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19 Nov 2002 : Column 624—continued

Miss Widdecombe: The reason why I charge in at this point is that I sense that the Minister is beginning to perorate and coming to the end of her speech. The assurance that I have been asking for throughout is this: can someone from the British Government please draw this matter to the attention of the French Government? Even if we cannot make formal representations because Ms Effala is not a British citizen, can we just talk to them?

Beverley Hughes: I was not trying to duck—

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): To perorate.

Beverley Hughes: I was not perorating at all. Nor was I trying to avoid the specific question that the right hon. Lady asked. As she will accept—she has already said that the application has come from Ms Effala—the onus has to be on the particular applicant, but I am willing to try to explore the extent to which the offices of if not my Department, then the Foreign Office, can be brought to bear to try to get the French authorities to respond. While Ms Effala herself, and specifically her representatives, could perhaps have been rather more persistent, I accept that there has been a problem in getting a response from the French authorities. I cannot give any guarantees, but I am certainly willing to explore that possibility with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and we will see where that gets us.

Question put and agreed to.

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