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23 Jan 2003 : Column 465W—continued


Access (Children)

Sir Teddy Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many representations he has received from UK nationals who are being prevented from making contact with their children in Germany and in other EU nations following divorce settlement in the UK which gave them the entitlement to have regular contact with their children; and if he will make a statement. [93066]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: There are five UK nationals who have contacted the FCO because they are experiencing difficulties in getting access to their children in other EU nations, following divorce settlements in the UK which entitled them to regular access. Two of these cases are in Germany, two are in France and one case is in Finland. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) on 6

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November 2002, Official Report, columns 624–25W, which outlined cases we have dealt with in Germany in the last 5 years.

All EU nations are signatories to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which the Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD) leads on. If a parent contacts us for advice on a child abduction case in a Hague Convention country we refer them to LCD. We can also offer practical help and support through our Posts overseas, such as providing lists of English speaking lawyers, attending court hearings etc.


Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the interim Government of Afghanistan on human rights. [92854]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last discussed human rights with the Afghan Transitional Administration when he met President Karzai at the Bonn talks on Afghanistan in December 2002. I raised human rights with Vice-President Khalili when we met in London today.


Dr. Tonge : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Bangladesh concerning the violation of human rights and persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh. [92658]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Our High Commission in Dhaka monitors closely reports of human rights abuses in Bangladesh. We are concerned by reports of mistreatment of detainees, including deaths in custody, associated with "Operation Clean Heart". We have urged the Bangladesh Government to follow the due process of law in all cases. We have raised allegations of attacks against minorities on several occasions with the Bangladesh Government, both at a senior level in Dhaka and with regional government officials, encouraging them to investigate all allegations fully.

Departmental Refurbishment

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many offices in his Department have been refurbished in the last three years, and what has been the cost to public funds. [86727]

Mr. Rammell: In the FCO home estate the only office building refurbished within the past three years is the Old Admiralty building. The cost was £63 million and the project was part of the FCO's strategy to concentrate its London staff into two buildings in order to reduce home estate running costs by 50 per cent.

The FCO has committed approximately £300,000 per annum for the past three years (2000–01, 2001–02, 2002–03) to the refurbishment of its offices that form part of the UK estate. This refurbishment covers routine works to general office space, corridors and common parts together with fine rooms and conference rooms.

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In the overseas estate major office refurbishments were completed in Riga (£918,000) Tehran (£977,000), Tel Aviv (£384,000), Istanbul (£557,000), and Rangoon (£280,000).

Other, smaller, projects will have been completed through funds devolved to overseas posts. We maintain no central record of these and it is not possible to obtain full details without incurring disproportionate cost.


Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions in the past 12 months the Government has made an approach to the Government of Dubai in relation to specific cases of Britons imprisoned there who may be considered for amnesty. [90028]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: In the last year our consular officers in Dubai have forwarded, but did not support, two pleas for clemency to the Dubai authorities on behalf of relatives and MPs of convicted British nationals.

Health and Safety Strategy

Mrs. Helen Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which senior officials within his Department and its agencies take responsibility for health and safety at board or equivalent level; and where their names are publicised. [89494]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: As with all Departments, the Permanent Under-Secretary takes overall responsibility for health and safety. At departmental board level, the Director General for Corporate Affairs has been given particular responsibility and is designated the FCO's Health and Safety 'Champion'. New entrants to the FCO are notified of the DG Corporate Affairs' responsibility during their induction. His role is also identified in the new health and safety policy statement, soon to be issued.

Special Advisers/Press Officers

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) special advisers and (b) press officers have been employed by his Department in each year from 1994–95 to 2002–03; and at what cost in each year. [92440]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office employs two special advisors at any one time, the full cost of which is listed in the table 1 . All press officers employed are civil servants whose salary is appropriate to their grade.



1 It was not possible to ascertain the cost prior to 1997 without incurring disproportionate costs.

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Weapons of Mass Destruction

Norman Baker : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list those countries which intelligence indicates may be in possession of weapons of mass destruction. [93101]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Under exemption l(a) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, it is not generally our policy to publish intelligence information.

However, under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom are legally entitled to possess nuclear weapons.

Additionally, India and Pakistan have tested nuclear devices. We continue to urge Israel to resolve international concerns about its nuclear status by acceding to the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state. We also know that Iraq has significant biological and chemical weapons capabilities and, were UN sanctions to be lifted, we believe it could develop a nuclear weapon within five years. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has admitted to US officials that it has been pursuing a programme for the enrichment of uranium. We believe that they have the capability to use this material to manufacture nuclear weapons. We also believe that they have previously diverted sufficient such material to manufacture at least one nuclear weapon.

There are four States Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (the US, Russia, India and one other State Party) that have declared possession of chemical weapons. They are currently in the process of destroying them in accordance with their obligations under the Treaty.

In the past there have been public statements of concern about reports that Iran, Libya and Syria pursuing programmes to develop WMD and the means for their delivery.


Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) when his Department was first informed of the increased threat to visitors to Zanzibar; [92169]

Mr. Straw: We learnt that the US were changing their travel advice for Zanzibar on the evening of 10 January. Our existing advice already gave a robust warning to British travellers of the risks involved in going to Tanzania—including Zanzibar. Following discussions between missions locally and between FCO officials and the US State Department on why they had changed their travel advice and an assessment of the latest available intelligence, we amended our travel advice for Tanzania on 15 January. I cannot, of course, comment on the

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specifics of intelligence matters. However, the Agencies receive a large number of reports on a daily basis from a range of foreign liaison services. Relationships with these liaison services, which include the Americans and the Russians, are strong and positive.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department updated the FCO travel advice concerning the increased terrorist threat to visitors to Zanzibar; and if he will make a statement. [92171]

Mr. Straw: The FCO travel advice for Tanzania, which includes Zanzibar, was last up-dated on 15 January 2003.

The Travel Advice notice already gave appropriate warnings to British travellers of the risks involved in going to Tanzania—including Zanzibar. The revised advice included additional information about the risks on Zanzibar but did not change the advice.

Our advice throughout this period has been in line with that of both the Americans and the Australians—all of us warned that there were dangers in travelling to east Africa in general and to Zanzibar specifically; none of us advised against travel. Australia up-dated its advice on 16 January in line with changes in UK and US advice. The French amended their advice on 17 January.

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