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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Royal Navy ships participating in counter-piracy operations are trained and provided with the required rules of engagement to counter the threats they may face. Under these guidelines, HMS Cumberland successfully deterred an attack and rescued a pirated Yemeni vessel and crew last November.
Mr. Kevan Jones: In addition to the existing, extensive welfare support provided by the Services, units receive a Families Welfare Grant to support the families of those who have deployed. Units can exercise considerable discretion in how this money is spent but typically it might be used to; pay for families briefings, to provide additional communications facilities such as internet access or to subsidise the cost of families outings. In acknowledgement of the demands placed upon our families we doubled this Grant in November last year so that each unit now receives £2.20 per week for each person deployed; for a typical battalion this amounts to about £35,000 over a six month deployment. Families also benefit from the email and telephone access, and free blueys and e-blueys provided to deployed personnel to help them keep in touch with their loved ones.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 26 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1742-43W, on Afghanistan: peacekeeping operations, how he plans to inform the House of the implications of the Afghan review; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell [holding answer 12 January 2009]: As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced to the House on 3 December 2008, Official Report, columns 28-29, a review of the Governments Afghanistan policy is under way, involving the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, and reporting to the Prime Minister. Once completed, the findings and implications of the review will be announced to the House.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many personnel there are on each of the four British research stations in the British Antarctic Territory. 
Gillian Merron: The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) maintains three research stations in the British Antarctic Territory on behalf of the UK. Two operate year-round (Rothera, Adelaide Island and Halley, Coats Land) and the third is a summer-only base (Signy, South Orkney Islands). Numbers of personnel at each of the bases are as follows:
Rotherabetween 80-120 in summer and 21 in winter
Halleyup to 70 (summer) and 16 (winter)
Signyup to nine (summer only)
In addition, BAS also operates two year-round research stations in the UK Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. These are at King Edward Point, South Georgia and Bird Island. Numbers of personnel at these bases are:
King Edward Pointup to 22 (summer) and 10 (winter)
Bird Islandup to 10 (summer) and four (winter).
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what research activity the UK is conducting in the British Antarctic Territory; and what the objectives of such research are. 
The UK is committed to maintaining its leading role in Antarctic science and research and is conducting an extensive, multi-disciplinary programme of activities in the British Antarctic Territory and more widely within the Antarctic. These include areas such as climate change, sea level rise and the sustainable use of natural resources. The contribution of UK scientists, especially those at the British Antarctic Survey (a research institute of the Natural Environment Research Council), not only helps increase our understanding of the complex
natural systems that are vital to the health of the planet but also underpins the UKs high profile within the Antarctic Treaty System.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what international laws govern drilling and mineral extraction rights in the British Antarctic Territory; and what reports he has received on attempted oil exploration or research in the Antarctic by other countries. 
Gillian Merron: The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty sets out a comprehensive regime for the protection of the Antarctic environment and prohibits any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research. We have received no reports on attempted oil exploration or research in the Antarctic by other countries.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what areas in the British Antarctic Territories (a) are designated and (b) receive funding from his Department as sites of special scientific interest. 
None of the ASP As for which the UK is responsible within the British Antarctic Territory receive funding, other than that needed to prepare and update management plans. Direct funding of the above ASP As is unnecessary as all such designated areas are given comprehensive protection via the Antarctic Treaty System and all states parties to the treaty are required to control access and entry strictly.
Gillian Merron: The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) maintains three research stations in the British Antarctic Territory on behalf of the UK. The core funding for maintaining these bases is provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many ministerial or state visits to Belize there have been in each of the last 20 years; and what future ministerial or state visits are planned. 
Gillian Merron: Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh last visited Belize in February 1994. HRH the Princess Royal subsequently visited in April 2001, and HRH the Duke of York in March 2002.
February 1998 Tony Lloyd, then Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister;
January 2000 Peter Kilfoyle, then Ministry of Defence Minister;
July 2000 John Battle, then FCO Minister
May 2002 Dr. Denis MacShane, then FCO Minister
January 2004 Bill Rammell, then FCO Minister;
April 2004 Meg Munn, then FCO Minister.
