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24 Mar 2009 : Column 190W—continued

Departmental Training

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department has provided voice coaching to any of its employees in the last 12 months. [260648]

Bill Rammell: ‘Voice coaching’ is not a term recognised in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's internal management information systems.

Diego Garcia: Rendition

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Answer of 5 March 2009, Official Report, column 1747W, on Guant√°namo Bay: detainees, for what reasons he is unable to provide further information on the matter; and whether his Department has been informed of the names of the two detainees rendered through Diego Garcia. [263671]


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Bill Rammell [holding answer 13 March 2009]: We are unable to provide further information on this matter other than that given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in his statement of 21 February 2008, Official Report, column 547.

Hezbollah

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what official contact there has been between the Government and representatives of Hezbollah in Lebanon in the last two months. [265450]

Bill Rammell: There has been no contact since 9 January 2009 when our ambassador in Beirut met the Lebanese Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee including Hezbollah MP, Ali Amaar.

Middle East: Peace Negotiations

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the US administration on holding discussions with (a) Hamas and (b) Hezbollah. [265389]

Bill Rammell: In our ongoing discussions with the US Administration we continue to share the assessment that Hamas has not moved sufficiently towards rejecting violence, accepting Israel’s right to exist or recognising previous agreements for either the UK or the US to hold discussions with Hamas.

We have also kept the US informed of our decision to explore carefully targeted contacts with Hezbollah elected officials.

Nepal: Politics and Government

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Nepal; and if he will make a statement. [265463]

Bill Rammell: We welcome the steps the government of Nepal has taken towards the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as mandated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We have urged them to ensure that the TRC bill is drafted on a consensus basis, so that all those involved in and affected by the conflict share ownership of the process, and that it is compliant with international human rights standards. Facing up to and dealing with the human rights abuses committed by both sides during the conflict is the key to concluding the peace process and laying the foundations for a sustainable democracy based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. We are ready to support this process.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the progress made with the Comprehensive Peace Accord in Nepal. [265464]

Bill Rammell: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of November 2006 paved the way for successful elections in April 2008 for a Constituent Assembly, the most inclusive and representative institution in Nepal's history. This has given Nepal the opportunity to write a constitution which will enshrine in law a democratic
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system which will guarantee respect for human rights. Unfortunately, the consensus among political parties which allowed the elections to take place is fracturing, and progress has been slow both on drafting the constitution and on addressing the commitments given in the CPA on issues such as land reform and the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

We are particularly concerned at the lack of progress on the future of Maoist ex-combatants in the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The government has still not made any progress on the discharge of the almost 3,000 child soldiers identified by the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), or the other ex-combatants disqualified by UNMIN. We and other international partners have voiced our concerns about this and about the recent recruitment campaigns by both the Nepal Army and the PLA in violation of the CPA. We acknowledge that integration of the two armies will be a difficult issue to resolve, but have told the government that a failure to make progress risks endangering the peace process and that we, UN agencies and other donors stand ready to assist.

Pakistan: Religious Freedom

Dan Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the government of Pakistan on (a) the treatment of the Ahmadi Muslim community and (b) section 298C of the Pakistani Penal Code. [265783]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 23 March 2009]: In February 2009, my hon. Friend Gillian Merron, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, visited Pakistan and met with Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs. During this visit, she raised concerns about the difficulties faced by religious minorities in Pakistan, including the Christian and Ahmadi communities and the mis-use of blasphemy legislation (section 289C in the Pakistani Penal Code).

With EU partners we have also made a series of démarches to the government of Pakistan on protecting religious minorities. In January this year we démarched the government of Pakistan to promote tolerance, and take measures to protect freedom of religion or belief. This démarche also called for the reform of discriminatory legislation and urged the Minister for Minority Affairs to raise awareness about abuses against minorities and to increase their political representation at all levels.

In July 2008, we issued a démarche with EU partners calling on the government of Pakistan to specifically protect religious freedoms and human rights of the Ahmadis.

Sodexo

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of allegations of involvement by Sodexo in breaches of human rights at (a) Guant√°namo Bay and (b) Abu Ghraib. [260627]

Bill Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no record of receiving reports of allegations of involvement by Sodexo in breaches of human rights at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib.


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Sri Lanka: Foreign Relations

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in the (a) UN Security Council and (b) Commonwealth on the standing of the government of Sri Lanka in (i) the international community and (ii) each institution. [265382]

Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary continues discuss the situation in Sri Lanka with UN Security Council and Commonwealth counterparts as the opportunity arises. As the Foreign Secretary has made clear to this House on many occasions, our priority is for the safety of civilians trapped in the fighting in northern Sri Lanka. We will continue to engage with the government of Sri Lanka and international partners to try to alleviate the situation.

