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Mr. Ivan Lewis:
Following the death of President Bongo, the Gabonese constitutional court has appointed the leader of the senate, Rose Francine Rogombé, as the
acting head of state. This is in accordance with the constitution of Gabon. In line with the constitution, she will now have 45 days to organise elections in which she is ineligible to stand. The situation in Gabon is currently calm.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Our objective with Hezbollah is to urge it to reject violence and play a constructive, democratic and peaceful role in Lebanese politics, in line with UN Security Council resolutions. We believe that occasional and carefully considered contacts with Hezbollahs politicians, including its MPs, will best advance this objective. The distinction is between those members of Hezbollah who are legitimately involved in Lebanese politics and those who are involved in violence and support terrorism.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contacts the Government have had with Hezbollahs political wing since their recent change of policy on contacts with that organisation. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: On 9 January 2009 our ambassador in Beirut attended a meeting of British parliamentarians with the Lebanese Foreign Affairs Committee. Representatives of all members of the National Unity Government were present, including one MP from Hezbollahs political wing, Ali Amar. During this meeting the ambassador urged all sides to show restraint during the crisis in Gaza, and spoke of the importance of all sides respecting the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. In the course of normal diplomatic business, staff at our embassy in Beirut have also met Hezbollah politicians on a number of occasions.
We continue to believe that occasional and carefully considered contacts with Hezbollahs politicians, including its MPs, will best advance our objective of urging Hezbollah to reject violence and play a constructive, democratic and peaceful role in Lebanese politics, in line with UN Security Council resolutions.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 3 June 2009, Official Report, column 512W, on departmental public expenditure, for what reasons his Department has determined that it is more cost effective to manage major contracts in Iraq in London. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Our embassies and high commissions use a number of channels to communicate with British nationals. These include travel advice, wardens networks, LOCATEan on-line registering facilitythe internet and local media.
Mr. Ivan Lewis: All our embassies and high commissions are required to hold a Post Emergency Plan and, where deemed necessary, a Civil Contingency Plan. Our embassy in Kathmandu holds both. These plans are designed to help our Diplomatic Missions respond to any crisis they may face, including dealing with consular emergencies, civil unrest or in some cases evacuating British nationals. All plans are reviewed regularly and tested at least annually. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Consular Crisis Group oversees the review process of these plans, and will assist our embassy in Kathmandu to test its emergency response plans by running a semi-live exercise later this year.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings he has had with his (a) Chinese and (b) Russian counterparts to discuss the nuclear threat from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea in the last two years. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: China and Russia have both been key players in the Six Party Talks on Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) denuclearisation, and the UK has maintained close dialogue with both Governments at ministerial, ambassadorial and working levels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed DPRK with Russian colleagues at the last meeting of G8 Foreign Ministers, and with Chinese colleagues at the UK-China Summit in February 2009.
Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department has paid towards the cost of visits abroad by members of the Royal Family in each of the last 10 years. 
Chris Bryant: The information to provide a comprehensive answer is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. Figures held by Protocol Directorate with estimates from overseas posts since 2005 show that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has spent in the region of:
The costs include accommodation, staffing, communications, office costs, interpreting, press and public affairs and official hospitality. Travel costs to the countries of destination are funded by the grant in aid held by the Department for Transport.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has received on the death of the mother of Saed Jamal Abu-Hijleh in Nablus in 2002. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have not received any recent representation on the death of the mother of Saed Jamal Abu-Hijleh. However, the UK has long condemned all attacks on innocent civilians and will continue to do so.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Sri Lanka on the treatment of those who provided medical and financial assistance to the Tamil people during the recent conflict in that country. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We are aware of reports of the ongoing detention of individuals who provided medical assistance during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made representations on their behalf to Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Bogollagama, most recently when they met in London on 5 June 2009.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of civilians killed (a) by the Sri Lankan army and (b) by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the recent conflict in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: During the recent conflict in Sri Lanka there have been many conflicting reports of the number of civilians killed by both sides, particularly in the final weeks of the fighting. As the conflict took place without independent monitoring and with severe restrictions on the media, it is very difficult to estimate the number of casualties or who was responsible. As such, we fully endorse the EU's call for an independent inquiry into the recent conflict in Sri Lanka. This would play an important part in the post-conflict reconciliation process.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of alleged war crimes during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka; what steps he is taking in collaboration with his international counterparts to establish the veracity of such reports; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis:
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, we fully endorse the EU's calls for an independent inquiry into allegations of violations of international law in the recent conflict in
Sri Lanka. It could play an important role in the post-conflict reconciliation process. As such, we welcome the joint statement by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and President Rajapakse of Sri Lanka underlining the importance of an accountability process for addressing possible violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. We will continue to press for progress on this with international partners, above all the EU and UN.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Sri Lanka on the registration of those held in internally displaced persons camps in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. 
