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7 Jun 2010 : Column 25Wcontinued
Nicholas Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the compatibility of Israel's blockade of Gaza with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. 
Alistair Burt: Although there is no permanent physical Israeli presence in Gaza, given the significant control that Israel has over Gaza's borders, airspace and territorial waters, Israel retains obligations under the fourth Geneva convention as an occupying power.
The UK has been clear that the current restrictions are unacceptable and counterproductive and it is the people of Gaza who suffer from them. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made this clear in his conversation with the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. We will continue to work with international partners and press the Israeli Government to allow unfettered access of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will press the EU to raise the restrictions placed by the Government of Israel on access for humanitarian aid and
reconstruction materials into Gaza at the next discussion of the Middle East Quartet; and if he will make a statement. 
Alistair Burt: As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his public statement on 5 June 2010, we continue to press the Government of Israel to lift Gaza's closure. The Foreign Secretary is also discussing these issues urgently with our international partners-including during his ongoing visits to EU capitals. We welcome Quartet discussion of these issues.
Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps the Government have taken to increase the level of political stability in the Middle East; and if he will make a statement. 
Alistair Burt: The UK continues to press both sides to show the courage, commitment and compromise needed to make real progress on the peace process.
We remain determined to do everything possible to work towards a two state solution that achieves a viable and sovereign Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, with its right to live in peace and security recognised by all its neighbours. The proximity talks that are under way are more important than ever to help pave the way towards a comprehensive peace in the region.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister underlined our commitment in his recent conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas. And my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary also made this clear in the House.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department's most recent assessment is of the security situation in Nigeria, with particular reference to Jos; and whether he has made representations to the Government of Nigeria on that situation. 
Mr Bellingham: The security situation in Jos remains fragile following several disturbing outbreaks of violence since January. We have conveyed our concerns at a senior level to the Government of Nigeria and the Plateau State Government. We have made clear publicly that those who have committed atrocities should be held accountable. We believe a way forward must be found for the communities of Jos to live together in a spirit of reconciliation and dialogue. We continue to work with our international partners to support a long lasting peaceful solution to the intercommunal violence in Jos.
Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the proposed demolition of houses in East Jerusalem; and if he will make a statement. 
Alistair Burt: We are aware of proposals by the Mayor of Jerusalem regarding demolition of homes in East Jerusalem.
The Government believe that any attempts by Israel to alter the character or demography of East Jerusalem are unacceptable and damaging to the peace process. House demolitions cause suffering to Palestinians, increase tension within the city and make it more difficult for Palestinians life to continue in East Jerusalem.
Both my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have reiterated in contacts with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, the importance of proximity talks and overall progress on the peace process.
Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has had recent discussions with his Israeli counterpart on the proposed demolition of houses in East Jerusalem. 
Alistair Burt: I would like to make clear, with few exceptions, house demolitions in occupied territory, including in East Jerusalem, are in direct contravention of article 53 of the fourth Geneva convention.
Evictions of Palestinian families and the destruction of Palestinian homes and property are also deeply unhelpful to the wider Middle East Peace Process.
My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have reiterated to their Israeli counterparts the importance we attach to making progress towards a two-state solution.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has for the future of diplomatic posts in (a) Peru, (b) Colombia, (c) Venezuela, (d) Uruguay and (e) Chile. 
Mr Jeremy Browne: We have no plans that would affect the future of diplomatic posts in those countries.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many UK citizens are based in Sudan as election observers; and what steps his Department is taking in response to President al-Bashir's threat to remove foreign observers. 
Mr Bellingham: Five British citizens participated in the EU Election Observation Mission which was deployed for the Sudanese elections in April 2010. We are also aware that a number of British citizens also participated in a privately-organised election monitoring mission.
Our embassy staff in Khartoum and Juba also participated in diplomatic observation efforts.
The UK was concerned at President Bashir's threats towards election observers. We raised our concerns at a senior level with the Government of Sudan and sought reassurance that such threats would not be repeated.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the security situation in Sudan; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Bellingham: Insecurity in Sudan is of serious concern and continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of many Sudanese across the country. The UK continues to support work towards the peaceful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and an inclusive and lasting settlement in Darfur which is essential for long-term peace in Sudan.
In Darfur security has deteriorated considerably in the past few months, including the resumption of fighting between Government forces and Darfuri movements, intertribal conflict, attacks on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers and civil unrest in North Darfur. The fighting in Eastern Jebel Mara, and around Jebel Moon, is particularly worrying, with potentially severe humanitarian consequences for the civilian population. We continue to urge all sides to immediately cease hostilities and to allow humanitarian access.
