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PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS

05 Jan 12. Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Somali piracy is a major problem for the UK and the international community. As a state whose strengths and vulnerabilities are distinctly maritime, the UK should play a leading role in the international response to piracy. The upcoming international conference to be hosted by the UK in February must produce decisive results. The Government was right to permit private armed guards to defend British flagged shipping against Somali pirates, but it must now provide proper guidance on the legal use of force. Somali piracy poses a threat to the UK’s national interests as well as global trading routes and international security. The costs of allowing piracy to proliferate are high. The British shipping industry is worth £10.7bn to the UK’s GDP, and the costs of security, insurance, re-routing have vastly increased the costs of doing business. Over $300 million has been paid in ransoms to Somali pirates over the past four years, and thousands of seafarers have been held hostage, some of whom have been subject to cruel treatment and even torture. Self-defence measures, multi-national naval operations and prosecutions have begun to take effect, but have not yet contained the problem. A concerted international effort is now required. This report will contribute to the debate on counter-piracy as the FCO prepares to host a major international conference on Somalia in February 2012. The Committee welcomes the Prime Minister’s announcement that private armed guards will be permitted on UK shipping. However, the Government’s guidance on the use of force, particularly lethal force, is very limited and there is little to help a ship’s master make a judgement on where force can be used. The Committee expresses surprise that so little is known about what happens to ransom money, which topped $135 million this year alone. It finds that the Government has been “disappointingly slow to take action on financial flows relating to ransom payments, particularly given the information that could be available from British companies involved”. The Committee concludes that the solution to Somali piracy lies in establishing order on land, ending impunity for piracy crimes and offering alternatives. However, it warns against international claims to deliver a solution in Somalia, and urges the Government to develop its engagement with and support for Somali civil society organisations and local projects. Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were hijacked and held hostage by Somali pirates, criticised the FCO’s support for their family as “essentially, tea and sympathy”. The Committee recommends that the FCO review its communication and other procedures to support family members of British hostages held abroad.

05 Jan 12. Somalia: Piracy Report. The Foreign Affairs Committee published (5 Jan 12) a Report on Piracy off the coast of Somalia. Chapters discuss: Somali piracy; British and international response; Somalia – a solution on land and FCO support for victims and families (Paul and Rachel Chandler). The Report is published as HC 1318, for £22:00.
Comment: The FCO has promised a “full and formal response” to the Report within the next two months. Meanwhile, the document provides useful background reading for those attending the conference on Somalia to be hosted by the UK in London on 23 Feb 12. (Source: DNA DEFENCE NEWS ANALYSIS, Issue 12/02, 09 Jan 12)

15 Dec 11. Olympic Games: Military Assistance. In a Written Statement (15 Dec 11), the Defence Secretary outlined MoD support to the Home Office and to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The MoD expects to provide up to 13,500 Service personnel in London, on the Thames, in Weymouth and across the UK. HMS OCEAN is planned to be based at Greenwich and HMS BULWARK in Weymouth Bay. The air security plan includes Typhoon aircraft forward-based at RAF Northolt. A 1,000-strong military contingency force will be availab

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