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26 Feb 2009 : Column 951W—continued


26 Feb 2009 : Column 952W

Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Israeli Ambassador on the use of white phosphorus shells in Gaza since 27 December 2008. [250418]

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

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey of 13 January 2009, Official Report, column 116, on Palestine, what steps he has taken to ensure that allegations that the Israeli defence force used (a) white phosphorus and (b) dense inert metal explosive bombs during its recent actions in Gaza are investigated by international agencies. [253452]

Bill Rammell: We are gravely concerned at widespread allegations that Israel and Hamas have violated international humanitarian law. These allegations have been made publicly by credible organisations such as the United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross. During his 19 January 2009 statement, Official Report, column 501, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary called for them to be closely and speedily investigated.

We expect Israel to investigate allegations made against its forces, and have made this clear to the Israeli Government.

In addition, the UN Human Rights Council has decided to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law by Israel in Gaza.

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government is involved in an international investigation on whether war crimes were committed by Israel in Gaza; and if he will make a statement. [253932]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 3 February 2009]: We are gravely concerned at widespread allegations that Israel and Hamas have violated international humanitarian law. During his statement to Parliament of 19 January 2009, Official Report, column 501, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary called for them to be closely and speedily investigated.

The UN Secretary-General has launched a Board of Inquiry into the shelling of UN premises in Gaza. The UK fully supports this inquiry and we urge all parties to co-operate with it.

We also expect Israel to investigate allegations made against its forces, and have made this clear to the Israeli Government.

In addition, the UN Human Rights Council has decided to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law by Israel in Gaza.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Answer of 28 January 2009, Official Report, column 604W, on the Middle East: armed conflict, what the reasons are for the Government’s policy on this matter; and if he will make a statement. [255014]


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Bill Rammell: We assess all arms export applications on a case by case basis against the criteria covered by the EU Common Position on arms export controls which creates legal obligations on the UK to consider arms export licence applications in this way. We believe this provides a transparent, consistent and effective way to manage responsibly the export of arms from the UK. My right hon. Friend the late Robin Cook when Foreign Secretary explained in this House why we have adopted this policy in his response to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Mr. Timms) on 28 July 1997, Official Report, column 26. My right hon. Friend, the then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Hain), reiterated this explanation in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) on 26 October 2000, Official Report, column 199W.

In assessing current licence applications for Israel we take very carefully into account the recent conflict in the region. We will not authorise an export if to do so would be inconsistent with the criteria in the EU Common Position on arms export controls: this includes, for example, where there is a clear risk of exports being used either for internal repression or for external aggression the export licence is not granted.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports the Government has received on war crimes allegedly committed by the government of Israel during Operation Cast Lead; and if he will make a statement. [255106]

Bill Rammell: We are gravely concerned at widespread allegations that Israel and Hamas have violated international humanitarian law. These allegations have been made publicly by credible organisations such as the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary called for them to be closely and speedily investigated in his statement to Parliament of 19 January 2009, Officia l Report, column 501.

The UN Secretary-General has launched a Board of Inquiry into the shelling of UN premises in Gaza. The UK fully supports this inquiry and we urge all parties to co-operate with it.

We also expect Israel to investigate allegations made against its forces, and have made this clear to the Israeli government.

Saudi Arabia: Festivals and Special Occasions

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his most recent correspondence with the British Ambassador in Saudi Arabia on the Hajj pilgrimage and Mr. Gorgi took place; when he last met the Ambassador to discuss the Hajj pilgrimage; how many British citizens (a) sustained injuries and (b) died of unnatural causes while making the Hajj pilgrimage in the last (i) 12 months and (ii) five years; and what estimate he has made of the number of UK residents who travelled to Saudi Arabia to undertake the pilgrimage in each of the last five years. [250814]

Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is in regular contact with our ambassador in Saudi Arabia who keeps him appraised of issues including the Hajj. And the ambassador and his staff are in
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regular contact with the Minister of Hajj and Ministry officials. The ambassador’s most recent correspondence with Mr. Gorgi was in August 2008 in reply to your letter of 2 July 2008. During the 2008 Hajj there were no reports of British nationals sustaining injuries and no deaths from unnatural causes which is the same for 2007. In December 2006 there were three deaths and 30 sustained injuries in a coach crash, in January 2006 three died in a stampede and two sustained injuries and in 2005 and 2004 there were no deaths from unnatural causes and no injuries.

The numbers of British nationals making pilgrimages over the last five years are 18,604 in 2008, 21,715 in 2007, 24,000 in December 2006, 25,000 in January 2006, 27,910 in 2005 and 22,270 in 2004.

Sri Lanka: Armed Conflict

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the level of risk to which British civilians in Sri Lanka are exposed. [251999]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 29 January 2009]: Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advice sets out our view of the risk to Britons in Sri Lanka. It is regularly reviewed and updated. Our Travel Advice currently advises against all travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka and to Yala National Park and all the areas around it. The current Travel Advice also highlights that there is a high threat from terrorism in Sri Lanka and that further attacks may occur at any time.

