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26 Nov 2008 : Column 1788Wcontinued
(b) The following is the expenditure on stationery:
|Financial year||Expenditure (£)|
|(1) To date|
The increase in the last two financial years reflects costs incurred by UK Border Agency for visa processing.
Figures for both stationery and newspaper/periodicals include costs incurred on behalf of other Government Departments and recovered under Service Level Agreements.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many receptions held at the British embassy in Moscow were organised and funded by (a) trade unions, (b) charities, (c) businesses
and (d) other types of organisation in each of the last five years; and what income the embassy received from charges for the use of facilities for receptions in each such year. 
Caroline Flint: On average, one or two receptions per week are held at the British embassy in Moscow. Some are official events but others are partly or fully sponsored by external organisations. These receptions include, but are not limited to:
(a) Trade missions to promote and strengthen UK/Russia trade links;
(b) Project launches for non-governmental organisations, press events;
(c) Receptions for visiting Ministers and officials, graduation ceremonies; and
(d) The annual Queen's Birthday Party.
There is a flat fee of £100 which is charged for the use of the embassy facilities by outside organisations. All other costs relating to an event sponsored by an external organisation are met by the organiser. The embassy does not have access to figures on these costs.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the monetary value is of the (a) wine and (b) other alcohol held in storage by the British Embassy in Moscow. 
Caroline Flint: The value of alcohol stocks held at the British embassy in Moscow can be broken down as follows:
(a) Wine: £5,857;
(b) Spirits: £1,549.
In addition a stock of soft drinks is held, which has a total value of £1,066.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much was spent on alcoholic drinks for receptions at the British Embassy in Moscow in each of the last five years. 
Caroline Flint: The British embassy in Moscow is not accounted by accounting rules to break down its entertainment expenditure into component parts. These figures cannot be compiled except at disproportionate cost.
In addition, much of the alcoholic drink served at functions at the British embassy in Moscow is either provided free of charge or is paid for directly by the organisation co-hosting the function. In the latter example, the embassy would not ordinarily be aware of the sum being spent.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the running cost of the British Embassy in Moscow was in each of the last five years. 
Caroline Flint: The net running costs at the British embassy in Moscow, expenditure less income, is as follows:
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the European Commission on its audit of EU-Russian relations; what contribution the Government has made to that audit; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: The UK works closely with the European Commission and other member states on EU/Russia policy. The audit of EU-Russia relations commissioned by the special European Council of 1 September has just issued. We look forward to its consideration by Foreign Ministers at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 10 November. It will be important that the audit informs the progress of the negotiations on a successor to the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement.
Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has discussed with his Russian and Georgian counterparts allegations of war crimes committed by both sides during the recent Russia-Georgia conflict. 
David Miliband: Both the Russian and Georgian governments have made allegations of war crimes. This issue was discussed when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on 25 September, and Georgian President Saakashvili on 27 September in New York. The EU and UK have called for any allegations of war crimes to be independently investigated.
Heads of EU states agreed at the September European Council to set up an inquiry into the origins of the conflict. The former Head of the UN Mission to Georgia (UNOMIG) Heidi Tagliavini has been selected to head the inquiry. Her remit has now been agreed and at the request of the UK a requirement for the inquiry to look at war crimes and breaches of international and humanitarian law has been included.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment the Government has made of the relationship between Russia and Georgia. 
Caroline Flint: Relations between Georgia and Russia are strained, following the conflict in August.
The EU and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) ceasefire plan, brokered between President Sarkozy and President Medvedev on 12 August, included a commitment to 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. At the second meeting held on 18 November, there were two working groups, one to discuss security and stability in the region, and the other on refugees and internally displaced persons. The next meeting is scheduled for 17-18 December. We are encouraging both Georgia and Russia to engage constructively and hope that this will lead to a lasting, peaceful solution. In the meantime, we urge restraint on both sides.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of occasions on which ransom has been (a) demanded and (b) paid in respect of vessels hijacked off the coast of Somalia in 2008; and what estimate he has made of the total ransom paid. 
David Miliband: The Government are aware of 38 hijackings off the coast of Somalia in 2008 for which ransoms have been demanded. It is British Government policy that ransoms should not be paid. Where ransoms are paid by private individuals or companies the details are not normally made public and such information is not held by the Government.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under what arrangements the eight Somalis recently apprehended by the Royal Navy in the Gulf of Aden on grounds of piracy were transferred to Kenyan custody; whether further such transfers are planned; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: The eight Somalis apprehended by the Royal Navy in the Gulf of Aden were transferred to Kenyan custody on the basis of an exchange of letters between the British and Kenyan Governments specific to this incident. Discussions are ongoing between the EU and a number of states regarding any future detentions that are made during anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions Ministers and officials in his Department have had with the Association of South East Asian Nations on energy and climate change. 
