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26 Feb 2009 : Column 946W—continued

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Diplomatic Service

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans to propose a UK candidate for the position of High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina. [253959]

David Miliband: The UK has proposed Sir Emyr Jones Parry GCMG for the appointment. Sir Emyr was the UK Permanent Representative to the UN from 2003-07, having served previously as the UK Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Political Director.

A decision on this appointment is expected by the end of this month.

Community Relations

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what funds his Department contributed to local authority Preventing Violent Extremism projects in 2008, broken down by local authority; and if he will make a statement. [251765]

Bill Rammell: None.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Armed Conflict

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support he is offering to (a) those involved in the recent joint military operation against the Lords Resistance Army and (b) the joint actions of Rwandan and Democratic Republic of Congo forces in and around Goma. [254170]

Gillian Merron [holding answer 3 February 2009]: The UK has not been approached for, nor provided, support to either military operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These operations are the result of two regional agreements between the states directly involved in the military action. We welcome the increased regional co-operation between the governments but urge all parties involved to fully respect international law, do all they can to minimise the humanitarian impact and fully co-ordinate with the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC).

Departmental ICT

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the initial estimated (a) cost and (b) delivery date was of each ICT project initiated by his Department in each year
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since 1997; what the (i) outturn cost and (ii) completion date was of each such project subsequently completed; which contractors were hired for each project; and how much has been paid to each contractor in respect of each project to date. [251381]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not have a central record of the information requested. A comprehensive reply cannot be provided without incurring disproportionate cost.

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which ICT projects his Department initiated and abandoned before completion in each year since 1997; what costs were incurred in each project; who the contractors for each were; on what date each was (a) commenced and (b) abandoned; and if he will make a statement. [251393]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not have a central record of the information requested. A comprehensive reply cannot be provided without incurring disproportionate cost.

However, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer provided by my right hon. Friend, the then Minister for Europe, Mr. Hoon, to the hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) on 4 September 2006, Official Report, column 2044W. Since then no significant projects have been abandoned.

Departmental Marketing

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many complaints about advertisements sponsored or funded by his Department were made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in each year from 1997 to 2008; and how many of these were upheld by the ASA in each year. [246650]

Gillian Merron: None.

Departmental Mobile Phones

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at which of his Department’s buildings abroad visitors are not permitted to take mobile telephones inside; what the reasons are for that practice; and whether his Department’s officials may use mobile telephones in such buildings. [248458]

Gillian Merron: For security reasons, visitors to all our missions overseas are required to leave their mobile telephones at the visitor reception point. Officials working at missions are permitted to use their mobile phones only in designated areas.

Departmental Pay

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department has allocated for staff bonuses in 2008-09. [252255]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) uses non-consolidated, non-pensionable bonuses to encourage high performance. We pay annual bonuses to staff in the delegated grades (all except
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senior managers) based on appraisal evidence of annual performance. The highest rating and bonus award is given only where performance has significantly exceeded challenging objectives and may have radically transformed delivery of policy and/or services. Staff who do not meet performance standards receive no bonus. Total pay-bill for the delegated grades is £181.7 million of which 2.78 per cent. is used for non-consolidated performance payments to staff.

Variable pay (bonus) arrangements for staff in the Senior Management Structure/Senior Civil Service (SMS/SCS) of the FCO follow a framework set centrally for Whitehall Departments by the Cabinet Office. We use variable pay for SMS/SCS staff to reward excellent individual performance and achievement during the year. Variable pay decisions are based on a judgment by pay committees of what an individual has achieved in comparison with peers. Those who have delivered the best results, and shown real leadership in doing so, receive bonuses. Those who have delivered least receive nothing. Departments were authorised to spend a sum equivalent to 8.6 per cent. of their SCS pay budget on bonuses to reward SCS performance in 2008.

For the financial year 2008-09 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has allocated a maximum total sum of £7,888,852 for expenditure on non-consolidated, performance-related staff bonuses.

Departmental Training

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which external organisations his Department has engaged to provide training for fast stream civil service staff in the last three years; and how many civil servants in his Department have participated in provision of training for external organisations in that period. [252224]

Gillian Merron: The National School of Government, Centre for Political and Diplomatic Studies and Development Solutions provide training to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). New fast stream members of the FCO can also undertake a range of training in their first two years in the office, some of which may be delivered by external organisations.

Some FCO civil servants speak to new entrants at training courses run by external organisations. They do so as part of their role as serving FCO officers. We do not keep a central record of the number of FCO civil servants who have participated in this way and to obtain this information would incur a disproportionate cost.

Diego Garcia: Rendition

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 25 November 2008, Official Report, column 1201W, on Diego Garcia: rendition, for what reasons he has not passed this information to the police; whether he has examined the possibility that criminal offences may have been committed in relation to the two rendition flights through Diego Garcia; and if he will make a statement. [246740]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 12 January 2009]: We have considered the possibility that criminal offences may have been committed in relation to the two rendition
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flights through Diego Garcia. We have very limited specific information about these flights and, despite enquiry, have not been able to establish further details that would be essential for purposes of further investigation.

