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6 Nov 2008 : Column 687W—continued

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government has had talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. [227981]

Bill Rammell: There have been very infrequent informal contacts with representatives of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). We use a variety of means to urge all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and pursue a political settlement, including contact with groups and partners with links to or influence over the LTTE.

North Korea: Politics and Government

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his United States counterpart on the political situation in North Korea. [228210]

Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary regularly discusses North Korea with his American counterpart. Our embassy in Washington is also in frequent contact with US officials. Our diplomats in Seoul, Tokyo and Pyongyang discuss North Korea on a regular basis with American representatives locally.

Press

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost of the press offices of (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its non-departmental public bodies was in each year since 1996-97; what the cost was for each quarter since 1 April 2007; and if he will make a statement. [189652]

Gillian Merron: The annual cost of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office press office totalled £2,493,112 in the 2006-07 financial year, £1,997,897 in 2005-06, £1,744,974 in 2004-05 and £1,860,206 in 2003-04. The latest financial year for which figures are available is 2006-07; there are no records of press office costs pre-2003. Only figures for complete financial years can be provided.

These figures are calculated on the administration costs of the press office and the cost of staff in each year, which includes basic pay, national insurance, superannuation and the London location allowance.

Wilton Park, an executive agency of the FCO, does not employ any press officers.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many press office staff were employed by (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its non-departmental public bodies (i) in each year since 1996-97 and (ii) at the latest date for which information is available. [189653]


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Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) employed 23 full-time and two part-time (job-share) press officers in the 2007-08 financial year, 36 press officers in 2006-07, 30 in 2005-06, 26 plus one part-time officer in 2004-05 and 41 in 2003-04. There are no records for the number of press officers pre-2003.

Wilton Park, an executive agency of the FCO, does not employ any press officers.

Rendition

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 September 2008, Official Report, column 2197W, on rendition, on what date the flight records which cover the period when the two cases of rendition occurred were disposed of. [224457]

Bill Rammell: We do not have the precise date on which these records were destroyed. Customs and daily occurrence logs on Diego Garcia are generally held for around five years, and general declarations made by all aircraft on arrival are generally held for around three years.

Russia: Foreign Relations

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals the Government has put forward in recent NATO discussions on managing relationships and arrangements with Russia. [232600]

Caroline Flint: The UK wants a constructive relationship between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Russia. Since 2002 the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) has promoted consultation and co-operation on a wide range of security issues. However, Russia's disproportionate actions in Georgia have put this relationship under considerable strain. NATO Foreign Ministers made clear on 19 August that there could be no business as usual with Russia. Ambassadorial level meetings of the NRC have been suspended and a number of NATO-Russia activities have been postponed.

However, we have made clear that it is important that NATO keeps open lines of communication for hard-headed engagement with Russia, and continues co-operation where it is of strong benefit to the Alliance, particularly on Afghanistan, Counter-Narcotics and Counter-Terrorism.

Russia must show it is prepared to meet its commitments under the 12 August and 8 September agreements, brokered by President Sarkozy. The extent to which Russia meets these commitments will determine how the relationship between NATO and Russia develops.

Somalia: Arms Trade

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the UN arms embargo on Somalia. [228182]

Gillian Merron: The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, established under UN Security Resolution 1519 (2003), is responsible for monitoring the arms embargo on Somalia. In its latest report, published on 24 April 2008,
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the Group established that violations of the arms embargo continued during the period of the report, from October 2007 to April 2008. The Group reported that weapons were entering Somalia from other countries and from the region, by land and sea.

The Monitoring Group identified a number of recommendations in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the arms embargo, including implementation of targeted measures against those who breach the arms embargo. These recommendations are being considered by the UN.

Sudan: Armed Conflict

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the level of activity of Chadian-armed opposition groups based in Darfur. [228189]

Gillian Merron: There are a larger number of armed groups, militias and bandits operating in Darfur. It is unclear who is supporting which groups. We repeatedly call on the Governments of Sudan and Chad to adhere to the Dakar agreement of 13 March 2008, which commits both governments to stop supporting each other's armed groups. The UK is an observer to the Dakar Contact Group, which monitors the implementation of this agreement.

Sudan: Arms Trade

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of arms trading with Sudan with specific reference to arms from (a) Iran and (b) Russia; and what assessment he has made of the effects of such trade on the situation in Darfur. [230992]

Bill Rammell: Iran has self-documented that it exported over $12 million worth of weapons to Sudan since 2004. Russia has reported transferring 33 military aircraft to Sudan since 2004 and has self-reported a further $5,567 in arms sales to Sudan that does not include aircraft.

