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8 Jan 2007 : Column 353W—continued

Indonesia

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the Government of Indonesia regarding the burning of rainforest for the purpose of creating agricultural land; and if she will make a statement. [113185]

Mr. McCartney: We regularly discuss forestry issues, and forest fire haze in particular, with the Indonesian Government. Most recently, on 8 December our ambassador in Jakarta met the Indonesian Minister of Forestry to discuss the Stern Review and reinforce the importance that the UK places on the issue of climate change and the forestry land use changes which contribute to climate change. We are also in contact with the local office of the Association of South East Asian Nations on this issue, to discuss how we can help with their work on developing a Transboundary Haze Agreement.

Iran

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on proposed legislation in Iran to make religious minorities wear identifying insignia; which minorities are affected; and if she will make a statement. [113384]


8 Jan 2007 : Column 354W

Dr. Howells: On 14 May the Iranian Parliament approved the outline of a draft Bill on an Islamic dress code. This Bill set out regulations for the import of clothing and future government support for Iranian clothing producers.

Canadian media reporting initially claimed that the draft Bill included a reference to religious minorities (Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians) having to wear identifying insignia or colours, but there is no mention of this in the draft Bill. The Iranian embassy in London refuted the media reports and the Canadian newspaper in question issued an apology for its inaccurate reporting. We did not make formal representations to the Government of Iran.

Iraq

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer by the Minister for State on 27 November 2006, Official Report, column 472W, on Iraq, whether a British-led investigation was conducted into possible links between the al-Da'wa organisation and the terrorist attacks on the British embassy and the British Club in the 1980s. [113380]

Dr. Howells: Responsibility for investigating the attacks on the British embassy and the British Club in Baghdad in the 1980s lay with the Iraqi authorities. As my answer to the hon. Member of 27 November 2006, Official Report, column 472W records, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no evidence of involvement by members of the Iraqi al-Da’wa organisation in the planning and execution of the terrorist attacks.

Madagascar

Dr. Richard Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements are in place in Madagascar for the representation of the interests of (a) British exporters and (b) British nationals; and if she will make a statement. [109833]

Mr. McCartney: UK consular and commercial interests in Madagascar are represented through our high commission in Port Louis, Mauritius.

We continue to push for swift accreditation from the Government of Madagascar for our high commissioner in Mauritius to be non-resident ambassador to Madagascar and for our appointed honorary consul in Antananarivo. Until that authority has been granted to our honorary consul in Antananarivo, our high commission in Port Louis is dealing with all consular inquiries. A British honorary consul has been appointed in Toamasina, and has the necessary authority from the Government of Madagascar to act as the first point of contact for British nationals requiring consular assistance in the Toamasina region. The French embassy in Antananarivo has agreed to provide support for British nationals in the event of a serious consular incident in Madagascar.


8 Jan 2007 : Column 355W

Nangpa Incident

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received on the incident at Nangpa on 30 September 2006. [113046]

Mr. McCartney: The EU urged the Chinese Government to investigate the incident at the Nangpa Pass, at the last round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, held in Beijing on 19 October 2006. The Chinese Government confirmed that the incident had taken place and promised to give further information. The EU followed up on 19 December and was told by the Chinese authorities that the incident was a border management issue and there was nothing new to report. The Chinese Government said it is doing its utmost to take care of all those involved, with a special emphasis on the well-being of the children.

Overseas Missions

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many overseas missions the United Kingdom opened in each of the last nine years. [112847]

Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has opened 30 missions over the last nine years. These were a combination of new posts and upgradings of existing representations. Six of these new posts have since been closed. The following table shows the number of posts opened during each year over this period.

March-April each year Missions opened

1997-98

1

1998-99

1

1999-2000

4

2000-01

9

2001-02

7

2002-03

2

2003-04

0

2004-05

3

2005-06

0

2006-07

3

Total

30


The FCO continuously reviews the deployment of its resources, assessing them flexibly, in line with UK interests, and to the benefit of the British taxpayer.

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many visa applications were (a) received by post and (b) made in person at British Missions overseas in the latest year for which figures are available; [113041]

(2) how many visa applications were (a) received by post and (b) made in person at (a) the British Embassy, Beijing, (b) the British Consulate General, Shanghai, (c) the British Consulate General, Guangzhou, (d) the British Consulate General, Chongqing and (e) all British Missions in China in the latest year for which figures are available. [113042]


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Mr. McCartney: The information requested by the hon. Member is set out as follows:

Applications for FY 2005-06 Applications for FY 2006-07 (April-November 2006)
By post In person By post In person

