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Written Answers

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 26 June 2008

Written Answers

Thursday 26 June 2008

Burma: Cyclone Nargis

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are able to provide or locate small boats available for relief and rescue work in the Burmese delta following Cyclone Nargis; and what measures they will take to ensure that their £5 million of emergency aid and £18 million of poverty assistance is not misapplied or misappropriated by the Government of Burma. [HL3535]

On 3 June, the International Development Secretary announced an additional £10.5 million for the humanitarian response to Cyclone Nargis. This brings the UK's overall support to £27.5 million, the largest contribution from any single country so far. This is additional to the UK's long-term humanitarian programme in Burma on which we plan to spend £12 million this year, rising to £18 million in 2010-11.

As part of its contribution to the humanitarian relief effort, DfID has provided £5 million in logistical and relief supplies, including emergency water containers, shelter materials for 30,000 families, and 14 flat-bottomed boats and engines designed to make bulk distributions of relief items in the inland waters of the Irrawaddy delta. The boats have been given to Save the Children Fund. All DfID-donated shelter materials have been distributed through UN and NGOs on the ground.

The Department for International Development (DfID) does not channel any funds through the Government of Burma. DfID's aid is provided through the UN, NGOs and the Red Cross. We have confidence in the stringent monitoring mechanisms these partners have in place to ensure that DfID's aid reaches its intended recipients.

Care Services: Children

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 20 March (WA 55–6), for each local authority, how many of the looked-after children during the past six years had more than five or 10 placement moves; and whether they will define the term “short-term placement”.[HL4099]

Information on the number of looked-after children during the past six years who had more than five or 10 placement moves, has been placed in the House of Lords Library.

Improving placement stability for looked-after children is a high priority for the Government, as reflected in their public service agreement targets and the national indicator set for local government. The Care Matters White Paper and the Children and Young Person's Bill include a range of measures which will help to improve placement stability, including revised arrangements for care planning, strengthening the role of independent reviewing officers to ensure placement moves are given greater scrutiny, and ensuring children are placed closer to their homes and schools.

Short-term placements refer to children who are looked after under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, who are subject to an agreement between children's services and the child's parents or guardians, whereby the children normally live at home but are accommodated by a local authority in a pattern of short periods of care in order to give their parents (or guardians) some “respite” from the normal duties of looking after a child. A typical example would be a physically disabled child, who normally lives at home with his/her parents, but who is accommodated by a local authority every weekend. While these children are legally “looked after” during the course of their short breaks, their situation differs significantly from that of other looked after children. Consequently, these children are generally excluded from our published data.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether respondents to the next census can specify Ulster Scots as their racial background and language. [HL4115]

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Colin Mowl, Director of Macroeconomics and National Accounts, to Lord Laird, dated June 2008.

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent Question asking whether respondents to the next census can specify Ulster Scots as their racial background and language. I am replying in her absence. (HL4115)

The proposed 2011 census ethnic group question in England and Wales includes a “write-in” option within each of the main ethnic groupings, which would provide the opportunity for people to describe their ethnic background in whatever way they wish. We are not planning a specific “tick box” for Ulster Scots.

The language question is currently being tested. The current form of the question includes a write-in option for respondents to describe their main language in whatever way they wish.

However, it is not possible to confirm what the 2011 census questions and response categories will be until the consultation and testing programme is complete and formal approval of the census is given by Parliament in 2010. A White Paper setting out the UK Statistics Authority proposals, including the wording of any questions about ethnicity, is scheduled to be published in autumn 2008.

Inquiries about the use of Ulster Scots in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the census is a devolved matter, should be addressed to the respective registrars general.

Crime: Muslims

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What research has been conducted into the factors affecting criminality among Muslims, and what action has been taken to reduce it. [HL4207]

The Ministry of Justice has not conducted or commissioned research into factors affecting criminality among individuals belonging to specific faith groups, including Muslims.

The National Offender Management Service's policies on rehabilitation and interventions to reduce criminality apply to offenders irrespective of their religion.

