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20 Oct 2008 : Column 94W—continued

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff in (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) the non-departmental bodies for which it has responsibility have taken sick days due to (i) stress and (ii) mental
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health and behavioural disorders in each of the last 10 years; what proportion of staff of each body this represented in each year; and if he will make a statement. [216114]

Gillian Merron: The following table sets out the number of UK civil servants employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Wilton Park, an Executive Agency of the FCO, who gave stress and mental illness as reasons for sickness absence and the percentage they represent of the total workforce.

Financial year FCO Wilton Park

2005-06

Number of staff

137

6

Percentage of workforce

2.3

8.1

2006-07

Number of staff

128

10

Percentage of workforce

2.1

13.5

2007-08

Number of staff

119

10

Percentage of workforce

2.0

13.5


FCO sickness absence records do not distinguish clearly between mental health and stress-related absences. The FCO does not hold records of staff sickness absence before 2005. Nor does it have access to the sickness absence records of non-departmental public bodies.

Departmental Sick Pay

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much was paid in sick pay to staff in (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) the non-departmental bodies for which it has responsibility in each of the last five years; what proportion of the annual staffing expenditure of each body this represented in each year; and if he will make a statement. [216116]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) pays staff on sick leave their normal salary for up to a maximum of six months' sick absence during any rolling period of 12 months. After that, the FCO pays 50 per cent. of salary for up to a maximum of six months during any rolling period of four years or less. If the absence continues beyond this period, staff cease to receive any salary.

The following table sets out the total sum paid by the FCO and its Executive Agency, Wilton Park, to UK civil servant employees, who were absent for health reasons, over the past three years.

Financial year Amount paid to staff on sick absence (£) Percentage of annual staffing costs

2005-06

2,412,781

0.8

2006-07

2,703,879

0.9

2007-08

2,254,954

0.8


The FCO does not hold records of staff sickness absence before 2005.


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Diplomatic Service: Equality

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many UK (a) ambassadors and (b) high commissioners are (i) female and (ii) from an ethnic minority background. [224821]

Gillian Merron: Twenty-two Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff currently serving as Heads of Mission overseas (including ambassadors, high commissioners and governors of British overseas territories) are women. Four Heads of Mission have recorded that they are from an ethnic minority (British minority ethnic).

Diplomatic Service: Security

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many requests he has received from HM ambassadors for an increase in security staff since 2000; and how many such requests he granted. [223706]

Gillian Merron: It is not Foreign and Commonwealth Office practice to comment on security at its overseas posts.

The FCO takes the security of its staff extremely seriously. We maintain a specialist team of overseas security advisers who regularly review all security arrangements.

Disabled

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many and what proportion of staff in (a) his Department and (b) the executive agencies for which he is responsible are disabled; and what the average salary in his (i) Department and (ii) executive agencies is of (A) full-time disabled staff, (B) full-time non-disabled staff, (C) part-time disabled staff and (D) part-time non-disabled staff. [220187]

Gillian Merron: I refer the hon. Member to the response given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson) on 8 October 2008, Official Report, columns 651-57W.

Ethiopia: Eritrea

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Ethiopian authorities to accept the final and binding verdict of the International Ethiopian Eritrean Boundary Commission and withdraw its forces from the disputed areas. [222672]

Gillian Merron: The UK’s policy towards the Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute is based on three principles: to avoid any return to war, which would be unacceptable; for the border to be demarcated; and for the parties to normalise their relations. Ethiopia and Eritrea should agree a way forward to allow demarcation to proceed and for a normalisation process to begin, as set out in the Algiers Agreements of June and December 2000, to which both Ethiopia and Eritrea are signatories.


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We have set out this policy to both Ethiopia and Eritrea, including in November 2007 when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin. The former Minister for the Middle East, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), most recently discussed the border situation when he met Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in June and the Eritrean ambassador in July. In addition, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials continually reiterate these messages to both the Ethiopian and Eritrean ambassadors to London and to their interlocutors in the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea in Addis Ababa and Asmara respectively.

Even with the termination of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) on 31 July the UNSC made clear the Algiers Agreements remain in force. The UN Secretary-General will continue to monitor the situation and consult both parties in an effort to (1) achieve a comprehensive and lasting settlement of their border dispute, and (2) help the countries to normalise their relations.

We will continue to pursue the policy above with our international partners, including through the efforts of the United Nations with the parties, to which UK efforts are closely aligned and to which we give our support.

Iran: Diplomatic Service

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on commercial relations with Iran of changes in staffing levels in the commercial section of the British Embassy in Tehran. [222689]

Bill Rammell: UK policy is to support UN and EU sanctions by making clear to those in the Iranian regime that it cannot be business as usual as long as they fail to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and co-operate fully with the International Atomic Energy Authority. We are prepared to risk any impact the reduction in trade promotion activities may have on British business with Iran in order to maintain pressure on the Iranian regime over its nuclear programme. It is too early to judge the effect that these changes may have on our wider commercial relationship with Iran. We look forward to the day when we can return to business as usual, to the benefit of the UK and Iran. But a decision to reach that state rests with the Iranian regime. It is of note that trade between the UK and Iran fell by 8 per cent. over the first four months of this year.

