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26 Jan 2010 : Column 834Wcontinued
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 16 December 2009, Official Report, column 1225W, on departmental training, how many face-to-face training places his Department will provide for its staff in financial year 2010-11; and what change this represents on the previous financial year. 
David Miliband: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is committed to investing in FCO staff training and development. This will be focussed on meeting business needs, for example through improving the FCO's international policy skills and increasing performance management training. We will make final decisions on the number of face-to-face training places we provide in 2010-11 in light of the resources available.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the evidence of the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on 9 December 2009, HC 145-i, question 10, what guidance has been given to the heads of overseas posts on expenditure on (a) travel and (b) hospitality; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: Decisions on local budget spending including expenditure on travel and hospitality, are devolved to delegated budget holders and are made in the light of budgets available. All expenditure is incurred in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money and the Treasury handbook on Regularity and Propriety. Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidance underlines that all staff should travel by the most appropriate means to ensure maximum efficiency and value for money. Spending on hospitality has to be in line with objectives and approved by line managers.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the evidence of the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on 9 December 2009, HC 145-i, question 10, at which overseas posts programme activity has been stopped; and what estimate he has made of the aggregate expenditure not incurred as a result. 
David Miliband: In 2009-10, programme activity has been stopped in Berne, Madrid, Reykjavik, Stockholm, and Valletta. Our estimate of the aggregate expenditure not incurred as a result is £39,560.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the evidence of the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on 9 December 2009, HC 145-i, question 26, what plans he has for further reductions in the number of overseas posts; and which posts will be affected. 
David Miliband: The Government are absolutely committed to a world-class and comprehensive diplomatic service that is a credit to the UK. The fall in the exchange rate has affected the purchasing power of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office budget. I am working with colleagues to address next year's budget, and will report when those discussions are complete. I am committed to ensuring that as a result of these discussions we will be able both to fulfil our historic responsibilities and to pursue our modern priorities.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his answer of 5 January 2010, Official Report, column 192W, on departmental manpower, what the main findings were of the joint pay review in each of the five UK overseas missions that have completed the exercise; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: The joint pay review referred to in the answer of 5 January 2010 was conducted in the following five Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)/Department for International Development (DFID) co-located posts:
New Delhi has now also completed its review. The reviews found that the pay and non-pay benefits of FCO and DFID locally engaged staff were broadly aligned with the local market comparators in most posts. Where there were divergences, both organisations have taken steps to bring salaries within the mid-market range and good progress has been made in this respect. Upwards of 85 per cent. of non-pay terms and conditions of service in most locations which completed the exercise have been aligned with local market practice immediately. This fulfils the overall objective of the exercise to harmonise as closely as possible FCO/DFID local staff pay and conditions of service with local market comparators.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the attendance of foreign ministers of EU member states at meetings of the European Council; and if he will make a statement. 
Chris Bryant: The Treaty is clear that the European Council comprises the Heads of State or Government of the 27 member states of the EU, chaired by the President of the European Council and with the President of the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also in attendance. The Treaty also makes clear that members of the European Council can decide to be assisted by another Minister "where the agenda so requires". The European Council at its December 2009 meeting discussed the issue, and Foreign Ministers are likely to attend the European Council at least once a year.
Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the guidance issued to his Department's staff on the Hornby system for claiming for foreign travel. 
Chris Bryant: As the guidance on this is regularly updated and is currently under review, it would not be appropriate to place a hard copy in the House of Commons Library, but I have placed there a broad explanation of the travel package principles.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Indonesian government on its decision not to grant a licence to the Sound of Hope radio network. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: We have no plans to make representations regarding the broadcasting licence of the Sound of Hope's radio station in Indonesia-Radio Erabaru. The decision to withdraw the licence is being challenged in the Indonesian courts. Indonesia has a dynamic and relatively free press and remains the only country in south-east Asia classed as 'free' by Freedom House.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions officials in his Department have had with the US administration on the passage of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Bill; and what his policy is on the passage of the legislation. 
The UK, with international partners including the US, pursues the dual track strategy of dialogue and pressure with regard to Iran's nuclear programme. Sanctions have an important role to play in this approach. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials
have discussed draft versions of this Bill in broad terms with the US administration and Congressional staff and will continue to do so as it proceeds. They have explained that though the UK supports the adoption of effective sanctions, it has concerns about extraterritorial legislation.
Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what aims and objectives he has set for UK foreign policy in respect of Lebanon. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: Our aim is to work with the Lebanese Government to support reform inside Lebanon and peace in the wider region.
The Lebanese Parliament's vote of confidence in the national unity Government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri is a positive development for both the people of Lebanon and the region.
We call on the new Government to make implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 a top priority.