Health: Blood Tests

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many general practitioner surgeries offer blood-testing facilities; and [HL4284]

How many single-doctor surgeries in England and Wales offer blood testing facilities. [HL4285]

Iraq: Refugees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to comments made by Iraqi MP Abdul-Khaliq Zankana that the problem of internally displaced persons and Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries is likely to become an increasingly significant regional and international problem as the Iraqi Government appear to have no clear policy to tackle it.[HL3845]

We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and among Iraqi refugees in the wider region. That is why DfID has committed over £149 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq since 2003, £17 million of which has been allocated this year. We have channelled our assistance to a variety of international organisations working to provide assistance to the most vulnerable people displaced inside Iraq and in the region.

However, it will require an Iraqi-led solution to tackle this problem fully. The Government of Iraq (GoI) have recognised that they hold primary responsibility for the welfare of their people and are working to address the humanitarian situation inside the country. For example, the GoI this week allocated $40 million to the World Food Programme, to assist in the provision of food for internally displaced people.

It is also necessary to recognise the considerable hospitality which Syria and other countries in the region have shown by accommodating large numbers of people fleeing the violence in Iraq. However, this hospitality cannot be expected to last indefinitely. The UK Government continue to encourage the GoI to take a lead in providing financial support to their own people in the region. We are seeing some progress being made. The GoI have transferred $25 million to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to support the Iraqis who are currently living there, and have allocated $195 million to support voluntary returnees.

The longer term solution to the problem hinges on the security situation improving in Iraq. Currently, refugees who have been interviewed in the region have said they do not wish to return to Iraq because they believe it is unsafe to do so. The UNHCR, which leads on refugee issues, has also made it clear that the situation in Iraq does not currently warrant mass refugee return. Therefore, security must be the Iraqi Government's top priority, to allow displaced people to feel safe enough to return home.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of the appeal made by local aid organisations and the United Nations Refugee Agency on 12 May for $127 million to help Iraqi internally displaced persons and refugees until the end of 2008.[HL3846]

International donors have already contributed $134 million to the UNHCR's 2008 Iraq appeal, which is primarily designed to address the needs of Iraqi refugees in the region. The UNHCR has now asked for a further $127 million, in order to meet its 2008 Iraq appeal target of $261 million.

DfID has already contributed a total of £17 million for humanitarian assistance to Iraq this year, including £3 million to the UNHCR appeal—making the UK its fourth largest donor. We have also committed: £7 million to the International Committee for the Red Cross; £5 million to the UN Consolidated Appeal for Iraq; and £2 million to the World Food Programme (WFP). Since 2003, the UK has committed over £149 million in humanitarian assistance for Iraq.

It is important to note that the UNHCR Iraq appeal was only announced in January of this year, and we can still expect some international donors who have not yet pledged funds to do so in the coming months.

Israel: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the minutes of the 30 April meeting of the European Union-Israel Human Rights Working Group will be available. [HL4149]

The EU-Israel Working Group on Human Rights, like all other working groups, is conducted in confidence to enable a frank discussion of the issues. A public record is not released. The session on 30 April provided a valuable forum for discussion in which a wide range of human rights issues were raised.

Lebanon and Palestine: Financial Assistance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much has been spent since 6 April 1991 on assistance to Palestinians and to Lebanon by (a) the United Kingdom, and (b) the European Union. [HL3879]

Comparable data on assistance to Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) provided by the UK, European Commission (EC) and the 15 members of the European Union (EU-15) at that time are only available on a calendar-year basis. Details on the level of official development assistance (ODA) provided by the UK, the EC and the EU-15 are in the table below. EC and EU-15 data are only available up to 2006.

Table 1: Official Development Assistance to Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza and UNRWA, 1991-06, £ millions


West Bank and Gaza



European Commission

EU-15 (incl. UK)


European Commission

EU-15 (incl. UK)


European Commission

EU-15 (incl. UK)











































































































































































*International data for the West Bank and Gaza are not available prior to 1993

UNRWA is a regional institution, covering the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Country allocations vary on an annual basis. In 2008, UNRWA has allocated approximately 13 per cent of its assistance to Lebanon, 16 per cent to the West Bank and 31 per cent to the Gaza Strip. Just over 7 per cent is set aside for its headquarters in Gaza.

