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Property Values (Stoke-on-Trent)

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when the report into the impact of mine shafts on property values in Stoke-on-Trent will be published. [159476]

Mr. Hain: My Department has now received the final version of the report from Heriot-Watt University on the impact of former coal-mine shafts on the property market in Stoke-on-Trent. I intend to publish and respond to the final report when I have had an opportunity to consider its findings and will place a copy in the Library of the House.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Arms Embargoes

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on arms sales to Iran. [156807]

Mr. Wilson: I refer my hon. Friend to the statement on arms embargoes made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd) on 28 January 1998, Official Report, columns 274-75W. In accordance with his undertaking of 28 July 1999, we will continue to keep the House updated on an annual basis.

Palestine

Mr. Stephen Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he has

27 Apr 2001 : Column: 419W

taken since the meeting between the Minister of State and Nabil Sha'ath on 20 March regarding Palestinian violence. [R] [156898]

Mr. Wilson: Since my meeting with Palestinian Minister for Planning and International Co-operation Nabil Sha'ath on 20 March, the UK has continued to be actively engaged in the search for peace in the middle east. The Foreign Secretary spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on 21 and 28 March, and to Nabil Sha'ath on 27 March. His messages to his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts were reinforced by his statement of 29 March, which called for an end to the cycle of violence and retaliation.

I met Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Illah Al-Khatib on 3 April. At the Prime Minister's request and with the support of the Foreign Secretary, Lord Levy travelled to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 4-5 April as the Prime Minister's personal envoy. He met, among others, Prime Minister Sharon and President Arafat. He urged both parties to take immediate steps to stop the violence and build confidence. EU Foreign Ministers discussed the situation in the middle east at the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 9 April.

On 18 April, the Foreign Secretary spoke again to Shimon Peres and Nabil Sha'ath, and to Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara'a and US Secretary of State Colin Powell. He also issued a statement calling on both sides to show restraint and draw back from confrontation. I reiterated our position in discussions on the situation in the middle east during my attendance at meetings of EU and Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) Ministers in Bahrain on 22-23 April.

Biological Weapons Convention

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress made in the negotiations in Geneva on a protocol to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. [157441]

Mr. Wilson: On 30 March the Chairman of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Ad Hoc Group, Ambassador Tibor Toth of Hungary, tabled the text of a draft Protocol to the BWC. This has been sent to all States Parties and will come under discussion at the next negotiating session which begins in Geneva on 23 April. The UK has played a leading role throughout these negotiations as we have had responsibility for the section of the text on compliance measures--the core of the future Protocol. We welcome the appearance of the text and are currently assessing its overall content. A successful outcome by the time of the BWC Review Conference remains a possibility but will depend upon the reaction to the text from all countries involved over the coming months. An effective BWC Protocol remains an important arms control objective for the United Kingdom as it will help fill the last remaining gap in Treaty provisions designed to stem the proliferation of WMD.

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the most recently available text of the protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention being negotiated in Geneva. [157604]

27 Apr 2001 : Column: 420W

Mr. Wilson: The text of the draft Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, which was tabled on 30 March, is now a formal document of the BWC Ad Hoc Group and will be under discussion for the first time at the negotiating session which started on 23 April. Its reference number is BWC/Ad Hock Group/CRP.8. A copy will be placed in the Library of the House at the earliest opportunity.

Entry Clearance

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 30 March 2001, Official Report, column 797W, on entry clearance, how many of the cases involving entry clearance were investigated by the Minister for Europe; in how many cases the Department's judgment was overturned; in how many cases (a) a constituent of the Minister and (b) an individual covered by an interest declared by an hon. Member, was involved; by what mechanism conflicts of interest were avoided; and if he will make a statement. [158333]

Mr. Vaz: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) on 22 March 2001, Official Report, columns 316-17W. In accordance with normal Government practice, I do not make decisions on visa cases relating to my own constituency. I will only investigate cases brought to me by right hon. and hon. Members, who I would expect to declare any particular interest in a case when making their representations to me.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 30 March 2001, Official Report, column 797W, on entry clearance, by what means waiting times were reduced; what change in entry denial rates routes occurred; and if he will make a statement. [158334]

Mr. Vaz: Waiting times for interview in Islamabad were reduced by the posting of additional staff; by the appointment of a new management team; by a reduction in the amount of documentation required from applicants; by the implementation of new procedures recommended by external and internal review teams; and by hard work by the staff at Post. I am very pleased with the efforts made by the staff.

The improvement in waiting times is shown in the following table.

December 1999December 2000March 2001
Visit Visas
Tier 35 days40 days(5)0
Settlement Visas
Q19 weeks5 weeks5 weeks
Q239 weeks18.5 weeks13 weeks
Q344 weeks24 weeks16 weeks
Q450 weeks31 weeks23 weeks

(5) Same day service

Notes:

Tier 3--Visit visa applications requiring in-depth interview (target: 10 days)

Queue 1--Right of abode cases and Dependant Relatives over 65 (target: 13 weeks)

Queue 2--Spouses and Children under 18 (target: 13 weeks)

Queue 3--Fiance(e)s and Other First Time Applicants (target: 26 weeks)

Queue 4--Re-applicants (target: 39 weeks)


27 Apr 2001 : Column: 421W

Refusal rates in Islamabad, as a percentage of the total number of non-settlement and settlement applications received, have been as follows:

Percentage

Non-settlementSettlement
19981516
199921.425.5
20001120.6

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many applications for entry visas made in Pakistan have been (a) granted and (b) refused in the last 12 months. [158388]

Mr. Vaz: In the year 2000, a total of 75,527 visas were issued in Posts in Pakistan and 15,989 were refused.

In January and February 2001, 4,132 visas were issued in Karachi and 1,123 were refused.

In January 2001, 3,693 visas were issued in Islamabad and 1,686 were refused.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many applications for entry visas made in India have been (a) granted and (b) refused in the last 12 months. [158520]

Mr. Vaz: In the year 2000, a total of 165,998 visas were issued by Posts in India, and 20,622 were refused.

For the months of January and February 2001, Posts in India issued a total of 16,814 and refused 1,244.

Special Advisers (Overseas Visits)

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions between 31 March 2000 and 31 March 2001 (a) departmental and (b) non-departmental special advisers have travelled abroad in an official capacity. [158551]

Mr. Robin Cook: Between 31 March 2000 and March 2001 the Foreign Secretary's two special advisers made the following official visits:















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