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Burma

30. Mr. Savidge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the EU/ASEAN meeting, with particular reference to Burma. [141991]

Mr. Battle: The EU/ASEAN meeting will help develop relations between these two dynamic regions.

It is also a rare opportunity to put across directly to the Burmese leadership our deep concerns about the appalling record on human rights and democracy. The meeting will also be a chance to press ASEAN countries to do more.

Entry Visas

32. Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how often the recommendation of the British High Commission in India not to grant entry visas has been overridden, following a ministerial intervention, since 1 January 1997. [141993]

Mr. Vaz: Information on these decisions was not kept centrally until October 1999. Since then I have overturned 19 decisions to refuse entry visa at our posts in India following representations made by hon. and right hon. Members who regarded these cases as exceptional. During this period over 184,000 visa applications were made in these posts, of which approximately 20,000 were refused and 200,995 visas were issued.

Zimbabwe

33. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the current situation in Zimbabwe and on the situation of British subjects resident there. [141994]

Mr. Hain: We continue to be deeply concerned by the situation in Zimbabwe. Through our High Commission in Harare we are in regular contact with the British community there.

Falkland Islands

34. Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action his Department has taken to improve air links between the Falkland Islands and South America. [R] [141995]

Mr. Battle: A principal element of the British Argentine Joint Statement of 14 July 1999 was the restoration of air links between the Falkland Islands and South America. The weekly link with Chile has been of important benefit to trade, tourism and fisheries. The introduction of a monthly link with Argentina has facilitated visits by Argentine next-of-kin to the graves of their deceased on the Islands. These arrangements have been working well.

EU Enlargement

35. Mr. Leigh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on prospects for enlargement of the EU following the Nice summit. [141996]

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Mr. Vaz: The Nice European Council agreed to give a new impetus to accession negotiations and ensured, by concluding the IGC, that the EU will be ready to receive new members from 2002.

Israel

37. Mr. Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on UK assistance to refugees housed in camps in Gaza and the west bank; and what representations he has made to Israeli officials on a lasting peace settlement for the middle east. [141998]

Mr. Hain: This year the UK contributed around £10 million to the General Fund of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In October the Government also announced a contribution of a further £3 million to UNRWA's request to meet a cash shortfall. And on 1 December we announced an additional £5 million for UNRWA's special emergency appeal. We are in regular contact with Israeli and Palestinian officials to urge them to put in place further measures to end the violence and return to negotiations. We will continue working towards the goal of a just and lasting settlement in the middle east.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the UK's relations with the Government of Israel. [141973]

Mr. Hain: Our Government enjoy excellent relations with Israel in the course of which we have continued to urge an end to the violence and the resumption of negotiations.

Israeli Service Men

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the three Israeli service men recently abducted on the Israeli side of the Israel/Lebanon border. [141326]

Mr. Hain: The Government condemn hostage taking in any circumstances.

We strongly support the United Nations Secretary- General's and other efforts to secure the soldiers' release through active diplomacy.

India

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which Ministers have visited India since May 1997; what was the purpose of each visit; by whom these Ministers were accompanied; and what was the cost to his Department of each trip. [141519]

Mr. Hain: There have been eight FCO ministerial visits to India since May 1997:


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Panel 2000 Task Force

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will list the members of the Panel 2000 Task Force; on how many occasions it has met since its establishment; who was present at each meeting; what was discussed; what work it is currently undertaking; and what conclusions it has reached to date; [142074]

Mr. Battle: Panel 2000 set up in 1997 has included the following:


The committee has met five times in plenary sessions, and in working groups on 14 occasions. The majority of Panel 2000 members participate in the main meetings, discussing a strategy to improve the way the UK is seen overseas; looking at the methods and tools to achieve this; examining ways of ensuring that the public and private sectors work together; and considering how the FCO might communicate in a more modern way with the public.

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Panel 2000 has produced a total of 21 recommendations. A key proposal was the creation of a "Britain abroad task force", to foster more co-ordinated presentation and projection of the UK. We are now establishing such a group. A joint Chair has been appointed as well as a Director and two staff, and an initial strategy for the new organisation is planned to be produced in March 2001.


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