In 2007-08, DfID spent £55.3 million on the West Bank and Gaza, including the share for the West Bank and Gaza of its support of £15.6 million to UNRWA. Another £8.3 million was provided to UNRWA for its support to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

London Underground

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What outputs were expected to be delivered in the second phase of the London Underground Public Private Partnership when contracts were signed; and whether there is funding for these to be achieved. [HL4004]

The PPP contracts were signed in December 2002 (Tube Lines JNP contract) and April 2003 (Metronet BCV and SSL contracts). The PPP contracts are for 30 years, but provide for a periodic review every seven-and-a-half years that gives London Underground and the PPP companies the opportunity to review the specification and price for the remainder of the contracts.

For Tube lines, the second period commences in July 2010. Contract deliverables due in the second period include completion of the Northern line upgrade and delivery of the Piccadilly line upgrade. Work is already well underway for the Northern line upgrade, which is programmed to be completed by the end of 2011 against a contract requirement of January 2012. Tube lines have also started the procurement process for the Piccadilly line upgrade that is due to be completed by 2014. In January 2007, contracts for the new signalling system were awarded, and the process for procuring the new rolling stock was also commenced.

Following the PPP administration of Metronet on 18 July 2007, both Metronet companies transferred to Transport for London on 27 May 2008. Transport for London, together with London Underground and the Government, are currently considering the future structure for the lines previously the responsibility of Metronet. A key consideration is to ensure that the major upgrades due to be completed on the Victoria, Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City lines during the second PPP period are not significantly affected by Metronet's failure.

The Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 settlement sets out the expected levels of Transport for London's grant and borrowing to 2017-18. This makes provision for the continued modernisation of the Underground and Government will continue to work with London Underground and Transport for London to ensure that these upgrades can be delivered.

North Korea: Food Shortages

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics on food shortages in North Korea. [HL4129]

The Department for International Development (DfID) has not made an assessment of the report by the Peterson Institute. We are waiting for the result from the independent assessment currently being carried out by the World Food Programme. The results of this should be available in early July.

Parents: Birth Registration

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What definition of “parental responsibility” they intend to use in developing their policies in the White Paper, Joint birth registration: recording responsibility (Cm 7293) and in the proposed Bill on joint birth registration. [HL4307]

Parents: Duties and Responsibilities

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and the child's property, referred to in footnote 3 on page 5 of the White Paper, Joint birth registration: recording responsibility (Cm 7293); and where these duties and responsibilities are set out for parents and prospective parents. [HL4308]

Footnote 3 on page 5 of the White Paper, Joint birth registration: recording responsibility (Cm 7293), refers to the meaning of parental responsibility set out in Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989, which describes it as, “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. It includes the responsibility to care for a child and to make decisions about his or her upbringing.


asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many passports the British embassy in Dublin issued during the financial year 2006–07; and how that differed in percentage terms from 2002–03. [HL4315]

To set the figures requested in context, the table below shows the number of passports issued by our embassy in Dublin in each financial year from 2002-03 to 2007-08.

Financial Year

Passports Issued

Percentage change from 2002-03 (rounded to two decimal places)






4.42% (percentage increase)



13.47% (percentage increase)



12.68% (percentage increase)



6.91% (percentage increase)



0.74% (percentage increase)

The pattern of demand is broadly in line with the total demand for passports provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office around the world.

Planning: Eco-towns

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What mechanisms are being used to consult members of the public about the establishment of eco-towns. [HL4171]

The Government have identified the areas with potential to become eco-towns in the consultation document, Eco-towns—living a greener future, and copies of the document are available in the House Library and on the department's website. These locations are now going forward for further assessment and consultation.

