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Joint Entry Clearance Unit

Ms Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the backlog of letters in the joint entry clearance unit. [144245]

Mr. Vaz: I am pleased to announce that as of 21 December the amount of outstanding correspondence for the Joint Entry Clearance Unit is zero.

European Council Meetings

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the occasions, and the individuals concerned since May 1997 on which British delegations to European Council meetings have been led by persons other than Members of either House. [144349]

Mr. Vaz: Since May 1997, the Prime Minister has led the UK delegation to all meetings of the European Council.


Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Burma concerning U Pa Pa Lay and U Lu Zaw and their continued detention; and if he will make a statement. [144524]

Mr. Battle: U Pa Pa Lay and U Lu Zaw are among an estimated 1,500 political prisoners in Burma. Our Ambassador in Rangoon has made representations to the Burmese authorities on this subject. We take every opportunity, including in United Nations resolutions, to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all such prisoners. We also support the work of the ICRC in visiting prisoners in Burma.


Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the Government of China concerning the continued detention of Ngawang Choephal, a Tibetan; and if he will make a statement. [144523]

Mr. Battle: We remain deeply concerned about the case of Ngawang Choephal, and raise his case regularly with the Chinese authorities. I raised the case with the then Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister, Wang Yingfan, in

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Beijing in November 1999 and urged that Choephal's mother, Sonam Deckyi, be allowed to visit him. A visit took place in August 2000. We remain concerned at reports that Choephal may be in poor health. During the most recent round of the UK/China human rights dialogue in October 2000, we made a specific request that his sentence be reviewed in the light of these reports. At that meeting, the Chinese stated Choephal was in good health. We will continue to press this case.

Non-proliferation Treaty

Mrs. Ann Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make a statement about progress made on the Government's commitment to nuclear disarmament, as agreed in the Non-Proliferation Treaty final document; [144103]

Mr. Vaz: The Government have made their commitment to all aspects of the Final Document agreed at the 2000 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. We believe the United Kingdom is already some way ahead of most other states in fulfilling the undertakings it sets out.

We have reduced our own nuclear forces to the minimum necessary to provide for our security for the foreseeable future. These reductions have included the withdrawal from service of the last of our free-fall nuclear bombs, leaving Trident as our sole nuclear weapons system.

We have made clear, both nationally and in NATO, that our reliance on nuclear weapons in our security policies has been radically reduced since the end of the Cold War. We have pledged to include British nuclear weapons in multilateral negotiations when satisfied with progress towards the global elimination of nuclear weapons. And we have made clear our willingness to see a body established in the Geneva Conference on Disarmament to deal with nuclear disarmament.


Mrs. Golding: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes there have been in United Nations sanctions in relation to the Taliban. [144437]

Mr. Hain: UN Security Council resolution 1333 (2000), adopted on 19 December, imposed further measures against the Afghan faction known as the Taliban, who also call themselves the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in response to their continued support for international terrorism and their failure to hand over

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Usama Bin Laden for trial in accordance with the demands of the Security Council in its resolution 1267 (1999).

The new measures will come into force on 19 January 2001. They are established for a 12 month period. At the end of this period, the Security Council will decide whether to extend them, having decided whether the Taliban have complied with the demands of the Council that they should:

The new measures are as follows:

The resolution also imposes a freeze of the funds of Usama Bin Laden (UBL) and those individuals and entities associated with him, as designated by the UN Sanctions Committee, and a ban on making any funds available to such persons.

The resolution has been carefully designed to ensure that the new measures exert pressure on the Taliban, but do not have an adverse humanitarian impact on ordinary Afghans, who have suffered for too long already. We call on the Taliban to do everything in their power to ensure that international organisations and aid agencies can carry on their vital work in safety and without hindrance.

The freeze of Taliban funds and financial resources and the ban on international flights by aircraft owned, leased or operated by or on behalf of the Taliban, imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 1267 (1999), remain in force.

The EU arms embargo on the whole territory of Afghanistan imposed by EU Common Position 96/726/CFSP of 17 December 1996 also remains in force.

New Orders will be made under the United Nations Act (1946) to implement the new measures in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories. Where appropriate, certain of these measures may be implemented by administrative means.

EU Treaties

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list, in order of their inclusion in the draft Treaty of Nice, each proposed Article relating to change in the procedure for taking

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decisions under qualified majority voting or other requirement, indicating for each (a) the article and treaty to which it applies and (b) the nature of the proposed change. [142415]

Mr. Vaz: At Nice, the Government agreed to extend qualified majority voting in a total of 31 articles of the Treaty establishing the European Community and the Treaty on European Union. All these moves will benefit the UK. As promised, we retained the UK's veto over taxation, social security and the other key issues we identified at the start of the IGC.

Of the articles that moved to majority voting, 11 relate to conditions of appointment or procedural rules. The rest are primarily about the efficiency of economic management and the single market. Where needed, articles have been amended to carve out specific issues or to retain unanimity for key aspects of legislation.

The UK has an opt-in to all aspects of the free movement articles (Articles 62-66 TEC). Two other articles do not apply to us unless we join the single currency (Articles 111(4) and 123(4)).

The full list follows. Those areas marked with an asterisk will also become subject to codecision with the European Parliament.

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