We welcome the new Government's commitment to economic reform and we are encouraging the Government to focus on the benchmarks set in the EU's Neighbourhood Action Plan, and the benchmarks for Lebanese accession to the World Trade Organisation.
Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he plans to answer the letter from the hon. Member for Romsey of 2 September 2009, on an enquiry made on behalf of her constituents, Mr. and Mrs. J. Cook. 
Chris Bryant: The letter from the hon. Member was transferred to, and accepted by, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on 12 November 2009. The MOJ has already replied to the letter.
Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to discourage UK residents from purchasing properties inside those Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara which are deemed to be illegal; and if he will estimate the number of houses in such settlements owned by UK nationals. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: UK residents who are considering purchasing properties in Morocco or the disputed territory of Western Sahara should seek independent qualified legal advice. The UK Government do not hold information on the number of UK residents who buy property overseas.
Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department's role is in the arrangements for foreign visits on official business by Ministers from other Departments. 
Chris Bryant: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its network of diplomatic missions support the planning, delivery and security of many official visits overseas by Ministers from other Departments, in support of the Government's policies and international priorities.
Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effects of the restrictions on access into Gaza of aid and reconstruction materials on the prospects for progress in negotiations on peace in the Middle East; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: The UK remains extremely concerned by the Gaza border restrictions imposed by the Israeli Government and continues to call for those restrictions to be eased further. We, along with our international allies, will continue to work for peace in the Middle East. It is imperative to create hope and a vision of Israel and a viable Palestinian State living as neighbours in peace and security.
Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British-owned and registered vessels have been captured by pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the surrounding ocean in the last 12 months; how many (a) passengers and (b) crew of each nationality were on board each such ship at the time of capture; and what steps are being taken to ensure their safe return. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: In the last 12 months there have been three British-owned and registered ships captured by pirates. The yacht Lynn Rival was hijacked near the Seychelles on 23 October 2009 with two UK nationals on board. The British-flagged MV St. James Park was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on 28 December 2009 and the MV Asian Glory was hijacked in the Indian Ocean on 3 January 2010. Neither vessel had any UK nationals on board.
According to information received from the shipping company, the crew breakdowns are as follows:
St. James Park: Bulgaria five, Georgia one, India six, Philippines three, Poland one, Romania two, Russia three, Turkey three and Ukraine two.
Asian Glory: Bulgaria eight, India five, Romania two and Ukraine 10.
Contact is being maintained with the affected ship owners. Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff are in contact with the Chandler family and we are offering them full consular support.
In addition to the answer provided by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces on 13 January 2010, Official Report, column 999W, we are supporting strongly international action to combat piracy at sea, militarily and through close co-operation with industry, through support for regional capability development and through action to address the underlying causes of instability and lack of rule of law on land.
Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a Minister last met persons working on behalf of the Polisario Front. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met Independent Diplomat and discussed Western Sahara in January 2008. Officials in London also regularly meet with the Polisario's representative in the UK. There have been no further ministerial meetings with people working on behalf of the Polisario Front. Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials from London and the UK's Mission to the UN meet regularly with Independent Diplomat, with the last meeting being in December 2009.
Dan Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his most recent assessment is of progress towards securing the release of Paul and Rachel Chandler who have been kidnapped by Somali pirates. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 25 January 2010]: We are monitoring the situation very closely and doing everything we properly can to help secure a release. Foreign and Commonwealth Office consular staff are in regular contact with the Chandlers' next of kin and are offering support.
We will continue to use political and other contacts in the region, including the Somali Government (Transitional Federal Government). Government policy is that we do not make substantive concessions to hostage-takers, including the payment of ransoms.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports his Department received on the alleged donation by the former Soviet Union of funds to UK-based organisations between 1980 and 1989. 
Chris Bryant: This information is not held centrally and to collate would incur disproportionate cost.
Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what role independent international election monitors will play in Sri Lanka's forthcoming elections; and if he will make a statement. 
David Miliband: A Commonwealth Expert Team will visit Sri Lanka for the presidential election on 26 January 2010. Its mandate is to assess the overall conduct of the electoral process and the environment in which the election is conducted. Two other independent international organisations are expected to send teams to Sri Lanka for the presidential election on 26 January: the Association of Asian Election Authorities; and the Asian Network for Free Elections. Exact details of their activities have not yet been announced.
The Government are also providing funding to help support the work of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, an independent Sri Lankan election monitoring body. We continue to encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to take measures to ensure the election is free and fair. I wrote to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister on 11 January 2010 to urge his Government to ensure effective measures are in place to prevent and control election related violence, as well as ensuring the Election Commissioner's rulings are implemented effectively by the police and other authorities.
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