We are also concerned by the situation in South Sudan. In 2009 over 390,000 people were forced from their homes and 2,500 were killed, a trend that has continued in 2010. Current insecurity in Jonglei and Unity states are particularly worrying. We continue to urge the Government of South Sudan and the United Nations Mission in Sudan to respond proactively to and reduce the risks of violent clashes. We are also working to improve the capacity of the Government of South Sudan to respond to and reduce insecurity.
Mr Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to consult trade unions in (a) his Department and (b) its agencies on cost reduction plans. 
Alistair Burt: Discussion of how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will meet its current savings targets is under way. We will share relevant information with the trade unions and consult as necessary.
Mr David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government supports Turkey's application to join the European Union. 
Mr Lidington: The Government strongly support Turkey's application to join the EU, subject to the rigorous application of the accession criteria.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps she plans to take to prevent the sale of alcohol below cost price; and if she will make a statement. 
James Brokenshire: We are determined to tackle the sale of alcohol below cost price, and clamp down on irresponsible sales where this has been shown to impact on crime and disorder. The Government are considering the detail of what "below-cost selling" constitutes and how the ban will be enforced. We will work closely with other Government Departments including DBIS and the OFT, as well as representatives of the licensed trade, including the supermarkets, to determine how best to effectively implement this commitment, without unduly adding a bureaucratic burden for businesses.
Mr David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people with learning difficulties have applied to be exempted from the citizenship test; how many have been exempted; and how many who were not exempted subsequently (a) passed and (b) failed the test. 
Damian Green: Neither requests for exemption from the requirement to demonstrate a sufficient knowledge of life in the United Kingdom nor the outcomes of such requests are recorded centrally. The information requested could be obtained only by detailed examination of individual case records at disproportionate cost.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether her Department plans to implement the cross-departmental strategy to tackle violence against women published in November 2009. 
James Brokenshire: Violence against women and girls remains prevalent in our society. This is unacceptable and there should be a cross-departmental approach to addressing it. I look forward to discussing with colleagues across Government how we will take forward our approach in this area as both coalition parties planned in opposition. As a first step, the coalition programme for government pledges to consider how to use proceeds from the victim surcharge to deliver up to 15 new rape crisis centres, and give existing rape crisis centres stable, long-term funding.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether she plans to extend the pilot project for women with no recourse to public funds beyond August 2010; and whether she plans to make this initiative permanent. 
James Brokenshire: A Home Office pilot project for women with no recourse to public funds is due to run until the end of August 2010. It is being monitored on a monthly basis with a full evaluation taking place following completion of the pilot. This will assist in informing our next steps.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Polish nationals have been deported from the UK for reasons other than criminal convictions or other criminal proceedings in each of the last three years. 
Damian Green [holding answer 2 June 2010]: The UK Border Agency has not deported any Polish nationals for reasons other than criminal convictions or other criminal proceedings in any of the last three years.
Total numbers of removals and voluntary departures of Polish nationals, including deportations, were 80 in 2007, 135 in 2008 and 160 in 2009.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many children have been transferred from Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre to centres elsewhere in the UK since 6 May 2010. 
Damian Green: Four children (from two families) have been transferred from Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre to centres elsewhere in the UK since 6 May 2010.
The data are normally used for management information only and are not subject to the detailed checks that apply for National Statistics publications.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans the Government has to end child detentions at all immigration removal centres in the UK. 
Damian Green: This Government are committed to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes and we have already begun a review to find a way forward which protects the welfare of children, while ensuring the removal of those who have no right to be in the UK.
Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether Ministers in her Department have signed authorisations for the continued detention of children at immigration removal centres beyond 28 days since taking office. 
Damian Green: Local management information indicates that no authorisations have been sought for the continued detention of a child beyond 28 days since 12 May 2010.
These data are normally used for management information only and are not subject to the detailed checks that apply for National Statistics publications.
Paul Goggins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many identity cards were issued before 11 May 2010 (a) in total and (b) to residents of Greater Manchester. 
Damian Green [holding answer 2 June 2010]: There were approximately 13,200 identity cards issued before 11 May 2010, around 6,000 of which were issued in Greater Manchester.
Paul Goggins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether those identity cards that have already been issued will remain valid for a full 10 years; 
(2) if she will make arrangements to offer a refund to individuals who have paid for an identity card; 
(3)whether individuals who have paid for an identity card will be offered a credit when they next renew their passport. 
Damian Green [holding answer 2 June 2010]: Currently Identity Cards remain valid until the date of expiry on the card. However, the Identity Documents Bill was laid before Parliament on 26 May 2010. The Bill proposes the scrapping of ID Cards and the National Identity Register. Cards would remain valid for one month after Royal Assent. The Identity and Passport Service is writing to each cardholder informing them of progress and contact details for further advice. Card refunds or credit for a future passport application will not be offered.
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