of Morocco or Western Sahara are obliged to act in accordance with the terms of the Agreement.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the UK embassy in Morocco takes to monitor the human rights situation in the Western Sahara; and when UK diplomats last discussed matters arising with the Moroccan Government. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 10 September 2008]: The Government are concerned that the long-running dispute over the status of the Western Sahara remains unresolved and that human rights across the region continue to suffer. Staff from our embassy in Rabat continue to monitor the situation through non-governmental organisations, journalists and visits to the territory. Staff from our embassy in Rabat are hoping to visit the territory later this year. Our ambassador in Rabat discusses a range of issues relating to the Western Sahara with Moroccan officials, including the issue of human rights when appropriate.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's policy is on whether MINURSO should be mandated to monitor human rights in the Western Sahara. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 10 September 2008]: The UK is concerned that the conflict in the Western Sahara remains unresolved and we are keen to see a resolution to the issue of the Western Sahara that will provide for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution offering self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara. To this end, we support the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and the negotiations between the parties under his auspices.
The UK also continues to support the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). MINURSO's mandate does not include human rights monitoring. However, success in the negotiations depends upon building greater confidence between the parties. In this respect, the UK remains open to supporting UN human rights monitoring in the Western Sahara if it can be shown to enhance the mutual confidence of the parties.
Ms Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the treatment of Saharawis by Moroccan police following a Saharawi demonstration in Dakhla on Western Sahara's fisheries resources on 9 July; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: We have received reports of confrontations between local fishermen and Moroccan fish importers in the coastal town of Dakhla in Western Sahara throughout the month of July. These events escalated on 21 July when further demonstrations led to attacks on local fishermen and their property in the fishing village of Eintirfit, 65 kilometres from Dakhla.
The Government maintain their position that Morocco, as the de facto administering power of Western Sahara, is obliged under international law to ensure that economic activities under administration, including fisheries activities, do not adversely affect the interests of the people of Western Sahara.
Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will meet representatives of the Polisario Front to discuss the resolution of conflict over the Western Sahara. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary does not currently have plans to hold discussions with representatives of the Polisario. However, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary held discussions with consultants working on behalf of the Polisario in January 2008. He reiterated the UKs concerns over the conflict in the Western Sahara and our hope that the negotiations will achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara. In addition, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and overseas maintain regular contact with the representatives of the parties to the dispute, including the Polisario.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had at EU level on (a) Saharawi rights and (b) the resolution of the Western Sahara situation; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not recently discussed Western Sahara with EU colleagues. However, Government officials are in regular discussion with European colleagues about a range of issues relating to North Africa, including the dispute over the status of Western Sahara and the situation of human rights in the territory. Human rights are an important element of the UK's bilateral relationship with Morocco and play a significant part of the EU's co-operation with Morocco. The issue of Western Sahara remains part of the political dialogue between the EU and Morocco, which will be discussed at the Association Council in October.
While the EU has an important relationship with Morocco, the UK continues to believe that progress towards a negotiated solution to the dispute in Western Sahara providing for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, is best achieved under the auspices of the UN. To this end and in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution (1813) of 30 April, the UK fully supports the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to the Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, and the negotiation process currently underway.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had (a) with the UN and (b) at EU level on allegations of illegal exploitation of mineral resources in the Western Sahara. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have not recently discussed the issues of mineral resources in Western Sahara with colleagues at the UN or the EU. Western Sahara was discussed by the UN Security Council in April when Resolution 1813 was passed. Western Sahara was discussed as part of the political dialogue at the EU-Morocco Association Council in July 2007.
However, the Government maintains the position that the Government of Moroccoas the de facto administering power of Western Saharais obliged under international law to ensure that economic activities under administration, including the extraction and exportation of phosphates, do not adversely affect the interests of the people of Western Sahara.
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