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Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government intend to make representations on alleged abuses of the criminal justice system by the Government of Belarus to that government. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Government remain deeply concerned by abuses of the criminal justice system in Belarus by its government. The UK and other EU member states do not have ministerial level contact with the regime in Belarus: we regularly make representations through our embassies on human rights concerns.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is Government policy to support further EU action against the Burmese regime by imposing EU sanctions in the oil and gas sectors; and when he last discussed the subject with his French counterpart. 
Dr. Howells: EU partners are in general agreement that any new measures should be targeted towards sources of revenue for the regime. The UK would, therefore, be prepared to consider additional measures that would include the oil and gas sector. Whether these new measures are brought against the Burmese regime depends on the regimes willingness to allow a real political transition to begin.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary last discussed the subject with his French counterpart at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, which took place on 15 October. Since then Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have been in regular contact with their French counterparts on this issue.
Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is Government policy to support (a) further UN sanctions and (b) economic incentives in relation to the Burmese regime; and which option the UKs partners on the UN Security Council favour. 
Dr. Howells: The Government support the use of targeted sanctions against the Burmese regime. We expect to secure an amended EU Common Position at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on 19-20 November, extending EU sanctions against Burma.
The Government fully support the efforts of the UN to bring about meaningful political dialogue and national reconciliation in Burma. The Government also recognise that there is a role for economic initiatives, conditional on progress with reconciliation and democracy. To that end, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote to the UN Secretary-General on 16 October outlining the case for the international community to pursue such an economic initiative. There is broad support within the UN for maintaining all forms of pressure on the regime for change.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many full-time equivalent staff are responsible for brand management and marketing in his Department and its agencies. 
Dr. Howells: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and its agencies has 12 full-time equivalent staff responsible for brand management and marketing. This includes FCO Services, UKvisas, Consular Directorate, and Wilton Park.
Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will set out his strategy to strengthen democratic capacity in developing nations over the next three years. 
[holding answer 21 November 2007]: The UK is committed to promoting democratic principles and values around the world. Our approach is grounded in our upholding universal human rights standards to which all countries are bound as well as
giving support to democratic institutions, good governance and the rule of law. Democracy is built on rights such as freedom of expression, assembly, association, movement and information.
supporting relevant initiatives in international organisations like the UN, EU, African Union, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Commonwealth;
promoting a common approach to good governance in international bodies and helping to mainstream good governance in development co-operation;
encouraging fair electoral processes, including through support for effective international electoral observations missions and follow up;
contributing to the European Instrument on Democracy and Human Rights;
lobbying and supporting governments to develop pluralist political systems and effective parliamentary institutions;
promoting freedom of expression, including support for free media; and
supporting partnerships with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), human rights defenders and professional bodies and participation of civil society in decision making.
We do this through our network of missions around the world as well as through international organisations and the EU, and with NGOs and civil society. We also support the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, through £4.1 million grant-in-aid in this financial year.
Further information on the Government's work on human rights, democracy and governance can be found in the FCO's 2006 Annual Report on Human Rights, which is on the FCO's website: www.fco.gov.uk. Copies of the report are also available in the Libraries of both Houses. In addition, the FCO and Department for International Development (DFID) jointly launched a DFID publication this summer, entitled "Governance, Development and Democratic Politics" which highlighted the value the Government place on democratic politics as a set of principles and values which ensure that differences can be negotiated peacefully, and the views of all heard.
David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he expects the targets to record biometrics for (a) most visa applicants by the end of 2007 and (b) all by the end of 2008 will be met. 
We expect to be collecting biometric data from most visa applicants by the end of 2007. We are currently collecting biometric data from all visa applicants in 115 countries, including China, Russia, Nigeria and Pakistan. On completion, we will be collecting biometric data from all visa applicants in all 135 countries where visas are issued or applications accepted.
Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Governments policy on the proposals in the draft EU Reform Treaty on the presidency of the European Council. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The UK strongly supports a full-time President of the European Council serving for two and a half years in place of the current system where the President of the European Council changes every six months. The President of the European Council will be chosen by and accountable to the leaders of national governments. A full-time Chair of the European Council will bring greater coherence and consistency to the EUs actions; and will give member states greater capacity to give direction and momentum to the EUs agenda.
Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will give an assessment of the changes made to the access arrangements to and from the Gaza Strip since 14 June. 
