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26 Nov 2008 : Column 1751Wcontinued
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate has been made of the number of rebel troops involved in the advance upon Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 
David Miliband: The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) puts the total strength of the National Council for the Defence of the People (CNDP) at around 4,000 soldiers. Of these, MONUC estimates that 600-700 are located around the Kibat-Kibumba area of north Kivu. Exact numbers of those involved in the advance are very difficult to obtain.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the possibility of sending an EU force to the Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: The matter was raised during discussion of the situation in the eastern DRC at the GAERC on Monday 10 November. EU Foreign Ministers agreed that it was unlikely that a rapid deployment of forces from the EU or elsewhere could produce a significant increase to the capability that already exists in the region. They agreed that the best way forward was continued support for a political solution under the framework provided by the Nairobi communiqué and the Goma accord and to ensure that the 17,000 strong force in the UN mission to DR Congo are correctly deployed and effectively mandated to provide security in the east of the country.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of Angolan, Zimbabwean and Rwandan troops being drawn into the fighting in Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: We have received no confirmed reports from any source, including the UN, of formed units of Angolan troops operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We note that the UN Peacekeeping Force's (MONUC) official spokesman has denied rumours allegedly from UN officials that there are Angolan troops in eastern DRC. The Angolan ambassador to DRC has also denied that there are Angolan troops present in the country.
There have been allegations of Rwandan forces in North Kivu. But we have seen no evidence to confirm these. During the recent fighting, UN observers reported that shots had been fired across the border between DRC and Rwanda. We understand from MONUC that the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) accidentally fired several mortars into Rwanda after which Rwandan military responded with fire from three T55 tanks. However, this was an isolated incident and did not escalate any further. We continue to work with both Governments of Rwanda and DRC to encourage them to establish full diplomatic relations.
We have no confirmed reports of troops from Zimbabwe operating in DRC.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the recruitment of child soldiers in Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: The recruitment and conscription of children as fighters in contravention of international humanitarian law by many of the armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), including the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), is of serious concern. The UK is providing £17 million to the Multi-Country Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme, a significant proportion of which is spent on special projects for children associated with armed groups. We also gave £3 million to the 2007 International Committee of the Red Cross appeal for the DRC, which includes programmes for protection and reintegration of children.
During an open debate on Children and Armed Conflict at the UN in February, the UK called for further efforts to be made by the Government of the DRC to stop the use of child soldiers. We also raised concerns about children affected by armed conflict in the DRC in a subsequent debate at the UN in July and in the Human Rights Council in September.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the Amani programme for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and what discussions he has had with the co-ordinator. 
David Miliband: Despite the current blockage, there has been some progress in the Amani programme since its inception in January 2008. The mixed technical committee on peace and security has been established. With our partners we have been pressing the co-ordinator for the Amani process to appoint a special advisor on human rights.
Our embassy in Kinshasa has had regular contact with Malu Malu, national co-ordinator for the Amani programme, both in Kinshasa and in Goma as part of the international facilitation effort. Our ambassador in Kinshasa has also been accepted as a member of the steering committee, overseeing the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo peace processes.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions troops of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have reporting coming under direct attack during the current crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and what assessment has been made of responsibility for those attacks. 
The situation on the ground in North Kivu remains volatile. We expect the UN to report on all attacks on MONUC fully once the situation has stabilised. The UK condemns all attacks on UN peacekeepers and urges all parties to allow MONUC full and free access to fulfil its mandate. We commend
the commitment of UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who are serving in difficult and dangerous circumstances.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the time needed to mobilise additional African Union troops to support MONUC in Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Gillian Merron: There is currently no proposal under consideration at the African Union (AU) to deploy peacekeeping forces to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Based on past precedent, the time needed for an AU military deployment would depend on various factors, including AU political agreement to deploy a mission; finding willing troop contributing countries; raising funds to finance a mission; and the logistics of moving troops to theatre.
Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the rate of staff (a) absence and (b) sickness absence was in (i) his Department and (ii) each of its agencies and non-departmental public bodies in each year since 1997; what the target rates set for his Department are in each case; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: The average number of days sick leave taken by staff in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in each of the last five years is set out in the following table:
Sickness absence figures for staff at Wilton Park, an Executive Agency of the FCO, and at FCO Services, which became a Trading Fund on 1 April 2008, are included in the FCO total.
Records for staff sickness absence prior to 2003, and sickness absence records of non-departmental bodies are not available.
Information is not held centrally for staff absences for reasons other than sickness and annual leave. Such absences are monitored locally by line-managers.
The FCO does not have fixed departmental targets for absence and sickness absence.
The FCO has effective policies for monitoring sickness absence, issuing warnings and reducing or withdrawing pay at certain trigger points for long absentees.
Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost to his Department of provision of office facilities to (a) special advisers and (b) press officers (i) was in the last 12 months and (ii) has been since 1997-98. 
Gillian Merron: The Press Office and special adviser's offices are all located in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) main building on King Charles Street (KCS). The FCO holds the freehold to this property and pays a capital and depreciation charge based on the value of the asset.
Since June 2007, special adviser's offices have taken up 63.73m(2) of the KCS building. Before June 2007 special adviser's officers took up 91.76m(2). The capital and depreciation costs of this are as follows (per financial year):
The Press Office occupies 346.73m(2). The capital and depreciation costs of this are as follows:
Other costs associated with office facilities are not itemised. Producing figures for an individual office or section would incur a disproportionate cost.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether food and drink on sale to staff of (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies at official premises is subsidised from public funds. 
Gillian Merron: Food and drink on sale to staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and FCO Services in the UK, via its contract caterers, is currently subsidised from public funds. On the commencement of a new contact, from 1 December 2008, food and drink on sale to staff will no longer be subsidised.
Wilton Park, and executive agency of the FCO, currently subsidises food and drink on sale to its staff.
Information relating to catering contracts overseas is not held centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.
Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many civil servants have been employed by each of his Department's agencies and non-departmental bodies in each year since 1997-98; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has had two executive agencies, Wilton Park and FCO Services, during this period.
The number of UK civil servants employed by Wilton Park is:
The number of UK civil servants employed by FCO Services is:
We do not hold records centrally of staff numbers before 1 April 2004. Nor do we hold records of staffing for the FCO's non-departmental public bodies. This information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what percentage of employees in his Department (a) are on a flexible working contract, (b) are on a job share employment contract and (c) work from home for more than four hours per week. 
Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is committed to helping its staff maintain a work/life balance. All FCO staff can ask to work flexibly. We encourage managers to respond sympathetically and creatively to such requests.
Data are not held centrally on the numbers of staff who do work flexibly as this is a matter for arrangement between individuals and their line manager.
Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies and non-departmental public bodies spent on external consultancy in each year since 1997-98; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: Responsibility for procuring external consultants has been devolved to individual directorates, Departments and overseas posts within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) with the provision of central advice and guidance. Each directorate, Department and post would need to be contacted to obtain these details. This would incur a disproportionate cost.
The FCO provides an annual expenditure figure on external consultants which is published in the Department's annual report. Copies of this are available in the Library of the House.
In order to provide information on this category in the future, the FCO's Corporate Procurement Group has been tasked with creating a central database that will contain complete information about consultants employed across the FCO. We expect the database to be fully functional within the next three months. We are
working closely with the Office of Government Commerce in to align our strategy on the future procurement of consultants with their Consultancy Value Programme.
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