Bidders are publicising further details of schemes and holding consultation events, as are local authorities. The arrangements vary according to the location and the status of the schemes being developed. The Government are also commissioning exhibition and consultation events about the eco-towns concept, the purpose of eco-towns, and a national programme going forward, including information about potential locations. In addition, the Government expect to publish in July—for further consultation—a draft sustainability appraisal on the locations and a draft policy statement which will set out more detail for each location.

Only after this second consultation will the Government decide which sites have potential and which schemes they will support as they go forward into the local planning process, where they will undergo further testing and consultation.

Prisoners: Muslims

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On the most recent date for which figures are available, how many Muslim inmates were (a) on remand, and (b) serving a prison sentence; and what percentages of the prison population they represent. [HL4205]

At the end of April 2008, in prisons in England and Wales, the number of Muslim prisoners on remand (untried or convicted unsentenced) was 1,662, and the number of Muslim prisoners under immediate custodial sentence was 7,340. These represent 2 per cent and 9 per cent respectively of the total prison population (82,319).

These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems, which, as with any large-scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many Muslim inmates are serving prison sentences for (a) violent crimes, (b) robbery, (c) sexual offences, (d) theft, and (e) terrorist offences; and what percentages of the Muslim prison population they represent. [HL4206]

The table below shows, at the end of April 2008, for prisons in England and Wales, the total number of immediate custodial sentenced Muslim prisoners by offence group, and the corresponding proportions of the total Muslim prison population that these represent.


Percentage of total Muslim prison population

Total prison population



of which

Sentenced Muslim prison population



Violence against the person



Sexual offences









Theft and handling



Fraud and forgery



Drug offences



Motoring offences



Other offences



Offence not recorded



These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems, which, as with any large-scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

The Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General's Office are currently working with the National Co-ordinator for Terrorist Investigations to improve the quality of data relating to those convicted under terrorist legislation and those convicted under other legislation but following a terrorist investigation. As soon as this is complete, a statistical bulletin to cover information on arrests and convictions will be published. For this reason, it is not possible to provide the specific data to answer part (e) of this Question.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether there is evidence that radicalisation is occurring among Muslim prisoners and, if so, what action has been taken to reduce its incidence. [HL4208]

We recognise the risk of radicalisation in prisons, just as there are risks in the wider community. The National Offender Management Service is working closely with partner agencies to tackle all forms of extremism. Its programme of work includes gathering intelligence and establishing a clear national picture of the risk; training and awareness-raising for staff; support for Muslim chaplains in their work with those vulnerable to radicalisation; and work to research and develop appropriate interventions.

Prisons: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will require the Health Protection Agency to modify its data-collection procedures to identify the number of cases of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in each prison and young offender institutions. [HL4326]

The department is working with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to improve disease surveillance in prisons and young offender institutions.

On the specific issue of identifying cases of sexually transmitted infections and HIV in prisons, the department and the HPA Centre for Infections are discussing a review of surveillance systems to determine if they can be amended to enhance prison reporting.

Questions for Written Answer: Unanswered Question

asked the Leader of the House:

Further to her reply on 10 June (Official Report, House of Lords, col. 480) about Mr Liam Byrne MP being responsible for not answering Baroness Valentine's Question for Written Answer tabled on 24 January, whether she has drawn this matter to the attention of the Prime Minister; and what recommendations she made for the management of Mr Byrne's responsibilities. [HL4155]

An Answer was given to Baroness Valentine on 16 June 2008 (Official Report, col. WA 122). The Government take accountability to Parliament through Questions for Written Answer very seriously and I am working with ministerial colleagues to ensure that Answers are accurate and timely.

Railways: Brighton to Milton Keynes

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have received about the desirability of including a Brighton to Milton Keynes passenger rail service in the new Southern franchise; and whether such a service would benefit passengers on that route. [HL4370]

The Department for Transport is currently carrying out consultation on the specific elements of the new South Central franchise. This consultation closes on 14 August. We have already received some responses regarding stakeholder aspirations for services between Brighton and Milton Keynes. No final decisions have been made as yet.

