Previous Section Index Home Page

5 Jan 2004 : Column 87W—continued

Pakistan (Immigration)

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on (a) the level of service for immigration cases provided by HM high commission, Islamabad and (b) his future plans for that service. [145395]

Mr. Mullin: As a result of the security situation in Pakistan our high commission has operated for a substantial period with severely reduced staff. This reduced our visa section in Islamabad's capacity to provide a full service. In recent months service levels have improved significantly.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is committed to restoring a full visa service in Pakistan as soon as is practical and the security situation allows. It was announced by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Trade and Industry on 10 December 2003 during his recent visit to Pakistan that the service has been further expanded to include business visitors, and certain categories of permit free employment; including those who wish to set up a business in the UK, sole representatives, investors and retired persons of independent means. This is further to the expansion of services which was implemented on 17 November 2003 to include applications from visitors who have travelled to the UK, Canada. Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America within the last 10 years, fiance(e)s applying to settle in the UK, EEA family members and others applying for family reunion. We are committed to reducing the waiting and processing times of all applications and gradually increasing service levels with a view to implementing a full service by April 2004 at a reasonable level of demand. A copy of the Minister's statement is available on the British high commission's website:

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many appeals from Pakistan against the refusal of entry clearance for settlement by (a) spouses, (b) fiancés, (c) dependent children and (d) dependent elderly relatives are waiting to be processed by UK visas. [145400]

Mr. Mullin: Appeals against the refusal of entry clearance for settlement are processed in the UK by the Appeals Processing Centre of the Home Office. Our high commission in Islamabad currently has 575 settlement appeals awaiting despatch to the Appeals

5 Jan 2004 : Column 88W

Processing Centre of the Home Office. To break down the information further as requested by the hon. Member could be provided only at disproportionate cost by deploying high commission staff to review each of the appeals individually.


Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the fairness of the recent elections in Russia. [143934]

Mr. Rammell: International observers assessed the conduct of voting as positive in an overwhelming majority of polling stations and election day proceeded in a generally calm and peaceful manner.

However, we take very seriously the OSCE's preliminary conclusions that, while the Duma elections were well organised, the pre-election process failed to meet many international standards.

We look forward to seeing the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights report and hope that the Russian Federation will follow-up any recommendations before this year's presidential elections.

Strategy White Paper

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his written statement of 2 December 2003, Official Report, columns 57–58WS on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Strategy White Paper, for what reason protection of the environment is not included in the list of international strategic priorities; and if he will make a statement. [145276]

Mr. Straw: Sustainable development is listed as one of the Government's eight international strategic priorities. Specific aims listed under this priority include reinvigorating action on climate change, and supporting the Johannesburg Summit commitments with a focus on biodiversity, water, sanitation and human settlements.

US-occupied Sites

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the sites on UK territory outside the UK occupied by the US, giving in each case the (a) location, (b) acreage and (c) purpose of occupation. [145148]

Mr. Rammell: Sites occupied by the United States in UK Overseas Territories are as follows:

On Ascension Island, the US Air Force uses a total of 3.600 acres of land, comprising 1,196 acres for Wideawake airfield and a further 2,404 acres mainly for buildings and communications equipment. On Diego Garcia, which is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the United States maintains a naval and air support facility consisting of an anchorage, airfield, support and supply elements and ancillary services, personnel accommodation and transmitting and receiving services, as well as a hydro-acoustic monitoring facility. It is not feasible to calculate the precise acreage occupied for these various purposes.

5 Jan 2004 : Column 89W

There is no US-occupied land on other UK Territories apart from 0.47 acres occupied by the US Consulate-General in Bermuda.


Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the administrative consequences for nationals of (a) the UK and (b) Zimbabwe consequent on that country's Government's announced withdrawal from the Commonwealth. [145085]

Mr. Mullin: The immediate impact on UK nationals of Zimbabwe's withdrawal from the Commonwealth is negligible. Our High Commission in Harare, which becomes an Embassy, will continue to provide consular and other services normally afforded to British citizens.

No policy or legislative changes in response to Zimbabwe's withdrawal will be made after detailed consideration of the impact such changes might have on ordinary Zimbabweans. We also intend to remain in step with our key Commonwealth partners and co-ordinate closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

Under UK legislation, Zimbabwean citizens have the status of "Commonwealth citizens" because Zimbabwe is designated as a Commonwealth State in Schedule 3 of the 1981 British Nationality Act. This entitles them to certain rights and privileges as Commonwealth citizens, such as the right to vote in national, local and European elections held in the UK.

Zimbabweans currently benefit from the provisions of the immigration rules relating to Commonwealth citizens. They are eligible for entry to the UK under the UK Ancestry entry clearance and the Working Holidaymaker provisions of the Immigration Rules. Zimbabweans who have one British parent and are Commonwealth citizens, have right of abode in the UK.

Also affected is the right of Zimbabwean nationals to consular protection in third countries where Zimbabwe has no diplomatic representation.

Zimbabwe's withdrawal affects the eligibility of its nationals to serve in our armed forces and civil service.

There are implications for the UK's extradition arrangements with Zimbabwe, now that it has ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth.


Agenda 21

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the implementation of Agenda 21 by each local authority; and if she will make a statement. [142790]

Margaret Beckett: The Government monitored progress on Local Agenda 21 (LA21) until the end of 2000. By then over 93 per cent. of local authorities in England and Wales had LA21 strategies in place. As these were voluntary strategies developed to reflect local

5 Jan 2004 : Column 90W

circumstances, we did not carry out any formal assessment. Stakeholders have, however, carried out a number of studies into LA21 in the UK.

The Local Government Act 2000 placed a duty on local authorities to prepare community strategies for promoting the economic, social and environmental well being of their communities and contributing to sustainable development in the UK. The Government's statutory guidance says that authorities should build on the experience of partnership working and community engagement gained through LA21. The Government want to see sustainable development become a mainstream issue for local authorities, their partners, and local communities. We believe that the most effective way to achieve this is to subsume LA21 strategies within statutory community strategies.

Questions about community strategies should be addressed to my right hon. colleague the Minister of State for Local Government, Regional Governance and Fire.

Albatrosses and Petrels

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she expects the Government to ratify the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels; and if she will make a statement. [141072]

Mr. Morley: The Government are working hard to ratify the Agreement and will do so as soon as possible. With South Africa's ratification in November, the Agreement has the five range states needed to allow it to enter into force. This will happen on 1 February 2004.

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which countries have so far ratified the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. [141073]

Mr. Morley: Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Spain and South Africa have now ratified the Agreement.

The UK intends to do so as soon as possible.

Next Section Index Home Page