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Tibet

16. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government’s response to the recent events in Tibet. [196059]

David Miliband: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) today (UIN 196052).

21. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political situation in Tibet. [196065]

Meg Munn: We remain concerned about the situation in Tibet. We understand an uneasy calm has returned to streets of Lhasa though unrest has spread to surrounding regions. We continue to urge the Chinese to respect fully the human rights of those detained; to avoid use of excessive force in dealing with riots; and to respect freedom of expression and religion in Tibet. And we have called on the protesters, in Lhasa and elsewhere, to desist from further violence. We believe the best way to resolve the situation is for dialogue without pre-conditions, working towards a long-term solution acceptable to everyone.

Belize-Guatemala: Border Dispute

17. Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the statement on the border dispute between Belize and Guatemala; and if he will make a statement. [196060]

Meg Munn: UK policy is to reduce the likelihood of conflict on the Belize-Guatemala border and to encourage settlement of the dispute through arbitration or negotiation.

We do this through our contacts with both Governments and by supporting confidence building measures, designed to reduce the potential for conflict. These aim to improve links between the two countries and by providing impartial investigation and mediation of border incursions and other incidents.

Turks and Caicos Islands

18. Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the future of the Turks and Caicos Islands. [196061]

Meg Munn: The UK Government have good relations with the Turks and Caicos Islands, an overseas territory. This is based on the 1999 White Paper, Partnership for Prosperity, which includes the right of each territory to remain British if this is the wish—freely and democratically expressed—of their people.

Russia

19. Mr. Ian Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on UK relations with Russia. [196062]


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Mr. Jim Murphy: Close engagement with Russia is important to the successful achievement of a wide range of the Government’s international priorities, including climate and energy security, as well as Kosovo and Iran. The UK/Russia bilateral trade and investment relationship is vibrant and growing. We want to build an effective partnership with Russia, which furthers our national interest and principles.

Colombia

20. Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political situation in Colombia. [196063]

Dr. Howells: Colombia has suffered a devastating internal armed conflict in the past 40 years. We want all Colombian citizens, including trade unionists and human rights defenders to live free of fear of violence, murder and kidnapping. We are helping the Colombian Government and working closely with civil society in Colombia to protect and promote the rights of all Colombians.

Sri Lanka

22. Joan Ryan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the political situation in Sri Lanka. [196066]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary recently stated that a sustainable solution to the conflict can only emerge through just political processes involving all communities and not through violence. We support efforts by the All-Party Representative Committee to devise a political solution. We would also welcome fresh thinking on solutions that satisfy the legitimate aspirations of all communities.

EU-Russian Relations

23. Tony Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on EU-Russian relations. [196067]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The EU and Russia share common interests and face common challenges. A comprehensive relationship based on trust should be our objective. EU support for the UK over Litvinenko and the British Council shows that it can. The best way to secure the relationship is through talks on a successor to the current Partnership and Co-operation Agreement.

Albania

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on Albania’s request to participate in the forthcoming NATO summit in Bucharest. [196048]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK’s policy is to firmly support Albania’s North Atlantic Treaty Organisation membership application. Should a membership invitation be extended to Albania at the Bucharest Summit it will be invited to a short extraordinary meeting of the North Atlantic Council to welcome the start of the accession process.


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Admiralty House

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what expenditure his Department has incurred on the ministerial flat in Admiralty House occupied by the right hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) since he vacated the property. [195254]

Meg Munn: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has incurred no expense on the ministerial flat occupied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) since he moved out of Admiralty House on 30 June 2006.

China: Arms Trade

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the EU-China arms embargo; what his policy is on proposals to end the embargo and place the arms trade with China under a strengthened EU Code of Conduct; when he expects these proposals will next be discussed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council; and if he will make a statement. [195024]

Meg Munn: The EU-China Arms Embargo and EU Code of Conduct are separate. The European Council text on the embargo is politically binding and does not have the force of law. The embargo is narrowly defined by most major European exporters as covering lethal exports only. The UK's interpretation of the embargo was set out in a written answer the then Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Derek Fatchett) gave to the then Member for Reading East (Jane Griffiths) on 3 June 1998, Official Report, columns 246-47W. The EU Code of Conduct is the primary means of controlling arms sales and the UK regularly meets with its EU partners to discuss, enforce and strengthen it.

There is currently no consensus within the EU to end the arms embargo. The European Council in December 2003 agreed to launch a review of the embargo, which is still under way. The matter was last discussed by EU Foreign Ministers at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on 13 December 2005. The embargo will not be discussed at the next GAERC and is not scheduled to be discussed in the near future. As set out in the December 2004 European Council Conclusions, the result of any decision on the embargo should not be an increase in arms exports from EU member states to China, either in quantitative or qualitative terms. The Government continue to fully implement the embargo.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent of China's arms trade with Sudan; what estimate he has made of the value of that trade; and if he will make a statement. [195025]

Meg Munn: The UK does not keep comprehensive information about arms sales other than where the UK is an exporter. Sudan is subject to an EU arms embargo for all of Sudan and a UN embargo (UN Security Council Resolution 1591) for all arms in Darfur, but not the rest of Sudan.


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We have told the Chinese that arms supply to countries such as Sudan fuels rather than resolves conflict and we are urging China to apply the UN arms embargo more strictly, and use their influence with all parties for a peaceful resolution of the Darfur conflict.

