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26 Nov 2009 : Column 299W—continued


Telephone Services

Mark Hunter: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of measures to regulate telephone numbers with (a) 0844, (b) 0845, (c) 0870 and (d) 0871 prefixes; and if he will make a statement. [300850]

Mr. Timms: The Government have made no recent assessments as the independent regulator Ofcom has responsibility for telephone numbers in the UK.

Ofcom, in 2006, strengthened its price publication rules, requiring operators to make it easier for consumers to find out about the cost of calling 08 numbers. Operators are now required to state maximum charges for calls to 08 numbers in promotional material and also to specify whether 08 calls are included in call packages.

Calls to 0845 numbers are often charged at a small premium from fixed networks. For instance, BT's maximum charge for an 0845 call is 3.867p per minute (including VAT) but most BT customers pay no more than 1.9p per minute. There are also signs that competition is exerting downward pressure on prices. Earlier this year, BT included 0845 in its calling plans on the same basis as 01, 02 and 03 numbers and at least one other operator has since followed BT's lead.


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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) assessed any internal or external reports on the effectiveness of its work in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [301939]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's work in Afghanistan is kept under regular review. The Government's strategy for Afghanistan has a number of medium-term goals and outcomes and progress against these is regularly assessed. Measurement indicators include progress on building the capacity of government institutions against a range of economic indicators. Ministers regularly review progress against these.

Afghanistan: Corruption

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what commitments he has (a) sought and (b) received from the Afghan Government regarding political reform and action against corruption; and if he will make a statement. [301978]

David Miliband: President Karzai made his commitment to political reform and tackling corruption, including the appointment of clean and competent Ministers and governors, clear in his inauguration speech of 19 November 2009. We welcome the emphasis he placed on the need for Ministers to have integrity and professionalism, and look forward to the announcement of his Cabinet. We regularly discuss the need to tackle corruption with the Afghan Government and offer technical support, for example in providing a multi-agency task force to support the implementation of an anti-corruption strategy.

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whom the Prime Minister plans to invite to the forthcoming conference on the future of Afghanistan to be held in London. [301907]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has offered to hold a conference on Afghanistan in London.

We are currently working up the potential scope of the conference. More information will be made available in due course.

Belarus: Capital Punishment

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representation he has made to the Belarus Government on the decision of the Belarus Supreme Court to reject the appeals of Vasily Yusepchuk and Andrei Zhuk against the death sentence; and what discussions he has had on the matter at the Council of Europe. [301243]


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Chris Bryant: We and EU partners have raised the cases of Vasily Yusepchuk and Andrei Zhuk with the Belarusian authorities on a number of occasions. We also took part in a European Commission press conference on 12 October 2009 to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty. I referenced two cases in a Westminster Hall debate on the global abolition of the death penalty on 28 October 2009, Official Report, column 71WH. EU member states are working with local and international non-governmental organisations to promote public debate, and publicise EU views on the death penalty. We continue to urge Belarus to abolish the death penalty or, as an initial measure, to introduce a moratorium.

The Council of Europe (CoE) plays close attention to developments in Belarus. In June 2009 the CoE Parliamentary Assembly agreed to the restoration of the Special Guest status of the Belarusian Parliament, which had been suspended in 1997, only after a moratorium on the death penalty. On 30 October 2009 a joint statement was issued by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the CoE and the Secretary-General of the CoE calling on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to grant clemency, to declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in Belarus and to commute the sentences of all prisoners sentenced to death to terms of imprisonment.

Bletchley Park: Medals

Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when those who worked on code-breaking at Bletchley Park will receive their service medals. [301814]

David Miliband: All eligible veterans who have submitted an application for the Bletchley Park Commemorative Badge have been sent their badge and certificate. This amounts to over 2,000 applications up to and including 24 November 2009.

I attended a special celebration ceremony at Bletchley Park on 9 October 2009 to pay tribute to the vital work these veterans carried out during the Second World War. The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) will continue to send out badges and certificates to eligible veterans on receipt of applications.

British Indian Ocean Territory: Environment Protection

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which international parties are considered to be stakeholders for the consultation on the proposed creation of a Marine Protected Area for the Chagos Archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory; what criteria were used to decide who the stakeholders were; and what weight will be given to stakeholder responses to the consultation. [302471]

Chris Bryant: The public consultation into whether to create a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the British Indian Ocean Territory is not a limited one. The purpose of the consultation is to seek views from all stakeholders and interested parties to help the Government assess whether an MPA is the right option for the future environmental protection of the territory. We are, therefore, strongly encouraging as many people as possible to participate in the consultation.


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The consultation document (pages 12 and 13) does however recognise that the international fishing community, the US, the Republic of Mauritius and the Chagossian community are all groups which may be either directly or indirectly affected by the establishment of an MPA and any resulting restrictions or a ban on fishing.

All responses to the consultation will be taken into consideration.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) entitlements and (b) historic entitlements apply under international law to the management of fishing stocks within the 200 mile limits of the British Indian Ocean Territory. [302473]

Chris Bryant: The management of fishing stocks within the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is the responsibility of the UK. The BIOT Administration contracts Marine Resources and Assessment Group Ltd. to manage the fisheries of the territory. The UK is a member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), both through the European Commission's membership and separately and individually through the BIOT and, as such, provides data on the BIOT fisheries to the IOTC.