Neither the Brighton Main Line nor the south London route utilisation strategies recommended that the West London line service should operate south of Croydon.

Railways: Passenger Journeys

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many railway passengers start their journey at Reading and end it at Paddington per year, broken down between peak and off-peak times; and [HL4166]

What was the average number of railway passengers per weekday who started their journey at Chelmsford and ended it at Liverpool Street in each of the past 10 years. [HL4167]

The Department for Transport does not hold the detailed information requested on the number of rail passenger journeys made.

This information may be available by contacting the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) directly at the following address: ATOC Ltd, 3rd Floor, 40 Bernard Street, London, WC1N 1BY.

Railways: Rolling Stock

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many requests they have received in the past 18 months from train operating companies to be allowed to provide additional rolling stock to meet passenger demand. [HL4328]

The Government's approach to providing extra rolling stock to meet passenger demand is through the high-level output specification (HLOS) process. In addition, the Department for Transport meets train operators regularly to discuss a range of issues including, on occasion, proposals for additional rolling stock. However, no specific proposal for the department to fund extra rolling stock other than that identified through HLOS has proceeded beyond the informal discussion stage within the past 18 months.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why train operating companies may not negotiate freely with rolling stock companies about the supply of new rolling stock. [HL4330]

With the exception of the InterCity Express programme, the Thameslink programme, and the additional Pendolinos, all of which are being led by the Department for Transport, train operators are free to negotiate with rolling stock companies about the supply of new rolling stock during the term of their franchise.

Sri Lanka: Human Rights

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are making representations to the Government of Sri Lanka concerning (a) Mr J S Tissainayagam, alleged to have been held in custody without charge for over 100 days; and (b) Mr V Jasiharan and two other men held by the Terrorism Investigation Department, one of whom alleges torture. [HL4234]

In June, our high commissioner in Colombo raised the case of the detention of Mr J S Tissainayagam and his associates at high level with Sri Lankan Government representatives. The EU and US ambassadors in Colombo have taken similar action. We do have serious concerns about a growing number of attacks and incidents of intimidation against journalists in Sri Lanka, which ranks 156 out of 169 entries in the Reporters Sans Frontieres Worldwide Press Freedom Index. On 10 June, I told President Rajapakse that Sri Lanka needs to do more to meet her international human rights obligations. I recommended that an independent monitoring mechanism could play a role in this.

Sudan: World Food Programme

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will contribute to the annual budget of the World Food Programme Humanitarian Service in Darfur; and what is their current assessment of the humanitarian situation in Darfur. [HL4057]

The Department for International Development provides humanitarian support to UN agencies in Sudan through the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF). The fund allows the UN humanitarian co-ordinator to decide on priority funding needs. We have contributed £40 million to the CHF this year.

The humanitarian situation in Darfur remains precarious and incidents involving violence against humanitarian workers and assets continue. Access remains the primary concern of the humanitarian community. While some progress has been made, bureaucratic impediments and security limitations, particularly in West Darfur, continue to block the delivery of services in many areas.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the humanitarian impact of cuts announced on 10 June to the World Food Programme Humanitarian Service in Sudan. [HL4058]

Our initial assessment is that the flight changes announced by the World Food Programme's Humanitarian Air Service will not adversely affect the frontline work of the humanitarian operation in Darfur. The reductions in the helicopter service still represent an increase from 2007. Other flight changes affect connections between the capital Khartoum and the south. Although these will not have a significant impact on humanitarian operations, they will affect the frequency with which aid workers can travel to regional hubs.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to their international partners regarding the current shortfall in the budget of the World Food Programme Humanitarian Service in Sudan. [HL4059]

The Department for International Development has engaged intensively with international partners about the funding problems being experienced by the World Food Programme's Humanitarian Air Service (HAS) in Sudan. We are encouraging the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to provide longer-term funding for HAS.

