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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, column 1742W, on Afghanistan: peacekeeping operations, when he expects to publish the results of the detailed periodic assessment of the Governments Afghanistan strategy. 
Bill Rammell: 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.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received of (a) closures of churches in Burma and (b) the treatment of Christians in that country; what recent representations he has made to the government of Burma on the matter; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: We are concerned that the Burmese regime has imposed restrictions on churches and other places of worship for religious minorities in Rangoon. We condemn the marginalisation or persecution of any community based on their religious beliefs. We also remain concerned about reports that the mainly Buddhist Burmese authorities restrict freedom of religion. There are Christians among a variety of ethnic groups in Burma, though their persecution by the authorities appears to be based largely on their ethnicity rather than their faith.
The regimes actions are part of a wider deterioration of the human rights situation in Burma and the UK will continue to ask the UN Secretary-Generals Good Offices mission and representatives of the UN human rights bodies to raise our concerns with the State Peace and Development Council.
Bill Rammell: The UK supports the principle of a Central Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone and welcomes Kazakhstans recent ratification of the treaty of Semipalatinsk. The Government believe this gives the central Asian states the opportunity to amend articles IV and XII, the provisions of which pertaining to transit arrangements and the primacy of previous security arrangements are not in our view compatible with a nuclear weapon-free zone. Acceptable amendments to these provisions will enable the UK to ratify the protocol to the treaty.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the average cost to his Department of responding to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 has been since 2006. 
Gillian Merron: A report prepared for the Ministry of Justice by Frontier Economics Ltd. in October 2006 entitled Independent Review of the impact of the Freedom of Information Act estimated a figure of £254 for a central Government body to deal with an initial Freedom of Information request. Based on this figure, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has spent an estimated £805,434 since 2006.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the latest annual survey of the UKs reputation in the US, China and India in the financial services, ICT, life sciences and energy sectors, as referred to on page eight of his Departments Autumn 2008 Performance Report. 
Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many telephone numbers for which callers are charged at the rate applicable to 0845 numbers are used by (a) his Department and (b) its executive agencies for public access to services. 
Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and its executive agencies maintain one 0845 number. This number is provided as an alternative to the FCO website for users to access up to date travel advice. The FCO receives no financial benefit from this arrangement.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of (a) attacks on the Abu Fana monastery in Egypt and (b) the risk of attacks on the Coptic community in Egypt; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: The Government have received reports of an incident which occurred at the Abu Fana Coptic monastery on 31 May 2008. The incident concerned the building of a wall on agricultural land disputed by the local village, Deir Abu Fana and the monastery. The dispute became violent when a mob attacked the monastery, killing a local resident. Two monastery workers suffered bullet wounds, two monks suffered injuries and three monks were taken by the mob and badly beaten. I understand that the disagreement has been settled through customary informal negotiations. We understand that no one has been brought to trial and 15 people remain in detention.
With at least 8 million Coptic Christians in Egypt, creating tolerance between Coptic and Muslim communities is essential. The Egyptian President is personally involved in efforts to promote tolerance and inter-faith harmony, and has taken steps to promote and protect the rights of Christian, such as appointing Christians to parliament and other senior government posts (including the Head of the National Council for Human Rights). But sectarian tension and discrimination does sometimes exist at grass roots level. We regularly raise our concerns about human rights with the Egyptian government, and will continue to do so.
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what financial facilities his Department has made available to the EU offices of the devolved Administrations; what sums were provided; and what period elapsed between payment and cost recovery in each case in each of the last five years. 
Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Joint Management Office (JMO) in Brussels provides management services including financial facilities to the three UK missions in Brussels: UK Delegation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; UK Representation to the EU and our bilateral Embassy, as well as to the EU offices of the devolved Administrations.
