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Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has received a reply to the representations he made to the Indian Government about the imprisonment of Peter Bleach; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Wilson: The Foreign Secretary has not yet received a reply to his letter of 4 December 2000 to the Indian Government asking for Peter Bleach to be released on the grounds of fair and equal treatment with his co-convicted, who already have been released. He sent a reminder on 29 January. The British High Commissioner in New Delhi has followed up the Foreign Secretary's request with key players in the Indian Government. Baroness Scotland called in the Indian High Commissioner on 7 March to remind him of the Foreign Secretary's request.
Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent contacts have taken place between Ministers and the President of Syria; and if he will make a statement on the outcome of such contacts. 
Mr. Wilson: The Prime Minister had a telephone conversation with the Syrian President on 10 October. The Foreign Secretary has met the Syrian President twice during the past year, on 12 October and 13 June. The right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), while Northern Ireland Secretary, was invited by the Syrian President to a private meeting on 4 January 2001.
Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in respect of the recent visit by the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) to Syria (a) whether the visit was initiated by his Department, (b) what briefing arrangements were put in place to ensure discussions held in Syria presented Her Majesty's Government's policy, (c) what the nature was of information obtained during the visit which was passed back to his Department, (d) if the visit was paid for solely out of public funds, (e) what discussions took place prior to the visit involving Lord Levy and (f) if he will list the persons met by the right hon. Member for Hartlepool during his visit. 
Mr. Wilson: The recent visit to Syria by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) was a private visit made with the knowledge and approval of the Foreign Office. A full briefing was not requested or provided. My right hon. Friend received travel advice from the FCO and spoke to our ambassador in Damascus prior to travelling. In turn, he briefed our ambassador in Damascus on the discussion he had with the Syrian
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Ms Kingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 1 March 2001, Official Report, columns 735-36W, on arms exports, on what dates in 1998, at which locations, and at what levels contacts were made between his Department and MINURSO; which department of the UN told his Department that refurbishment could be considered as neutral; if this decision was confirmed in correspondence; and what specific role MINURSO was understood to play in the monitoring and the refurbishment of guns. 
Mr. Wilson: Foreign and Commonwealth Office and MINURSO officials had regular contacts, at all levels, in the region to discuss Western Sahara during 1998. As a result of contacts between FCO and United Nations officials, FCO officials came to a preliminary view that refurbishment of the guns would not breach the existing ceasefire.
The United Nations Department of Peace-Keeping Operations in New York told us that refurbishment of the guns could be viewed as neutral. This was not the subject of written correspondence between FCO and United Nations officials. The FCO understood that, in accordance with existing military arrangements between MINURSO and the two parties, MINURSO would be in a position to monitor the procedure of the refurbishment of the Moroccan guns on the ground.
Ms Kingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions took place between his Department and (a) the United Nations and (b) MINURSO regarding the legality of permitting the refurbishment of Moroccan 105 mm guns situated in Western Sahara; on what dates these discussion took place; with which UN Department; at what grades; and in which location. 
Mr. Wilson: Foreign and Commonwealth Office and United Nations officials discussed whether or not refurbishment of the Moroccan guns in Western Sahara would be in breach of the UN-sponsored ceasefire. The United Nations Department of Peace-Keeping Operations in New York confirmed to the FCO that refurbishment of the guns would not be in breach of the existing military arrangements between MINURSO and the two parties.
FCO officials have regular discussions with the United Nations officials on a wide range of issues on Western Sahara and the region. Discussions about the possible refurbishment of Moroccan guns in Western Sahara formed part of these wider discussions during 1998 and 1999. Discussions were between officials at a variety of grades and took place in the region with MINURSO officials and in New York with Department of Peace- Keeping Operations officials.
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made to President Bush regarding the possible immunity from legal proceedings in New York for President Mugabe; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Wilson: We have made no representations to the US Government on this issue. However, we have regular discussions with the Americans about Zimbabwe. They share our concerns about the situation there.
Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if written material was prepared for use in briefing (a) the Press and (b) officials, arising from the copy of the draft Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on Sierra Leone handed over by the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross); 
(3) if (a) the Permanent Under-Secretary and (b) the Head of his Department's News Department saw written briefing material for use in briefing (i) the Press and (ii) officials, arising from the copy of the draft Foreign Affairs Select Committee Report on Sierra Leone handed over by the hon. Member for Dundee, West; 
(4) if (a) the Permanent Under-Secretary at his Department and (b) the Head of his Department's News Department, (c) the Deputy Head of his Department's News Department and (d) the Head of his Department's Africa Department (Equatorial) were briefed on the contents of the draft Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on Sierra Leone handed over by the hon. Member for Dundee, West. 
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action Dr. Goldstein took in relation to the 'Zola Budd' manuscript note written on the letter concerning G. P. Hinduja. 
Mr. Straw: None. I assume that the right hon. Member is referring to the letter written by Mr. G. P. Hinduja to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) about Mr. Prakash Hinduja.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which recommendations of the vantagepoint report on asylum procedures (a) have been implemented and (b) are yet to be implemented; which will not be implemented; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mrs. Roche: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave her on 26 October 2000, Official Report, column 209W, which in turn referred to the answer my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffat) on 29 February 2000, Official Report, 255W.
The background to the radical overhaul of the asylum decision-making process undertaken by this Government was set out by my right hon. Friend. It was explained that the asylum process project/vantagepoint report was part of the overhaul, but it was never intended that it be viewed in isolation. Indeed, many changes had already been introduced before the report was completed, as part of our strategy to streamline asylum processing as a whole. Thus many improvements had already been made.
Improvement continues. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate made over 100,000 initial decisions in 2000. The backlog has fallen for 12 consecutive months and we expect this to continue. We remain on course to make further substantial reductions by April 2001.
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