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3 Mar 2009 : Column 1408W—continued

Afghanistan: Drugs

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent progress has been made towards the eradication of poppy growing in Afghanistan. [259396]

Bill Rammell: The Afghan Government’s poppy eradication campaign was launched on 5 February 2008 in Helmand province through the deployment of the poppy eradication force, followed by Governor-led eradication, which started on 15 February 2008.

So far 2,000 hectares of poppy has been destroyed, which represents good progress.

Eradication forms a key pillar of the Helmand food zone programme, led by Governor Mangal, whereby farmers have been informed that poppy grown within this area should be eradicated. Governor-led eradication efforts have commenced elsewhere and will continue until July 2009. However it is too early to predict what the final national eradication figure will be.

Armed Forces: Deployment

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what UK armed forces are currently based in (a) Belize, (b) the British Indian Ocean Territory and (c) Ascension Island. [259328]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I have been asked to reply.

The number of armed forces personnel in each location, rounded to the nearest five, is as follows:

Location Number

Belize

60

British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT)

40

Ascension Island

15


Binyam Mohamed

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department has had discussions with the government of Ethiopia on the return of Mr Binyam Mohamed to that country. [259027]

Bill Rammell: We have kept the Government of Ethiopia informed of the progress of Mr. Binyam Mohamed’s release and return to the UK but we have not made representations on his transfer to Ethiopia. Our goal has been to contribute to US Government efforts to close Guantanamo Bay by securing the release and
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return to the UK of those who were legal residents in the UK prior to their detention. Mr. Binyam Mohamed’s return does not constitute a commitment by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that he may remain permanently in the UK.

Birtukan Mideksa

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department has made representations to the government of Ethiopia on the detention of Birtukan Mideksa; and if he will make a statement. [258690]

Gillian Merron: We have raised the detention of Birtukan Midekssa with the Ethiopian authorities on a number of occasions since her arrest on 29 December 2008. On 2 February 2009 my noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. the Lord Malloch-Brown did so with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, pointing out the potential damage to Ethiopia’s image of imprisoning an opposition leader politician.

We will continue to urge the Ethiopian government to resolve this issue quickly.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Diplomatic Service

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of the decision by Miroslav Lajcak, High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, to step down from that post; and if he will make a statement. [253958]

David Miliband: The international community will need now to find a credible successor to Miroslav Lajcak who can continue to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina in moving away from ethnic divisions towards a better future for all its citizens.

A decision on this appointment is expected later this month.

Eventual closure of the Office of the High Representative will remain dependent on the fulfilment of the conditions set by the Peace Implementation Council, namely the so-called five objectives and two conditions. The Peace Implementation Council will meet again on 25-26 March 2009 to consider progress against those conditions.

Brussels: Visits Abroad

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times he has visited Brussels on official business in the last 12 months. [259537]

Gillian Merron: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has visited Brussels 17 times on official business in the last 12 months.

Colombia: Drugs

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of allegations of links between Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and drug traffickers. [260003]


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Gillian Merron [holding answer of 2 March 2009]: No reports have been received to support any such allegations.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what mechanisms are in place to ensure that counter-narcotics assistance provided by the Government to the Colombian security forces is not used for counter-insurgency purposes. [260004]

Gillian Merron [holding answer of 2 March 2009]: We scrupulously monitor all UK engagement with the government of Colombia on counter-narcotics. Our work continues to meet the highest standards of probity and effectiveness. We do not provide any counter-insurgency assistance.

We fully endorse the efforts of the Government of Colombia to legitimately tackle the influence of illegal, criminal and terrorist groups in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law.

Departmental Foreign Workers

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) EU foreign nationals and (b) non-EU foreign nationals are employed by his Department. [256209]

Caroline Flint: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and FCO Services employ only UK nationals in permanent civil service positions (of which there are currently 5,935) in the UK or overseas.

Our missions overseas employ a total of approximately 10,000 locally-recruited staff of various nationalities, both EU and non-EU. We do not hold records centrally of the nationalities of these staff.