Colombia: EU External Trade

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the status is of negotiations between the EU and Colombia on a free trade agreement; and if he will make a statement. [301570]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The European Commission is pushing forward with negotiations towards a Multi-Party Trade Agreement with Colombia on behalf of the EU. The UK is leading efforts within the EU to ensure that any agreement with Colombia is linked to a robust human rights clause. This clause will enable us to suspend the agreement if it is breached, and will act as a catalyst for frank dialogue with Colombia on the issue. We believe that free trade agreements can help to create the right circumstances for improved stability, where human rights stand a better chance of flourishing. Denying Colombia access to the economic opportunities presented by the Multi-Party Trade Agreement would undermine this prospect.

Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent progress has been made on his Department's work with the European Commission on the negotiation of a free trade agreement with Colombia. [301894]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The European Commission is pushing forward with negotiations towards a Multi-Party Trade Agreement with Colombia on behalf of the EU. The UK is leading efforts within the EU to ensure that any agreement with Colombia is linked to a robust human rights clause. This clause will enable us to suspend the agreement if it is breached, and will act as a catalyst for frank dialogue with Colombia on this issue. We believe that free trade agreements can help to create the right circumstances for improved stability, where human rights stand a better chance of flourishing. Denying Colombia access to the economic opportunities presented by the Multi-Party Trade Agreement would undermine this prospect.


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Colombia: Trade Unions

Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the number of trade unionists murdered in Colombia in the last 12 months. [301895]

Chris Bryant: I have seen various reports of the number of trade unionists murdered in Colombia in 2009. The bottom line is that a single murder of a trade unionist or human rights defender is one too many. This issue is of great concern to us. During a meeting with President Uribe while visiting Colombia in October, I urged the Colombian government to do everything possible to ensure that those in Colombia who fight to defend human rights are able to do their work in safety and without fear.

Departmental Internet

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the cost was of maintaining his Department's website in the 2008-09 financial year; and what the forecast cost is of maintaining websites within his responsibility in the 2009-10 financial year. [302417]

Chris Bryant: The cost of maintaining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) entire web platform in the 2008-09 financial year was £1.45 million. This covers hosting, development and support costs.

The FCO's web platform is home to 250 websites, including cross-Government websites such as

and our network of embassy and high commission websites. It is not possible to calculate the individual cost of the main corporate website.

The forecast cost of maintaining the 250 websites on the FCO web platform in 2009-10 is £1.45 million.

These costs do not include staff time spent updating the websites.

Departmental Pay

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much funding his Department has allocated for (a) year-end and (b) in-year bonuses for staff in 2009-10. [300431]

Chris Bryant: For 2009-10 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) allocated the following amounts for variable pay in 2009-10:

These bonus figures are based on a total pay bill of £213,613,185. The FCO does not pay year-end bonuses as such. Government policy is to differentiate reward to civil servants more effectively and to link it directly to performance. As a result a higher proportion of annual reward now takes the form of non-consolidated, non-pensionable bonus payments (variable pay). The FCO arrangements for bonus payments mirror those adopted by other Whitehall Departments.


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John Mason: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) bonuses and (b) incentives have been paid to (i) consultants and (ii) contractors engaged by executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies for which his Department is responsible in each of the last three years. [300654]

Chris Bryant: Neither the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), its executive agencies (FCO Services and Wilton Park) or its non-departmental public bodies make bonus payments to consultants or individual contractors.

Incentive regimes are rarely used for contracts with consultants and individual contractors. If incentives are included in a contract they are negotiated on a case by case basis taking care to ensure value for money. No central record is maintained of such contractual provisions.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many staff in his Department received bonus payments in 2008; what proportion of the total work force they represented; what the total amount of bonuses paid was; what the largest single payment was; and if he will make a statement. [300895]

Chris Bryant: During the financial year 2008-09, a total of 4,712 staff received a bonus payment. This represents 80 per cent. of the total workforce.

The total amount of bonuses paid was £7,597,836 and the largest single payment was £30,000. The average amount per employee was £1,286.

Departmental Working Hours

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many and what proportion of staff of his Department, its executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies work flexibly or part-time; and what his Department's policy is on making jobs available on a job-share or flexible basis. [301324]

Chris Bryant: As at 1 November 2009 there were 163 Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staff working part time out of a total of 5,504, representing 3 per cent. These figures include FCO Services, which operates as a trading fund, and Wilton Park which is an agency. We do not hold central records of part-time workers in our non-departmental bodies.

We also have no central records of other types of flexible working, for example compressed hours and working from home, as these are agreed locally between staff and their line-managers. All jobs can be made available on a job-share or flexible basis, including overseas jobs, unless there is an overriding operational reason preventing it.

Diplomatic Service

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many honorary consuls there are; and if he will make a statement. [301881]

Chris Bryant: 243.


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Government Hospitality

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much Government Hospitality spent on (a) champagne, (b) wine, (c) china, (d) cutlery and (e) venue hire in 2008-09. [300704]

Chris Bryant: In the financial year 2008-09 Government Hospitality recorded the following expenditure:

Government Hospitality does not meet venue hire costs for functions it organises at non-Government venues.


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