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International Protection of Children

Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Trilateral Agreement reached between the UK, Spain and Gibraltar on 18 September will enable the 1996 Hague Convention on the International Protection of Children to be ratified by EU member states; and if she will make a statement. [92920]

Mr. Hoon: The Trilateral Agreement reached in Cordoba on 18 September announced a historic set of measures which will deliver real, practical benefits to the people of Gibraltar as well as those in the Campo de Gibraltar. The arrangements cover Gibraltar's airport, telecommunications, traffic flows as well as a settlement to the long running issue of pensions paid to Spanish workers affected by the 1969 border closure.

The ratification of the 1996 Hague Convention on the International Protection of Children is currently blocked because Spain has questioned the arrangements for communications under this convention with competent authorities in Gibraltar.

There have been a number of attempts to resolve this problem as well as the broader issue of postboxing (whereby formal communications between Gibraltar
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competent authorities and their EU/European Economic Association/European Free Trade Association counterparts under EU instruments, take place via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London). It was discussed as part of the Trilateral process and while we were unable to reach agreement by 18 September all sides are committed to finding a solution. Negotiations are consequently at an advanced stage and we hope that a final agreement will be reached over the next month.

Iran

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made in the case of Reza Montazamic and Fereshteh Dibaj, recently arrested by the authorities in Iran; and what support her Department is making available to support the Christian, Jewish and Baha’i communities in that country. [93122]

Mr. Hoon: We remain deeply concerned about the situation of religious minorities in Iran and receive numerous reports of discrimination against those wishing to practise minority faiths. Reza Montazamic and his wife Fereshteh Dibaj were arrested in Iran on 26 September and subsequently released on bail on 5 October. We have not made direct representations to the Iranian Government, but continue to monitor the case closely.

We take all available opportunities to make clear to the Iranian authorities our concerns about religious freedom in Iran. We continue to press them, bilaterally and through the EU, to address the intimidation and discrimination of religious minorities, including Christian, Baha’i and Jewish communities. At our suggestion the EU presidency raised these issues with the Iranians on 31 January and 11 April.

We also take action at the UN and were pleased that all EU countries co-sponsored a UN General Assembly Resolution on Human Rights in Iran in December last year. This resolution expressed serious concern at

We expect Iran to uphold the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in accordance with its obligations under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Iraq

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will obtain from the Iraqi authorities the estimated number of those murdered so far during 2006 as a result of terrorism. [94481]

Dr. Howells: The Iraqi Ministry of Health has released figures on a monthly basis through 2006. The figures from January to August 2006 state that 10,034
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Iraqis died violently, where the cause of death was recorded as ‘military’ or ‘terrorist’ action. The vast majority of these were recorded as being a result of ‘terrorist’ attacks. The Ministry of Health points out that this figure includes all Iraqis, including civilians, Iraqi security forces and insurgents, except those in the Kurdish provinces.

There continues to be no comprehensive or reliable assessment of violent deaths in Iraq.

Islands (Constitutional Status)

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the constitutional status is under the Crown of (a) the Cook Islands, (b) Christmas Island, (c) the Cocos Islands, (d) the Heard and MacDonald Islands, (e) the Coral Sea Islands, (f) Niue and (g) Tokelan. [89675]

Mr. Hoon: These territories are the responsibility of the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. It falls to those governments to explain the constitutional status of their territories under the Crown.

Israel

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 13 September 2006, Official Report, columns 2314-5W, on Israel, what percentage of approved export licences to Israel were revoked as a result of this monitoring in the last year for which figures are available. [93386]

Dr. Howells: Details of all export licences are available in the Quarterly and Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls submitted to Parliament and are subject to detailed retrospective scrutiny by the Quadripartite Committee on Strategic Export Controls. This includes a summary of goods by destination. All reports—from 1997—can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website at: http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=l0070 29395474.

In the latest published annual report, covering 2005, no export licenses issued to Israel were revoked. Given the way data is recorded, if there were any revocations, it would not be possible to identify how many were due to information originating from overseas Posts, this usually being one aspect of several taken into account when a licence is assessed.

All export licence applications are judged rigorously against the Consolidated EU and National Export Licensing Criteria including risk assessment by all four Government Departments (the FCO, the Department for Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development) involved in the export licensing process. There are few revocations.


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Malaysia

Ms Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will outline the latest situation regarding British veterans who have been awarded the Malaysian confrontation medal by the Malaysian Government; whether she expects British veterans will be allowed to wear the medal at commemorations and official events; and if she will make a statement on the status of the medal. [92671]

Margaret Beckett: The current situation on the Pingat Jasa Malaysia (PJM) is set out in the written ministerial statement made by my hon. Friend the then Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Ian Pearson) on 31 January 2006, Official Report, columns 10-11WS.

Those seeking permission to wear the PJM, have made a number of points which will be considered by the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals. I hope that the results will be known by the end of November.