In addition, DfID has urged the UN to consider the case for increased funding for the HAS. As a first step, an additional US$4 million has already been made available and a further grant of US$2 million is under active consideration. These additional funds come from the Common Humanitarian Fund for Sudan, to which DfID has contributed £40 million this year.

Taxation: Boards and Commissions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Comptroller and Auditor General monitors the payment of income tax and national insurance contributions of board or commission members by bodies set up by statute. [HL4243]

As part of his financial audit of bodies, of which he is the statutory auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General audits each of the figures in the remuneration report. This includes the salaries, wages or fees of individual board or commission members. Where the statutory body pays an individual's income tax or employees national insurance contributions as a benefit in kind, these amounts are also audited individually to ensure that they are fairly stated within the remuneration report. Compliance with income tax and national insurance regimes is the responsibility of the individual concerned. HM Revenue and Customs is responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of these regimes.

Uganda: International Aid

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will continue financial assistance to the Government of Uganda for northern Uganda, or contribute to the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan and civil society organisations working in the north. [HL4012]

Support to northern Uganda is a priority for the UK Government’s programme in Uganda. The UK Government’s Department for International Development is allocating resources to support the implementation of the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) which is the Uganda Government's overarching framework for the recovery effort. The objective is to support a smooth transition from humanitarian to development programming, delivering benefits to the people of the north and helping to sustain peace. DfID together with other development partners is currently in discussions with the Government about the most appropriate way to finance the PRDP.

In the mean time, DfID will continue to allocate its resources through a range of actors including the World Bank, the United Nations, the Red Cross Movement, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations.

Western Sahara

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights kept the report of the visit by that office to Western Sahara in September 2006 secret; on what dates United Kingdom embassy officials, Foreign Office officials and the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative have visited the territory since September 2006; what were the dates since then of meetings between Morocco and the Polisario chaired by the United Nations; and whether they have made representations to the United Nations about the adequacy of the resources devoted to the situation there. [HL4229]

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited Morocco, Western Sahara, the Polisario-run refugee camps in Tindouf (Algeria) and Algiers in May and June 2006 to gather information on the human rights situation. The OHCHR shared its report privately with Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario on 8 September 2006, but did not publish it, in line with terms of reference agreed by all parties prior to the visit. The High Commissioner for Human Rights continues to maintain the position that the report should remain an internal document, not for official publication.

Staff from our embassy in Rabat visited Western Sahara in July 2006, and a further visit is planned. The UN Secretary-General's personal envoy to the Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, visited the territory in September 2006, May 2007 and February 2008. Mr van Walsum hosted talks between the parties to the dispute in New York on 18 and 19 June 2007, 10 to 12 August 2007, 7 to 9 January 2008 and 18 and 19 March 2008.

The UK has not made any representations to the UN about resources for Mr van Walsum, for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, or other resources dedicated to resolving the Western Sahara conflict.

Zambia: Ugandan Refugees

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What assessment they have made of the decision of the United Nations Refugee Agency to begin the voluntary repatriation of Ugandan refugees in Zambia.[HL3854]

The repatriation of 200 Ugandan refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is being carried out at the request of the refugees themselves. The UNHCR, the Governments of Zambia and Uganda and the refugees have concluded that the current political, economic and social conditions in Uganda allow for the repatriation to take place. While we have no reasons to disagree with this assessment it will be important that the reintegration process in Uganda is monitored to ensure its success. As is the case with all returning refugees, the UNHCR will monitor for at least six months to ensure a successful reintegration in Uganda.

The repatriation process will be guided by the principles that refugee repatriation should be voluntary and be carried out under conditions of safety and dignity, as required under international refugee law.

Zimbabwe: Opposition Groups

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What meetings Ministers have had with representatives of (a) the Movement for Democratic Change, and (b) Zimbabwean pro-democracy groups, in the past 12 months. [HL4314]

Ministers take every opportunity to speak with those attempting to restore the democratic process in Zimbabwe, including opposition parties. In addition, our embassy in Harare has regular and frequent contact with Zimbabwean political and civil society activists working for democracy.