Global

207,495

1,099,454

142,790

519,300

Post

Beijing

7

261

4

1,161

Chongqing

0

1,437

0

1,622

Guangzhou

0

4,291

6

3,996

Shanghai

5

467

2

261

Country

China

12

19,680

2,907

18,341

Note:
The total figures for China include the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.
Source:
Monthly Statistical Report

Pakistan

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the government of Pakistan’s agreements with tribal leaders in North Waziristan. [112842]

Dr. Howells: We continue to receive reports of Taliban influence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. We share Pakistan’s concern about this. We continue to monitor the results of the peace agreement signed in September with tribal elders in North Waziristan Agency.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of Taliban activity on the Afghan-Pakistan border. [112843]

Dr. Howells: We continue to receive reports of Taliban activity on the Afghan-Pakistan border. We remain in regular contact with both the Afghan and Pakistani Governments about this and share their concerns.

Palestine

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will take steps to uphold the right of British nationals to enter the Occupied Territories. [110227]

Dr. Howells: We made our concerns known to the Israeli government most recently on 26 October and 4 December. On 23 October the EU demarched Israel on the issue of entry of EU nationals to the Occupied Territories.

The EU also held a meeting with Major General Yossef Mishlev, the Head of Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) on 13 December. During this meeting, Major General Mishlev confirmed that new arrangements for the entry of EU nationals were to be put into place. These include an order not to stamp any more passports with a “last permit” stamp; a visa can be renewed even if
8 Jan 2007 : Column 357W
there is a “last permit” stamp in the passport and reintroduction of the policy of issuing a three-month tourist visa.

COGAT has established a contact person at the Allenby crossing to help with all individual problems. A similar contact person will be stationed at Ben Gurion airport.

We will be monitoring the implementation of these new procedures closely.

Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) she, (b) her Department and (c) any agency thereof has received reports of funds being provided to Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza by (i) agents and (ii) agencies working on behalf of the United States in the last six months. [112894]

Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received no reports of any such support in the period referred to.

On the third point of the hon. Member’s question, it is the longstanding policy of the Government not to comment on intelligence matters.

Peru

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received of activity of the Shining Path guerrilla movement in the Ayacucho region of Peru; and what recent representations she has made on tackling illegal coca-growing in that country. [113040]

Mr. Hoon: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office follows events in Peru closely through our embassy in Lima and with our EU partners. We are aware of the recent events that took place in Ayacucho. The UK has regular discussions with the Peruvian authorities about terrorism and drugs, including the alleged links between remnants of Shining Path and the illegal drugs trade. We also support a number of projects on drugs and crime prevention, at national and regional level. In October this year the Head of the Peruvian National Commission for Development and Life Without Drugs, the government agency tasked with co-ordinating national drugs policy, visited the UK. Following a series of meetings, further areas of co-operation were identified.

Sierra Leone

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what steps the United Kingdom is taking to help monitor the Sierra Leone elections (a) unilaterally, (b) through the EU and (c) through the UN; and what representations she has received on this matter; [113044]

(2) what steps the UK Government are taking to ensure free and fair elections in Sierra Leone; and what representations her Department has received on the participation of international observers in those elections. [113045]

Mr. McCartney: The Government view credible elections in Sierra Leone in July this year as crucial to
8 Jan 2007 : Column 358W
consolidating the post-conflict peace and stability there. Practical support to Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission (NEC) is a high priority and we have committed £4 million to the UN Development Programme's “basket fund”, which finances the NEC and contributes to the cost of the elections. It is essential that Sierra Leoneans should be able to participate fully in the elections and that the result should reflect their choices. To this end, the UK is implementing a £2.5 million programme of electoral support that will provide training for political parties, strengthen the capacity of national and local media to cover the elections and address the gender disparity surrounding elections. Our high commission in Freetown is also working with the full range of political and civil society to support free and credible elections.

Effective election monitoring will also play an important role in the elections. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development (DFID) received representations on this issue from the interim leader of the People's Movement for Democratic Change, Charles Margai, during his December tour of the UK. Our high commission and the DFID office in Freetown have also discussed election monitoring with the main political parties, the NEC, local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international partners, in order to assure adequate coverage before and during the polls.

Our £2.5 million electoral programme will support a coalition of national election monitors, the “National Elections Watch”, which intends to host observers in every polling station in Sierra Leone. DFID will also be funding international election observers through the National Democratic Institute (NDI), an international NGO with expertise in election issues. NDI will host two observer missions prior to elections, one during the voter registration period and another during the campaign period, and one mission of 34 observers on election day. UK Government election observers will also be deployed for the critical phases of the electoral process and for the elections themselves. We have also called, in the EU Africa Working Group, for the deployment of an Election Observation Mission. Additionally, we are also engaging wider partners, including the UN, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Carter Centre, to push for international support for the election monitoring effort.


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