The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the High Commissioner in Colombo and I have all urged the Government of Sri Lanka, at the highest levels, to ensure that internally displaced persons (IDPs) be treated in accordance with accepted international standards and guidelines.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the number of Tamil civilians in internally displaced persons camps in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. 
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), around 284,000 civilians fled the fighting in the Vanni, between September 2008 and May 2009. Roughly 263,000 are being accommodated in 22 emergency shelter sites in Vavuniya. A further 11,000 people are being accommodated in 11 emergency shelter sites in Jaffna, 6,700 people in two sites in Trincomalee and some 400 people in two sites in Mannar.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Sri Lanka on the freedom of the press (a) in Sri Lanka and (b) to visit and report on (i) Tamil areas and (ii) camps for internally displaced persons; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have regularly called on the Sri Lankan Government to take decisive action to guarantee press freedom in Sri Lanka, following a number of attacks and intimidation of the media. We have also called on them to allow access to the camps set up for internally displaced people.
The UK raised our concerns about media freedom in Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council Session in March 2009. My right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary's most recent statement on Sri Lanka was on 19 May 2009, Official Report, column 73WS.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Sri Lankan Government on their recent decision to turn away the Vanni Mercy Mission ship MV Captain Ali; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have had no discussions with the Government of Sri Lanka about the ship, MV Captain Ali, since it left Sri Lankan waters. Our clear position throughout has been that assistance should be delivered through the correct humanitarian channels and with the necessary clearances.
We remain greatly concerned at the humanitarian situation facing the 280,000 civilians displaced by the recent fighting in Sri Lanka and have committed a total of £12.5 million of humanitarian assistance since September 2008, channelled through UN and independent humanitarian agencies.
Mr. Sharma: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support his Department is providing to Lieutenant General Keith Dayton in training Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Government provide, at a cost of £2.3 million a year from the Conflict Prevention Pool, a civil-military team to assist the work of General Dayton, the US Security Co-ordinator (USSC). The British Support Team (BST) to the USSC is based in Ramallah, led by a serving British Army Brigadier with a staff of 11 personnel. The BST acts as the USSC's direct link with the Palestinian Authority in supporting the development of the Palestinian National Security Force. In addition, the UK provides direct personnel support to General Dayton's headquarters in Jerusalem in the form of two serving military staff officers and a retired police officer.
Mr. Ivan Lewis
[holding answer 15 June 2009]: Through their Global Political Agreement (GPA), the Inclusive Government (IG) have committed themselves to a package of reforms that will restore security and welfare to Zimbabwes people, and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law. They have made an effective start to this work: a credible short-term economic recovery plan (STERP) has been published and is beginning to be acted upon, and the payment of public workers has seen some civic organs functioning again. However, several vital aspects of the GPA remain to be implemented; the continued harassment of human rights defenders, arbitrary arrests and intimidation, increased farm invasions and lack of press freedom all remain a concern. Without major progress in these areas the IG will not have kept
their promises to the Zimbabwean people, and the international community will be unable fully to re-engage with Zimbabwe.
Tensions and differences of attitude to reform and its pace remain; not surprising when the IG bring together erstwhile political foes. We will continue to look actively for ways of supporting the IG in their efforts to achieve reforms, offering assistance which promotes and strengthens positive change. We are in regular contact with the Government to discuss how this can best be achieved and we maintain close dialogue on this with our EU and international partners.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a summary of representations received by his Department on the management of UK Financial Investments' controlling interest in banks in the last two years. 
Ian Pearson: Treasury Ministers receive advice and input on a wide range of issues, from a variety of individuals and organisations in the public and private sectors, as part of the process of policy development and analysis. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of advice given to the Treasury.
Mr. Meacher: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 21 April 2009, Official Report, column 637W, on banks: tax avoidance, to which sentences of the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of 16 March 2009, Official Report, column 654, on G20 Finance Ministers' meeting, the answer refers. 
asked Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to publish shortly a draft code of practice on taxation for the banking sector, so that banks comply with not just the letter but the spirit of the law.
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