We welcome President Obama's Executive Orders of 22 January 2009 covering the closure of Guantanamo Bay, detainee treatment and interrogation (including the practice of rendition). These early moves demonstrate real commitment to address the challenges of violent extremism in a manner consistent with upholding human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law.

Economic Situation

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions his Department has had with outside organisations to discuss policy on reducing the effect of the recession on matters within his Department's responsibility. [254055]

Gillian Merron: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has regular engagements with outside organisations including relevant Government Departments on a range of issues relating to the economy and how they impact upon the UK's foreign policy goals.

Falkland Islands

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to visit the Falkland Islands. [254695]

Gillian Merron: Neither my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary nor I currently have any plans to visit the Falkland Islands. I met Falkland Islands Councillor Michael Summers OBE in October 2008, shortly after taking up my current ministerial portfolio. In addition, my hon. Friend, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Meg Munn), visited the Falkland Islands in January 2008.

India: Foreign Relations

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) meetings and (b) engagements he had in India during his recent visit. [253373]

Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited India from 13-15 January 2009. In New Delhi, he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Foreign Minister Mukherjee, Home Minister Chidambaram and National Security Adviser Narayanan among others. He visited Uttar Pradesh as the guest of Rahul Gandhi and then Mumbai, where he delivered a speech on terrorism and met some of those affected by the terrorist attacks in November. He also participated in a range of useful meetings and events with various Indian politicians, civil society and the media.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the state of UK-India relations following his recent visit to India. [253374]


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Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited India from 13-15 January 2009. The UK continues to enjoy a close and constructive relationship with India. We have extensive contacts with the Indian government and civil society on a wide range of diplomatic, political, security, economic, trade, development, scientific and cultural issues. We have an extensive network of posts in India staffed from several departments across Whitehall who work to promote UK interests in India.

Government Ministers also have regular discussions with their Indian counterparts about bilateral, regional and global issues. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is committed to improving relations with India even further in 2009 and beyond.

Iran: Politics and Government

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to (a) the government of Iran and (b) the recent Iranian delegation to London comprising five members of the Iranian-British Parliamentary Group on the disputed sovereignty of the Abu Musa, Tunb and Lesser Tunb islands in the Strait of Hormuz; and if he will make a statement. [254007]

Bill Rammell: The Government have not made any representations to the government of Iran, nor to the recent delegation of five members of the Iranian Parliament to London, on the disputed sovereignty of the Abu Musa, Tunb and Lesser Tunb islands.

The UK regards this dispute as a matter for resolution between the countries concerned.

Kashmir

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his Indian counterpart about Jammu Kashmir. [254684]

Bill Rammell: On 14 January 2009, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir with Indian External Affairs Minister Mukherjee. The Foreign Secretary also discussed Indian-administered Kashmir with External Affairs Minister Mukherjee on 2 September 2008 and 24 October 2008.

Middle East: Armed Conflict

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his most recent assessment is of the political situation in Gaza. [248315]

Bill Rammell: Our assessment is that the current situation in Gaza is very concerning. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are in close touch with their counterparts working to achieve an immediate and permanent ceasefire.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he made to (a) the United Nations and (b) the protagonists in Gaza seeking an immediate ceasefire in the conflict in Gaza between 28 December 2008 and 5 January 2009. [249165]


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Bill Rammell: The UN Security Council met on 27 December 2008 to discuss the conflict in Gaza. On 28 December 2008, a UK-French proposal for a press statement calling for an immediate halt to violence was agreed. On 1 January 2009, we started looking at suitable language which ultimately became UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1860. Throughout this period, the UK was in continuous communication with key partners at the UN. Following three days of Security Council meetings, which were attended by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, UNSCR 1860 was adopted on 8 January 2009.

We were in continuous dialogue with the Israeli Government and Palestinian Authority.

We do not believe it is productive to talk to Hamas directly until it makes significant movement towards the Quartet principles of rejecting violence, accepting Israel’s right to exist and recognising previous agreements. The Arab League has mandated Egypt to communicate with Hamas. We are in regular contact with both the Arab League and Egypt.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to Israel on the use of white phosphorus shells in Gaza in the last 12 months. [249211]

Bill Rammell: We are very concerned about reports of white phosphorus ammunition being used by the Israeli defence force in Gaza. We have made this clear directly to both the Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv.

I have also made clear to the House that Gaza is an exceptionally densely populated area where white phosphorus used as an air burst is liable to cause particularly horrific injuries to non-combatants. We consider such use in these circumstances unacceptable.

Clare Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to take into account the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on Israel’s wall in the West Bank when implementing the human rights provisions of the EU-Israel trade agreement; and if he will make a statement. [250294]

Bill Rammell: The Government agree with the conclusion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that construction of the barrier along the chosen route, and its associated regime, is unlawful under international law. Building the barrier on occupied land is contrary to international law.

The Government have consistently made this position clear and supported the United Nations General Assembly Resolution which acknowledged the ICJ advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of the barrier in the occupied Palestinian territory.

While the implementation of the provisions of EU agreements is the business of the European Commission, we continue to value the platform that the EU/Israel Association Agreement gives EU member states to raise their concerns, such as those concerning the route of the barrier, with the Government of Israel.


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