Sri Lanka: Politics and Government

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will call for a briefing to be made to the United Nations Security Council on the political situation in Sri Lanka; if he will propose a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire and unfettered access for UN monitors, relief and human rights agencies and the media; and if he will make a statement. [265716]

Bill Rammell: I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's response to a similar question on 24 February 2009, Official Report, column 141W. We have been working in the UN to ensure the Security Council gets a full briefing on the situation in Sri Lanka. We welcome the briefing given to the UN Security Council by John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, following his visit to Sri Lanka in February. We regularly discuss the situation in Sri Lanka with our partners in the UN Security Council and continue, with them, to monitor the situation carefully.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has called for a humanitarian ceasefire, access for humanitarian agencies and independent monitoring on a number of occasions. The Foreign Secretary has discussed the situation in Sri Lanka with a number of UN Security Council, Commonwealth and EU counterparts, and is in regular contact with the Sri Lankan President and Minister for Foreign Affairs. We will continue to engage with the government of Sri Lanka and international partners to try to alleviate the situation.

Sudan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will have discussions with the United Nations on recent reports of deaths of and injuries to peacekeepers in Darfur. [265784]

Gillian Merron [holding answer 23 March 2009]: The recent reports of deaths and injuries to peacekeepers in Darfur are cause for grave concern. The UK condemns any acts of violence against the UN Peacekeeping Mission to Darfur (UNAMID), and calls on all parties, including
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the government of Sudan, to ensure the safety of UN personnel in the region. We have frequent discussions with the UN on UNAMID and the security situation in Darfur. Both my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are kept closely updated on developments.

Tibet: Human Rights

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps he has taken to promote the human rights concerns of the people of Tibet in (a) bilateral and (b) multilateral forums; and if he will make a statement. [264375]

Bill Rammell: We continue to have concerns about the human rights of Tibetans both in Tibet and the surrounding regions. Most recently, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary took up the question of Tibet with Foreign Minister Jang Jiechi at the UK-China Summit in February. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also raised it with Premier Wen Jiabao at that Summit. As Minister of State for Asia I have also raised Tibet during talks in Beijing with both Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Hongbo and Vice-Minister Sita of the United Front Work Department on 20 January. The UK also raised concerns about human rights of Tibetans during China’s appearance before the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on 9 February 2009.

Tibet: Politics and Government

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 19 January 2009, Official Report, column 2204W, on Tibet: politics and government, what consideration he gave to seeking specific undertakings from the Chinese government in advance of the change of UK policy on Tibet. [259345]

Bill Rammell: We consider that it would have been inappropriate to negotiate on this matter with the Chinese Government before setting out the position to this House. The change of policy reflects practical reality and is justified in its own right. By setting out our position unambiguously on the status of Tibet it allows us to speak clearly on the subject of human rights there, without allowing others to claim that we are denying China sovereignty over a large part of its territory.

Culture, Media and Sport

Departmental Electricity Generation

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much has been spent by his Department on (a) capital expenditure and (b) maintenance and running costs for standby diesel generators for backup electricity on the departmental estate in each year since March 1997. [264092]

Mr. Sutcliffe: The Department has spent the following on its standby diesel generator. Information prior to 2005 is not available.


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£

Capital expenditure Maintenance and running costs

2005-06

0

455

2006-07

0

455

2007-08

98,747

585

2008-09

0

585


Public Libraries

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what guidance his Department provides to local authorities on requirements on (a) the number of libraries per head of population and (b) the location of libraries for provision of a comprehensive and efficient library service. [266138]

Barbara Follett: DCMS’s role is to provide the library sector with strategic vision and leadership, rather than to specify the detail of service delivery appropriate to specific communities across the country.

The Public Library Service Standards, introduced in 2001 and withdrawn from April 2008, did not include targets for (a) the number of libraries per head of population or (b) the location of libraries, although PLSS 1 addressed resident proximity to a library, and varied according to the type of authority (inner and outer London, metropolitan, unitary and county). Failure to meet one or more of the Standards, including PLSS1, did not necessarily signify a breach of the Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964).

In October last year, the Secretary of State launched the Library Service Modernisation Review which will outline Government's vision for a modern, world-class public library service. The findings, setting out some of the necessary steps to support all local authorities in providing continuously improving, excellent library services will be published in June.

Public Libraries: Wirral

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will consult local library users and library staff on the effects of the proposed closure of public libraries in Wirral on library services in the area. [266302]


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Barbara Follett: It is the important responsibility of local authorities, not central Government, to consult their residents on the impact of any significant changes to service delivery they propose. DCMS's role is to provide the library sector with strategic vision and leadership, not to specify the detail of service delivery appropriate to specific communities across the country.

Transport

Bus Services: Training

Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidance his Department issues to bus operators on driver training in respect of interaction with passengers who are (a) disabled, (b) elderly, (c) young and (d) difficult or aggressive. [266159]

Paul Clark: Drivers have duties with regard to the care of passengers under The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990. The Department has published guidance for both drivers and operators to accompany the regulations.

Bus and coach drivers are also required to undertake additional training as part of the recently introduced ‘Driver Certificate of Professional Competence’ which was introduced in late 2008. This will include areas such as disability awareness and customer service.


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