Ian Pearson: The visit of President Hu Jintao reaffirms our bilateral relationship with China, which is becoming an increasingly important international player. President Hu's programme in London will include meetings with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Liberal Democrats to discuss and take forward co-operation in a range of bilateral and international issues.
23. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last made representations to the Israeli Government concerning the building of settlements on the west bank. 
Dr. Howells: We have made our concerns on continuing settlement activity clear with the Israeli Government at all levels, and will continue to do so. Most recently I set out our position on settlement activity in the west bank in meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom and Housing Minister Herzog, during my visit to Israel in September.
24. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with other EU Foreign Ministers about the World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong in December. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander:
The World Trade Organisation ministerial in Hong Kong is a vital staging post towards concluding the current round of WTO negotiations. We want an ambitious, pro-development outcome. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary chaired a discussion on the WTO negotiations at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on 18 October, which I attended. Member states confirmed their support for Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in negotiating a successful, balanced outcome.
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Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) he or (b) any other Minister in his Department uses (i) an automated signing machine and (ii) a stamp for ministerial correspondence purposes. 
Mr. Straw: Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers do not use stamps or automated signing machines in place of signing ministerial correspondence. All replies to ministerial correspondence are cleared by the answering Minister before being issued and should be signed by them personally.
Electronic signatures are held, but only used in exceptional circumstances, for example if a Minister clears a reply while overseas and wishes it to issue before his or her return. A Private Secretary may in similar circumstances sign a letter on behalf of their Minister, but I aim to keep such occasions to a minimum.
Guidance on handling ministerial correspondence is set out in 'Handling Correspondence from Members of Parliament, Members of the House of Lords, MEPs and Members of Devolved Assemblies: Guidance for Departments', copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Chevening scholarships his Department has awarded this year; how many students have been unable to take-up these scholarships as a consequence of their Government withdrawing their passports; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Straw: We expect the total number of Chevening scholarship and fellowship awards for 200506 to be in the region of 2,000. However, these awards are only now being processed. It will be some months before an exact figure is available. I know of only one case of a new scholar being unable to take up their Chevening award this year as a consequence of a Government withdrawing their passport. I refer to the reply by my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Ian Pearson), gave the hon. Member on 26 October 2005, Official Report, column 465W.
Ian Pearson: China is playing an increasingly active and important role in the world. China's growing influence can be felt regionally and internationally; its emergence provides both opportunities as well as challenges. We engage in regular high-level dialogue with the Chinese Government on a range of international issues. The next opportunity will be of course the forthcoming state visit later this month.
On Taiwan, we urge both sides to avoid unilateral measures that might raise tension. Our view is that the Taiwan issue is one to be settled by the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.
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There have been tentative but welcome signs of a reduction in cross-strait tensions. For example, over the Chinese new year there were direct cross-strait charter flights, the first time in 50 years. And earlier this year Taiwanese opposition party leaders made landmark visits to China. Since then a number of other initiatives have followed such as the lifting of certain agricultural tariffs, the opening up of tourism, reduction of tuition fees for students from Taiwan studying in China and Taiwanese carrier over-flights. Additionally, Taiwan has permitted RMB currency exchanges on the surrounding islands of Kinmen and Matsu.
Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the EU arms embargo in relation to China; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received a request from the Colombian Government for assistance from the UK (a) police and (b) armed forces in training their security forces to deal with improvised explosive devices. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander [holding answer 31 October 2005]: The UK has not received any recent request from the Colombian Government for assistance in training on Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD). However, the British Army is already involved with the Colombian security forces in a programme of ongoing Explosive Ordnance Disposal training, which covers IEDD.
As well as aiming to reduce the number of deaths, both civilian and military, from explosive devices, our training endeavours to introduce Colombian military personnel to British defence concepts in key areas such as Rules of Engagement and democratic and accountable control of the armed forces.
Ian Pearson: The security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has improved since 2004, but areas of instability remain, particularly in the east. In Ituri and the Kivus, the security situation remains fragile, with civilians continuing to suffer abuses by armed groups.
Despite the UN Peacekeeping Mission (MONUC)'s operations to disarm Ituri militias and to disrupt the activities of the Forces De"mocratiques de Libe"ration du Rwanda (FDLR), these militia groups continue to
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persecute civilians. We continue to support MONUC's robust approach to protecting civilians and tackling armed groups in Ituri, which they should replicate in the Kivus. We have urged regional governments to work together to disarm these groups.
Ian Pearson: The UN Panel's final report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources of 28 October 2003 and the reports of the UN group of experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arms embargo identified that foreign individuals have been and continue to be paid to play a military role or provide assistance to armed groups in the DRC.
We continue to urge regional governments to work together with the UN Peacekeeping Mission (MONUC) to disarm militias and foreign armed groups and we support MONUC's efforts to disarm these groups and to prevent weapons from reaching them.