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31 Jan 2006 : Column 355W—continued


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Nepal about the detention under house arrest of the leaders of Nepal's five principal political parties. [46222]

Dr. Howells: The UK is deeply troubled by recent political developments in Nepal. Following the arrest and detention of the leaders of the five main political parties on 19 January, I issued a statement in which I said, The UK is extremely concerned by the King's actions, and we can see no grounds for these anti-democratic measures. I call on the King urgently to release those arrested, and to find ways to resume dialogue with the political parties." The statement is available at:
31 Jan 2006 : Column 356W

The following day I summoned the Nepalese ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to explain his Government's actions to senior officials and urged the Government of Nepal to release all of the political prisoners detained in the most recent round-up of activists and party leaders.

The UK also joined EU partners in issuing a statement by EU Heads of Mission in Nepal deploring all of the recent arrests including of party leaders, political activists, members of civil society and human rights defenders. This is available at:

We view the recent arrests and the suspension of the right to free association as a severe setback to democracy and we continue to urge the King to urgently find ways to resume dialogue with the political parties. We are encouraged to note that many of the party leaders who were detained have now been released. But 200 political party activists are still in detention including one of the top party leaders who is still being held under house arrest.


Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government plans to take during Russia's presidency of the G8 to encourage (a) democracy and (b) a free media in that country; and if he will make a statement. [46294]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: In the run up to the Russian presidency of the G8, the UK has encouraged the Russian authorities to maintain the high standards on the promotion of democratic and civil freedoms upheld by successive G8 presidencies. The UK, along with other G8 members, reiterated this message at the first preparatory meeting for the St Petersburg Summit, held in Moscow last week. These efforts are in keeping with our ongoing EU and bilateral dialogues with Russia, where we continue to emphasise that respect for democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, a free and independent media, and the effective application of common values by independent judicial systems are key elements of our relations with Russia.

Statutory Instruments

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the statutory instruments introduced by his Department since 6 May 2005. [46201]

Dr. Howells: Statutory Instruments prepared by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and coming into force after 6 May 2005 are:
Statutory Instruments
2005/1260The Child Abduction and Custody (Parties to Conventions) (Amendment) Order 2005
2005/1258The Sudan (United Nations Measures) (Overseas Territories) Order 2005
2005/1461The Democratic Republic of the Congo (United Nations Sanctions) (Overseas Territories) Order 2005
2005/1456The G8 Gleneagles (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2005
2005/1465The Consular Fees Order 2005
2005/1870The International Organisations Act 2005 (Commencement) Order 2005
2005/1988The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Restrictive Measures) (Overseas Territories) (Amendment) Order 2005
2005/2047The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Immunities and Privileges) Order 2005
2005/2112The Consular Fees Act 1980 (Fees) Order 2005
2005/2762The Consular Fees (Civil Partnership) Order 2005
2005/2763The Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) (Amendment) Order 2005
2005/2761The Civil Partnership (Registration Abroad and Certificates) Order 2005
2005/3182The Consular Fees (Amendment) Order 2005
2005/3198The Consular Fees Act 1980 (Fees) (No.2) Order 2005
2005/3183The Overseas Territories (Zimbabwe) (Restrictive Measures) (Amendment) Order 2005
2005/3426The European Forest Institute (Legal Capacities) Order 2005
2005/3425The European Court of Human Rights (Immunities and Privileges) (Amendment) Order 2005
2005/3542The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (International Immunities and Privileges, Companies and Adoption) Order 2005

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UK Arms Exports

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on UK arms exports to China licensed by the Government as referred to in the Seventh Annual Report on the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. [46837]

Dr. Howells: Licence applications for the export of military and other controlled goods are rigorously assessed on a case by case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Export Licensing Criteria, taking account of the circumstances prevailing at the time and other relevant announced Government policies. The Government will not issue licences where to do so would be inconsistent with the criteria or other relevant commitments. The Government continues to implement the EU Arms Embargo on China as set out by the then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the late Derek Fatchett, in his reply to the hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) on 3 June 1998, Official Report, columns 240–241.

Visitor Visas

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the merits of introducing charges for visitor visas. [46877]

Dr. Howells: People who apply for entry clearance to visit the United Kingdom are charged:

Entry clearance application fees are set to reflect the actual cost of processing each application. UKvisas does not receive any subsidy from the taxpayer and is mandated by Treasury guidelines to recover the cost of the UK's global entry clearance operation through its fees. The Government believes that those who benefit from the service should pay for it.

Whaling (Norway)

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his answer of 9 January 2006, Official Report, column 195W, on Norway whaling, what the estimated cost is of cleaning up old whaling stations on South Georgia; and what steps the Government is taking to encourage a greater contribution from the Norwegian Government. [46047]

31 Jan 2006 : Column 358W

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The cost of cleaning up the former whaling station at Grytviken was approximately £6.7 million. This cost has been borne exclusively by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It is difficult to estimate the cost of carrying out a similar operation at Leith Harbour, Stromness and Husvik whaling stations, but it is unlikely to be less than £20 to £25 million.

Although Norwegian commercial interests and personnel were heavily involved in the whaling industry in South Georgia, the Norwegian Government has never had any direct responsibility for the whaling stations on South Georgia. It has indicated that it is not in a position to make a financial contribution towards the environmental clean-up.

Younas Case (Pakistan)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made in the Younas case currently before the High Court in Pakistan; and if he will take steps to reiterate the Government's case against the use of the death penalty and for the need for a fair trial conducted without fear of intimidation. [47517]

Dr. Howells: We have not made any further representations on this case since the answer that my right hon. Friend, the Minister for Europe, (Mr. Alexander), gave my hon. Friend on 29 November 2005, Official Report, column 300W. We were concerned to learn about the apparent misuse of the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan and are monitoring this case closely. Mr. Masih's application for bail was heard on 31 January. The court has not yet announced its decision on this application. We continue to lobby, both bilaterally and as part of the EU, on minority issues in Pakistan, in particular the misuses of the Blasphemy Law. In December 2005, as presidency the UK delivered an EU de"marche on human rights to the Government of Pakistan, which encouraged the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws and the death penalty.

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