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David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what targets are set for the processing of visa applications by consular staff in (a) Bangladesh, (b) India and (c) Pakistan. 
Dr. Howells: UKvisas does not set targets for its staff to process visa applications. Instead, UKvisas measures performance at all of its missions abroad against the following public service agreement (PSA) standards.
PSA 1: 90 per cent. of straightforward non-settlement applications to be processed within 24-hours.
PSA 2: 90 per cent. of non-settlement applications requiring further enquiries or interview to be processed within 15 days.
PSA 3: 90 per cent of settlement applications to be processed within 12 weeks.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Iran on the persecution of the Bahai community, with particular reference to young Bahai people being allowed to attend university; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: We remain concerned about the treatment of religious minorities in Iran. The Bahai faith is not formally recognised under the Iranian Constitution and as a result Bahais routinely face persecution and discrimination. In recent years Bahais have been subject to arbitrary arrests, confiscation of property and restrictions on employment. Denial of access to higher education has been a long-term problem for Bahai students.
After the religious identifier was removed from the national university entrance examination in 2006, a number of Bahai students sat the exam for last academic year (2006-07). Over 250 Bahai students were admitted to campuses across Iran, but 120 were expelled throughout the year as the universities discovered their religion. This year, students applying to study at technical and vocational institutes were required to complete a form stating their religion. The options did not include the Bahai religion, so Bahai students were once again effectively excluded from applying to these institutions. We do not yet know the situation facing Bahai university students this academic year, but we remain concerned that more Bahais may be prevented from applying to university or expelled in the future.
We continue to monitor the situation and raise concerns about the treatment of the Bahais with the Iranian authorities, bilaterally and through the EU.
The EU presidency raised specific concerns about the issue of Bahai access to higher education in meetings with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 1 September and 10 October.
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many UK citizens were employed by non-UK-based private contractors in Iraq not concerned with security matters in each of the last five years; 
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many UK citizens working for UK-based private security contractors in Iraq were (a) killed and (b) injured in each of the last five years; 
This number includes deaths from natural causes but is not a definitive figure as records include only those cases where consular assistance has been sought. The figure does not include British dual nationals or unrepresented foreign nationals.
We do not collect data in a form which would enable us to distinguish between private security companies or other contractors nor the country of origin of those employers. Consular officials do not have accurate figures on non-British nationals in the above categories.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 9 October 2007, Official Report, columns 27-8WS, on Iraq: assistance to locally employed staff, what his estimate is of the number of Iraqi nationals who (a) work and (b) have worked in Iraq as (i) direct employees of the UK armed forces or the Ministry of Defence, (ii) on letters of appointment from HM embassy Baghdad or the British embassy offices in Basra and the Kurdistan region and (iii) as direct employees of the Department for International Development or the British Council. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 15 October 2007]: About 500 locally engaged staff currently work in Iraq as direct employees of the UK armed forces or the Ministry of Defence and a further 43 work on letters of appointment from our embassy in Baghdad and our embassy Offices in Basra or Erbil, the Department for International Development (DFID) and the British Council.
About 20,000 have worked for the UK armed forces or the Ministry of Defence and a further 140 have worked on letters of appointment from our embassy in Baghdad, our embassy Offices in Basra or Erbil, DFID and the British Council.
Dr. Howells: In the run up to the November international meeting I believe that a window of opportunity now exists with: a continuing Israeli Prime Minister Olmert/Palestinian President Abbas dialogue; the right hon. Tony Blairs engagement; and a rejuvenated Arab Peace Initiative. We will continue to work with international partners to develop these proposals and move us closer to a two-state solution.
We would like to see at the US-hosted November meeting, an agreement that puts the Israelis and Palestinians on a path to real negotiations in 2008 leading to a final settlement of two states living side by side in peace and security.
Mark Hunter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the signing of human rights agreements by Saudi Arabia on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia; and if he will make a statement. 
Convention on the Rights of the Child;
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination;
Convention against torture; and
International convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
Saudi Arabias human rights record is poor but improving. Complete implementation of these instruments continues to be a challenge. It is the role of the UN treaty monitoring bodies to assess how well a country is fulfilling its obligations under a treaty. The Government continue to work both bilaterally and with EU partners to encourage Saudi Arabia to fulfil its obligations and report on time.
Dr. Howells: The current fee for a Work Permit Holder visa application at our Visa Section in Kiev is £200. From 1 July 2005 to 31 March 2007, the fee for a Work Permit Holder visa was £85. Prior to this, Work Permit Holders paid the long-term non-settlement fee of £75.
Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 25 April 2007, Official Report, column 1109W, on the A358, what discussions she has had with the (a) Highways Agency and (b) Regional Fire Control Centre at Blackbrook on the proposed scheme to link the A358 and M5 at Blackbrook in Taunton constituency; and what the outcome of those discussions was. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: The Highways Agency had a constructive meeting with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and their consultants on 31 August 2007 to discuss the impact of the A303/A358 South Petherton to M5 Taunton Improvement scheme on the Fire Control Centre at Blackbrook.
It was agreed that both parties should work together to resolve any issues. The Highways Agency have sent further information to DCLG to allow their consultants to update the risk assessment of the site.
Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 25 April 2007, Official Report, column 1109W, on the A358, if she will take steps to make the Highways Agency report into alternative schemes to link the A358 and M5 at Blackbrook in Taunton constituency available to local residents; if she will undertake a further public consultation on the alternative schemes; and if she will place a copy of the report in the Library. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: In response to public feedback received during consultation, the Highways Agency is currently considering two alternative options to connect the M5 northbound and the A358 eastbound (Blackbrook loop). The outcome of this additional work will be included in an addendum to the public consultation report, which would be published in due course.
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many passengers passed through (a) Heathrow and (b) Gatwick airports between April and September 2007; and if she will make a statement. 
|Terminal passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick, April-September 2007|
|(1) August and September figures are provisional.|
CAA airport statistics.
Ms Rosie Winterton: From April 2006, older and disabled people have been guaranteed free off-peak local bus travel within their local authority area. The existing funding for statutory concessionary fares is supported through Formula Grant, which comprises Revenue Support Grant, Redistributed Business Rates and Principal Formula Police Grant.
Formula Grant is an unhypothecated block grant i.e. authorities are free to spend the money on any service. Because of this and the method of calculation, particularly floor damping (which guarantees local authorities at least a minimum percentage increase by scaling back increases for other authorities), it is not possible to say how much of the total Formula Grant funding is for any particular service.
The £212 million of extra funding to English authorities for the national bus concession from April 2008 will be distributed by a non-ringfenced special grant via a formula. The Department has recently published a consultation paper on the formula basis for distribution of the special grant. This new consultation supersedes the Department for Communities and Local Governments consultation on the formula grant options for concessionary fares. Local authorities have been asked to respond to the special grant consultation by 23 November.
In addition, we have announced that we will be providing local authorities with approximately £30 million for the issuing of the national pass; it is likely that Chorley borough council will receive around £69,000 of this additional funding.
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