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9 Feb 2006 : Column 1448W—continued

Belarus

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the British ambassador in Minsk about UK relations with Belarus. [49089]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the British ambassador in Minsk have not had a recent discussion. However, our ambassador keeps the Department up-to-date with developments, is in constant touch with our embassies in
 
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neighbouring countries and our missions to the EU, OSCE and Council of Europe. He liaises closely with other EU missions in Minsk and meets regularly with officials in the Belarusian Government, outlining our disappointment at the deteriorating situation in Belarus at every opportunity. In line with our policy of supporting the democratic process and engaging with civil society we maintain good contacts with the opposition and I had a worthwhile bilateral discussion with Mr. Milinkevich, leader of the official opposition, at the last General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels.

Burma

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will assess the implications of the decision of the Burmese authorities to move the capital from Rangoon to Pyinmana with particular reference to (a) the implications for the governance of that country and (b) its relations with (i) the UK and (ii) the rest of the world; and if he will make a statement. [49489]

Ian Pearson: I refer the hon. Member to the answers I gave the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) on 15 November 2005, Official Report, columns 1180–81W, and the hon. Member for Hertsmere (James Clappison) on 17 November 2005, Official Report, column 1479W.

Cyprus

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the plans of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to designate 3,000 donums of land in occupied Morphou for tourist development and to grant 1,500 donums of Greek-Cypriot-owned land in Morphou to Turkish settlers. [48898]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: We are aware of plans to develop the Morphou district of northern Cyprus but not of plans to transfer 1,500 donums of land. While we maintain a dialogue with the Turkish Cypriot community on all aspects of the Cyprus settlement, we cannot control property development in the north. I continue to believe that the many difficult and complex property issues in Cyprus are likely only to be resolved as part of a comprehensive settlement.

Elections

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the merits of citizens of British overseas territories being able to take part in (a) Westminster and (b) European parliamentary elections. [49037]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Government have made no assessment of this kind.

As the overseas territories are constitutionally not part of the United Kingdom, unlike the position between France and some of the French territories, British overseas territories citizens resident in a territory are not eligible to have representation in the Westminster Parliament or in the European Parliament. The only exception is Gibraltar, which is part of the European Union by virtue of article 299(4) of the EC
 
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treaty. Gibraltarians have the right to vote in the elections for the European Parliament as part of, and on the same terms as, the electorate of the South West England European parliamentary electoral region.

Extraordinary Rendition

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is the Government's policy to permit US flights to land and refuel in the UK without being required to (a) submit and (b) verify a list of passengers. [48292]

Dr. Howells: The Immigration Service may require passenger information in respect of any person arriving in the United Kingdom by aircraft of any nationality, including transit passengers, members of the crew and others not seeking to enter the United Kingdom, in order to determine whether they are eligible for leave to enter. However it is not the practice of the Immigration Service to require the details of passengers unless they intend to disembark in the UK.

Falkland Islands/Argentina

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on relations between the Falkland Islands and Argentina. [49114]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Falkland Islands are a United Kingdom overseas territory and as such the United Kingdom Government are responsible for their international relations. The United Kingdom values its relationship with Argentina and wants it to be as constructive and as positive as possible. Argentine co-operation on important South Atlantic issues has an effect on the bilateral relationship as a whole.

Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the French Government to assist the Rwandan Government in its request for the extradition of Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka. [49195]

Ian Pearson: None. The Rwandan Government has not asked the Government to make representations to the French Government with regard to the extradition of Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka.

Iceland (Whaling Programme)

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his discussions with the Icelandic Foreign Minister on 18 January on Iceland's whaling programme. [49272]

Ian Pearson: The UK's opposition to Iceland's whaling programme has been consistent and strong. In May 2005, the UK-led protests against Iceland's decision to take 39 minke whales for scientific" reasons and we will continue to oppose any future whaling activities. The focus of the recent meeting between my right. hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his Icelandic counterpart was Afghanistan and the Middle East. Whaling was not discussed.
 
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India

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the attitude towards (a) Christian and (b) other minority religions by extremist Hindus in India; and if he will seek to use the EU-India Strategic Partnership to impress upon the Indian Government the need (i) for greater religious tolerance and (ii) to give equal rights to the Dalit community. [49588]

Dr. Howells: We are aware of the alleged involvement of Hindu Extremist organisations in attacks against Christians and other minority religions in India and we condemn all instances where individuals are persecuted because of their beliefs. In January this year, Mr. V. V Augustine of the National Commission for Minorities visited Dang District where many attacks on minorities have occurred. Police officials assured him that they would uphold law and order during upcoming festivals and maintain a strict vigilance in all 312 villages of the district at all times. The Indian Minister of Home Affairs, Shivraj Patil, has written to Mr. Augustine to confirm that the Home Ministry will provide additional forces if required. Our High Commission will continue to follow this issue closely.

As President of the EU, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister signed an EU-India Joint Action Plan during his visit to New Delhi in September. This identified areas where the EU and India agreed to co-operate and work together. One of these areas was human rights. The first meeting with the Indian side under the EU-India Joint Action Plan took place on 1 December 2005 in New Delhi. During the meeting, the issues of religious minorities and Dalits were raised. It is for the current EU presidency and the Indian Government to agree when the next formal set of dialogue will take place but we hope that this initial meeting might lead to a further, ad hoc dialogue between minorities experts from the EU and India.

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Indian Government to end the practice of using dancing bears for entertainment; and if he will make a statement. [49863]

Dr. Howells: This is an internal issue for the Indian Government to address. We welcome Indian Government initiatives to tackle the problem, in particular further implementation of The Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which prohibits anyone from possessing any animal listed as being at risk of extinction. We will continue to monitor the situation through our high commission in New Delhi.


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