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30 Jun 2005 : Column 1731W—continued

University Admissions

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps her Department has taken regarding post-qualification application to university for undergraduate courses. [8471]

Bill Rammell: In September 2004, the Secretary of State announced that work would begin to look at the options for implementing a system of post-qualification application to higher education. Officials have been taking this work forward, consulting widely with interested parties and engaging with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government, of course,
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respect the autonomy of the HE sector and is absolutely clear that admissions policies are entirely the responsibility of HE institutions. Later this year, we plan to conduct a formal public consultation exercise to seek views on possible reforms to applications procedures.

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the use of aptitude tests for university admissions. [8473]

Bill Rammell: The independent review of admissions to higher education which was led by Professor Steven Schwartz acknowledged that assessing an applicant's
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potential for higher education (HE) study, or recognising ability which may not be reflected fully in Level 3 examination results, is a key issue for fair admissions. The steering group's report in September 2004 suggested that a test that is able to predict performance in HE may help to uncover hidden talent. It also acknowledged the potential burden for applicants of up to six sets of admissions requirements and means of assessment. The report therefore recommended a national research study to assess the idea of a national test of potential. We support this as an early task for a new centre of expertise on admissions which the steering group also recommended. The HE sector is discussing the formation of that centre. Whilst we do not believe in tests for tests sake, if there is a genuine need for a national test it would be right to explore the opportunity.

Vocational Learning

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 14 June 2005, Official Report, column 362W, on post-16 education, what action her Department will take to encourage private sector providers of vocational learning to come forward through competitions. [8481]

Jacqui Smith: The LSC already contracts with private sector providers for post-16 learning provision, some selected on the basis of competitive tendering arrangements. We expect the LSC to build on their experience in encouraging high quality private sector providers to enter the new 16–19 competitions where the output specifications are for vocational provision. In addition, the 14–19 White Paper heralded our intention to develop a comprehensive vocational network, including public and private sector providers, that will contribute to delivery of the 14–19 entitlement for all learners by 2015.



Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on reports of the destruction of the Baha"'-" cemetery in Yazd in February and the desecration of a Baha"'-" corpse; and what assessment his Department has made of the official investigations into these crimes. [7943]

Dr. Howells: We have received reports that a Baha"'-" cemetery in Yazd was destroyed. Cars were said to have been driven over graves, leaving human remains exposed. We condemn any such action unreservedly. We are not aware of an official investigation.

We have made clear to the Iranian authorities our serious concern about the situation of the Baha"'-" community in Iran. We have also encouraged the EU to take action, doing so most recently on 21 June. We will make support for human rights a priority in the EU's relations with Iran during the UK's presidency of the EU.
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of human rights in Bangladesh; what recent research he has evaluated on the situation; and what representations he has made to the Bangladeshi authorities on action to prevent human rights abuses. [7892]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon. Member to the statement made in another place by my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Triesman of Tottenham) on Bangladesh on 23 June 2005, Official Report, columns 1780–86. We will continue to raise our concerns with the Government of Bangladesh about the human rights situation and the need to strengthen the rule of law both bilaterally and with our EU partners. We look to the Government of Bangladesh to uphold its international human rights obligations, such as those contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Bangladesh is a signatory.

British Embassies

Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many new British embassies have been opened since 1997. [7009]

Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has opened 10 Embassies and High Commissions since 1997. The following table provides further details. In some cases the mission has been opened previously, but not formally as an Embassy or High Commission. The previous status of such missions is shown in the table.
Embassies and high commissions opened since 1997

MissionPrevious status
TripoliMission originally represented by British Interests Section of the Italian Embassy.
AsmaraPreviously opened with local staff only.
BamakoPreviously opened with local staff only.
ConakryPreviously opened with local staff only.
DiliMission originally opened as mission to
Chisinauthe UN in Jakarta

In reply to the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) in answer to a similar written parliamentary question on 11 February 2003, Official Report, column 722W, I stated incorrectly that our Embassy in Asmara opened in financial year 2000–01. This should have read 2001–02, as shown in the table. Iwould like to apologise for the error.

Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British embassies have been closed since 1997. [7010]

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Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has closed five embassies and high commissions since 1997. These were in Bamako, Managua, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa and Asuncion. A further post, Nassau, is scheduled to close on 30 June 2005.

Charlotte Wilson

Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the killing in Burundi in December 2000 during which Charlotte Wilson, a British national, was killed, constitutes a war crime prosecutable via the International Criminal Court; and if he will make a statement. [7754]

Ian Pearson: It is possible that the attack in which Charlotte Wilson and many others were murdered could constitute a war crime" as defined under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, the ICC could not have jurisdiction in this case as the crime pre-dates the coming into force of the Rome Statute on 1 July 2002. It is impossible to refer crimes which took place before this date to the ICC.

Whether to define this attack as a war crime" can only be decided upon by a competent court. The UK Government will continue to press the Burundian authorities to investigate this crime fully and bring Charlotte Wilson's killers to justice.

Justine Greening: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps through (a) the UN, (b) the EU and (c) diplomatic channels to ensure the December 2000 killings in which British national Charlotte Wilson was killed is fully pursued and its perpetrators are brought to justice and are not given any amnesty; and if he will make a statement. [7755]

Ian Pearson: We will continue to press the Burundian authorities for progress in bringing Charlotte Wilson's killers to justice. Our ambassador to Burundi raised this most recently with the Burundian Interior Minister on 17 June.

We have made clear in recent UN Security Council and European Union statements that the climate of impunity in the Great Lakes region must end. We will continue to push for those that have committed serious human rights abuses to be brought to trial.

We have expressed support for the UN Secretary-General's proposal for a mixed UN and Burundian special chamber to investigate and prosecute those most responsible for such crimes.

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