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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his estimate is of the cost of (a) ministerial cars and drivers and (b) taxis for his Department in each of the last two years. 
|Financial Year 200203|
|Radio Taxis (Black Cabs)||150,028.36|
|Raffles (Hanslope Park)||202,891.01|
|Total spend on taxi contracts in Financial Year 200203||499,164.22|
|Financial Year 200304|
|Radio Taxis/Addison Lee||125,590.46|
|Total spend on taxi contracts in Financial Year 200304||412,168.68|
Mr. Nick Matheson, Chief Executive of the Government Car and Despatch Agency has at the request of my hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Miliband) written to the hon. Member with details of the cost of ministerial vehicles provided to this Department in 200304. I also refer the hon. Member to the reply the Minister for the Cabinet Office gave him on 10 January 2005, Official Report, columns 8587W.
Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the running costs of the Department were in each year since 1997, broken down by (a) electricity, (b) water, (c) gas, (d) telephones, (e) mobile telephones and (f) televisions. 
|(e) Mobile telephones||||||||4||55|
John Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what provision the (a) European Commission, (b) European Parliament and (c) European Union agencies have made for providing information to the public on the constitutional treaty for the European Union; and what steps he is taking to ensure that it is politically neutral. 
Mr. MacShane: The Institutions of the European Union are responsible for their own activities in terms of providing information to the public, though they have made clear that any activities in the UK will be agreed with HMG. The Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Communities, adopted on 1 May 2004, state that staff must act objectively and impartially. Further details can be obtained from the UK Representations of the European Union's Institutions, contact details of which can be found at www.cec.org.uk, www.europarl.org.uk and www.europe.eu.int.
John Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to ensure that the proposed referendum on the Constitutional Treaty for the European Union will not be held on the same date as elections to (a) local authorities, (b) devolved assemblies, (c) Parliament and (d) the European Parliament. 
John Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to ensure that information issued by his Department on the Constitutional Treaty for the European Union is neutral. 
Mr. MacShane: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office works to ensure that all information it issues on the subject of the EU and the EU Constitutional Treaty is objective, explanatory and is in line with and supports Government policy.
John Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the European Commission on the provision of information regarding the constitutional treaty for the European Union. 
Mr. MacShane: Ministers and officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are in regular contact with the European Commission and its Representation in London regarding the Commission's information role regarding EU issues in the UK.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many tenders were let by his Department to external suppliers in the financial year 200304; and what the value was. 
Mr. Rammell: We are unable to provide the exact information required due to the disproportionate cost of collating the data from all our posts overseas. However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office did spend a total of £392 million on the procurement of goods and services in 200304.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the guidelines to Entry Clearance Officers on the granting of visas to foreign students were last revised; and for what reasons. 
Mr. Mullin: The Diplomatic Service Procedures Volume 1 provides guidelines for Entry Clearance Officers on the granting of visas and includes a Chapter (Chapter 12) on "Entry for Studies". Volume 1 is currently being reviewed to ensure that the guidance in all the chapters is consistent with ongoing changes to the Immigration Rules. The revised version will be available on the UKvisas website (www.ukvisas.gov.uk) shortly.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to make publicly available to (a) potential students and (b) UK educational institutions the guidelines on granting of student visas issued to Entry Clearance Officers overseas. 
The Diplomatic Service Procedures Volume 1 Chapter 12 gives full details for "Entry for Studies" to the United Kingdom. This Chapter gives complete information on the Government's policy on issuing visas to overseas students as well as information for applicants who want to come to the United Kingdom as students. Entry Clearance Officers at Post use the guidance in this Chapter to help assess student visa applications. This Chapter is available on the UKvisas website at www.ukvisas.gov.uk.
19 Jan 2005 : Column 1021W
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent research he has commissioned on consistency among UK embassies in applying the requirements for granting student visas; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: No formal research has been conducted on consistency among UK embassies in applying the requirements for granting student visas. However, Entry Clearance Officers at the UK's visa-issuing posts assess each visa application on its own merits according to the requirements of the UK Immigration Rules. To ensure that Entry Clearance Officers apply the Immigration Rules correctly and consistently, they receive thorough training and are given extensive and detailed guidelines as well as being managed by an experienced Entry Clearance Manager.
Most student visa refusals (those for studies of more than six months) attract an automatic right of appeal. If the applicant decides to appeal the decision to refuse, the Entry Clearance Officer will review the application. If the decision to refuse is upheld, the appeal proceeds to the Immigration Appellate Authority where it is assessed. If the adjudicator determines that the refusal decision was not made in accordance with the requirements of the Immigration Rules then the appeal will be allowed. In this way, the appeals process is an additional safeguard against any inconsistent decision making.
In addition, the Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance annually reviews a random sample of entry clearance refusals that do not attract a right of appeal, including those relating to student applications for visits of less than six months, and reports to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
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