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Diplomatic Service: Languages

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many and what proportion of British diplomatic staff, excluding locally recruited personnel, at each diplomatic mission in a country where English is not the first language are (a) fluent in the local language and (b) have received instruction in the local language (i) at a facility of his Department and (iii) at an independent facility. [227081]

Gillian Merron: There are 589 jobs held by UK-based staff in overseas missions that require fluency in the local language. We define fluency as either C1 or C2 level proficiency as described by the common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe 2000). There are 2,297 UK-based staff serving overseas in 260 missions; those jobs held by UK-based staff that require fluency in the local language therefore make up 26 per cent. of the total.

Since November 2007 all language training for Foreign and Commonwealth Office UK-based staff is provided by external contractors either in the UK or overseas. 159 officers have been trained to levels C1 and C2 since November 2007.

Eritrea: Arms Trade

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will introduce an arms embargo against Eritrea. [226068]

Gillian Merron: In 2007 we approved three export licence applications which covered components for cryptographic equipment and civil body armour for humanitarian purposes.

All licences are assessed on a case by case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Export Licensing Criteria. This takes into account, inter alia, respect for human rights and the preservation of regional peace, security and stability. If there is a clear risk that the equipment will be used in a manner inconsistent with the criteria, a licence will not be approved. In the light of this we do not see the need for a comprehensive arms embargo against Eritrea.

Further details on the UK's arms export licensing policy are available at:

Georgia: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the progress of the EU monitoring mission in Georgia, with particular regard to EU monitors’ access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia; and if he will make a statement. [234050]

David Miliband: The 8 September agreement required the EU to deploy at least 200 monitors by 1 October. The UK has provided 19 monitors plus three headquarters staff and four armoured cars to the mission, which now comprises 225 monitors. Monitoring is being focused on troop activity and withdrawal, public order, freedom of movement, and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) has been patrolling on a daily basis since 1 October. We receive regular updates on EUMM from headquarters in Tbilisi and via Brussels. The Head of the EU Mission, Hansjorg Haber, is responsible for decisions on where in Georgia monitors should patrol. We understand that a number of monitors have had limited access to South Ossetia and to Abkhazia. Our view is that access to these regions, when security conditions permit, is necessary for the EUMM to fulfil its mandate in full.

Iran: Jews

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the treatment of Jews in Iran; what recent representations he has received on this matter; and if he will make a statement. [235696]

Bill Rammell: Judaism is one of the three minority religions officially recognised under the Iranian constitution. While we do have general concerns about freedom of religion and belief in Iran, we understand that the Jewish community has relatively good relations with the wider Muslim community in Iran. The Iranian Jewish community does face some institutional discrimination, but we do not believe that the community faces systematic persecution. We continue to monitor the situation closely and officials in Tehran and London regularly meet representatives of the Jewish community to discuss the situation of Jewish people in Iran.

In December 2007 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution about human rights in Iran. The resolution, co-sponsored by the UK and all other EU member states, acknowledged and expressed concern at the situation of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran. We will continue to make clear to the Iranian authorities that persecution of individuals on the grounds of their religious beliefs is unacceptable and contrary to Iran's international human rights obligations, and that the rights of Iran’s religious minorities should be equal to
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those of all Iranian citizens. We continue to press the Iranian authorities to take seriously their international human rights obligations and uphold the right to freedom of religion and belief as described in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Iran is a state party).

Iran: Nuclear Power

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has for discussions with the Iranian government on its nuclear programme. [235985]

Bill Rammell: There are no plans for discussions between the Government and the Iranian government on Iran's nuclear programme. But the UK is directly involved in the efforts by the E3+3 (UK, US, France, Germany, Russia and China) with the support of Dr Javier Solana, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, to persuade Iran to engage on this matter. Dr Solana recently wrote to the Iranian Chief Negotiator Mr Saeed Jalili to suggest that their deputies, Mr Robert Cooper and Mr Ali Bagheri, meet soon to clarify details of the offer that the E3+3 sent to Iran in June this year.

Iran: Prisoners

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the treatment of imprisoned Jews in Iran; and if he will make a statement. [235694]

Bill Rammell: We have not received any specific reports pertaining to Jews in custody in Iran. We do, however, have concerns that torture and ill-treatment is common in many prisons and detention centres, facilitated by prolonged pre-charge detention and denial of access to lawyers and family. We continue to monitor the situation closely and raise any concerns about the treatment of prisoners with the Iranian authorities, both bilaterally and through the EU.

Morocco: Fisheries

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what monitoring his Department is undertaking of the operation of the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement in respect of fish taken from the waters off the Western Sahara. [235123]

Bill Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not monitor the operation of fishing vessels. However, the Marine and Fisheries Agency monitors the movements of all UK-registered fishing vessels. Vessels fishing off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara under the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement report their movements and catches to the Marine and Fisheries Agency. This information is then passed on to the European Commission, who collate the information from all EU member states.

Morocco: Western Sahara

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 6 October 2008, Official Report, column 228W, on Morocco: Western Sahara, if the
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Government will take steps to encourage the Government of Morocco to fulfil its obligations under international law to ensure that the indigenous people of the Western Sahara benefit from the extraction of phosphates. [235578]

Bill Rammell: The Government continue to encourage the Moroccan Government to ensure that, in line with international law, economic activities under administration, including the extraction and exportation of phosphates, do not adversely affect the interests of the people of Western Sahara. The Government will continue to stress this point when and where appropriate.

