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Democratic Republic of Congo

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the activities of Andrew Smith and Avient Air as referred to in paragraph 55 of the UN Experts Panel report on the DRC. [81765]

Mr. Rammell: We have asked the UN for information regarding allegations made against British companies or UK nationals. We have yet to receive a response.

Departmental Staff (Over-50s)

Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many people employed in his Department are aged over 50. [81691]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: There are 1,233 (21 per cent.) people over 50 employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

General Ratko Mladic

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action has been taken with other Governments to bring to justice General Ratko Mladic at the International Court at The Hague. [81058]

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Mr. Rammell: We are very concerned about the lack of full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) by the Yugoslav Government. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised this with President Kostunica during his visit to Belgrade on 6 November. We will continue to press hard for the apprehension and transfer of all those indicted by the ICTY, including Ratko Mladic.


Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Nepal. [80750]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: We remain extremely concerned about the conflict in Nepal, which has seen a continuing loss of life, a reduction in development and human rights abuses.

We support the Nepalese Government's efforts in combating the Maoist insurgency and we condemn the Maoist's brutal attacks on the Nepalese security forces and her civilians.

The political situation in Nepal remains fragile following the appointment of a caretaker government by the King of Nepal, but we have seen some positive progress by the new Government, including on issues such as anti-corruption measures and economic reform. While we acknowledge that the regrettable security situation has prevented the holding of elections, we believe that the preservation of the constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy are crucial. It is important that free, fair and credible elections are held as soon as the security situation allows.

The UK will continue to provide support for Nepal for security development and peace-building. The UK hosted an international meeting in June, which concluded that an integrated strategy encompassing these strands was required to address the underlying causes of the conflict as well as immediately dealing with the insurgency. We are currently taking forward this strategy through the newly-formed International Support Group, which includes representatives from all the major donor countries and organisations in Kathmandu. I had the privilege to chair the first meeting during my trip to Nepal last month.

Our development programme in Nepal is #22 million this year, and has been restructured, in the light of the conflict, to emphasise the delivery of tangible benefits to poor and excluded groups. An additional #6.7 million has been made available this year through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool.


Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he plans to make to the Peruvian Government concerning the imprisonment of the trade union activist Walter Cubas Baltazar. [80642]

Mr. Rammell: Our Embassy in Lima raised the matter with the Ministry of Justice in July. The Peruvian authorities have not yet decided on this case. Our Embassy will continue to monitor closely this and all

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other similar cases. The FCO contributes to human rights work in Peru in areas such as Freedom of Information and the work of the Ombudsman.


Mr. Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representation he has made to the Government of the People's Republic of China in relation to the siting of missiles in the Taiwan Straits. [80129]

Mr. Rammell: We have made no representations specifically about missiles. However, we attach great importance to the avoidance of conflict in the Taiwan Straits, which could be very destabilising for the whole of the region and beyond. We take the view that the Taiwan question should be settled peacefully through negotiation between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. We are strongly opposed to the use of force. We take every suitable opportunity to convey our views to the Chinese Government.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if his Department supports the proposal of the European Parliament that an EU trade office be opened in Taiwan; and if he will make a statement. [81037]

Mr. Rammell: We understand that preparations for the establishment of an appropriate EU trade representative office in Taiwan are already under way and we welcome this development.


Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements are being put in place to deal with the increase in visa applications at (a) the British embassy in Addis Ababa and (b) other diplomatic missions in Africa. [80585]

Mr. Rammell: Visa applications worldwide for the UK are rising by 6.5 per cent. a year. We are modernising our process and procedures to tackle this. Earlier this year we introduced a number of streamlining measures in Addis Ababa and other parts of Africa. These measures are aimed at resolving applications more efficiently without compromising the quality of decision making. We have also agreed funding for two additional officers in the visa section at Addis Ababa.

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the daily banking operations of UK high commissions and embassies in relation to the granting of visas; which currencies are accepted; what basis is used for calculating local exchange rates; which national or international banking institutions are used to hold accounts; which companies conduct audits; and what differences there are to such practices in (a) Afghanistan, (b) Albania, (c) Algeria, (d) Angola, (e) Argentina, (f) Azerbaijan, (g) Bangladesh, (h) Benin, (i) Bosnia-Herzegovina, (j) Botswana, (k) Burma, (l) Cameroon, (m) Chile, (n) China, (o) Colombia, (p) Congo Republic, (q) Democratic Republic of Congo, (r) Ivory Coast, (s) Cuba, (t) Egypt, (u) Eritrea, (v) Ethiopia, (w) India, (x) Indonesia, (y) Iran, (z) Israel, (aa) Kazakhstan, (bb) Liberia, (cc) Libya, (dd) Macedonia, (ee) Malawi,

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(ff) Malaysia, (gg) Mexico, (hh) Mozambique, (ii) Nigeria, (jj) North Korea, (kk) Pakistan, (ll) Philippines, (mm) Romania, (nn) Russian Federation, (oo) Rwanda, (pp) Sierra Leone, (qq) South Africa, (rr) Sudan, (ss) Syria, (tt) Tanzania, (uu) Turkey, (vv) Uganda, (ww) United States, (xx) Venezuela, (yy) Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, (zz) Zambia, (aaa) Zimbabwe and (bbb) euro-zone countries. [81168]

Mr. Straw: Embassies and High Commissions are required to operate under the Consular Fees Regulations 1981 (Statutory Instrument 476 of 1981). This states that Xfees shall be paid in currency circulating at the place of payment, except that a consular officer shall have discretion to accept, in lieu of such currency, a cheque, money order, or other means of effecting payment in terms of that currency. The rate of exchange for calculating the equivalent of fees in terms of a foreign currency shall be based upon the rate of exchange which is generally prevailing on the date, and at the place of payment, but which may be adjusted by the consular officer in such a manner and to such extent as he considers to be expedient in the interests of administrative efficiency".

The same rate of exchange is set for all posts in a country. The exchange rate used in euro-zone countries is set by the British Consulate General in Dusseldorf since the headquarters of the European Central Bank is based in Germany.

Visa and consular fees are deposited into posts' official bank accounts. The decision as to which bank is used is taken by each individual post.

All overseas posts' operations are liable to review from our own Ukvisas Reviews section, FCO's internal audit department and also to national audit office scrutiny.


Horticulture Review

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the completion date is for the Review of the Horticulture Sector; and what the timescale is for consultation by the agricultural industry. [80111]

Mr. Pearson: The Review of the Northern Ireland Horticulture Sector was commissioned earlier this year to identify strategic opportunities for the development of the sector and provide a Development Plan for the future of the industry. I am pleased to report that the review has now been finalised and it is expected that publication of the Consultants' Report will be announced within the next two weeks.

This is a wide-ranging review across all of the main sectors of horticulture and the views of industry stakeholders will be critically important in helping government determine future policy for the sector. For that reason it is intended to allow a 12 week period for consultation with due regard for the Christmas holiday period. The comments of those engaged in the industry will be most welcome and a detailed announcement on consultation arrangements will be made when the Report is published.

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