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13 Nov 2008 : Column 1401W—continued

The Government gave over £20 million to support the 2004-05 Afghan elections, and we are committed to presidential, parliamentary and provincial council elections
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going ahead in 2009-10. So far this year we have given £6 million to support the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to conduct voter registration and we are working closely with the UN on election planning.

Our armed forces continue to work hard with their Afghan counterparts to provide the broader security needed for voter registration and elections to take place, and as in 2004-05, they are also ready to provide wider logistical support if needed.

Across Afghanistan the IEC is also conducting voter outreach—helping the Afghan electorate to understand both the importance of voting and how they can decide the future of their country. Education is vital to help voters make informed choices, and in 2007-08 we provided £55 million to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to help finance the salaries of over 100,000 teachers. These resources have contributed to the increase of pupils enrolled in school from two million in 2002 to around six million today.

Freedom of expression, particularly for the media, is key to creating the space necessary for political debate. We have raised our concerns in individual cases where journalists' freedom has been threatened. We are also working with both the BBC World Service and the BBC World Service Trust (the World Service's charitable arm) on projects to improve and develop the media in Afghanistan. For example, we are involving female Afghan journalists in ‘Afghan's Woman's Hour’ which informs and empowers women in Afghanistan.

A key component of democratic development is ensuring women have a vote and are represented in both Parliament and government. In the 2005 elections, over 40 per cent. of those who voted were women—a major step forward from life under the Taliban. In addition 27 per cent. of seats in the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament are now held by women. There is currently one female Afghan Minister and one female Governor.

Since 2001 we have committed over £1.65 billion to aid the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. Around 80 per cent. of our current aid to Afghanistan is channelled through the democratically elected Afghan government, to help strengthen both its capacity and legitimacy. On the ground in Helmand, we are also working hard with the local Governor to ensure that the Afghan government deliver basic services for their people.

It is a large task and a long-term endeavour, but these combined approaches to democratic development in Afghanistan are ensuring that gradual progress is being made.

Asylum: EC Action

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions (a) Ministers and (b) officials have had with the European Commission on the Commission's forthcoming announcement on asylum policy; and if he will make a statement. [211275]

David Miliband: The UK remains in close contact with the European Commission, and regularly updates the Commission on UK asylum policy. The European Commission presented the Policy Plan on Asylum on 17 June—setting out a road map for the next stage of the Common European Asylum System. The Commission is due to present proposals for two of the instruments of the Common European Asylum System—the Dublin
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II/Eurodac regulation and the Reception Conditions directive—in December. The UK will carefully consider these proposals ahead of the opt-in deadline next year.

China: Human Rights

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what resources his Department plans to allocate to work on human rights in China over the next three years. [222299]

Gillian Merron: Human rights work is a key part of our engagement with China and we continue to commit considerable resources to it. As well as a number of officers working full-time on human rights and governance issues in London and the embassy in Beijing, human rights work features in the responsibilities of a large number of other officials at all levels, including the ambassador in Beijing and director Asia-Pacific in London. Project funding is reviewed annually and the amount we receive can vary from year to year. The FCO has recently approved £660,000 of funding for new projects over the next three years under the Strategic Programme Fund Human Rights and Democracy Programme and additional bids will be considered. We also provide grant in aid funding to the Great Britain-China Centre, which carries out a number of projects on human rights and rule of law in China.

Christmas

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Christmas functions (a) he, (b) officials from his Department and (c) officials from its executive agencies (i) hosted and (ii) attended in 2007-08; what the cost to the public purse was; and if he will make a statement. [226947]

Caroline Flint: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary held one official Christmas function for Ministers and members of the press which cost £9,313. He paid for his own tickets for an FCO staff and families Christmas party and hosted a small reception for his Private Office team at no cost to the public purse. He also attended a reception hosted by the Leader of the House of Commons, the right hon. Harriet Harman.

The other information requested in the hon. Member's question is not held centrally and could not be obtained without incurring disproportionate cost.

Conferences

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Prime Minister's Progressive Governance Conference involved costs to the public purse. [210878]

David Miliband: The Progressive Governance Conference on 4 April was organised by Policy Network. No Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) funds were spent on this event.

The Progressive Governance Summit on 5 April was jointly organised by the Government and Policy Network. The cost to the FCO of organising this event was £287,790.92.


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Cuba: Overseas Trade

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions his Department has had with the government of the United States on the position of British companies which trade with Cuba; and if he will make a statement. [216274]

Gillian Merron: The Government strongly oppose excessive assertions of extraterritorial jurisdiction, by other states on UK individuals and/or companies; in particular the excessive use of unjustified trade sanctions.

We have made our opposition to US policy, on trade with Cuba, clear through our vote every year against the US embargo on Cuba at the UN General Assembly. This includes extraterritorial aspects of US legislation. The last vote took place on 29 October 2008.

Departmental Air Travel

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) of 14 July 2008, Official Report, column 27W, on carbon emissions: Government departments, how much air mileage incurred through departmental travel was used to calculate the departmental payment to the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund in each year that his Department has participated in the fund, broken down by (a) domestic, (b) short haul and (c) long haul flights. [222081]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not participate in the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund (GCOF). The FCO off-sets official air travel for Ministers and officials in the UK through the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, an arrangement which predates the creation of GCOF.

