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29 Oct 2009 : Column 501W—continued


Military Decorations

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of servicemen eligible for a medal to mark their service in the armed forces since 1945; and what estimate has been made of the cost of issuing such a medal. [296799]

Mr. Kevan Jones: There are no plans to institute a medal solely for being a member of the armed forces. Medals are primarily awarded for campaign service, for individual acts of gallantry and for long and meritorious service.

Nuclear Submarines

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 2 April 2009, Official Report, column 1400W, on nuclear submarines, how many such incidents resulted in fatalities. [295434]

Bill Rammell: There were two fatalities as a result of an explosion onboard HMS Tireless in March 2007, the fire from which was categorised as Medium Scale in the earlier answer given on 2 April by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth) There have been no other fatalities as a result of fires since 1987.


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Territorial Army

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which Territorial Army units the armed forces Minister has visited since his appointment. [296191]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 27 October 2009]: I visited 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital (Volunteers) in Cardiff in August 2009 and 4th Battalion the Mercian Regiment at Camp Bastion in July.

Trident

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to make the initial gate decision on the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system; and what immediate costs are associated with initiation of the project. [295390]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Defence Board will consider the work required during the Concept Phase later this year.

Work on replacing our deterrent submarines was initiated on April 2007 with the start of the project's Concept Phase. Since the beginning of April 2007 to the end of September 2009 some £320 million has been spent. The Initial Gate decision marks the end of the Concept Phase. The final spend on reaching Initial Gate cannot be calculated until after that point is reached.

Until Initial Gate decisions are made it is too early to say what the likely expenditure will be for the period between that time and the Main Gate decision point, which is when the principal contracts with industry will be signed.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan: Elections

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the (a) number of those eligible to vote and (b) level of turnout in each district of Helmand province in the recent Presidential elections in Afghanistan. [295622]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: 460,811 people registered to vote in Helmand in 2004 and 156,662 in 2008. Holders of voter registration cards from both 2004 and 2008 were eligible to vote in the 2009 elections.

The final certified numbers of votes in the first round of the presidential elections, following the completion of the election audit process by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), for each Helmand district are as follows:

The number of votes for each district was reduced after the IEC and ECC completed their process to exclude fraudulent votes (on 19 October 2009).


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Afghanistan: Foreign Relations

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the implications of the report of the Afghanistan Electoral Complaints Commission for the Government’s policy towards that country; and if he will make a statement. [295193]

Mr. Ivan Lewis [holding answer 26 October 2009]: We welcome the audit process, completed on 19 October, conducted by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), which was robust and transparent and we are confident in their findings. On 20 October 2009, the IEC set a date for the second round of the presidential elections and President Karzai and Dr. Abdullah confirmed that they will both run in this.

We are also confident that a second round, due to be held 7 November 2009, can be carried out. Planning for the eventuality that a second round would be required has been taking place for some time and we will continue to provide support for the ongoing preparations. The IEC and Afghan security forces, with UN and International Security Assistance Force support, are working to maximise the opportunities for people to vote.

Afghanistan needs a credible second round and a credible conclusion to this process, resulting in a government that represents the legitimate will of the Afghan people. Our policy to support this process through to the end, and to encourage all parties to respect Afghanistan’s Constitution and Electoral Law, remains consistent and firm.

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the terms of reference for the latest review of the Helmand road map are; and in what way they differ from the terms of reference for previous reviews. [295619]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We review the Helmand road map regularly, monitoring the delivery of stabilisation work in response to operational changes. The road map is designed as a living document, constantly reviewed and updated in light of lessons learned. Our stabilisation work in Helmand in support of the Afghan Government is a fundamental part of the campaign.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received of the conditions under which Aung San Suu Kyi is being held; what recent discussions he has had with the government of Burma on the matter; and if he will make a statement. [296494]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest term of 18 months under house arrest began with the conclusion of her sham trial on 11 August 2009. The terms of her detention were stated by the court to be:


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Aung San Suu Kyi has asked the regime for clarification on the terms of her detention and the processes that need to be observed but has not yet had a response. It is not yet clear whether these terms will be honoured in full by the Burmese authorities, but our ambassador to Burma, as local EU presidency, was allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi together with diplomats from the US and Australian embassies on 9 October 2009. This was a small, but welcome, development. We urge the authorities to allow her regular and unfettered access to her party and other democratic and ethnic leaders, and to embark on a genuine and inclusive process of dialogue and national reconciliation. We continue to call for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate and unconditional release as well as the release of the more than 2,000 political prisoners detained alongside her.

