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16 Dec 2008 : Column 699W—continued

Ilois: Resettlement

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department spent on meeting the costs of the respondent in the case of R (on the application of Bancoult) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on which judgment was given in the House of Lords on 22 October 2008. [242307]


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Gillian Merron: The costs of the respondent in the case of R (Bancoult) v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the House of Lords on which judgment was given on 22 October 2008 have not yet been finalised.

Indian Ocean: Piracy

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the conditions under which the two British members of the crew of the MV Sirius Star are being held; and what assessment he has made of their safety and well-being. [242205]

David Miliband: We are making efforts to secure the release of all the crew members on board the MV Sirius Star. We have close contact with the families of the British captives, James Grady and Peter French, to whom we are providing consular assistance. Our understanding is that the crew onboard the Sirius Star have so far been treated reasonably well.

Israel: Religious Freedom

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the rights of Christians in the Palestinian territories with regard to (a) housing, (b) employment, (c) travel and (d) access to their property and lands. [242933]

Bill Rammell: We are concerned about the socio-economic differences between Arab and Christian population groups within the Palestinian territories, particularly with regard to land urban planning, housing infrastructure, economic development and education. We raise these concerns with the Palestinian Authority and will continue to work towards improving conditions for Palestinian minority groups.

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the incident on 23 November 2008 during which the Papal Nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Antonio Franco, was banned by Israeli authorities from entering Gaza; and if he will make a statement. [242935]

Bill Rammell: We have not received reports that Papal Nuncio in Israel was banned by Israeli authorities from entering Gaza. However, we are very concerned about the general restrictions Israel has imposed preventing all diplomats, including our own staff, and members of the international community from entering Gaza. We and our international partners are pressing Israel to remove these restrictions.

Pakistan: Prisoners

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British citizens were imprisoned in Pakistan during 2006. [241278]


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Bill Rammell: The number of British nationals who were imprisoned in Pakistan in 2006 and whose detention was reported to our high commission in Islamabad was 30.

Pitcairn Islands

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department has put in place evacuation plans for the inhabitants of the Pitcairn Islands in the event of a natural disaster. [242824]

Gillian Merron: Every Foreign and Commonwealth Office post is required to have an emergency plan which sets out the procedures to take in case of an emergency. Pitcairn’s was updated in May 2008.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the last occasion was on which a representative of his Department met an (a) inhabitant and (b) official of the Pitcairn Islands. [242825]

Gillian Merron: I met with Leslie Jaques, Pitcairn’s Commissioner, during the Overseas Territories Consultative Council which was held in London in October 2008. An officer from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office lives on Pitcairn and officials from the governor’s office in Wellington are in daily contact with the Pitcairn community and administrative offices in Auckland.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many people have migrated to and from the Pitcairn Islands in each of the last five years. [242827]

Gillian Merron: Our records show that two people migrated to Pitcairn in 2004, two people in 2005, one person in 2006, and four people in 2007. No people have officially migrated from the island in the last five years.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to promote conservation schemes and preserve biodiversity in the Pitcairn Islands; and which endangered bird species inhabit the Islands. [242828]

Gillian Merron: The Government, through the Overseas Territories Environment Programme, is currently providing between £97,537 between 2007 and 2010 for a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds-run feasibility study into the eradication of rats from Henderson Island, a world heritage site. The fund has been used in the past for a number of projects including the production of a Management Plan for Henderson Island.

According to the 2008 ‘Red List’ produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, seven species of birds in the Pitcairn group are considered to be vulnerable or endangered. These are the Henderson crake, Henderson fruit-dove, Henderson lorikeet, Henderson petrel, Henderson reed-warbler, Phoenix petrel and Pitcairn reed-warbler.


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Queen Elizabeth II: Anniversaries

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans his Department has made for marking the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. [240855]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not yet started its process of planning arrangements for marking the diamond jubilee in 2012 of Her Majesty The Queen's Accession.

Romania: Disabled

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made an assessment of the treatment of disabled people in (a) Romania and (b) the Philippines. [242578]

Caroline Flint: Romania has come a long way in its treatment of disabled children in the 20 years since the fall of Ceausescu. But problems do remain. EU funds are being used to help accelerate reforms. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister launched an initiative with the Romanian Prime Minister a year ago, sharing best practice on treatment of disabled children in Romania. Our embassy in Bucharest is in regular contact with the Romanian authorities and non governmental organisations and takes every opportunity to help raise public awareness of disability issues.

We have not made an assessment of the treatment of disabled people in the Philippines and have no current plans to do so. The Philippine government has declared its commitment to improve the situation of persons with disabilities and declared 2003-12 the Decade of Persons with Disabilities. Legislation exists to protect the rights of people with disabilities and ensure equal opportunities, including the Accessibility Law and the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons. However, overall levels of poverty and limited government resources mean that the majority of people with disabilities, particularly in rural areas, lack access to programmes and benefits designed to support them.

