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General Affairs Council

Mr. McWalter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will report on the outcome of the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 25 May. [44659]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The General Affairs Council met in Brussels on 25 May. The Council adopted the A Points, and noted the European Parliament Resolutions of 29-30 April and 2 May listed in document 8115/98. A copy will be placed in the House Library as soon as it becomes available.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary provided a Presidency progress report on Agenda 2000 negotiations. Foreign Ministers set out their positions on a wide range of issues. The GAC agreed the proposed outline of the structure for a draft report to Cardiff. Foreign Ministers also agreed that COREPER should report back to the next GAC on how to respond to the latest letter from EP President Gil-Robles about European Parliament involvement.

The Council reached agreement on the text of the EU Code of Conduct for arms exports, which will be formally adopted at a future Council meeting. The Code aims to set high common standards for arms exports from all EU Member States. It develops the EU Common Criteria agreed in 1991 and 1992 and includes a mechanism under which a Member State will have to consult a Partner which has denied a licence for a particular export, before granting an essentially identical licence.

The Council took note of the reports of the EU/US and EU/Canada Summits. It agreed that the EU/US Summit, which made substantial progress towards resolving the problems of US sanctions legislation and endorsed the Transatlantic Economic Partnership, represented an important step.

The Council agreed a Declaration condemning the Indian nuclear tests and setting out the steps India has to take to rejoin the mainstream of international efforts on non-proliferation.

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The Council underlined EU support for Indonesia, called on President Habibie to continue political reform, welcomed the release of two political prisoners and called on the Indonesian authorities to cooperate constructively with the efforts under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General on East Timor.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary briefed partners on his visit to Ankara on 19 May, and reported Turkey's decision not to attend the Association Council which had been planned for 25 May.

The Council discussed preparations for the ad hoc meeting of Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers in Palermo on 3-4 June. This should give renewed impetus to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and prepare the ground for the third Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference in Stuttgart in April 1999. The Council endorsed the Presidency's handling, and reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that the meeting is a success.

The Council took note of developments in the Middle East Peace Process in the light of on-going US efforts. The French Foreign Minister briefed colleagues on the Franco-Egyptian "Call for Peace".

The Council heard a report from Mr. Felipe Gonzalez, the EU and OSCE Special Representative from the FRY. It noted with concern recent developments in the FRY affecting the freedom of the media. It welcomed the opening of a dialogue between Belgrade and the leadership of the Kosovar Albanian community, while expressing grave concern about the escalating violence in the province. It underlined the need for the parliamentary elections in Montenegro on 31 May to be free and fair and for their results to be respected by all.

The Council agreed to consider on 29 June whether Croatia should continue to benefit from Autonomous Trade Measures in the light of that country's performance on refugee returns and other important issues such as democratisation and independent media.

The Council endorsed the principle of financial support for Azerbaijan (beyond that provided under TACIS), as proposed by the Commission, subject to technical examination by Financial Counsellors.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary drew attention to the EU/Russia Summit (15 May) and reported on the outcome of the G8 Birmingham Summit.

East Timor

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date the EU Troika visit to East Timor is expected to take place. [44343]

Mr. Fatchett: We still hope that the visit, to which Indonesia has agreed, will take place during the UK Presidency.

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the visits by (a) ministers and (b) officials of his Department to East Timor (i) undertaken since 1 May 1998 and (ii) planned for the next six months. [44301]

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Mr. Fatchett: No Ministers or officials have visited East Timor since 1 May 1998. The only visit so far planned for the next six months is one by the British Ambassador in Jakarta as part of an EU Troika Mission. The date is not yet settled.

Land Mines

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which countries have ratified the Ottawa convention on land mines. [44209]

Mr. Fatchett: By 31 May, the following had ratified the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel land mines:

St. Helenians

Dr. Marek: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many St. Helenians were working on Ascension in the last 10 years for which figures are available. [44061]

Mr. Fatchett: The total numbers of St. Helenians working on Ascension Island in the last 10 years are as follows:


Entry Clearance Officers

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the complement of extra entry clearance officers provided to deal with the increased volume of summer entry clearance work for (a) Islamabad, (b) New Delhi, (c) Moscow, (d) Peking, (e) Lagos, (f) Bogota and (g) Colombo; how

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many of these have already gone to each post; when the others are expected to travel to each post; and when they will be recalled from each post. [44229]

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Mr. Fatchett: The information requested is contained in the following table:

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Additional entry clearance officers deployed to deal with increased volume of summer entry clearance work

PostTotal number of ECOsNumber already at postDates others expected to travelDates of expected departure from post
Islamabad523 early June2 early September
3 late September
New Delhi861 early July2 early/ mid June
1 end July
2 early August
1 late August
2 early/late September
Moscow87--1 already returned
2 early June
1 late June
2 end July
2 late August
Peking312 early July2 end August
1 end September
Lagos412 early July2 end August
1 early August2 end September
Bogota11--1 end July
ColomboNo additional Entry Clearance Officers

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Derringham School

Mr. Alan Johnson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has received opposing the proposed closure of Derringham School in Hull. [43151]

Ms Estelle Morris: Proposals to close Derringham School were first submitted on 8 December 1997. The Secretary of State received 19 letters and a petition containing 2,975 signatures opposing the closure. The proposals were then withdrawn and new proposals were submitted on 9 March 1998. The Department has received two letters opposing the new proposals; the formal objection period ended on 9 May and the LEA has until 9 June to send copies of further objections, plus the LEA's own comments, to the Secretary of State. All relevant representations will be taken into account by the Secretary of State in reaching a final decision.

Training and Enterprise Councils

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps he is taking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of TECs in (a) raising skill levels and (b) fostering enterprise. [43111]

Dr. Howells: The Government introduced a package of measures in September to raise TEC performance to the level of the best, which includes sharing good practice. As announced in The Learning Age, we have also set up a Training Standards Council to supervise a Training Inspectorate to drive up the standards of training funded through TECs.

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In addition, on 13 May, the Secretary of State announced a review of the future role, purpose and funding framework for TECs in delivering the Government's education, skills and enterprise objectives. The review will consider how we will give a clear focus to the role of TECs, and will develop proposals for improving efficiency and effectiveness. The review will lead to the publication of new Strategic Guidance in the Autumn which will set out the future role of TECs and the Government's expectations of them.

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what was the surplus achieved by Staffordshire TEC on trading accounts in (a) 1995-96 and (b) 1996-97. [43113]

Dr. Howells: The surplus in 1995-96 was £385,000 and in 1996-97 was £1,548,000.

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