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15 Nov 2005 : Column 1185W—continued

Overseas Pensioners

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place the matter of pensions that are frozen and not up-rated annually in line with inflation for British pensioners
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living in (a) Canada, (b) New Zealand, (c) Australia, (d) South Africa and (e) Zimbabwe on the agenda at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta. [27129]

Ian Pearson: The agenda for the Valletta Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was drawn up by Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon, in consultation with the Government of Malta and Commonwealth members. Malta's chosen keynote theme is Networking the Commonwealth for Development". Heads of Government will also discuss terrorism, tolerance and world trade.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on funding for the African Union mission in Darfur. [26970]

Ian Pearson: We continue to work with international partners, including in our role as presidency of the EU, in support of the African Union's (AU) efforts to resolve the crisis in Darfur. The EU has recently given political approval to provide a further €70 million from the African Peace Facility to support the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), bringing the total EU contribution to AMIS to €162 million. My noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for Africa (Lord Triesman of Tottenham), also discussed the matter with the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, during the EU Troika ministerial visit to Sudan in October. Funding for the AU mission was also discussed at a meeting for key international partners, including the European Commission and the Council Secretariat which we hosted in London on 1 November.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the recent elections in Zanzibar were free and fair. [26772]

Ian Pearson: We welcome the third multi-party election on 30 October in Zanzibar.

Representatives from the British High Commission followed the electoral process closely and we noted the broad assessment by international observer groups that the electoral process was a marked improvement on past polls, and that it was generally administered in an efficient manner.

Nevertheless, there were instances, particularly on Unguja, where there were irregularities and a lack of transparency. A number of observer groups have called for a thorough investigation of these anomalies. The UK supports this call.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how regularly the Uzbek authorities provide the British security services with intelligence information; what assessment he has made of whether information provided by those
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authorities has been obtained by torture; and if he will assess the effect of that information on the maintenance of British security. [27255]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: It is not the Government's policy to comment on intelligence matters.


Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the UK overseas posts which have had an increase in the number of staff handling visa applications over the last 12 months; by how many the staff numbers have increased in each case; and how many staff there were handling visa applications in each such post in each of the last 10 years. [26851]

Dr. Howells: The information is as follows.
Visa sectionUK based staff 2004–05UK based 2005–06Increase
Hong Kong231

1. UKvisas does not have data about staff numbers previous to financial year 2004–05.
2. The above figures are based on the number of full time UK based entry clearance officers (ECOs) and entry clearance managers (ECMs) at each visa section. However, visa sections also rely on locally engaged staff and officers on temporary duty or short term duties to operate. Furthermore, some ECOs or ECMs also jointly hold other Foreign and Commonwealth Office positions and therefore entry clearance may only be a proportion of their work load.
UKvisas Staffing Schedules 2004–05 and 2005–06.

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Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the 20 UK overseas posts with the largest increase in visa applications over the last 12 months for which figures are available; and how many visa applications each such post handled in each of the last 10 years. [26852]

Dr. Howells: The information is as follows.
Mexico City7208701,1071,2281,3391,636
Rio de Janeiro1,046833616735720806
Kuala Lumpur5,2253,8783,8932,6552,9562,645
Hong Kong21,02122,48513,36511,8466,3905,833
Tel Aviv1,2891,3391,6011,6961,4311,585
Phnom Penh3359
Pt. Moresby334629626609676567
Panama City1411284162161167

Post2001–022002–032003–042004–05Percentage increase
2003–04 to 2004–05
Mexico City5735319962,145115.4
Rio de Janeiro7129231,6963,38699.6
Kuala Lumpur2,8894,1806,94812,74883.5
Hong Kong5,3065,4807,95713,95875.4
Tel Aviv1,2001,4461,7602,85762.3
Phnom Penh22233952.7
Pt. Moresby46839510716352.3
Panama City12319822033250.9

'—' = posts not open.
1. Prior to 2001–02 entry clearance statistics were published by calendar year, since 2001–02 statistics are published by financial year.
2. UKvisas publishes annual entry clearance statistics for 2001–02 onwards, on its website, Copies are also placed in the Library of the House.
UKvisas' Published Entry Clearance Statistics.

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Western Sahara

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department is taking to facilitate the self-determination of the Western Sahara; and if he will make a statement. [25984]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 14 November 2005]: The UK fully supports the efforts of the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and his new Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, Pete Van Walsum, to assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. The UK is in regular contact with representatives of the parties to the dispute and the UN. The UK will continue to encourage all parties to engage with the UN process.

On 28 October, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution 1634 which renewed the mandate for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. The Government supported this. There are, however, no plans for a UN referendum to be held in the near future.

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