Panchen Lama

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps he has taken to establish the whereabouts and health of the Panchen Lama; and if he will press for his release. [235570]

Bill Rammell: We have raised the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima at the last seven meetings of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, most recently in January 2008. We have asked for information on his health and whereabouts; supported the recommendation by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that China should allow an independent expert to visit him; and have pressed for him to enjoy freedom of movement and the freedom to choose his own career. The Government were informed during the dialogue field trip to Tibet in January 2008 that the Panchen Lama was safe and well in his home town. We will continue to raise this case with the Chinese government.

Russia: Georgia

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment the Government has made of Russia’s fulfilment of its obligations under the Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire plan of 12 August 2008; and if he will make a statement. [233101]

David Miliband: Under the terms of the EU and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ceasefire, brokered between President Sarkozy and President Medvedev on 12 August, and a further agreement on 8 September, Russia agreed to a six point plan, which included a commitment to Russian forces withdrawing to their positions prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Russian troops have withdrawn from some areas, but are still present in the Akhalgori region of South Ossetia and the Kodori Gorge area of Abkhazia. Both of these areas had been under Georgian control before the war.

Therefore, although there has been substantial compliance with the agreements, it is still far from complete and we have called upon Russia to observe the agreements in full.

The ceasefire plan also included agreement talks on security and stability in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The first round of these talks took place in Geneva on 15 October under EU chairmanship, with UN and OSCE participation. The next meeting is scheduled for 18 November.

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Snatch Land Rovers

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what instructions his Department gave to its staff in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan during 2005 on (i) the use of and (ii) travelling in Snatch Land Rovers; and when those instructions were issued. [235467]

Bill Rammell: It is Foreign and Commonwealth Office practice not to comment on provision of security to staff at its posts.

Sri Lanka: Humanitarian Aid

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Sri Lankan Government on its decision to instruct UN agencies and humanitarian non-governmental organisations to leave the Wanni district in September 2008; and if he will make a statement. [235662]

David Miliband: I refer the hon. Member to the answers given to the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Moore) on 28 October 2008, Official Report, column 802W.

Our high commissioner to Sri Lanka continues to raise humanitarian issues at the highest levels of government and to press for increased humanitarian access for essential supplies such as food, medicine and materials for shelters.

Western Sahara: Referendums

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has held with the UN on the proposed referendum of the Saharawi people on the future status of the Western Sahara. [235125]

Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed the question of Western Sahara with the UN Secretary General, but our officials in New York are in regular contact with UN officials. We will continue, through my meetings and those of my officials to discuss this issue with all interested parties.

The UK Permanent Representative to the UN, met the Head of the Polisario, Mr. Mohammed Abdel Aziz on 3 November and discussed a wide range of issues, including the ongoing negotiations under UN auspices.

Zimbabwe: Politics and Government

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations have been made to the government of Zimbabwe on the treatment of Morgan Tsvangirai by the section of the Zimbabwean government represented by Robert Mugabe. [232826]

Gillian Merron: On 13 October, EU Foreign Ministers condemned the unilateral decision by Robert Mugabe to embark on the formation of a new government without the agreement of the other parties to the 15 September agreement. Following the South African Development Community Troika meeting on 27 October,
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the UN Secretary-General said that he hoped Mr. Mugabe would no longer disappoint the international community. He also encouraged African leaders to take decisive action to end the stalemate.

Work and Pensions

Children: Maintenance

Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when the hon. Member for West Lancashire’s constituent Ms Helen L. Dunham will (a) be sent any backdated monies from the Child Support Agency and (b) have her manual child maintenance payments resumed. [228498]

Kitty Ussher [holding answer 21 October 2008]: The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have therefore asked the Commissioner to write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty:

Incapacity Benefit

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make an assessment of the role of part-time working in facilitating return to work for incapacity benefit claimants in the principal seaside towns in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement. [235531]

Jonathan Shaw: We recognise the importance of part-time working in encouraging incapacity benefits claimants to return to work. The Permitted Work rules allow incapacity benefits customers to try out part-time work as a stepping-stone to moving off benefit and into work. We have made the rules more generous in the employment and support allowance.

We keep the Permitted Work rules under review, looking for more flexible ways of helping people take up opportunities and increase their options. We have no plans to carry out a specific assessment of seaside towns.

New Deal for 50 Plus

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much the New Deal 50 Plus programme cost to maintain in 2006-07. [231839]

Mr. McNulty: The information is in the Jobcentre Plus Annual Report and Accounts 2006-07, a copy of which is in the Library.

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Pension Credit: Enfield

Joan Ryan: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many residents of Enfield, North constituency have applied for pension credits since the establishment of the pension credit scheme. [233893]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Information on the number of applications for pension credit is not available at the level of constituency. The following table contains the number of households in receipt and individual beneficiaries of pension credit in Enfield, North constituency.

Number of household recipients and individual beneficiaries of pension credit in Enfield, North, 2003-08

Household recipients Individual beneficiaries

November 2003



May 2004



May 2005



May 2006



May 2007



May 2008



Notes: 1. Caseloads are rounded to the nearest 10. 2. Pension credit was introduced in October 2003, so November data are used for that year. 3. Household recipients are those people who claim pension credit either for themselves only or on behalf of a household. 4. Individual beneficiaries includes both claimants and their partners. Source: DWP Information Directorate Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study 100 per cent. data.

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