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Human Rights

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what results he has received on the (a) length, (b) characteristics, (c) legality under international law and (d) effect on human rights of the Saharawi people of the structure erected between Guerguerat and Oued Drâa. [312349]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: With regard to parts (a) and (b) of the question I refer the hon. Member to the website of the UN peacekeeping mission to Western Sahara (MINURSO):

This details factual information on the length of the berm, the materials it is made of and its history.

With regard to part (c) of the question, the UK regards the status of the disputed territory of Western Sahara as undetermined and continues to believe progress towards a negotiated solution to the dispute, providing for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, is best achieved under the auspices of the UN. Any issues relating to "the berm" will need to be resolved and considered in that context.

With regard to part (d) of the question we continue to believe that greater openness and transparency on
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human rights by all the parties to the dispute would create a significantly better environment for political dialogue. Both sides have imperfect records on human rights. Morocco's record in Western Sahara has improved in recent years, but more needs to be done to provide equality of opportunity for the people of the territory. We welcome the efforts of the parties, in partnership with MINURSO and NGOs, to reduce the threat posed by mines and unexploded ordnance in the region of the berm. We also support the UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, in his efforts to build confidence between the parties, including encouragement to cooperate with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees towards establishing family visits by land.

Human Trafficking

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had on people-trafficking in (a) Bangladesh, (b) Yemen and (c) Pakistan with representatives from each of those countries. [313617]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not had any recent discussions on people trafficking with representatives of Bangladesh, Yemen or Pakistan. This is a Home Office policy lead.

Officials from both departments do have regular contact with their opposite numbers from these countries on a range of migration and trafficking related issues.

Israel

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions since the end of Operation Cast Lead Ministers from his Department have visited Israel; and if he will make a statement. [314071]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: I visited both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories once each, in August 2009. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last visited the region in November 2008.

Ogaden: Politics and Government

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the political situation in Ogaden. [314052]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Government remain concerned by the situation in the Ogaden. Conflict continues between the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Ethiopian Government forces, and access to the region is tightly controlled. We have serious concerns over alleged human rights abuses in the region and over the humanitarian situation.

The UK has called on the Ethiopian government to undertake a credible and independent investigation into the alleged abuses, so that they can be addressed where they are found to have taken place, whether committed by the Government or by ONLF forces. We have also highlighted the pressing need for humanitarian agencies, in particular, to have adequate access to the region.


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Shipping: Pay

Gwyn Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the legal advice he has obtained on the law of the sea and the application of the national minimum wage to seafarers working on foreign-flagged ships operating between two UK ports. [313368]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Lord Malloch-Brown, then Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, wrote to the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress on 24 July 2009, explaining the legal position regarding the application of the national minimum wage to seafarers working on foreign-flagged vessels in the territorial sea, including when operating between two UK ports.

I am arranging for a copy of this letter to be placed in the Library.

Business, Innovation and Skills

Business: Ex-servicemen

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many ex-service personnel have received funding from the £5 million enterprise support programme announced in paragraph 4.51 of the 2009 Pre-Budget Report; and how much of the funding allocated has been spent. [311942]

Ms Rosie Winterton [holding answer 21 January 2010]: Funding from the Enterprise Support Programme will be available in financial year 2010/11, so no one has received funding as yet. In the meantime, enterprise support is available to ex-service personnel via Business Link.

Business: Kent

Damian Green: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what assessment he has made of the effect of the recent industrial action by Royal Mail employees on small businesses in (a) Ashford constituency and (b) Kent. [313521]

Mr. McFadden: It is clear that industrial action by Royal Mail staff has an impact on those customers that heavily rely on Royal Mail services and we are aware that many small businesses throughout the country use postal services on a daily basis.

The Government want to see a successful outcome to the ongoing discussions between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union and we welcome the efforts of Roger Poole (former Assistant General Secretary of NUPE and of Unison and Chairman of the Parades Commission for Northern Ireland) as an independent third party in overseeing the current process of talks.

