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Iran: Drugs

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what counter-narcotics assistance the UK has provided to Iran in each financial year since 2000; what assistance is planned in 2009-10; and if he will provide a breakdown of the expenditure by category of (a) projects supported and (b) costs. [270656]

David Miliband: Between the financial years 2000-01 and 2008-09 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has spent approximately £3,025,000 on counter-narcotics assistance in and with Iran.

Our funding has contributed to a mix of supply and demand reduction projects such as:

Most of the funding has been channelled through the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for capacity building on Iran's eastern border and improving investigative capability. Some equipment has been provided through UNODC and bilaterally.

No specific assistance is currently agreed for 2009-10 but we are looking for ways to continue our work with Iran on counter narcotics.

Middle East: Armed Conflict

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions there were between the Government and (a) the Israeli Government, (b) President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and (c) representatives of Hamas on the situation in Gaza between 28 December 2008 and 5 January 2009. [249173]

Bill Rammell: We have been in regular contact with both the Government of Israel and Palestinian Authority, including during this period the Prime Minister speaking to the Israeli Prime Minister and Palestinian President.

There was no contact with Hamas. We do not believe it is productive to talk to Hamas 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. Turkey, Syria, Qatar and others are also speaking to Hamas.

Palestinians: Human Rights

Clare Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consideration he has given to the report of the United Nations Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories concerning the Israeli attack on Gaza from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009; if the Government will review their obligations under the Geneva Conventions and other relevant aspects of international law as a consequence; and if he will make a statement. [271124]

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Bill Rammell: We are extremely concerned with the current situation in Occupied Palestinian Territories and throughout the conflict in Gaza called for an immediate ceasefire.

We have called for allegations of abuse to be thoroughly investigated. The report of the UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur is unbalanced and contributes little. We are awaiting the results of several ongoing investigations into alleged human rights violations during the Gaza conflict and will consider very carefully the results of these investigations once they are available.

We continue to press the Israeli Government to abide by all their international commitments, including their obligations under the fourth Geneva convention which makes clear that an occupying power must co-operate in allowing allow free movement of people, humanitarian supplies and commercial goods.

Rashid Rauf

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Office was informed of the suspected death of Mr Rashid Rauf from a US air strike in the village of Ali Khel on 21 November 2008. [243424]

Bill Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, including the Foreign Secretary's office, first learned of the suspected death of Mr. Rauf from initial media reports coming out of Pakistan.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received confirmation of the death of Mr Rashid Rauf in the US air strike on the village of Ali Khel on 22 November 2008. [245657]

Bill Rammell: We do not have confirmation of the death of Rashid Rauf. Following a request from his family, we have requested official confirmation from the Government of Pakistan.

Russia: BBC External Services

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate the BBC World Service has made of the number of people in the Russian Federation with internet access who (a) use the BBC website and (b) are likely to use the website in each of the next five years. [271099]

Caroline Flint: The latest available figures are from January 2009, and estimate that the number of unique users of BBC in the Russian Federation was on average 247,000 per week. However, we would therefore expect this number to increase.

Research shows that the number of internet users in Russia continues to grow, and that by the end of 2008 Russia had overtaken the UK as the second largest internet market in Europe. The BBC World Service regularly reviews the performance of all its websites, but predictive performance estimates of websites in individual countries are not available in this fast-changing environment.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the next review of the activities of the BBC Russia Service will take place. [271100]

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Caroline Flint: The BBC World Service carried out a strategic review of the BBC Russian Service in 2008 in order to increase its impact and deliver a better service to audiences in Russia. It will continue to seek new opportunities to expand Russian audiences' access to the BBC Russian Service.

The BBC World Service has no plans for another strategic review of the service. However as with all services, it regularly reviews the Russian service output and assesses its impact through regular audience measurement.

The BBC World Service is editorially and operationally independent of Government. Though the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was consulted on the recent changes to the Russia Service, strategic decisions on individual language service reviews are taken by the BBC World Service.

Somalia: Piracy

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 1 April 2009, Official Report, column 1281W, on Somalia: piracy, whether the UK has put forward proposals on building capacity and capability in the region to prosecute pirates; and if he will make a statement. [271039]

David Miliband: The international Contact Group for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) met in Cairo on 17 March 2009. The UK, as the chair of the Contact Group working group on international co-ordination and co-operation, asked for its mandate to be expanded to include regional capability development, given the importance of this work to a sustainable solution. This was agreed. As a result, and in co-ordination with key international organisations and partners, a UK-led needs assessment mission will be visiting the region in April/May to assess requirements in the judicial, penal and maritime security (Coastguard/naval) sectors. The mission will report back to the Contact Group via its working group as soon as possible, seeking funding support for the areas it assesses as priorities.

Sudan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the current strength is of the UNAMID force operating in Darfur; which nations are contributing to it; how many (a) troops and (b) police have been provided in each case; and how much funding each contributing nation is making available. [248153]

Gillian Merron: The joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is now 15,136 troops, police and military observers, and approximately 2,000 civilians. The UK has staff officers deployed in UNAMID and is helping to train UNAMID police.

A full breakdown of UNAMID troop and police contributors can be found here:

There are currently 35 Troop Contributing Countries. The largest are: Nigeria with 3244 troops, Rwanda with 3241 and Ethiopia with 1470. There are currently 41 police contributing countries. The largest are: Ghana
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with 577 police officers, Nigeria with 268 police officers and two formed police units and Bangladesh with 88 police officers and one formed police unit.

Funding for UNAMID is managed by the United Nations. As well as our assessed contribution, the UK is making available approximately £2.5 million of funding this financial year to train and equip African contributing nations.

Tamils: Cluster Bombs

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the alleged use of cluster bombs by the Sri Lankan authorities against Tamils. [252129]

Bill Rammell: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North, (Joan Ryan), on 19 January 2009, Official Report, column 1176W.

Ukraine: Human Rights

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in Ukraine; and if he will make a statement. [245145]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 18 December 2008]: An assessment of the human rights situation in Ukraine can be found in the 2007 FCO Human Rights Report

and the European Commission's review of Ukraine's progress against its European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan

Ukraine has made good progress in recent years on democratisation and freedom of expression and the media, with three consecutive elections recognised as largely free and fair, and a diverse and lively media environment. We welcome the increasing involvement of human rights organisations in Government work to protect human rights. There are, however, a number of areas where urgent action is required, for example on tackling corruption, strengthening the rule of law, reversing the rise in suspected serious racist and anti-Semitic attacks, preventing people trafficking, improving the way in which detainees are treated by the law enforcement agencies. We are working closely with Ukraine on all of these issues, in particular through the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe.

Work and Pensions

Mortgages: Government Assistance

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how long on average his Department took to process claims for assistance under the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme with 100 per cent. of eligible mortgage interest in 2008; what the average was in the period immediately prior to 5 January 2009; and what it has been since that date; [266308]

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(2) how many applications for support under the Support for Mortgage Interest scheme have been received in each of the last 24 months. [266310]

Kitty Ussher: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the acting chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Mel Groves. I have asked him to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Mel Groves:

Claims received for mortgage interest, report ending February 2008 and 2009, Jobcentre Plus
mortgage interest
2007-08 2008-09

IS claims received JSA claims received IS claims received JSA claims received





























































12 month total





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