For further details see:

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of (a) civilian and (b) military casualties in the recent fighting in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. [253469]

Bill Rammell: We are seriously concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation and reports of civilian casualties. It is not possible to obtain accurate information on civilian and military casualties, due to the ongoing military hostilities and the lack of independent information emerging from northern Sri Lanka.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of allegations that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam used the 48-hour time frame granted by the Sri Lankan government for safe passage for civilians to regroup and mount attacks on the Sri Lankan security forces. [254625]

Bill Rammell: The UK continues to have serious concerns about the humanitarian and security situation in northern Sri Lanka. The military hostilities and the lack of independent information coming out of the conflict area make it difficult to get accurate information. However, in spite of calls for a 48-hour ceasefire to allow civilians safe passage to government controlled areas, there is little evidence to suggest that there was any significant cessation of hostilities on the ground by
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either party. In addition, we are aware that a female suicide bomber blew herself up as she travelled with civilians fleeing the fighting while being checked by Sri Lanka government soldiers, killing at least 29 people and injuring dozens more.

Sudan: Peace Negotiations

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications for the Sudanese peace process of the arrest of Hassan al-Turabi; and if he will make a statement. [253823]

Gillian Merron [holding answer 3 February 2009]: Dr. Hassan al-Turabi is not directly involved in either the Darfur peace process or the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). However, the arrest and detention without trial of a senior opposition political figure does not contribute to a political atmosphere in which free and fair national elections can be held, as required by the CPA.

We continue to call upon the government of Sudan to guarantee its citizens the basic rights and freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Interim National Constitution.

Sudan: Peacekeeping Operations

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his assessment is of the adequacy of levels of co-ordination of international efforts to promote peace and development in Sudan. [254350]

Gillian Merron: International efforts to promote peace and development in Sudan are co-ordinated through a broad range of organisations and forums. In addition to formal co-ordination via the multilateral system, we support the Assessment and Evaluation Commission, which monitors the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and secured the appointment of Sir Derek Plumbly as its chair. We have concerted closely with the African Union/UN Joint Chief Mediator, Djibril Bassolé since his appointment in June 2008 and encouraged those wishing to contribute to peace efforts, such as civil society organisations and other international partners, to work with him. We have led efforts to co-ordinate development policy through the Sudan Consortium, and the UK is one of six donors delivering development through the Joint Donor Office, which has become a focal point for donor co-ordination in southern Sudan.

United Arab Emirates: Politics and Government

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from the United Arab Emirates government 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. [254006]

Bill Rammell: The Government have received no such representations. We would support any solution acceptable to both parties.


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Zimbabwe: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likelihood of success of current attempts to form a coalition government in Zimbabwe. [254117]

Gillian Merron: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary issued a statement on 30 January 2009 following the acceptance by the Movement for Democratic Change of the power sharing accord brokered at the South African Development Community summit on 26 January 2009. The statement, which gives his assessment on the recent political developments in Zimbabwe, can be viewed at

Work and Pensions

Departmental Career Structure

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many employees were promoted from Band B (Administrative Officer) to Band C (Executive Officer) in his Department in 2008; how many of these were under 21 years at the time of taking up the Band C post; and how many Band C employees in his Department are under the age of 22 years. [252985]

Jonathan Shaw: The following table shows the number of staff promoted from Band B to Band C in the Department in 2008. Also included in the table is the number of those staff promoted who were under 21 years and finally, the total number of Band C staff employed at 31 December 2008 who are under 22 years.

Number

Band B to Band C promotees

2,936

Those promotees under 21 years old

5

Total number of Band C employees under 22 years old

27


Departmental Redundancy

Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to the answer of 26 November 2008, Official Report, columns 2024-5W, on redundancy, what estimate he has made of the annual payroll savings accruing to his Department as a result of staff exit schemes in (a) 2005-06, (b) 2006-07 , (c) 2007-08 and (d) 2008-09 excluding the cost of severance packages; and what estimate he has made of the equivalent figures for (i) 2009-10 and (ii) 2010-11. [254425]

Jonathan Shaw: The savings for staff exit schemes are shown in the following table. Information on savings is not held on an in year basis but is calculated by taking into account the total salary savings up to ten years after the exit or when the member of staff reaches age 60, whichever is earlier.


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Estimated savings

£ million

2005-06

540

2006-07

240

2007-08

320

2008-09

25

Note:
2008-09 figure is up to end of January 2009

Savings are calculated in line with normal Government accounting principles and are on a net present value basis.

No estimates of savings have been made for 2009-10 and 2010-11 as latest workforce planning forecasts indicate there will be minimal, if any, use of exit schemes over these years.

Departmental Training

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 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. [252219]

Jonathan Shaw: DWP fast streamers have undertaken training with a number of external organisations. The information available is listed as follows. Records for 2006-07 are not held. In addition, most fast streamers will have undertaken other training as part and parcel of their specific jobs which will have been funded within the respective businesses; these records are not held centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost.

2008-09 Suppliers


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