There are no current plans for FCO Ministers to visit Belize and it is not practice to announce Royal Visits until all parties concerned have agreed they can proceed, and all arrangements are in place.
Gillian Merron: Foreign and Commonwealth office records show that visits by Brazilian Government Ministers to the UK since 2001 include those of President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, who made a state visit to the UK in 2006, and also visited in 2003, the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Secretary of the Treasury, and the Ministers for Agriculture, Development, Planning, Finance and Justice.
Gillian Merron: I visited Brazil in December 2008. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers have made nine other official visits to Brazil since 2001. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett) visited Brazil in July 2006 when Foreign Secretary, and there have also been ministerial visits by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), my noble Friend Lord Triesman, and my hon. Friends the Members for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), Dudley, South (Ian Pearson) and Harlow (Bill Rammell).
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans there are for reductions in British Council (a) posts and (b) capital works on its estates, as referred to on page 28 of his Department's Autumn 2008 Performance Report; and which posts have been identified for closure. 
David Miliband: The post reductions referred to in the Departments Performance Report relate to jobs within the British Councils global support services. Decisions on particular jobs will be determined by a review of the British Councils support services, which will report in summer 2009. The review will consider how best to maximise efficiency and effectiveness from the Councils support services through the consolidation of these activities into a small number of global hubs. The British Councils capital expenditure related to its Global Estates will be reviewed within the same timescale.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the merits of granting full independence to (a) the British Virgin Islands, (b) Bermuda, (c) the Turks and Caicos Islands, (d) Anguilla and (e) the Cayman Islands. 
Gillian Merron: The 1999 White Paper on the Overseas Territories (Partnership for Progress and Prosperity) made clear that it is for the citizens of each territory to determine whether they wish to stay linked to Britain or not. Our policy remains to give every help and encouragement to those territories that wish to proceed to independence, where it is an option. Since the White Paper, no territory has opted for independence, we have therefore not made a recent assessment of the merits of granting independence to any overseas territory.
Bill Rammell: The UK has consistently supported firm action in all UN bodies on the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese regime. The UK supported a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly on 21 November 2008 which called on Burma to release, without delay and conditions, opposition activists who have been arrested arbitrarily. It also condemned the ongoing, systematic violations of civil, political, economic and social rights of the people of Burma.
Our ambassador in Burma has made clear to Burmese Ministers that all political prisoners must be released in line with UN Security Council demands. We will continue to work to keep the issue of Burma on the agenda of the UN Security Council.
Gillian Merron [holding answer 19 January 2009]: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office continually seeks to improve on the service delivered to British Nationals overseas. Our overarching approach is set out in the Consular Strategy 2007-2010, a copy of which I will place in the Library of the House.
Examples of recent steps the FCO has taken to improve the service we offer includes: an increase of over 100 per cent. in the number of Missions which can take payment for services by credit card; passport applications and the majority of consular forms are now available on the internet; the public can register with our online crisis registration tool, LOCATE, supporting our consular response during a crisis; internet enabled computers have been installed in some consular waiting rooms; registered British nationals resident in a some countries can now receive SMS updates with important information; and we have modernised and
improved on the training package for consular officialsincluding a requirement for staff to pass a customer care skills assessment.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department will next lead the UK delegation to the meeting of the members of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. 
Bill Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will next lead the UK delegation at the 28th annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which will take place in Hobart, Australia from 26 October to 6 November 2009.
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the government of Rwanda on its role in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Gillian Merron: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed the part Rwanda might play in resolving the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with President Kagame in December 2008. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown, also discussed the issue with President Kagame during their visits to Kigali in November 2008. We continue to urge the Governments of the DRC and Rwanda to co-operate in efforts to settle the issues at the root of the conflict. I am encouraged by the progress they have made in recent months.
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