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10 Dec 2009 : Column 571Wcontinued
Mr. Ivan Lewis:
In his inauguration speech of 19 November 2009, President Karzai made clear his commitment to political reform and tackling corruption, including the appointment of clean and competent Ministers and Governors. The Afghan-led framework which ensures appointments are corruption-free centres
on an asset registration process. This process is currently managed by the High Office of Oversight. UK support to the High Office of Oversight has thus far enabled it to register the assets of 50 per cent. of Cabinet Ministers and over 1,200 public officials. We have pressed the Afghan Government to establish strong and independent anti-corruption institutions that can report to the Afghan Parliament and public. The new institutions will have the responsibility to crack down on corruption cases.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6W, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, what benchmarks the Government has set for the government of Afghanistan; what plans he has to review those benchmarks; and by what mechanisms progress against these benchmarks will be measured. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister clearly laid out the benchmarks in his statement to the House on 30 November 2009. We regularly discuss progress and challenges with the Afghan Government and international partners and we will continue to do so regarding the benchmarks the Prime Minister has described.
Other benchmarks had been previously agreed between the international community and the Afghan Government in the 2006 London Compact and are kept under review by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), comprising of senior Afghan and international officials.
The London Conference will be a further opportunity to review progress against the Prime Minister's benchmarks and the areas of work President Karzai highlighted in his inauguration speech, as well as an opportunity to set out international support to help the new Afghan Government deliver.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, what mechanisms will be used to monitor the record of the Afghan government on corruption; how often reports on such monitoring work will be made; and what plans he has to inform Parliament of the outcomes of such monitoring work. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have pressed the Afghan Government to establish strong and independent anti-corruption institutions that can report to the Afghan Parliament and public. President Karzai committed to tackle corruption in his inauguration speech. We will follow closely the delivery of this commitment. Priorities should be an anti-corruption commission that reports annually to the Afghan public and Parliament, and an independent accountability board to oversee the commission with both Afghan and international membership.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether he plans to assess the merits of reviewing the mandate of the United Nations in Afghanistan as part of the Government's policy on stronger civilian leadership in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) plays an essential and central role in coordinating civilian efforts in Afghanistan. We would like to see this role further reinforced and developed. Last week, the US and UK, together with many of our international security assistance force (ISAF) partners, announced a substantial uplift in the number of troops to be deployed in Afghanistan. It is important that the increasing growth, pace and effectiveness of ISAF's military efforts in Afghanistan are matched by similar improvements in the civil effort. We are working with the Government of Afghanistan, key international institutions such as the UN and NATO, and our international partners to ensure that this becomes a reality.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's Statement of 30 November 2009, Official Report, columns 831-6, on Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether the benchmarks for Afghanistan to meet have been agreed with the (a) US administration and (b) government of Afghanistan. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We are in close and regular contact with the Government of Afghanistan, US and our other international security assistance force allies about progress in Afghanistan, including how we best measure that progress and prioritise our collective effort. The London Conference on Afghanistan, set for 28 January 2010, offers a further opportunity to discuss progress and will be part of a sequence of events to help to reinvigorate delivery in the priority areas of security, development and governance.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what objectives he has set for the 2010 London Conference on Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: On 28 November 2009, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced that we would host an international conference on Afghanistan in London. The one-day event, to be held on 28 January 2010, will be opened by the Prime Minister and President Karzai and chaired by the Foreign Secretary.
The main focus of the conference will be to deliver and coordinate support for the ambitious agenda set out in President Karzai's inauguration speech: increasing Afghan leadership on security issues; improving governance and reducing corruption; reintegration and reconciliation; improving economic and social development; and building closer regional relationships.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the answer of 14 July 2009, Official Report, columns 327-30W, on departmental contracts, what services were provided by Crown Agents under its contract for life support services in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Crown Agents has been contracted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to provide life support to our embassy in Kabul since April 2008. The service includes the provision of catering, laundry services, cleaning and waste removal.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his Bangladeshi counterpart on the potential effect of sea level rises in the country. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Environmental specialists studying the effects of climate change in Bangladesh believe that as many as 30 million Bangladeshis could be affected by a one metre rise in sea level. When my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Port of Spain on 28 November 2009, they discussed the importance to Bangladesh of a robust deal on climate change. This included calling for a fair, equitable and global deal at Copenhagen, particularly on adaptation and mitigation, and sufficient, predictable and additional international finance. We will continue to work closely with the Bangladesh Government and civil society to secure an equitable deal at Copenhagen this week.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the number of people in coastal zones of Bangladesh who may be displaced as a result of changes to the sea level in the next 10 years; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Environmental specialists studying the effects of climate change in Bangladesh believe that as many as 30 million Bangladeshis could be affected by a one metre rise in sea level; a likely scenario within the next 100 years. The Government consider this estimation credible. While a sea level rise of 10 cm over the next 10 years is unlikely to provoke large-scale migration from coastal areas, increased levels of salinity in fresh water will cause considerable health and agricultural problems. Adaptation to this new environment will be crucial.
The Government remain the largest bilateral donor to Bangladesh. We led in the formation of the Multi-donor Trust Fund, a substantial fund for climate change adaptation projects, to which we have assigned £75 million over five years.
We continue to work closely with the Bangladesh Government and civil society to secure an equitable deal at Copenhagen for Bangladesh, and suitable amounts of climate finance for large-scale adaptation to the effects of climate change.
Mr. Hurd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what payments the British Council has made to Stratagem in the last 12 months; for what purpose; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the contract under which such payments were made. 
