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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: It is not normal practice to comment on an individual case which is referred to the National Probation Service. I have asked the Director General of the National Probation Service to request a report of the circumstances from the Chief Officer for the Thames Valley area and I will write to the noble Lord when this has been received.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The annual police funding settlement provides grant support for the full range of policing services and takes account of the financial pressures on all police authorities. Details of the provisional police funding settlement for 200405 were announced on 19 November. On top of the settlement, additional grants totalling £69 million are being made available to police authorities to counter terrorism.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The destruction of Palestinian infrastructure for the purpose of collective punishment is contrary to international humanitarian law. Furthermore, we believe such actions are provocative, and serve only to exacerbate tension and undermine efforts to bring about an end to violence and a return to negotiations. We have called on the Government of Israel to stop these demolitions and to ensure their actions in the Occupied Territories fall within international law. I last raised my concerns about the demolition of Palestinian homes with Israel's Ambassador, Mr Zvi Shtauber, on 22 October.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The vital role of the United Nations in Iraq has been set out in Security Council Resolutions 1483, 1500 and 1511. In particular, UNSCR 1511 requested the Secretary-General to make available, as circumstances allow, the resources of the United Nations to support Iraqi institutions in drafting a new constitution and in the holding of democratic elections.
On 15 November, the President of the Iraqi Governing Council announced the new plan outlining the timetable for the drafting of the constitution and holding of elections. He also asked the Security Council to appoint a new Special Representative to Iraq, and formally requested a UN role in support of the political process.
In his report of 10 December, Kofi Annan announced the appointment of Ross Mountain as interim UN Special Representative to Iraq and set out his views on the UN role in Iraq, outlining the UN's willingness to lend its assistance to the electoral and constitutional processes, subject to circumstances and an Iraqi request. He also set out a wide range of potential UN activities in humanitarian, development, human rights and civil society fields. We welcome the
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Kingdom ratified the optional protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) when our permanent representative to the UN deposited the instrument of ratification with the UN Secretary-General on 10 December.
The UK will become the first member of the European Union and the third country in the world to ratify the optional protocol. The UK believes that the protocol will promote a more intensive and concerted approach to eradicate torture through a preventive system of regular, independent visits to places of detention. We will now undertake a campaign urging other countries to sign, ratify and implement both the Convention Against Torture and the optional protocol. The protocol will come into force when 20 countries have ratified it.
The UK is committed to the fight against torture. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's anti-torture initiative, launched in 1998, continues to provide a focus for us on this issue. The UK played an important role in securing the adoption of the optional protocol in 2002 by undertaking extensive lobbying of countries around the world to support the protocol. The follow-up to our ratification of the OPCAT will be an important part of the current phase of the initiative. jenny
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There is to be a review of the basis of the FCO's travel advice, and an internal review of the FCO's security strategy for its posts abroad. Terms of reference are annexed. The conclusion of the travel advice review will be placed before both Houses.
Since September 11, 2001, it has been increasingly clear that we face a form of international terrorism which aims not only to take life randomly by suicide attack, but which seeks to use fear and instability to undermine the freedom and prosperity which the terrorists hate.
Our policy must be to deny the terrorists any advantage. We must take prudent precautions, while minimising the disruption which terrorists want to cause. Some disruption is, of course, inevitable if we are to make likely targets as secure as we can. But we must all be clear that total security is not possible. Everybody who goes about their business in a modern city and elsewhere makes a balanced judgment of risk against security. People continue to go about their daily livesvigilantly, amid sound precautionsbecause they are not prepared to give the terrorists satisfaction. Our determination to maintain as normal a life as possible is a weapon against terrorism.
It is important that British citizens travelling abroad should have the best possible information on risk, from the Government. We have extensively reviewed and improved our travel advice since Bali. But we have asked officials to look again at some of the underlying issues, in light of recent experience. What is the right balance between information, warning and advice? We are clear that our advice should give the most detailed and timely factual information possible, but in what circumstances should this information be complemented, where appropriate, with advice not to travel? What is the impact and the cost of our warnings not to travel? And what would be the implications of a different approach? We may conclude that the nature of our advice is as good as we can make it, or we may find that improvements are necessary. We will be seeking as many views as possible including, of course, that of Members of both Houses.
Security is always at the top of our agenda. We keep the security of all our posts under constant review and frequently re-assess the risks and the measures needed to manage them in the light of changing threat levels. Funds have been authorised for the most urgent expenditure. Following the attack on our consulate in Istanbul, which showed that our overseas missions and staff are in the front line, we immediately asked all posts to check their security measures. We are also looking at additional measures we can take at high-risk posts. In addition, we have instigated an internal review of the FCO's security strategy, in particular the balance between security and operational effectiveness.
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