Kosovo: Natural Resources

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the product of the Gazivoda Reservoir in Kosovo is available without impediment to all communities in Kosovo; and if he will make a statement. [224708]

Caroline Flint: The Gazivoda reservoir supplies Northern and Central Kosovo with water for agricultural and industrial use. It also supplies drinking water to the cities of Mitrovica/Mitrovic├", Zvecan/Zve├žan, Sk├"nderaj/Srbica and Vushtrri/Vucitrn among others. Water is available to all communities in the area served by the reservoir without impediment.


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Kosovo: Politics and Government

Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he plans to take to assist Kosovo in securing greater recognition of its status by the international community. [222822]

Caroline Flint: So far, 51 countries have recognised the Republic of Kosovo including 22 EU member states and all of the G7. We have been engaging actively in both bilateral discussions and multilateral forums, working closely with and alongside the Government of Kosovo, and with like-minded international partners to encourage further recognitions. We have also engaged with the Government of Kosovo to help them take forward their efforts on recognition.

Switzerland: International Cooperation

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations were made to the Swiss Government by the UK authorities in 1993, consequent on the arrest in Switzerland of Wouter Basson, to persuade the Swiss authorities to make him available to UK authorities for questioning; and if he will make a statement. [225083]

Caroline Flint: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no record of any representations having been made.

Uganda: Politics and Government

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received regarding Lieutenant Ramathan Magara of the Uganda Army and the shooting of three people at Dr Kizza Besigye's election rally in February 2006; and if he will make a statement. [224248]

Gillian Merron: We are aware of various incidents during the 2006 election campaign in which firearms were used to disperse crowds. We have received reports that Lieutenant Ramathan Magara was on remand for 365 days, after which he was released on bail. The case against him is still pending. Investigating incidents such as this is the responsibility of the local authorities.

In the course of our regular dialogue with the Government of Uganda, we continue to press them on all aspects of good governance, the rule of law and engaging with the opposition.

Western Sahara: United Nations

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government’s policy is on the re-appointment of Peter van Walsum as UN special representative on the Western Sahara. [225438]

Bill Rammell: The Government welcomed the efforts made by Peter van Walsum, the former UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, to find a solution to the dispute. The appointment of personal envoys and special representatives is a matter for the UN Secretary-General, and we respect his independence
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in making such appointments. We look forward to working with the new personal envoy once he/she has been appointed.

Wouter Basson

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will direct the relevant authorities to investigate the claim made by Wouter Basson during his trial in South Africa in July 2000 that he was able to purchase defence software developed in the UK through colleagues at Porton Down; and if he will make a statement. [227352]

Mr. Quentin Davies: I have been asked to reply.

I believe that this question relates to a statement made by Dr. Wouter Basson, during the Truth and Reconciliation Council hearings in July 2001, that a colleague was paid to obtain a NATO-approved Hazard Prediction Software, which utilised a data base initially developed at Porton Down. Officials at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down have reviewed the claim and have been unable to identify any evidence to support the allegation that this software was obtained from staff at Porton Down.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Apprentices: Newcastle-under-Lyme

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many apprenticeship places in the construction industry he expects to be offered in (a) Newcastle-under-Lyme and (b) North Staffordshire in (i) 2008-09 and (ii) 2009-10. [226605]

Mr. Simon: The latest fully audited data that we have are for the 2006-07 academic year. Figures are not directly available for the North Staffordshire. Figures have been provided for the Staffordshire local authority.

Apprenticeships are demand-led and employer responsive; therefore the number of apprenticeship places available is determined by the number of places employers are able to offer and subject to learner demand. That is why, in terms of monitoring performance, we focus on the number of people who actually start on an apprenticeship programme.

“World-class Apprenticeships” confirmed our commitment to stimulate a greater supply of apprenticeship places with employers. This is a key element of the remit of the new National Apprenticeship Service and its National Vacancy Matching Service which will help employers advertise apprenticeship vacancies and enable prospective apprentices to apply for them online.

Table 1 shows apprenticeship starts for 2006-07 for Staffordshire and Newcastle-Under-Lyme, and nationally.

Table 2 lists the apprenticeship starts in Staffordshire in 2006-07 by Sector Framework of Learning.

Table 3 lists the apprenticeship starts in Newcastle-Under-Lyme by Sector Framework of Learning.


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Table 1: A pprenticeship starts in 2006/07 by geographical area
Area Starts

Nationally

184,000

Staffordshire(1)

3,590

Newcastle-Under-Lyme(2)

450

(1) Staffordshire local authority based on learner’s home postcode.
(2) Newcastle-Under-Lyme parliamentary constituency based on learner’s home postcode.
Note:
Figures include apprenticeships, advanced apprenticeships, and a very small number of higher level apprenticeships.
Source:
ILR Work-Based Learning Data

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