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6 Apr 2010 : Column 1230W—continued


Constituency of Manchester Central

Households assisted

2000-01

281

2001-02

1,609

2002-03

750

2003-04

357

2004-05

329

2005-06

312

2006-07

414

2007-08

478

2008-09

412

2009-10(1)

653

(1) Up to the 28 February 2010.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Middle East Peace Process

17. Mike Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of prospects for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. [325366]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: We welcome the Quartet's determination to move swiftly to proximity talks addressing issues of substance. We continue to press both sides to show the courage, commitment and compromise needed to make real progress.

Overseas Operations: Financing

18. Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effects of exchange rate movements on the work of his Department. [325367]


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David Miliband: I refer the hon. Member to my written statement of 10 February 2010, Official Report, column 53WS.

21. Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effect of exchange rate movements on his Department's overseas activities. [325370]

David Miliband: I refer the hon. Member to my written statement to the House of 10 February 2010, Official Report, column 53WS.

Belize: Economic Partnership Agreements

19. Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has received on the participation of Belize in EU economic partnership agreements; and if he will make a statement. [325368]

Chris Bryant: Belize is party to the Economic Partnership Agreement signed in October 2008 between the EU and 15 Caribbean states. This was the first EU regional trade agreement and is an excellent opportunity for increased competitiveness, development and economic integration in the region. We have not received representations about Belize's participation.

Moldova: EU Membership

20. Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make an official visit to Moldova to discuss its prospects for joining the EU. [325369]

Chris Bryant: I have no current plans to visit Moldova. We do actively encourage Moldova's closer integration with the EU and are providing expert assistance to Moldova as they negotiate a new Association Agreement.

Gaza Blockade

22. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Israeli authorities and his EU counterparts on the effects on the region of the blockade on Gaza. [325371]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The EU High Representative Catherine Ashton reported to the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 March on her recent visit to Gaza. The EU has made clear its concerns regarding the humanitarian situation and called for an immediate and unconditional opening of crossings.

Pakistan: Extradition

23. Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his Pakistani counterpart on extradition matters. [325372]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: I have had regular contact with the Government of Pakistan and discussed a range of issues important to both countries. Although I have had no recent discussions specifically on extradition matters, UK officials undertake regular meetings with their counterparts on extradition.


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Tibet

24. Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the human rights record of the Government of China, with particular reference to Tibet. [325373]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Our annual human rights report outlines our assessment of the current situation in Tibet. We remain very concerned about human rights there. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated these concerns, and the need for meaningful autonomy for Tibetan people, during his recent visit to China. This was also a key focus of our human rights dialogue.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps the High Commission in Pakistan has taken to obtain consular access to Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh; and if he will make a statement. [325547]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Our high commission in Islamabad has continued to make representations to the national and provincial authorities in Pakistan with regard to gaining consular access to Mr. Sheikh. The most recent diplomatic notes requesting access were submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in August 2009 and April 2010. High level requests for consular access to Mr. Sheikh have also been made by the former Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister with responsibility for consular matters, my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron) during a visit to Pakistan in February 2009 and, along with other cases, by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in a letter to Pakistani Foreign Minster Qureshi on 7 December 2009 which was delivered by our high commissioner. To date we have not received consular access to Mr Sheikh.

British Nationals Abroad: Homicide

Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what training his Department's staff receive on providing support and assistance to the families of British victims of murder abroad. [325399]

Chris Bryant: All front line consular staff abroad and in the UK are trained in the procedures they must follow when helping the family and friends of a British national who has died abroad. Particular attention is paid to the special circumstances affecting the family and friends of murder victims. Both their knowledge of what help we can provide and the skills they must use when dealing with individuals in difficult circumstances are tested to ensure all staff meet the required standard.

Departmental Buildings

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many smoking shelters his Department has built for its staff in the last five years; and at what cost. [324351]


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Chris Bryant: Smoking shelters have been installed over the last five years on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) UK estate as follows:

Smoking shelters installed

2005-06

None

2006-07

Two shelters for Hanslope Park purchased and installed at an approximate cost of £3,500 each

2007-08

None

2008-09

None purchased but one existing shelter at Hanslope Park moved to more appropriate location at a cost of approximately £1,000

2009-10

Four shelters purchased and installed at Hanslope Park, two at a cost of £5,765 each, one at a cost of £4,693 and one at a cost of £4,681


Shelters have been installed in line with the FCO's Smoking Policy which permits smoking in designated areas only, away from buildings.