Chris Bryant: The British Council has made the following payments to Stratagem in the last 12 months:
To support the delivery of a conference in Northern Ireland in September/October 2008, which brought together 100 young North Americans and Europeans-£1,470. (This covers the VAT, paid for separately to the £6,950 cost of the contract.)
Annual e-mail subscription service, which provides political updates and analysis on local political developments in Northern Ireland-£813.75.
Facilitation of Living Together International Congress in Poland in March 2009, the British Council's project on intercultural dialogue in South East Europe and the UK-£1,032.54.
I will send under separate cover copies of the contracts for your information. At this time there are no plans to place copies of these contracts in the Library of the House. The e-mail subscription service is one of Stratagem's standard off-the-shelf products to which the British Council takes out a subscription and there is no separate contract.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations the Government has received from representatives of Overseas Territories on the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph on their behalf. 
Chris Bryant: We have received representations from some representatives of the overseas territories to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. We have no plans at present to change the existing arrangements.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department has spent on (a) Ministerial photoshoots and (b) production of videos in which Ministers appear in the last three years for which figures are available. 
Chris Bryant: A Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) press officer is trained to take photographs so we do not need to employ external contractors for this work. The exception is that a photographer was hired in 2007, at a cost of £150 +VAT, to take shots of the new ministerial team. We are currently seeking to meet more of our video requirements in-house in order to save costs. The FCO had a public diplomacy contract with British Satellite News for 15 years which included filming some ministerial statements and engagements. This contract was terminated in September 2009 and it is not possible to disaggregate the cost of production of videos in which Ministers appear.
Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many applicants for jobs in his Department have had their applications rejected on national security grounds in each year since 2001. 
Chris Bryant: Since autumn 2008, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has rejected six applicants for employment on national security grounds, as the applicants failed to secure developed vetting (DV) clearance. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not hold statistics for the period prior to this date.
Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much was levied in fines against the UK by EU institutions in the first six months of 2009. 
Chris Bryant: The United Kingdom has never incurred a financial penalty for failure to comply with a European Court of Justice judgment under Article 228 (ex Article 171) of the Treaty Establishing the European Community.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made recent representations to his Malaysian counterpart on Malaysia's policy on Iran's nuclear programme; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: My officials lobbied the Malaysian Government in advance of the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meeting to make clear the importance of sending a strong signal to Iran. In the event, Malaysia cast its vote against a resolution censuring Iran for its nuclear programme on 27 November 2009. Since the vote, the Malaysian Government have made a public statement saying that their vote against the resolution was not in line with government procedures and that their Permanent Representative to the IAEA has been recalled to Kuala Lumpur for consultations. My officials have spoken to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and have sent a Note Verbale recording our disappointment with the vote, but welcoming the subsequent public statement.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Israeli government on its compliance with United Nations Security Council resolution (a) 478 of 1980, on Jerusalem and (b) 1860 of 2009, on Gaza. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We fully agree with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 478, and do not recognise as valid under international law the Israeli "basic law" proclaiming a change in the character and status of Jerusalem. We have consistently made clear that we do not accept actions by Israel that seek to alter the status of Jerusalem and the Government's view that Israel does not have sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which remains occupied territory.
We have made frequent representations to the Israeli Government on the key aspects of UN Security Council Resolution 1860 including the need for the sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings and renewed efforts towards achieving a comprehensive peace.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of damage during Operation Cast Lead to properties constructed with public funding provided (a) directly by the UK and (b) by the EU. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have not made such an assessment and there would be significant obstacles to doing so accurately. Much UK and EU funding is donated in the form of contributions towards projects carried out by the UN Relief and Works Agency and the Palestinian Authority. However over 100 schools, three hospitals and five health clinics need full reconstruction or major repair. We continue to press the Israeli Government to allow the materials required for reconstruction into Gaza.
Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his latest assessment is of the political situation in Moldova; and if he will make a statement. 
Chris Bryant: On Monday 7 December 2009 the Moldovan Parliament failed for the second time to elect the President, when Marian Lupu (Chairman of the Democratic Party) failed to reach the minimum qualifying threshold following the opposition Communist party's boycott of the vote. This means that the Parliamentary Speaker Mihai Ghimpu (Chairman of the Liberal party) will remain Acting President.
Parliament will need to be dissolved. However, this can only occur once within a 12 month period. It was last dissolved in June 2009. As a result, dissolution will only be possible after mid-June 2010 causing elections to be held around October 2010.
With elections now firmly on the horizon, the Alliance will need to remain united in order to advance much needed economic and institutional reforms. When I met the Moldovan Deputy Foreign Minister, Natalia Gherman, in November 2009, I underlined the UK's continued support for Moldova's democratic and economic development and its European integration.
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage the government of Sri Lanka to (a) release all those in internment camps and (b) establish a political settlement which takes into account the needs of the Tamil people. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed both these issues with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Bogollogama on 27 November 2009.
We take every available opportunity to urge the Sri Lankan Government to ensure the early and safe return to their home areas of all internally displaced persons (IDPs). In recent weeks there has been some progress on returns; unconfirmed UN figures of 7 December 2009 estimate that over 150,000 IDPs had been returned to their home areas. The announcement that IDPs would be granted freedom of movement as of 1 December 2009 is a positive step. Some IDPs have already left, and we believe the opening of the camps and granting real freedom of movement will enable the thousands still living in the camps to start to rebuild their lives. It is now imperative that humanitarian agencies are given full access to the IDPs so that they can provide them with the help they need both in the camps and in their places of return.
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