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8 Jun 2010 : Column 98Wcontinued
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he plans to visit Cuba. 
Mr Jeremy Browne: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has no current plans to visit Cuba.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the future of the EU Common Position on Cuba. 
Mr Jeremy Browne: The EU's Common Position on Cuba will be evaluated by the Foreign Affairs Council on 14 June. While, like most EU member states, the UK would like to be in a position to have a more normal bilateral relationship between the EU and Cuba, we cannot support the end of the Common Position against the current background of human rights abuses in Cuba.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his most recent assessment is of the progress of settlement talks in Cyprus. 
Mr Lidington: The Government support the continuing negotiations aimed at reaching an agreed settlement on the island for the benefit of all Cypriots. The two leaders in Cyprus held their first meeting since elections in the north of the island on 26 May and spoke again on 3 June. Further meetings are planned at both expert and leader level in the coming weeks. Both sides have agreed to negotiate within the UN parameters and resume from where the negotiations left off on 30 March. Discussions continue to take place in a constructive atmosphere and are currently focusing on property. We urge all sides to grasp this opportunity and build on the considerable convergences achieved in the talks to date to achieve an early solution.
Dr Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken at (a) national and (b) international level to bring (i) stability and (ii) humanitarian aid to the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the expiry of the United Nations mandate; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Bellingham: The mandate for the UN Peacekeeping Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (MONUSCO from June 2010, MONUC before) has recently been renewed until the end of June 2011. The UK lobbied strongly during the negotiations to ensure the UN peacekeeping force was given an effective mandate with protection of civilians as the highest priority. We are pleased with the outcome of the mandate.
Under the new mandate MONUC/MONUSCO, will continue to play an integral role in Security Sector Reform (SSR) in DRC. Reform of the Congolese security sector is essential to bringing peace and stability to DRC and we will continue to support this process.
The UK is a key contributor to the UN Humanitarian Pooled fund. This fund aims to tackle the most critical humanitarian needs in the DRC, and enable a rapid response to any unforeseen circumstances. The UK will contribute £30 million to the fund over 2010-11.
Helen Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many special advisers (a) he and (b) each named Minister in his Department (i) has appointed to date and (ii) plans to appoint. 
Mr Lidington: I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's response of 3 June 2010, Official Report, column 99W.
Mr Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many non-UK citizens are employed as special advisers in his Department. 
Alistair Burt: I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office's response of 3 June 2010, Official Report, column 51W.
Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Government (a) cars and (b) drivers are allocated to Ministers in his Department. 
Mr Lidington: The Foreign Secretary uses a Government car but full details of his transport arrangements are not published for security reasons. Other Foreign Office Ministers currently use a combination of allocated and pool cars. These arrangements are subject to review. The new ministerial code, published on 21 May 2010, contains changes that affect ministerial entitlement to travel by Government car. It states that
"the number of Ministers with allocated cars and drivers will be kept to a minimum, taking into account security and other relevant considerations. Other Ministers will be entitled to use cars from the Government Car Service Pool as needed".
The Department for Transport and its Government Car and Despatch Agency are working with Departments to effect the transition to the new arrangements. The ministerial code, published on 21 May 2010, is available on the Cabinet Office website.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to ensure that there is an equal age of consent in Gibraltar. 
Mr Lidington: There is an ongoing Gibraltar court case launched by the Government of Gibraltar to examine the compatibility of Gibraltar's Age of Consent law with Gibraltar's Constitution.
On 6 April this year the UK responded to an invitation from the Supreme Court of Gibraltar for applications by interested parties to the case. The UK intervention will set out the international legal arguments that the distinction in Age of Consent (and other discriminatory provisions relating to sexual offences) are in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The British Government takes seriously its obligations under ECHR which also extend to the Overseas Territories (OTs). We are committed to working with OT Governments to ensure we meet these obligations.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the recognition of the government of Honduras. 
Mr Jeremy Browne: The UK has a long-standing policy of recognising states and not governments.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Israeli government in respect of British nationals who were part of the Free Gaza Movement
flotilla and who have subsequently been detained by Israeli forces; and what reports he has received on the level of access to lawyers afforded to those detained. 
Alistair Burt: We are in regular touch with the Israeli Government, in Israel and in London.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Israeli Foreign Minister on 1 June 2010 and I met the Israeli ambassador on 3 June 2010. We made the UK's position very clear. We pressed the Israelis to allow our staff immediate access to those detained, to ensure we could provide proper and timely consular assistance.
I understand those detained were not offered access to legal representation by the Israeli authorities. Our consular staff raised the issue of legal representation with those British nationals who they were able to meet in Beer'Sheva prison on 1 June 2010. The responses of British nationals detained there varied; some did not want to engage legal assistance, some asked us to contact the organisers' lawyers, and some asked us to provide lists of English speaking local lawyers. Our consul in Tel Aviv returned the next day with lists of English speaking local lawyers, however due to the speed with which the prisoners were transferred to Ben Gurion airport before they were deported, he was unable to provide this list to those who requested it. Should any British nationals require it, they can obtain the lists from our embassy in Tel Aviv or the embassy website.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the destination of the aid carried by the Free Gaza Movement flotilla. 
