§ Mr. Bercow
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the investment made by her Department in information systems to improve her Department's communication links with overseas offices. 
§ Clare Short
We have an on-going programme of upgrades, the core of which is the Enhanced Overseas Communications Links (EOCL) project costing £8 million. Part of this is a system we are implementing jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The links include virtual private networks where sufficient bandwidth is available in country from local internet service providers, and satellite links to other countries. We are also installing internet protocol enabled switches, which allow voice communication (telephone calls) to be carried on the network. 98 per cent. of our overseas staff now have direct links to our central systems.
The links are capable of carrying video conferencing (VC) facilities and we will shortly commission a 'VC bridge', which will allow simultaneous conferences to up to eight locations.