Gillian Merron: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed climate change with the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary General when they last met during the Asia-Europe Meeting in Beijing in October. While in Beijing my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also discussed climate change with Foreign Ministers from other ASEAN countries including Indonesia. Additionally, other Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and officials are in regular contact with both ASEAN and its constituent nations with whom we consistently discuss both climate change and energy.
The ASEAN grouping brings together some of the nations who will be hit hardest and hit first by climate change. Countries like Vietnam and Thailand are some
of the worlds most vulnerable and it is critical that their voices are heard in the international climate negotiations. ASEAN will be important in driving the political mobilisation necessary for an ambitious and equitable post-2012 agreement at Copenhagen.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Answer of 3 November 2008, Official Report, column 168W, on Sri Lanka, what proposals the UK has put forward to strengthen human rights mechanisms in Sri Lanka; and what action has been taken on those proposals. 
Bill Rammell: During Sri Lanka's UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May, the UK worked closely with the Government of Sri Lanka and other international partners to agree a series of recommendations to improve the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. These are set out in the UPR Working Group report (A/HRC/8/46) available at
We welcome the Sri Lankan Government's announcement of a national action plan on the protection and promotion of human rights and we continue to urge them to ensure early progress.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initiatives the Government have put forward to re-start the Sri Lankan peace process negotiations; and what discussions he has had with his counterparts in the (a) US, (b) EU, (c) India and (d) Japan on these initiatives. 
Bill Rammell: The UK continues to urge all parties to the conflict to work towards a sustainable political settlement for Sri Lanka. We stand ready to assist the people of Sri Lanka to take forward efforts to achieve this. My noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown discussed Sri Lanka with Ministers and officials when he visited India in October. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials are in regular contact with EU, US, Indian and Japanese counterparts about how the international community can contribute towards a long term political settlement.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the government of Sri Lanka on its recent refusal to allow a European Union investigation mission into human rights abuses into the country for monitoring and reporting purposes; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: The UK continues to urge the Sri Lankan Government to engage in a constructive dialogue with the European Commission in relation to the investigation under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) plus scheme. We have made clear that the onus is on the Government of Sri Lanka to demonstrate its compliance with the 27 international conventions that underpin the scheme.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has discussed the merits of a UN arms embargo for the whole of Sudan with his counterparts in UN Security Council member states; and whether such an embargo has been discussed at the UN Security Council. 
David Miliband: The UK asked the Sudan UN Sanctions Committee of 6 November 2007 to extend its arms embargo on Darfur to all of Sudan, but not all Security Council members agreed. We have raised the issue in the Security Council whenever Sudan has been discussed, and elsewhere, e.g. at the UN/African Union led talks on Darfur in Geneva on 5 June.
On 12 June 2008 the UK reiterated in the UN Security Council the need for all parties to adhere to the arms embargo on Darfur. We will continue to press for an extension of the arms embargo.
The EU continues to operate an arms embargo on the whole of Sudan.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with UN Security Council counterparts on proposals to strengthen the UN's Mission in Sudan in order to improve the security situation in the Nuba region. 
Gillian Merron: Our Permanent Representative to the UN raised the situation in Southern Kordofan (which includes the Nuba region) in the UN Security Council on 18 August and 5 November of this year and encouraged United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) to focus on priority areas including the Nuba region.
In his latest report on Sudan (20 October 2008), the UN Secretary-General noted a decline in inter-ethnic violence in Southern Kordofan. We remain concerned about the potential for conflict and continue to monitor the situation in the area through UNMIS, and through the Security Working Group of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission, which visited the region on 13-14 November.
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters were discussed during his meeting with the President of Syria on 17 November; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretarys discussion with President Assad on 18 November focused on recent positive developments in the region, how to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and the need for those with power in the region to exercise it with great responsibility. They also discussed the UKs concerns over Syrias co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and its human rights record.
Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what personal training courses at public expense he has undertaken since his appointment. 
Gillian Merron: Since June 2007 the Foreign Secretary has received training in the presentation of foreign policy and in Foreign and Commonwealth IT systems.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps have been taken by the Government to give effect to UN General Assembly Resolution 1723 (XVI), with specific reference to the right to self-determination. 
David Miliband: As the Foreign Secretary made clear in his written ministerial statement of 29 October, the UK does not support independence for Tibet and considers Tibet to be part of the People's Republic of China. However, we do believe that a system of meaningful autonomy with full respect for Tibet's distinct culture, religion and languages to be a valid aspiration, and one which we support.
We consider that the position the Dalai Lama has stated publicly, including when he visited Britain this year, that he is seeking meaningful autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution, provides the basis for a negotiated settlement. We continue to call on both parties to engage in substantive dialogue towards such a settlement.
The United Kingdom voted in favour of UN General Assembly resolution 1723 (XVI) expressly to register disapproval at the human rights situation in Tibet. We made clear at the time that our support did not indicate any change in our position on Tibet's status.
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