We note that the latest report, published on 3 October 2007, of the UN Panel of Experts which monitors the UN arms embargo on Darfur identifies violations of the embargo. The UK continues to request that the UN extend its arms embargo on Darfur to all of Sudan, but not all Security Council members agree. The EU has implemented an arms embargo on the whole of Sudan via Common Position 2005/411/CFSP.

Sudan: Human Rights

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the human rights situation in Darfur, with reference to the incidence of human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement. [228181]

Gillian Merron: We remain deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Darfur and the continued incidences of human rights abuses. We continue to monitor and lobby to improve the application of human rights in Sudan and to end impunity for crimes committed in Darfur. We welcome the 24 September renewal of the mandate of Dr Sima Samar, the UN Special Rapporteur
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for Human Rights in Sudan and look forward to Dr Samar's next report and further discussions in the Human Rights Council in June 2009.

Sudan: Overseas Aid

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government has taken to encourage other countries to provide aid and assistance to the people of Sudan. [231000]

Gillian Merron: We have constant contact with members of the international community in Sudan, in the UK, and via our embassies worldwide. We regularly lobby for other countries to follow our lead in providing aid and assistance to the Sudanese people.

Sudan: Peace Negotiations

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the government of Sudan on the peace process in Darfur. [228186]

Gillian Merron: On 27 September, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha in New York. They discussed the Darfur peace process, urged progress on co-operation with the International Criminal Court, allowing full deployment of the African Union Peacekeeping Mission for full humanitarian access and working for wider political reform in Sudan, including free and fair elections in 2009.

Sudan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what recent steps the Government has taken to promote a peaceful resolution in Sudan; [230998]

(2) what steps the Government has taken to monitor recent events in Sudan. [230999]

Gillian Merron: The Government are committed to a peaceful and prosperous Sudan. We continuously monitor events and take steps to promote a peaceful resolution in Sudan. Our embassy in Khartoum, our contacts with partners, international organisations, (such as the United Nations and the African Union), and non-governmental organisations, and our direct contacts with the government of Sudan inform our work.

Throughout our engagement, we press strongly for full implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement between the north and south, progress on the Darfur political process and support to the deployment of the AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, and my Noble Friend the Minister for Asia, Africa and the UN, Lord Malloch-Brown, reiterated these messages with other UN member states at the UN General Assembly in the week of 22-27 September. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also conveyed these messages directly to Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha in New York on 27 September 2008.


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Yemen: Terrorism

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the extent of the operations in Yemen of (a) al Qaeda in the south of the Arabian Peninsula and (b) the Yemen Soldiers Brigade faction; and what assessment he has made of the threat that such activities pose to the UK. [225589]

David Miliband: We are aware that members of al-Qaeda and other similar groups continue to operate in Yemen. We judge that there is a high threat from terrorism in Yemen including against western interests. Our travel advice provides further details, including on areas for which we advise against all non-essential travel.

We are working with the Government of Yemen to counter the threat of terrorism to the UK from Yemen and to UK interests in Yemen. In the short-term we are focused on protecting British interests in a volatile security environment. In the longer-term we are developing joint work on preventing terrorism by tackling the radicalisation of individuals and reducing the threat to the UK and UK interests through disrupting terrorists and their operations.

Prime Minister

Departmental Older Workers

David Simpson: To ask the Prime Minister how many people aged over (a) 55 and (b) 60 years have been recruited to work in his Office in 2007-08; and what percentage in each case this was of the number of new recruits. [228746]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson) on 3 November 2008, Official Report, column 22W.

EDF Energy

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Prime Minister what contracts his Office has with EDF; and how much his Office paid to EDF in each of the last 10 years, broken down by the purpose of the payment. [221853]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Mr. Watson) on 4 November 2008, Official Report, column 336W.

Health

Ambulance Services: Standards

Mr. Timpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to introduce ambulance service response time targets at a local level. [233942]

Mr. Bradshaw: Emergency ambulance response time data are collected centrally by the Department at ambulance trust level. The Department currently has no plans to
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change the level at which these data are collected. It is a matter for the local national health service to ensure there is appropriate provision of emergency services that are responsive to people’s needs.

Arthritis: Drugs

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the number of patients with rheumatoid arthritis ineligible for treatment with anti-TNF drugs consequent on the recent determination on sequential use made by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. [233175]

Dawn Primarolo: We have made no such assessment. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is currently undertaking an appraisal of the sequential use of anti-TNF drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. NICE has not yet issued final guidance.

Cancer

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cancer patients there were for (a) England and (b) each primary care trust within the South West Strategic Health Authority, broken down by form of the disease in each financial year from 1997 to 2007. [230976]

Kevin Brennan: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated November 2008:


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