Departmental Alcoholic Drinks

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at how many events held by his Department (a) wine and (b) Fairtrade wine were served in the last three years; and what assessment his Department has made of the merits of serving Fairtrade wine at future events. [196947]

Gillian Merron: In the last three years, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) in-house catering supplier has managed 357 events where wine was served. Government hospitality, part of FCO Protocol Directorate, provides official hospitality for events hosted by Government ministers. Over the last three years, Government hospitality organised 632 events at which wine was served or available.

None of the wines used at these events were Fairtrade. However, while the FCO does not have mandatory requirements in place for the procurement or provision of Fairtrade products, we are committed to improving market access to producers in developing countries through increased participation in fair and sustainable supply chains. Fairtrade wines are an option made available by the FCO's in-house caterers.


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Departmental Assets

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs over what period his Department depreciates the asset value of its (a) vehicles, (b) computer hardware, (c) bespoke computer software, (d) standard computer software, (e) furniture and (f) telecommunications equipment. [213222]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office depreciates its tangible and intangible assets over periods consistent with the accounting standards laid out in FReM, the Government’s Financial Reporting Manual, (Section 5.2.4).

Departmental Data Protection

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many data security breaches have been notified to the Information Commissioner by his Department and its agencies in the last 12 months. [206762]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote to the Information Commissioner on three occasions in the last 12 months to inform him about potential data losses. Details are given in the departmental report for 2007-08 which can be accessed at the following website address:

Departmental Disciplinary Proceedings

Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the five most serious disciplinary breaches in his Department were in the last 12 months; and what steps were taken in response to each breach. [223058]

Gillian Merron: The five most serious disciplinary breaches by UK-based staff (members of the diplomatic service and home civil servants serving at home or overseas) in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 14 August 2007 were:

In those cases above where officers were not dismissed, other penalties were imposed in addition to final written warnings. In two cases a ban on taking up a diplomatic service appointment overseas for three years was imposed. In one case an officer, who had been on temporary promotion, was downgraded with immediate effect to their substantive grade.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has detailed guidance on our misconduct procedures which is accessible to all staff. They apply to all UK-based officers working for the FCO. A conduct adviser in the human resources directorate advises officers and their line-managers on how to implement the misconduct procedures and ensures best practice across the office. Additionally, our posts
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overseas have specific misconduct procedures in place, based on local law, which are applicable to locally-engaged staff.

Departmental Expert Groups

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what expert groups his Department set up in each year since 1999. [213197]

Gillian Merron: Expert groups may be established at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, or at any of the FCO’s overseas posts. However such information is not held centrally and therefore could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental ICT

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to ensure that counterfeit routers and other counterfeit hardware are not utilised in his Department’s computer networks. [203241]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office obtains computer equipment through robust contractual arrangements with reputable suppliers and takes all necessary steps to ensure that the resulting systems conform to relevant security and other operating standards.

Departmental Papers

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what percentage of paper used (a) for photocopying and (b) in printed publications by his Department was from recycled sources in each of the last two years. [220726]

Gillian Merron: This information is not held centrally. To answer the question we would need to consult a wide range of internal Departments and posts world-wide. This could be achieved only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Public Relations

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff in (a) his Department and (b) its agencies have been seconded to public relations or public affairs firms or consultancies in each of the last five years. [222203]

Gillian Merron: Seven Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff are currently on secondment to public relations and public affairs firms and organisations. None of the secondments involve staff from the FCO’s agencies.

Figures on the number of secondments were not collated between 2002-07 and cannot be obtained without disproportionate cost.

Departmental Reorganisation

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 23 January 2008, Official Report, columns 52-3WS, on the new strategic framework, what
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(a) resources and (b) numbers of staff within his Department are currently assigned to (i) counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation, (ii) climate change and (iii) reform of international institutions. [178906]

David Miliband: 2006-07 is the last year for which records of spend against objectives are available for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The net operating cost of all activities in support of the then Strategic Priority 1 (making the world safer from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction) was £163.2 million. The net operating cost in support of the then Strategic Priority 6 (achieving climate security by promoting a faster transition to a sustainable, low carbon global economy) was £37.5 million. As the reform of international institutions was not an explicit priority for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at this time, we are unable to provide a figure for the level of resources assigned to this activity.

These figures are published in the FCO's resource accounts, which are freely available on the departmental website.

The latest available figures, from an exercise completed in September 2007, show that the number of FCO staff (both UK based and locally engaged staff) assigned to the then Strategic Priority 1 is 551, the number assigned to the then Strategic Priority 6 is 203. We do not have figures available for the number of staff currently assigned to the reform of international institutions, since this only became an explicit priority for the FCO on 1 April 2008.

Departmental Sick Leave

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many sick days were taken by employees in (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) the non-departmental bodies for which it has responsibility due to (i) stress and (ii) mental health and behavioural disorders in each of the last 10 years; what proportion of sick days taken this represented in each case; and if he will make a statement. [216115]

Gillian Merron: The following table sets out the total number of sickness absence days taken by UK civil servants employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Wilton Park, an Executive agency of the FCO. It also shows, as a percentage, how much of this total was represented by absence due to stress or mental health illness. Records do not distinguish between sickness absence for stress and mental health and behavioural disorders.


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Financial year FCO Wilton Park

2005-06

Total days of sickness absence

2,495

74

Percentage represented by stress/mental health illness

9.8

6.5

2006-07

Total days of sickness absence

2,381

296

Percentage represented by stress/mental health illness

10.6

25.6

2007-08

Total days of sickness absence

3,142

625

Percentage represented by stress/mental health illness

13.5

56.2


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