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13 Jan 2009 : Column 544W—continued

From 1999 to 2008, FCO Services, a Trading Fund of the FCO, participated in the Equal Choices Schools Initiative programme. They take 16 children annually, from ethnic minority backgrounds, who spend two days gaining an insight into their work.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer of 27 November 2006 Official Report, column 487W for information on the regional backgrounds and numbers of students undertaking work experience at the FCO, before 2006.

The school background of work placement students is not requested as a matter of course at the application stage and has therefore only been provided when held.

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Drugs: Smuggling

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to prevent illegal drugs reaching the UK from abroad. [243684]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 15 December 2008]: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) remains engaged on drugs and crime work, even though the policy lead passed to Home Office as from 1 April 2008. In London, we give policy advice to operational agencies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and UK Border Agency (UKBA) and task our global network to help deliver the Government's objectives. Our Posts overseas continue to provide political reporting and lobbying support where necessary.

Our focus is now at strategic level, where the FCO can best add value (foreign policy expertise, building relationships with partner countries, creating effective multipliers through the EU and other multi-lateral bodies). This involves close co-operation with Home Office, SOCA, UKBA, Metropolitan Police Service, Crown Prosecution Service and HM Revenue and Customs to define the threat from drugs and crime to the UK and decide how/where best to tackle it overseas.

Through the FCO’s Drugs and Crime programme we are helping to build capacity amongst local law enforcement agencies and judiciaries, with the provision of training and equipment. We work closely with other partners including the EU and US, to maximise joint effort.

We are tackling the problem of the trade in opium from Afghanistan through a multi-pronged strategy, which aims to reduce opium production there over time by offering farmers alternative livelihoods, building better governance, promoting the rule of law, rooting out corruption, interdicting the trade, eradicating opium poppy where possible, and breaking the link between the trade and the insurgency. This work is funded by the Afghan counter-narcotics programme.

Libya: Terrorism

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's meeting with the hon. Member for Belfast North and others on 10 December, whether he plans to press the Government of Libya to reopen the question of compensation to victims of terrorism in the UK; and if he will make a statement. [244967]

Bill Rammell: The meeting between the PM and the hon. Member for Belfast North and others on 10 December provided an opportunity for discussion on this issue. The PM is acutely aware of the sensitivities and frustrations of this issue, as he expressed during this meeting. I would emphasise that the Government does not condone in any way Libya's past actions and the victims of IRA atrocities have our whole hearted sympathy. We have tested the Libyan position on IRA compensation on a number of occasions and the US raised it on our behalf in August this year. Each time the Libyans have reiterated that they consider the matter closed. As the PM stated on 10 December, we will not therefore seek to negotiate a bilateral settlement on this issue with Libya. However, we will monitor the position of Libya in relation to this
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issue. The Government have already openly responded to queries on compensation for victims of IRA terrorism and will continue to do so.

Rashid Rauf

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the United Kingdom intelligence services had knowledge of Mr Rashid Rauf's whereabouts on the night of the US air strike of 21 November 2008 in North Waziristan, Pakistan. [243425]

Bill Rammell: It is the long standing policy of the Government not to comment on operational intelligence matters.

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) the Government of Pakistan and (b) the US Administration have made representations to the UK Government about the US air strike of 21 November in North Waziristan, Pakistan. [243429]

Bill Rammell: We have frequent discussions with both the US and Pakistan about how to deal with the problem of violent extremism in Pakistan. The subject of US missile strikes in Pakistan is a matter for the US and Pakistani Governments. We have asked the Government of Pakistan whether they can confirm the press reports that a dual Pakistani-British national was killed in the attack of 21 November.

Russia: Broadcasting

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had on the restriction of Russian broadcasters to the UK since 1990. [245878]

Caroline Flint: Since 1990, the FCO has had no discussions on restricting Russian broadcasters to the UK.

Russia: Detainees

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what assessment he has made of (a) the legal system in Russia and (b) the Russian Federation's compliance with its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights, with regard to the treatment of (i) Mikhail Khodorkovsky and (ii) Platon Lebedev; [246835]

(2) what discussions (a) he, (b) members of his Department and (c) UK representatives overseas have had with (i) members and (ii) representatives of the government of the Russian Federation on the ongoing imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev; [246837]

(3) if he will make a statement on (a) the ongoing imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev and other individuals affected by the Yukos affair and the recent refusal of parole to them and (b) the role played by the Russian government and its agencies in their ongoing imprisonment; [246838]

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(4) what arrangements the British Embassy in Moscow is making to monitor the forthcoming new trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev (a) unilaterally and (b) in co-operation with other EU embassies; [246839]

(5) if his Department will make representations to the Russian government on (a) the ongoing imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev and (b) the recent decision by the Russian courts to limit the defendants' access to materials pertinent to their case. [246840]

Caroline Flint: Promoting the rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary, is a key element of the UK's and EU's engagement with Russia. We are concerned that judicial reform in Russia is not progressing as rapidly as is needed. The UK and the EU will also continue to encourage Russia to fulfil all the international commitments it has signed up to, including those under the European convention on human rights.

We have raised and continue to raise regularly our concerns about the arbitrary application of the rule of law in Russia, both bilaterally and through the EU, including the cases of both Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. We also have concerns about the due process and fair treatment of others who have been arrested or prosecuted in the Yukos Affair. These include concerns about access to lawyers and medical care, conditions of detention and the alleged harassment of defence teams and witnesses. While we welcome the recent release on bail of Vasily Aleksanyan, we remain concerned about the delay in the early release hearing for Svetlana Bakhmina. We will continue to monitor developments in these cases, co-ordinating trial monitoring with EU partners in line with EU guidelines on protection of human rights defenders.