Mexico (Visit)

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) matters were discussed and (b) agreements were made during her recent visit to Mexico; and if she will (i) publish on her Department’s website and (ii) place in the Library copies of papers circulated by the Government as part of her visit. [92698]

Mr. McCartney: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited Mexico from 2-4 October. She gave the opening address at the second ministerial meeting of the Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Clean Energy. This address is on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website at: www.fco.gov.uk, and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House. The key message of the meeting was that dealing with climate change is an imperative for today, not an option for tomorrow. The meeting heard compelling new evidence in three areas—the economics of climate change, technology opportunities and the investment challenge. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met separately with Paula Dobriansky, US Deputy Under-secretary of State, and discussed the US Administration’s position on climate change and with Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, to discuss what will be needed globally for a transition to a low carbon economy.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also undertook a bilateral programme in Mexico City, meeting with President Fox and Foreign Minister Derbez. She had wide-ranging discussions covering bilateral, regional and global issues. With Foreign Minister Derbez, she signed and launched a bilateral Sustainable Development Dialogue (SDD) which will give us a framework for a cross-government programme of concrete bilateral action. A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding that launched the
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SDD will be made available on the Government’s sustainable development website at: www.sustainable-development.gov.uk, and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

Middle East

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations her officials have made to the Israeli Government about the continued use of administrative detention by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. [93979]

Mr. Hoon: In June and July, our embassy in Tel Aviv made representations to the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs regarding the administrative detention of a disabled Palestinian prisoner.

We constantly monitor the situation and are in contact with Human Rights and International organisations. An official from our embassy in Tel Aviv also attended the Israeli Supreme Court in July 2006 to observe an appeal against his detention by a Palestinian administrative detainee.

We will continue to raise this issue with the Israeli Government.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of Israeli military roadblocks in the Palestinian West Bank in October (a) 2006 and (b) 2005. [94482]

Dr. Howells: We have no estimate of the number of roadblocks.

According to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of 20 September 2006, the west bank closure system comprises 528 checkpoints and physical obstacles placed by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on roads to control and restrict Palestinian movement, representing an increase of almost 2 per cent. on the 518 obstacles in June 2006. In August 2005, OCHA reported that there were 376 physical obstacles. This represents an 11 per cent. increase in the number of physical obstacles erected by the IDF since the beginning of 2006 and almost 40 per cent. since August 2005.

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what parts of the Palestinian West Bank are subject to Israeli restrictions which prevent access by Palestinians who are (a) non-resident and (b) not working in Israeli settlements in the area; and what percentage of the West Bank these areas represent. [94483]

Dr. Howells: According to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a combination of checkpoints, physical obstacles and a permit system has effectively cut the west bank into three distinct areas—north, central and southern west bank, in addition to east Jerusalem. Within these areas further enclaves have been created. These enclaves are bordered by checkpoints and roadblocks and this has led to Palestinian communities being separated.


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Many routes within the west bank are regulated by a system of permits. However, requirements to get permits to move from one area to another are increasingly difficult to meet and fewer permits are issued. Without warning, additional restrictions or closures can make permits invalid. Additional restrictions can be by age (usually 15 to 32-year-old males), by gender or by geographical area. These restrictions can be imposed at any checkpoints at any time. According to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation Negotiation Affairs Department, the barrier, settlements and restrictions on Palestinian access to the Jordan valley together prevent regular Palestinian access to at least 46 per cent. of the west bank. Their estimates are that the percentages of west bank land involved are: barrier 9.5 per cent., settlements 8 per cent. and Jordan valley 28.5 per cent.. Further information can be found on the following website: http://www.nad-plo.org/inner.php?view=facts _wall_isf.

Nicaragua

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the United States Administration about the forthcoming elections in Nicaragua. [93520]

Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed the forthcoming elections in Nicaragua with the United States Administration.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have been involved in discussions about Nicaragua in the EU and the European Commission has sent a team of EU Election Observers to Nicaragua for the presidential and congressional elections in November. Our embassy in San Jose, which also represents the UK in Nicaragua, is monitoring the campaign closely, as is the Department for International Development office based in Managua, Nicaragua. They have regular discussions with partners, including the EU and US, on the forthcoming elections.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the freedom and fairness of the forthcoming presidential elections in Nicaragua. [93521]

Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is encouraging free and fair presidential and congressional elections in Nicaragua in November. Our embassy in San Jose, which also represents the UK in Nicaragua, is monitoring the campaign closely, as is the Department for International Development office based in Managua, Nicaragua. The FCO has been involved in discussions on Nicaragua with our EU partners, and the European Commission is sending a team of EU Election Observers to Nicaragua for the elections. One of the key functions of the EU Election Observation Mission will be to assess the Nicaraguan election process in relation to international standards for democratic elections.


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Parliamentary Questions

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she expects to answer question 86687 on the Israel-Lebanon conflict, tabled by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield on 18 July. [93210]

Dr. Howells: I replied to my hon. Friend on 16 October 2006, Official Report, column 964W. I apologise for the lateness of my reply.

Sri Lanka

Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment her Department has made of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka; and if she will make a statement. [93981]

Dr. Howells: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) on 17 October 2006 (UIN 93648).

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of (a) the (i) political and (ii) human rights situation in Sri Lanka and (b) the Sri Lankan government's treatment of the Tamil people. [94166]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) today (UIN 93648).

Sudan

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what resources her Department made available to encourage the Darfur-Darfur dialogue (a) in its own right and (b) in partnership with the Department for International Development. [93124]

Mr. McCartney: Under the 5 May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), the parties agreed to establish a Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC), led by the African Union (AU), in order to secure wide support for the DPA and to start the process of reconciliation.

Through the joint Department for International Development/Foreign and Commonwealth Office Sudan Unit and our embassy in Khartoum, we are working closely with the AU in taking this process forward, including by identifying candidates for the Chairperson of the DDDC. We continue to make clear our willingness to support the DDDC, including with technical expertise, to help accelerate the prospect of progress.


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