Alistair Burt: We are aware of media reports on this issue including that some items are likely to be withheld due to the restrictions in place on import of items to Gaza. We continue to monitor these developments.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his statement to the House on 2 June 2010, it is essential that there be unfettered access not only to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, but to enable the reconstruction of homes and livelihoods and permit trade to take place. We continue to press the Israeli Government to lift Gaza's closure. The Foreign Secretary is also discussing these issues with international partners, including during visits to European capitals this week.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has made an assessment of the merits of an international investigation into the actions of the Israeli government in relation to the Free Gaza Movement flotilla. 
Alistair Burt: As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his statement to the House on 2 June 2010 we want to see a full credible, impartial and independent investigation into events surrounding the interception of boats in the "Free Gaza" flotilla. Our goal is a process that ensures full accountability for the events that occurred and commends the confidence of the international community, including international participation.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the level of child safety in Pitcairn. 
Mr Bellingham: A Pitcairn Child Safety Review, commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development was completed by independent experts in June 2009. The review concluded that further work was needed to improve the management of the risks to child safety on Pitcairn. The Government are working to implement the recommendations made in the report. A further review is planned for 2011.
The UK Government take its responsibilities for child protection on Pitcairn very seriously. There is a significant community of professionals on Pitcairn, including a police officer, a trained social worker, a teacher and a doctor. An FCO official stationed on the island is the designated Children's officer. There are established policies and procedures in place for handling specific child protection concerns. All professionals receive child protection training before they go to the island, and most members of the island community have also attended human rights training and child protection training.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the incidence of corruption in the Russian Federation. 
Mr Lidington: President Medvedev has highlighted corruption as a serious problem in Russia, affecting many areas of life. Russia slipped to 120th out of 183 countries in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business survey 2010. It ranks 147th on Transparency International's corruption index.
The Government welcome President Medvedev's focus on the need to strengthen the rule of law in Russia. Implementation of this agenda would significantly enhance Russia's ability to meet the standards it set itself when it joined organisations such as the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. We also welcome the work that Russia is doing on accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and joining the anti-bribery convention.
The UK regularly raises the issue of rule of law and the need for judicial reform with the Russian Government, both bilaterally and with the EU, and will continue to do so.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects elections to be held in the Turks and Caicos Islands. 
Mr Bellingham: We are giving careful consideration to the timing of elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
We hope to see elected government restored as soon as practicable, and we are working hard to ensure that key elements of good governance and sound public financial management are well embedded before elections take place.
Mr David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's policy is on whether any new member of the United Nations Security Council should automatically have the veto. 
Mr Bellingham: We support reform of the UN Security Council, including expansion of the number of permanent members.
However, expanding the number of permanent members should not automatically increase the number of states with the right to veto.
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on relations with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. 
Mr Jeremy Browne: The UK enjoys a constructive partnership with Venezuela in areas of mutual interest including tackling drug trafficking, climate change, education and the promotion of bilateral trade and investment. Our policy is to build on this relationship with mutual respect. The UK congratulates Venezuela as it celebrates the bicentenary of the foundation of the Republic.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his most recent assessment is of the security situation in Yemen; and what steps his Department has taken together with the Yemeni Government to tackle international terrorism following the meeting in London on 27 January 2010. 
Alistair Burt: The UK is concerned about the security situation in Yemen. The terrorist threat in Yemen is high and we judge that attacks are highly likely, as we make clear in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.
However, terrorism is not the greatest or only threat facing Yemen today. We are particularly concerned about decreasing stability across the country and about the resultant increase in local conflict. Al Qaeda looks to exploit instability where it can-the root causes of which are often wider social, economic and political problems. Rising insecurity, conflict and extremism in Yemen will pose a threat to UK long-term interests of stability in the region and beyond, including energy security and global trade flows. Increased radicalisation directly threatens economic and security interests in the Gulf and could pose an indirect threat abroad.
Central therefore to the UK's approach to counter terrorism in Yemen is the reality that counter terrorism cannot be looked at in isolation. It is linked to Yemen's other security and daunting economic challenges.
The attempted assassination of the British ambassador to Yemen, Tim Torlot, on 26 April 2010 highlights the stark threat posed by terrorists in Yemen, who have no regard for the lives of the innocent Yemeni citizens caught up in such atrocities.
The Government of Yemen has committed publicly to combating terrorism both inside and outside of Yemen and has conducted successful operations, including against members of Al-Qaida in Yemen. The UK is committed to helping the Yemeni Government tackle terrorism in Yemen. Our bilateral support helps the Yemeni Government address the underlying economic and social causes of terror and radicalisation, and enhances their capacity to pursue and prosecute terrorists in Yemen. This includes through the provision of expert advice and through our increasing development programme.
We have also been working in concert with other international partners, including as part of the Friends of Yemen process, to support and encourage reform in Yemen.
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