We will raise these issues at the UK/Russia bilateral human rights talks on 16 January 2009.

Sudan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects the Government of Sudan to facilitate clearance of UN-AM Mission in Darfur equipment through a single point of entry at Port Sudan following its agreement earlier this year; and what discussions the Special Envoy to Sudan has had with the Government of Sudan on this matter. [242832]

Gillian Merron: As part of a tripartite agreement reached on 7 October 2008 with the UN and the African Union, the Government of Sudan undertook to facilitate clearance of UN/AM Mission in Darfur equipment through a single point of entry at Port Sudan. This clearance has subsequently been granted.

We have underlined the importance of implementation of the tripartite agreement with the Government of Sudan, including through the UK Special Representative for Sudan, as well as in the UN Security Council, and will continue to monitor progress.

Western Sahara

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has discussed with his Moroccan counterpart the delay in appointing a new personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara. [244264]

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Bill Rammell: The appointment of Personal Envoys and Special Representatives is a matter for the Secretary-General and we respect his independence in making such appointments. The UK hopes that the UN Secretary-General will appoint a new Personal Envoy shortly and that a further round of negotiations will take place soon. We have called on the parties to maintain their commitment to the negotiation process.

Western Sahara: Fisheries

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether UK-registered trawlers are fishing in waters off occupied Western Sahara. [244922]

Huw Irranca-Davies: I have been asked to reply.

Two UK-registered fishing vessels have fished in the waters off Western Sahara during 2008 under the EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement. They are not operating currently in these waters.

The EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement was agreed in 2006 and sets out the terms for which UK and other European fishing vessels may fish in the waters off the coast of Western Sahara. The agreement does not prejudice the issue of the status of Western Sahara, which the UK regards as undetermined pending UN efforts to find a resolution. Nor does the agreement represent recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the maritime waters off Western Sahara.

House of Commons Commission

Parliament: Security

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission which office is responsible for the security of materials kept in the places of work assigned to hon. Members on the Parliamentary Estate. [247040]

Nick Harvey: Executive responsibility for the security of the Parliamentary Estate rests with the office of the Serjeant at Arms. Every individual who works in the House of Commons is responsible for care of personal property and official property in their place of work. Advice on office security is available through the Serjeant at Arms from the police crime prevention officer.

More detailed procedures for handling sensitive personal data and material are outlined in the publication “Data Protection Act 1988: Advice for Members’ Offices”:


Humber Bridge Toll: VAT

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what effect the reduction in the rate of value added tax will have on the level of the Humber Bridge toll in 2009; and if he will make a statement. [247320]

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Paul Clark: The Humber bridge was built under local authority-promoted legislation and is managed by a board made up of local authorities. It is, therefore, exempt from VAT.

Transport: Crime

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many crimes were reported to British Transport Police in (a) England, (b) London, (c) each London borough and (d) each London (i) underground, (ii) mainline and (iii) interchange station of (A) violence against the person, (B) sexual offences, (C) theft of passenger property and (D) robbery in each of the last five years, broken down by sex of the victim; and whether the crime was reported by a member of (1) the public and (2) rail staff in each case. [247148]

Paul Clark: This information is not held by the Department for Transport, but by the British Transport police who can be contacted at:

Culture, Media and Sport

Departmental Telephone Services

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what use (a) his Department and (b) service providers under contract to his Department make of (i) 0844 and 0845 telephone numbers and (ii) revenue-sharing telephone numbers for calls from members of the public; for which services such numbers are used; what prefixes are used for revenue-sharing numbers; how much revenue has accrued from revenue-sharing numbers in each of the last five years; what consideration his Department has given to introducing 03-prefixed telephone numbers for calls to all such services; and if he will make a statement. [247338]

Mr. Sutcliffe: My Department does not operate any public service 0844/0845 numbers.

Radio Frequencies

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what representations he has received on (a) the UK's obligations arising from membership of the International Telecommunication Union and (b) the provisions of its regulations relating to harmful radio interference; and if he will make a statement. [242440]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 15 December 2008]: I have been asked to reply.

BERR have received one representation on the UK's membership of the International Telecommunications Union and the provisions of the Radio Regulations relating to harmful radio interference, which was received from the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) on a constituents complaint regarding interference issues relating to power-line adaptors.

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Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will take steps, in accordance with the International Telecommunications Union regulations on harmful radio interference, to ensure that the operation of electrical apparatus or installations, including power and telecommunications distribution networks, does not cause harmful interference to any radio communications service, with particular reference to international shortwave broadcasting and amateur radio; and if he will make a statement. [242441]

Ian Pearson [holding answer 17 December 2008]: I have been asked to reply.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is a specialised agency of the United Nations with responsibility for information and communication technologies. The ITU Constitution is one of the basic texts of the organisation and this describes its function in relation to interference. The Constitution defines the role of the ITU in the prevention of harmful interference between radio stations of different countries. This is achieved through a process of management of radio frequencies, and orbital positions and characteristics of satellites. In rare cases where interference does occur, the ITU coordinates efforts to eliminate harmful interference between radio stations of different countries.

The Radio Regulations determine the level of protection from harmful interference which one country may claim from another through a process of allocating frequency bands to radio communication services. The ITU maintains a system of registration of frequency use and the rights to protection of a given service are determined by a combination of compliance with the allocation table, registration with the ITU, and the sharing arrangements between services allocated in the same band.

Due to the nature of short wave broadcasting and amateur radio, received signals are often weak and susceptible to local interference—in particular, from the wide range of modern electronic equipment to be found in the typical domestic environment.

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