Additionally, there is a financial facility in place for us to recover costs incurred on behalf of the devolved Administrations, such as for transport, and until last year a charge for management services provided by the JMO.
|Financial facility charges to devolved Administrations for the period 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2008 including management costs|
Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) his US counterpart, (b) his Israeli counterpart and (c) others to discuss the flow of weapons into Gaza. 
Bill Rammell [holding answer 2 February 2009]: We are extremely concerned about the smuggling of arms and people into Gaza. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met US Secretary of State Clinton on 4 February 2009 and Israeli Foreign Minister Livni on 21 January 2009 to discuss Gaza and the Middle East Peace Process, including arms smuggling. He has frequently spoken to his US, Israeli and other counterparts on ways to help prevent smuggling.
Bill Rammell [holding answer 10 February 2009]: I should clarify that it was the US, not the UK, who had sole responsibility for the security and administration of the camp. The responsibility for the camp was handed to the Iraqi authorities from 1 January 2009 by the US. Several hundred former residents have voluntarily returned to Iran in the recent past. Reporting leads us to understand that those who have returned have not been ill treated. Repatriations to Iran of those residents who wish to return will continue. But there is no evidence to suggest forced relocation of the residents in Iraq or elsewhere will take place. Whilst residents of the camp were treated as protected persons, this was exercised at the good will of the US authorities in charge and was not granted through any legal obligation under international law.
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment has been made by the European Union of the financial cost of damage or destruction of EU-funded facilities in the Palestinian Territories by Israeli military action since 1998; and whether compensation has been paid by Israel to the EU. 
Bill Rammell: A full assessment of the humanitarian consequences and the damage caused by the military operation has yet to be made. Relief needs are expected to be huge. Activities in the Gaza strip will be part of an early recovery plan which will follow a joint needs assessment being coordinated with multilateral and international donors. The UK will welcome any contribution made towards the reconstruction of Gaza.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on allegations of Hamas fighters (a) shedding uniforms, (b) donning civilian clothing and (c) hiding within the civilian population in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: We have received credible reportsincluding from human rights non-governmental organisations and from our own staff in Gazathat Hamas fighters attempted to blend into the civilian population, that they conducted military activities in areas where civilians were sheltering and that they booby-trapped civilian infrastructure. UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which was proposed by the UK, was emphatic in its condemnation of all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.
Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will make representations to the Israeli government to fund most of the reconstruction work required in Gaza. 
Bill Rammell: We would welcome an Israeli contribution to the wider reconstruction effort. The most essential Israeli action that we continue to press for is the immediate free and unhindered passage of humanitarian aid, construction materials and the staff of UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations through the Gaza crossings.
Gillian Merron: Where it is known that a British national has already been forced into marriage, staff from our high commission in Islamabad will attempt to contact the individual to offer support. This can vary from a welfare visit to assistance in returning to the UK. We work closely with both the central and local authorities in Pakistan in providing this assistance.
To help support victims of Forced Marriage, the Forced Marriage Civil Protection Act was introduced in November 2008. The Act allows the court the power to protect victims who have already been forced into marriage and also to make protection orders to prevent forced marriages occurring. A number of protection orders have already been used since the acts introduction. A copy of the Act is available on the Office of Public Sector Information at:
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his assessment is of the level of compliance by Russia with the terms of the 12 August and 8 September 2008 agreements on Georgia; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: On 12 August 2008, the EU and Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) brokered a ceasefire between the parties. These points were supplemented by an implementation plan, again brokered by the EU and OSCE, and agreed on 8 September 2008.
Russia has met a number, though not all, of its commitments under the 8 August and 12 September 2008 plans. Though Russia withdrew from most of the areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia within 10 days of the deployment of an EU Mission to Georgia, it retains a checkpoint at Perevi, which is in the rest of Georgia outside South Ossetia. And within South Ossetia and Abkhazia it has failed to withdraw to its pre-conflict positions: Russian forces are now stationed in the Upper Kodori Valley in Abkhazia and the Akhalgori region of South Ossetia. Neither area was under Russian control before hostilities began.
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