China: Tourism

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Chinese authorities on the indefinite closing of access to Mount Everest for climbers. [195857]

Meg Munn [holding answer 20 March 2008]: We are aware that China has placed temporary restrictions on access to Mount Everest citing concerns over overcrowding and increasing environmental pressures. We will continue to monitor this situation and consider appropriate action. In the meantime, we continue to raise our concerns with the Chinese authorities about the events in Tibet and in the surrounding regions and we urge them to respect the rights of their citizens to express their political and religious views peacefully.

Departmental Intranet

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 February 2008, Official Report, column 170W, on the departmental intranet, how many Wikipedia entries have been (a) created and (b) amended (i) by officials who are not special advisers or communications officials and (ii) from departmental IP addresses. [195202]

Meg Munn: This information is not held centrally and to collate it would incur disproportionate cost. If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should decide to create or alter Wikipedia entries, any such input would be done in accordance with the civil service code. This states that civil servants should: “use resources only for the authorised public purposes for which they are provided” and “make sure public money and other resources are used properly and efficiently”.

Departmental Official Residences

Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many ministerial residences were available to his Department's Ministers in each of the last 10 years. [183180]

Meg Munn: I refer the hon. Member to the reply my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Watson) gave to him on 19 February 2008, Official Report, column 688W.

For each of the past 10 years the residence 1 Carlton Gardens has been available to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what expenditure his Department has incurred in relation to the ministerial residence at 1 Carlton Gardens since the last resident vacated the property. [195253]


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Meg Munn: Since 1 October 2007 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has spent £11,629.24 on the residence including expenditure on planned mechanical and electrical maintenance and facilities management charges. Other expenditure for the residence, which cannot be separated from the wider charge for the whole of 1 Carlton Gardens which continues to be used for official functions and meetings, totals £53,423.05 for the same period. This includes payment for rent and utilities. Security for 1 Carlton Gardens is included in the guarding contract for the FCO's UK estate; expenditure cannot be broken down by premises.

Departmental Pensions

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many and what percentage of staff in his Department were making additional voluntary contributions to their pensions in each of the last two years. [193565]

Meg Munn: 588 UK-appointed members of staff in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (9.7 per cent. of the total) were making additional voluntary pension contributions through deductions from their pay in February 2007. This has decreased to 585 members of staff (9.8 per cent. of the total) who were making additional voluntary pension contributions through deductions from their pay in February 2008.

Durban II

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on objectives PC1/13 numbers 1 and 4 of the Preparatory Committee for Durban II on reviewing progress and sharing best practice. [194097]

Meg Munn: Along with EU partners, we were able to join consensus on the objectives for the Durban Review Conference contained in decision PC.1/13 of the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference.

We want the Durban Review Conference to assess how states have implemented the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme for Action. This should be fundamental to the purpose of the conference. We therefore accepted at the August 2007 Preparatory Conference the need to review progress on implementation of relevant international agreements to which the UK is a party.

The UK has replied to a questionnaire to member states of the UN prepared by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which included detailed information on how the UK combats racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. We will seek opportunities to promote UK practice in combating all forms of intolerance through the Durban Review Conference.

EC Institutions: Accountancy

Mr. Shepherd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reasons the official auditors have failed to approve the accounts of the European Union in recent years; for how long these refusals have been applied; and what steps are being taken by the EU to change its practices so that the accounts can be approved. [195359]


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Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 18 March 2008]: As my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury set out on 28 January in the annual debate on the European Court of Auditor’s (ECA) report into the EU’s finances, since 1994 the ECA has been required to provide a

on the EU’s accounts. Since that date this has not been possible. Much of the ECA’s difficulty in giving a positive statement of assurance arises from those areas of spending, which are jointly managed by the European Commission and member states, amounting to almost 80 per cent. of EU budget spending in 2006. Improvements have been made in recent years.

This Government are determined to ensure that EU funds are always used properly and efficiently. The UK is one of four member states, along with the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, that has proactively increased national audit requirements on EU spending and parliamentary scrutiny. The UK will be publishing its first consolidated statement and audit opinion in the spring, in respect of 2006-07.

A number of measures have been taken to improve the planning, management and control of the EU’s budget. This includes a new financial regulation setting out rules for spending and the implementation of the Commission’s Action Plan towards an Integrated Internal Control Framework. The 2008-09 EU budget review will be an important opportunity to look again at the accounting and financial management framework of the EU’s budget to ensure stronger financial management.

EU Common Foreign and Security Policy

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the mechanism is for resolving any disagreements between the Government and the European Union concerning the common security policy. [195286]

Mr. Jim Murphy: As the Lisbon treaty makes clear, all substantive decisions regarding the Common Security and Defence Policy are taken by Council acting in unanimity. The Government work with their European partners to develop a consensus on the issues that come to Council. If, however, member states are unable to agree on a particular issue, then there will be no Common EU policy on that issue.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the President of the European Council will have the ability to make decisions affecting the common security and defence policy without reference from the Council. [195287]

Mr. Jim Murphy: The President of the European Council has no role in making defence decisions. The Lisbon treaty makes clear “decisions relating to the common security and defence policy, including those initiating a mission as referred to in this Article, shall be adopted by the Council acting unanimously on a proposal from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy or an initiative from a Member State”.


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