Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 21 May 2009, Official Report, column 1496W, on Afghanistan: females, what reports he has received on the (a) composition, (b) mandate and (c) method of operation of the drafting committee established by the Afghan Ministry of Justice to re-examine certain provisions of the Shi'a Family Law; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on progress in the review of Shi'a Family Law in Afghanistan ordered by President Karzai; what discussions he has had with the government of Afghanistan on that matter; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We, along with other international partners, made our concerns about the Shia Personal Status Law clear to the Afghan Government at a senior level. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised the issue with President Karzai. We welcomed President Karzais announcement on 27 April 2009 that the law would be changed to bring it in line with the Afghan Constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women, and the international treaties to which Afghanistan is a party.
On 20 June 2009, the Minister of Justice met with female representatives of the Afghan Parliament and civil society and told them that his Ministry has now amended the Law. The amendments were made following written recommendations by Afghan civil society (the Afghan Womens Network), Katib university and moderate Ulema (religious scholars).
We understand the amendments made by the Afghan Ministry of Justice have added around 60 articles and removed around 10 from the Law. Language was also added to clarify the meaning of certain articles. The amended draft was viewed by the above female representatives as broadly pro women, and contentious articles, including the provision appearing to legalise rape, had been removed. The Law is also being reviewed by the Supreme Court.
The Law continues to cause controversy on both sidessome religiously conservative Ulema are still lobbying the President to pass the original draft, parts of which the international community and many Afghans deemed unacceptable. The outcome is still uncertain, therefore we, along with our international partners and Afghan civil society, will continue to follow the passage
of the Law closely. We will lobby the Afghan Government whenever appropriate, to help ensure the final Law respects womens rights and does not undo progress made since 2001.
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his European counterparts on piracy in the waters around the Horn of Africa. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary attended the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Councils in Brussels on 15 June 2009 where he and his EU counterparts discussed Operation Atalanta and piracy off the coast of Somalia as part of the agenda.
The Foreign Secretary also attended a meeting of the G8 Foreign Ministers in Trieste on 26 June 2009. They discussed piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the eastern coast of Somalia along with other pressing issues.
The UK continues to take a leading role in activities to counter piracy. As part of the international contact group on piracy off the coast of Somalia we chair a working group on regional capability and international co-ordination. This will next meet in London at the International Maritime Organisation Headquarters on 10 July 2009.
Chris Bryant: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary regularly meets British Council representatives in the UK and when travelling overseas. In the last 12 months, he has met British Council representatives on 10 occasions in the UK and on 11 occasions when travelling overseas, which included meetings in Kosovo, India, Iraq, Greece, Turkey and Pakistan.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations his Department has made to the Thai Government on the repatriation of Karen civilians to Burma; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Our ambassador in Bangkok most recently raised the issue of refugees on the Thailand-Burma border with the Permanent Secretary of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 1 July 2009. Our embassy staff have also been in contact with the Thai Ministry of the Interior, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on the border, about the welfare and living conditions of those recently arrived from eastern Burma, and the humanitarian assistance they are receiving. This assistance, provided by the Royal Thai Government, UNHCR and NGOs, includes food, plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, bed-nets and medical care.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions his Department has had with aid agencies on securing Burmese visas for their workers; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials are in regular contact with aid agencies working in Burma, during which issues relating to Burmese visas are discussed. We will continue to monitor the situation. The Burmese regime are aware of our concerns that unfettered access should be allowed to continue for humanitarian agencies operating in Burma.
Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 June 2009, Official Report, column 70W, on Colombia: foreign relations, if he will have discussions with his Colombian counterpart on bilateral relations and broader global issues. 
Chris Bryant: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no such meetings scheduled. However, as stated in the previous answer referred to, our ambassador in Bogota maintains regular contact with senior Colombian Government officials, including the Foreign Minister, to discuss bilateral relations and broader global issues.
Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 June 2009, Official Report, column 70W, on Colombia: foreign relations, whether the British Ambassador in Bogota has met senior Colombian Government officials to discuss the matter of political prisoners being held in Colombia; and if he will make a statement. 
Chris Bryant: As stated in the previous answer referred to, our ambassador in Bogota maintains regular contact with senior Colombian Government officials, including the Foreign Minister, to discuss bilateral relations and broader global issues. In such meetings, the ambassador regularly raises human rights issues, most recently with the Vice President on 5 July 2009, where he discussed, among other issues, allegations that judicial proceedings are used against individuals for political purposes.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which databases managed by his Department and its agencies hold personal information on members of the public; on what date each such database become operational; and if he will make a statement. 
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), together with its agencies and posts overseas, manages a large number of databases of varying size and complexity. Some hold information on members of the public gathered in support of a wide range of
activities including consular services. To collect and collate information on when each of these databases became operational could be done only at disproportionate cost.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the budget for his Department's (a) policy planning staff and (b) research analysts was in the most recent year for which figures are available. 
Overall responsibility for the work of the Office
Strategy and Policy Planning
Whitehall Liaison Department
Afghanistan and South Asia
Ministerial Oversight for FCO Services
Ivan Lewis business, plus Public Diplomacy (including British Council and BBC World Service) in the Lords
Europe, including Balkans, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova
Russia, South Caucasus, Central Asia
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Council of Europe
Chris Bryants business in the Lords (except Public Diplomacy)
South East Asia and Far East
Middle East and North Africa
Drugs and International Crime
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
Leads on Lord Malloch-Browns business in the Commons
Caribbean and Central America
Australasia and Pacific
Shanghai Expo 2010
HR and Diversity
Public Diplomacy, including British Council and BBC World Service
Leads on Baroness Kinnocks business in the Commons, including Europe
UK Trade and Investment (joint Minister with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)
Liaison with MOD on security and defence policy issues (joint with Ministry of Defence)
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many employees of his Department have been posted to work in offices of hon. Members of each political party in each of the last five years. 
Chris Bryant: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not seconded any members of staff to offices of Members of any political party. We have no record of staff who have taken a career break or unpaid leave to work in such offices.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department has taken to assist restorative justice and truth and reconciliation initiatives in East Timor; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis:
Since 1999, we have actively supported the development of East Timor and played a part in ensuring that appropriate assistance was provided by the UN. The UN Mission in East Timor continues to
provide peacekeeping support and capacity building to the East Timorese Government and Administration. The UK helps to fund this through our assessed contributions to the UN, and we will continue to offer strong support for multilateral efforts in East Timor. Additionally, the EU is assisting East Timor in promoting its justice sector and reinforcing the rule of law. The UK contributes both technical and financial assistance to the EU programmes in East Timor, currently worth around 18 million euros.
We believe it is for the Governments of Indonesia and East Timor to consider how best to deal with their past history, reflecting the concerns of their citizens. We have raised the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR) and the Commission on Truth and Friendship (CTF) with East Timor and expressed the UK's view that it was important for the East Timorese parliament to debate the reports of the CTF and the CAVR as part of the process of establishing accountability. We hope that the adoption of the CTF report by President Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Ramos Horta of East Timor will be a step forward in cementing the relationship between the two Governments and enabling them to move forward in peaceful co-operation.
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