It is essential for both parties to keep talking until an agreement is made on a way forward on the next phase of modernisation, which everyone accepts is vital for Royal Mail's future.


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Business: Lancashire

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what assistance the Northwest Regional Development Agency has provided to businesses in Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency in respect of the economic downturn. [311561]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) established in 1999 has provided extensive support to businesses across the region including in the Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency. The NWDA's main support for businesses is through regionally available "Solutions for Business" products in which the agency invested £92.75 million in 2008/09. The "Solutions for Business" portfolio includes: business finance, improving innovation and efficiency, business start-up, advice on international trade, work force training, and sector development through regional cluster organisations. The primary access point is Business Link which provides companies with information, diagnostics and brokerage to specific types of support. In a direct response to the downturn Business Link can respond to emergencies within 24 hours and utilise the region's "rapid response team" if required. The agency and Business Link have also been working with partners such as chambers of commerce and local authorities to promote business support services and share intelligence on companies and sectors which have been impacted by the downturn. The NWDA has also worked with the banks and doubled its investment in business finance in 2009/10. The NWDA is tackling short-term economic problems whilst also taking a long-term view in line with the Government's New Industry, New Jobs policy which promotes investment in growth sectors to compete in the global economy.

Departmental Disclosure of Information

David Davis: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills whether (a) agencies and (b) non-departmental public bodies for which his Department is responsible sell information on a commercial basis to (i) companies or individuals in the private sector and (ii) other organisations. [313217]

Mr. McFadden: Government Departments and agencies and non-departmental public bodies that have Crown status, make most of their information available for free re-use under the PSI Click-Use Licence. Government trading funds, such as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), for which BIS have ministerial responsibility, are able under their trading fund status to charge for the services they provide in order to cover their costs. This covers information and its supply provided to other public bodies, commercial organisations and individuals. In common with other Government policy, some information is sold as priced publications.

I have approached the Chief Executives of the Department's executive agencies and they will respond to the hon. Member directly.

Information on Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) is not held centrally and due to the number of NDPBs, this would incur disproportionate cost.


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Letter from Sean Dennehey, dated 25 January 2010:

Letter from Gareth Jones:

Letter from Peter Mason, dated 22 January 2010:

Letter from Stephen Speed:


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Departmental Information Officers

Grant Shapps: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many (a) press officers and (b) communications staff were employed by his Department (i) in each of the last five years and (ii) on the latest date for which figures are available; and what the cost of employing these staff was in each such year. [309926]

Mr. McFadden: The information requested is as follows:

( a) Press officers

The number of press officers currently at BIS is 27. This combines the press offices from the former BERR and former DIUS. The press office co-ordinates all the media handling for the Department's current 10 Ministers and the Government Chief Scientific Adviser.

The number of press officers in previous years was:

The total staffing costs for press office staff for the former BERR, DIUS and DTI are:

£

2008/09

BERR

1,080,000

2008/09

DIUS

766,000

2007/08

DTI/BERR

1,261,000

2006/07

DTI

1,023,000

2005/06

DTI

992,000

2004/05

DTI

871,000


This includes staff costs for press officers and support staff working in the press office. A breakdown of costs for press officers and non press officers could be provided only at disproportionate costs.

(b) Communications staff

The total number of full time equivalent communications staff currently at BIS, excluding press officers, is 74. This figure covers staff in the central communications directorate employed in communications roles, excluding support staff, secondees and agency staff. Communications roles currently include strategy and planning, internal communications, strategic marketing, stakeholder liaison and digital communications.

Figures for the number of communications staff employed in the last five years cannot be provided without incurring disproportionate costs.

Total staffing costs for staff in the central communications directorate, excluding press office costs.

£

2008/09

BERR

1,842,000

2008/09

DIUS (marketing team)

1,105,000

2007/08

DTI/BERR

2,073,000

2006/07

DTI

1,945,000

2005/06

DTI

1,842,000

2004/05

DTI (excluding internal communications)

1,879.000


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