Dr. Howells: Since Hamas seized control of Gaza on 14 June, the majority of crossings into Gaza have remained closed. As of 12 November, only two crossings into Gaza are operating: Kerem Shalom: for humanitarian aid and commercial supplies; and Erez: for personnel movement (workers and traders) to and from Israel and the West Bank. The Erez crossing opening hours have, however, been reduced.
There is a pressing economic and humanitarian need to overcome the obstacles to re-opening Gaza's crossings. The Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) has expressed concern over the continued closure of major crossing points. The UN is actively involved in trying to find a solution. The EU has called on all parties to work towards an opening of the crossings in and out of Gaza. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised this issue on his recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 17 and 18 November.
Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his comments of 12 November 2007, Official Report, column 405, on the Debate on the address, whether in his assessment the access and egress arrangements for the local population in Gaza were satisfactory before 14 June. 
Dr. Howells: As my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary (Margaret Beckett) said in a written answer to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) on 4 June 2007, Official Report, column 242W.
It is essential that progress is made on movement and access in, and between, the West Bank and Gaza and security sector transformation to ensure a viable future Palestinian state. This requires the active engagement of both parties. In the meantime, we will continue to call upon both parties to implement their commitments under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access and support US Security Co-ordinator General Daytons plans on security sector transformation.
the utmost importance of the full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access. It urges that Rafah and all other crossing points, notably Kami, be reopened and remain open.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on sanctions against Iran; and what the role of the House is in the formulation of any such policy in relation to the use of the armed forces. 
Dr. Howells: As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his Guildhall speech on 12 November, Iran has a choiceconfrontation with the international community leading to a tightening of sanctions or, if it changes its approach, a transformed relationship with the world. Iran has so far chosen to continue with its nuclear proliferation-sensitive activities, as the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agencys latest report (on 15 November) makes clear. In response, we must increase the pressure on Iran to persuade it to comply with its international obligations. The UK will work for a further sanctions resolution at the UN Security Council as well as EU and unilateral measures, ranging from prohibitions on investment in oil and gas sectors, to denying Iran access to export credit finance.
While the House has no formal role in formulating Iran sanctions policy, both my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I set great store by the views of the House. We answer regular parliamentary questions and stay in close touch with the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC). I will be giving evidence before the FAC myself later this month following its visit this month to Iran.
Mr. Jim Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the Kosovo status process with Vuk Jereniic, Minister of Foreign Affairs, when they met in London on 18 September 2007. We maintain a regular dialogue with the authorities in Belgrade on the Kosovo status process.
Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of whether the (a) Government of Israel and (b) Palestinian Authority have accepted the roadmap. 
Dr. Howells: The roadmap was presented to, and agreed by, both parties in April 2003. Israel has indicated 14 reservations. These reservations focus primarily on the Palestinian Authority taking action on security and the importance of the US playing a monitoring role. Israel also emphasised that any action it might take on freedom of movement would be subject to security conditions.
Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the likelihood of the peace talks scheduled for Annapolis in November being attended by those countries whose territory is occupied by Israel; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The US and Israel have indicated that they would be willing for Syria to attend the Annapolis meeting. We support their position. It will be for the Syrians to decide whether or not to attend. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, my noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch Brown, and I met the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah Dardari on 8 November, during which we encouraged Syria to engage constructively in the meeting.
"we would like to see 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.
Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Prime Minister's oral statement of 14 November 2007, Official Report, columns 667-86 on national security, on what projects the Foreign Office's share of the £400 million allocated to tackling radicalisation and promoting understanding overseas will be spent; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 21 November 2007]: As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his statement to the House on 14 November 2007, Official Report, columns 667-672, the Government will report back on action overseas with other countries to counter extremism when we launch the full national security strategy.
Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary called former Foreign Minister Kasuri most recently on 5 November to discuss the situation in Pakistan. He spoke to the then Prime Minister Aziz on 5 November. My noble Friend the Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, the right hon. Lord Malloch-Brown, spoke to the then Prime Minister Aziz on 12 November.
Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to the Government of Israel on roadblocks, checkpoints and other restrictions on movement within the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and on which occasions such representations have been made formally since the Mecca agreement of 8 February 2007. 
Dr. Howells: The implementation of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access stalled following the election of Hamas in January 2006. We continue to call on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to implement the agreement. We have repeatedly raised our concerns about movement and access with the Government of Israel. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised this issue on his recent visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 17 and 18 November.
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