Russia: BBC External Services

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much and what proportion of the overall BBC World Service budget was spent on (a) Arabic-language services, (b) Persian-language services and (c) Russian-language services in each of the last five years. [240661]

Caroline Flint: Comparisons are difficult to make over the five year period (please see note 1). Over the last three years there has been a slight decrease in funding for the Russia service, mainly due to the withdrawal of FM partnerships in Russia. Funding has steadily increased on both Persian and Arabic services (for detailed figures please see the following table).


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£ million /Percentage

2004-05( 1) 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09

Russian

5.4

5.3

4.0

4.7

4.3

Proportion of operating grant in aid (percentage)

2.8

2.5

1.9

2.1

1.8

Arabic

15.8

16.0

7.2

7.8

7.7

Arabic TV

0

4.0

9.0

19.0

21.5

Total Arabic

15.8

20.0

16.2

26.8

29.2

Proportion of operating grant in aid (percentage)

8.2

9.6

7.8

12.1

12.5

Persian and Pashto

7.1

6.6

4.8

5.8

5.6

PTV

0

0

0

7.0

15.0

Total Persian and Pashto (£ million)

7.1

6.6

4.8

12.8

20.6

Proportion of operating grant in aid (percentage)

3.7

3.2

2.3

5.8

8.8

Operating grant in aid(2)

194.1

208.1

208.5

215.0

234.0

Additional PTV funding 2007-08

0

0

0

0

7.0

(1) Basis of accounting
In 2004-05 and 2005-06 language service budgets included allocations of transmission costs, studio and studio manager usage, accommodation costs and IT support. In 2006-07, these costs were centralised and excluded from language service costs in order to simplify accounting procedures. Consequently the figures are not directly comparable between 2006-09 and prior years.
(2) Note 2006-07—change in arrangements for BBC Monitoring
2005/06 b/fwd: £208.1 million
SR2004 increase: £6.5 million
Transfer to Cabinet Office re BBCM: £-6.1 million
Adjusted 2006/07: £208.5 million

Thailand: Politics and Government

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the political situation in Thailand. [242869]

Bill Rammell: The political situation in Thailand remains uncertain. The Thai Constitutional Court ruled on 2 December to dissolve three government coalition parties, including the People’s Power party, and banned executive members of the parties, including Prime Minister Somchai, from politics for five years. Efforts to form a new coalition government are continuing. We cannot rule out the possibility of further demonstrations and violent unrest. We continue to urge all parties to resolve their differences peacefully, respecting the rule of law and Thailand’s democratic institutions.

Tibet

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what factors have influenced the formulation of the Government’s policy on the status of Tibet in the last two years. [242714]

Bill Rammell: The UK’s policy in Tibet in the last two years has been based on one factor: our concern for the human rights situation in Tibet. We believe that the current situation there does not respect fully Tibetans’ distinct culture, religion and languages. We believe that this can best be addressed through a meaningful system of autonomy, achieved through dialogue between the Chinese authorities and representatives of the Dalai
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Lama. Our concern for the human rights situation in Tibet is part of our broader policy of promoting respect for human rights globally.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government’s policy on the status of Tibet is; and for what reasons that policy was recently changed. [243008]

Bill Rammell: The Government’s policy on the status of Tibet is set out in the written ministerial statement on Tibet of 29 October 2008, Official Report, columns 30-32WS: that we do not support Tibetan independence. Like every other EU member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. We have consistently made clear that we want to see the human rights of the Tibetan people respected, including through respect for their distinct culture, language and religions. We consider the position the Dalai Lama has stated publicly, that he opposes violence and is seeking meaningful autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution, provides a basis for a negotiated settlement.

We clarified our position in this way because our ability to get our points across on Tibet had sometimes been clouded by the position the UK took at the start of the 20(th) century on the status of Tibet. This had developed from the outdated concept of suzerainty. Our position as set out on 29 October allows us to speak unambiguously on the matter of Tibetan human rights.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes in the Government’s policy on the status of Tibet were contained in the written ministerial statement of 29 October 2008, Official Report, columns 30-32WS, on Tibet. [243361]

Bill Rammell: The written ministerial statement on 29 October 2008, Official Report, columns 30-32WS, formally updated the UK’s position on Tibet. It made clear that like every other EU member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet to be a part of the People’s Republic of China. This is different from our earlier position, which spoke of the ‘special position’ of the Chinese authorities in Tibet, and was based on the historical concept of suzerainty. We have made clear our view that the position the Dalai Lama has stated publicly, that he is seeking meaningful autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution, provides a basis for a negotiated settlement to the problems of Tibet.


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