The provision of this information for the overseas estate could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Food

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to ensure that the meat and dairy products procured by his Department and its non-departmental bodies are free range or produced to standards equivalent to those of the RSPCA Freedom Food scheme. [323063]

Chris Bryant: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is fully committed to the Government Food Procurement Initiative. Within the UK we have engaged a catering contractor who is committed to animal welfare and is working with suppliers, clients and animal welfare organisations to promote the use of farm assurance schemes which achieve best practises in animal welfare. They fully endorse the Five Freedoms as set out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. They have met with representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Freedom Food and Compassion In World Farming to discuss ways they can improve animal welfare.

Where economically possible, our catering contractor purchases its products from approved free range suppliers. All fresh eggs supplied are free range.

While free range supplies are not always economically viable, all suppliers hold Farm Assurance Accreditation. To obtain this award our approved suppliers have to meet objectives such as farm animal management, environment and hygiene management, feed composition, housing and handling facilities, medicines and veterinary treatments and transport of livestock.

This information refers to the contracted catering service in the UK only. Provision of information globally could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what account his Department's food procurement policy takes of animal welfare. [325530]

Chris Bryant: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is fully committed to the Government Food Procurement Initiative. Within the UK we have engaged a Catering Contractor who is committed to animal welfare and is
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working with suppliers, clients and animal welfare organisations to promote the use of farm assurance schemes which achieve best practises in animal welfare. They fully endorse the Five Freedoms as set out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. They have met with representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Freedom Food and Compassion In World Farming to discuss ways they can improve animal welfare.

Where economically possible, our catering contractor purchases its products from approved free range suppliers. All suppliers hold Farm Assurance Accreditation. To obtain this award our approved suppliers have to meet objectives such as farm animal management, environment and hygiene management, feed composition, housing and handling facilities, medicines and veterinary treatments and transport of livestock.

This information refers to the contracted catering service in the UK only. Provision of information globally could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Departmental Passports

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the conclusions of the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration of 24 March 2010, if he will review the provisions of his Department's contract with Abtran to provide a customer enquiry service in respect of passports handled on behalf of his Department; what assessment he has made of the conclusions of the report in respect of the adequacy of arrangements for handling passport applications by his Department; and if he will make a statement. [325291]

Chris Bryant [holding answer 30 March 2010]: We accept the findings of the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration of 24 March 2010.

We have re-tendered the telephone passport inquiry handling contract and a new commercial partner is now in place to handle customer inquiries; we no longer use Abtran. Customers contact the new provider who will escalate their inquiry to the passport issuing post where necessary.

We agree that the service that was provided to the customer in early 2009 fell considerably short of what the customer should have expected. We had previously written to the applicant to apologise and will be writing again. We are arranging for prompt financial settlement and a further consolatory payment to be made as recommended in the ombudsman's report.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)'s passport operation is going through a period of considerable change in advance of integration with the Identity and Passport Service on 1 April 2011. We are committed to doing all we can to minimise the impact on customers as we move to a more cost effective and secure passport operation. The report highlighted weaknesses in our processes in our consulates in Paris and Amsterdam, and within consular directorate in the FCO. These have been reviewed and changes to procedures have been and are being implemented. This includes improvements to our public facing communication to ensure customers are kept informed in a timely, clear and consistent manner. Customer interests remain at the forefront of our analysis and our highest priority.


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Departmental Public Expenditure

Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much funding his Department has allocated for human rights programmes in financial year 2009-10. [325317]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) integrates human rights work across its objectives. This means that funding for human rights can be given through numerous programmes.

The FCO holds the Strategic Programme Fund for Human Rights and Democracy dedicated specifically to supporting human rights projects. In 2009-10, this fund allocated approximately £5.8 million to human rights and democracy projects around the world. Work was funded in support of equality, strengthening civil society, freedom of expression, abolition of torture and the death penalty, among other issues.

The FCO's 2009-10 programmes that fund human rights projects where these help to realise their core objectives include:

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on his Department's overseas activities of recent exchange rate movements. [325362]

David Miliband: I refer the hon. Member to my written statement to the House of 10 February 2010, Official Report, column 53WS.


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