Our ambassador raised the conditions of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest with Burmese Ministers most recently on 16 October 2009, and will continue to do so at every opportunity.

Departmental Public Expenditure

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to implement the efficiency recommendations of the Operational Efficiency Programme relating to his Department; and what training is available to (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department in respect of the delivery of value for money savings. [296004]

Chris Bryant: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is committed to playing its part in the further efficiency savings targets announced in the 2009 budget as part of the wider Government drive to deliver an additional £5 billion in savings for the Operational Efficiency Programme in 2010-11.

The FCO contribution to this target (including BBC World Service and British Council) is £20 million. The FCO will meet its part through further efficiencies in procurement, corporate services and FCO Services costs.

There are no specific financial training courses for FCO Ministers. Financial training available for officials includes a number of different targeted courses which includes elements covering value for money savings.

Embassies: Civil Partnerships

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many civil partnerships have been celebrated in British consulates. [296863]

Chris Bryant: Since the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act on 18 November 2004, 487 civil partnerships have been registered at British consulates overseas. The following table provides information on the countries where British consulates can register civil partnerships and the number registered since the introduction of the Act.


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Countries where civil partnerships can be registered Registrations

Argentina

7

Australia (except Tasmania(1))

308

Austria

2

Bulgaria

1

Canada(1)

1

Colombia

19

Costa Rica

0

Croatia

1

Czech Republic(1)

3

Guatemala

3

Hungary(1)

4

Ireland

17

Israel

1

Japan

22

Latvia

0

Malta

0

Moldova

0

Mongolia

0

Panama

4

Peru

7

Philippines

0

Portugal

7

South Africa(1)

19

Switzerland(1)

5

Turkmenistan

0

Uruguay

0

Venezuela

7

Vietnam

49

Total

487

(1) Have subsequently introduced their own civil partnership legislation.

Iran

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of the members of the United Nations General Assembly who (a) applauded and (b) protested against the speech of the President of Iran in (i) 2008 and (ii) 2009; and if he will make a statement. [296557]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Government have consistently condemned the Iranian President's inflammatory comments about the state of Israel and his repeated offensive statements about the holocaust. We cannot ignore what the leader of a significant country says during his speech at the UN General Assembly, and there was widespread international criticism of President Ahmadinejad's comments at the UN General Assembly in 2008.

During his speech to the 2009 UN General Assembly, President Ahmadinejad again made anti-Semitic assertions. This immediately prompted UK officials to leave the room, alongside representatives from Australia; Argentina; Costa Rica; Denmark; France; Germany; Hungary; Italy; New Zealand; Palau; Poland; Slovenia; Uruguay; and the USA. The Canadian and Israeli delegations had left the room before the speech had started.

British officials did not make a note at the time of the countries whose representatives applauded the speech.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps at the United Nations he (a) has taken and (b) plans to take in
29 Oct 2009 : Column 506W
respect of statements about Israel made by the President of Iran at the United Nations General Assembly; and if he will make a statement. [296565]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We made clear our condemnation of the Iranian President's speech during the UN General Assembly by leaving the room. Prior to this speech at the UN, President Ahmadinejad had given a similarly outrageous speech at Friday Prayers at Tehran University, during which he again denied the Holocaust and warned that “the Zionist regime was doomed to destruction”.

In response to this speech my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary issued a statement denouncing his claims as “abhorrent as well as ignorant”, and calling on the world community to “stand up against this tide of abuse”. It is totally unacceptable that one member of the UN should repeatedly threaten the existence of another.

The Government have consistently condemned the Iranian President's inflammatory comments about the State of Israel and his offensive statements about the Holocaust. Such rhetoric is a recipe for instability and only serves to undermine international confidence in Iran's willingness to act as a respectable member of the international community. We will continue to speak out in response to such deplorable and ignorant comments.


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