Departmental Plants

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department has spent on (a) pot plants and (b) flowers in each of the last three years. [254877]

Gillian Merron: Spending on plants and flowers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) UK estate in the last three years is as follows:

Plants £

February 2008 to January 2009 — (includes replacement of large external plants in the Old Admiralty Building, London)

5,343.13

February 2007 to January 2008 — (includes replacement of deteriorated wooden plant boxes in Carlton Gardens)

4,114.00

February 2006 to January 2007

1,599.00


Flowers( 1) £

February 2008 to January 2009

27,750.15

February 2007 to January 2008

34,285.00

February 2006 to January 2007

32,962.63

(1) Spending on flowers includes that incurred by Government Hospitality, part of the Protocol Directorate in the FCO. Government Hospitality have responsibility for the organisation of official ministerial hospitality for all Government Departments.

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Information on how much is spent on plants and flowers at the FCO’s overseas posts is not held centrally and would incur a disproportionate cost to collate.

Departmental Work Experience

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what opportunities for work experience directorates of his Department offer to university students who are not (a) entitled to a full maintenance grant and (b) eligible for work experience schemes offered to those from a minority ethnic background. [258627]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offers an Undergraduate Placement Scheme to all UK university undergraduate students who are not in their final year at university and who fulfil the minimum nationality and residency eligibility criteria.

The FCO also participates in the Cabinet Office run Summer Placement Scheme. This is a work placement scheme for undergraduates/graduates who have a registered disability in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

More information on the Undergraduate Placement Scheme can be found at:

More information on the Summer Placement Scheme can be found at:

Family Planning

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports his Department has received on coercive family planning policies in other countries; and if he will make a statement. [259056]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: I have been asked to reply.

The Department for International Development (DFID) does not hold records on reports of coercive family planning overseas.

The UK government's policy on population and sexual and reproductive health in the developing world is about providing choice, not coercion. Couples and individuals should be able to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children, and have access to the information and services to be able to do so. DFID actively works to promote and uphold the principles of free and informed choice as set out in at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.

Foreign Students

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what research his Department conducted on likely levels of demand for its Partner University Placement Scheme among eligible groups prior to the scheme’s inception. [258547]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office used a Higher Education Standards Agency report to identify 10 universities that performed highest across
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three key standards: academic performance, social inclusion and ethnic diversity. We did not conduct specific research among the eligible groups into the likely levels of demand for the scheme.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department’s Partner University Placement Scheme was established; and how many students have taken part in the scheme. [258548]

Gillian Merron: The Partner University Placement Scheme was established in 2007. 21 students have taken part in the scheme to date.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the eligibility criteria for students wishing to take part in his Department’s Partner University Placement Scheme are. [258549]

Gillian Merron: The eligibility criteria for the Partner University Placement Scheme are that students must be:

either

or

and

Group of Twenty: London Summit

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate has been made of the cost of accommodation for (a) foreign heads of state and government and (b) foreign delegations attending the G20 summit to be held in London in April 2009. [259365]

Bill Rammell: Participating countries are responsible for their own accommodation costs. There will be no cost to the Government.

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library copies of proposed menus for meals to be provided to participants in the G20 summit in London in April 2009. [259366]

Bill Rammell: The planning for the London summit in April 2009 is still being formulated. Any hospitality offered by the Government during the summit will be commensurate with the nature of the occasion. As such
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menus for the hospitality around the London summit will be published, in accordance with normal practice, after the event.

Iran: Christianity

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received of (a) closures of churches in Iran and (b) the treatment of Christians in that country; what recent representations he has made to the Government of Iran on the matter; and if he will make a statement. [259541]

Bill Rammell: We have not received recent reports regarding the closure of churches in Iran, but we do have serious concerns about the treatment of Christians, in particular those who have converted from Islam to Christianity. We regularly raise these concerns with the Iranian authorities, both bilaterally and through the EU. We made over 40 representations in 2008, expressing our firm opposition to all forms of discrimination and oppression. We continue to urge Iran to respect and protect its religious minorities and free all prisoners held due to their faith or religious practice.


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