Meg Munn: Details of the cost of overseas travel, including the cost of travel and accommodation are contained in the Overseas Travel by Cabinet Ministers list. The latest list for the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007 was published on 25 July 2007. Details for the 2007-08 financial year will be published as soon as possible after the end of the financial year. All travel is made in accordance with the Ministerial Code.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is his policy that the Office of the High Representative and the related Bonn powers should continue in their present form beyond June 2008. 
David Miliband: The Peace Implementation Committee (PIC) Steering Board, of which the UK is a member, has stated that the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) will remain in place and continue to carry out its mandate under the Dayton Peace Agreement. While the aim of the PIC is OHR closure by 30 June 2008, this will clearly need to be reviewed in light of the situation on the ground and, in particular, whether BiHs political leaders are overcoming ethnic divisions and history to move BiH forward. The PIC will review the situation again at its meeting in February 2008.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of removing the requirement for interviews by entry clearance officers of visa applicants on UK security; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: There has never been a requirement to interview all visa applicants. The entry clearance officer may call an applicant for an interview based on a risk assessment of the case. All applications are subject to rigorous scrutiny based on risk profiling, document verification and the use of information, to give us a robust control.
Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many complaints his Department has received about the visa application services provided by Worldbridge Services. 
Meg Munn: The following table displays the total number of complaints recorded by UKvisas, on their Overseas Complaints Register, about the visa application services provided by WorldBridge Services from 1 July to 30 September 2007 (the first Visa Application Centres provided by WorldBridge Services commenced operations on 1 July 2007).
|Visa Application Centres (VACs)
Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the (a) target time and (b) average time was for the processing of visa applications provided by Worldbridge Services in the latest period for which figures are available. 
Meg Munn: The UKvisas commercial partner, WorldBridge Services, is required to process all visa applications submitted to their visa application centres (VACs) on the day of receipt. WorldBridge Services must then deliver these applications to UK visa sections overnight, between close of play on the day of receipt and the opening for business of the UK visa sections the following working day. WorldBridge Services are meeting this contractual commitment 99 per cent. of the time.
The average time WorldBridge Services takes to collect the required biometrics from an applicant at one of their VACs and to process their application is 48 minutes. The average time taken for the whole visa application process for applicants using a VAC administered by WorldBridge Services is 5.6 days. This starts from the time the applicant books an appointment at the VAC to the return of their documents once their application has been assessed.
Mr. Jim Murphy: As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in the House on 20 November 2007, Official Report, column 1096W our objective is to enhance the separate defence capabilities of European nations. We are therefore encouraging partners to develop the deployable, interoperable and sustainable forces required for current and likely future operations. These capabilities would be available for, and enhance, collective multilateral crisis interventions, including those delivered through the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or the UN.
Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will appoint a UK Honorary Consul to Gabon in order to (a) represent UK interests and (b) provide consular services. 
Meg Munn: The UKs Honorary Consul to Gabon, David Harwood, has been in post since May 1996. (Further details are available on the website for our High Commission in Yaounde: www.briteam.org).
Honorary Consuls are primarily appointed to help provide an accessible and responsive service to British nationals abroad, particularly in difficult to reach locations. They provide information and assistance to British nationals who get into difficulties overseas and can play a commercial role, depending on local circumstances, their expertise and the requirements of the High Commissioner.
Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had on the Yasser Arafat International Airport in the Gaza Strip on his recent visit to the Middle East. 
Meg Munn: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not discuss the Yasser Arafat International Airport during his recent visit to Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Egypt from 17-20 November.
Under the UK presidency, the EU led in negotiations with the parties and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to agree the Agreement on Movement and Access which was signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in November 2005. Discussions on the airport form part of the agreement which has stalled following the election of Hamas in January 2006. The Government continue to call on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to implement the agreement.
At this difficult time in Gaza the urgent priorities are to ensure sufficient and regular supplies to meet the basic needs of Gazas 1.4 million people and to re-open external trade. However, in the longer term, establishing reliable access to the outside world will be essential for sustainable economic development, poverty reduction and a viable Palestinian state.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he plans to take to try to increase the amount of UN humanitarian aid in food and medicines being made available to the people of Gaza. 
Dr. Howells: The Government remain deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza. My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development made a statement on 30 October detailing our concerns. The full text of the statement can be found at:
There is a pressing need to overcome the obstacles to re-opening Gazas crossings, for humanitarian goods, trade and people. The UN Secretary-General is focussed on this issue and we are supporting his efforts. The EU has called
on all parties to work towards an opening of the crossings in and out of Gaza.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to press for more people, food and medicines to be enabled on humanitarian grounds to pass through the crossing points out of and into Gaza. 
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the operating costs were of the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee
for the Purchase of Wine in 2006-07; and how many full-time equivalent staff support the committee. 
Meg Munn: The operating costs of the Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the Purchase of Wine amounted to approximately £8,024 for financial year 2006-07. One Foreign and Commonwealth Office official, the Head of Government Hospitality, is Secretary to the Committee, spending approximately 10 to 15 per cent. of their time on support for the Committee and managing the Government cellar.
Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many illegal immigrants have been discovered working for his Department and its agencies in the last year for which figures are available. 
Meg Munn: There are no cases of which we are aware of illegal immigrants who have been discovered working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the last year. There is one individual currently being investigated by the police relating to a previous period.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what forum he expects to discuss a framework for nuclear disarmament with (a) India, (b) Pakistan and (c) Israel; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: The United Kingdom discusses nuclear disarmament with India, Pakistan and Israel in various fora, including the Conference for Disarmament in Geneva and at the UN. We also attach great importance to the universalisation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and continue to call on all three states to join the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of Iran's human rights record, with particular reference to the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and if he will hold discussions with his international counterparts to seek an end to persecution on the grounds of sexuality in Iran. 
I am deeply concerned by Iran's deteriorating human rights record. On 20 November, in a powerful demonstration of international concern, the UN General Assembly's Third Committee voted in favour of a resolutionco-sponsored by the EUexpressing deep concern at the human rights situation in Iran. We remain concerned about the treatment of all minority groups in Iran, including discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Homosexuality is illegal by law and the death penalty remains on the books for consenting same sex relations, but we are not aware of any executions for this in recent years. However,
the situation for transgender individuals is more positive: Iran has the second highest number of sex-change operations in the world and government grants are available for operations and hormone therapy.
Disappointingly, Iran has persistently refused to engage in a human rights dialogue with the EU and has failed to address international concerns about human rights in Iran. But we continue to work hard with international partners to urge Iran to fulfil its human rights commitments and to improve their human rights record.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 15 November 2007, Official Report, column 363W, on Iraq: foreign workers, how many third country nationals are eligible to receive a package of financial payment to aid resettlement; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: Third country nationals are not eligible for any of the forms of assistance set out in my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretarys written ministerial statement of 30 October 2007, Official Report, columns 30-33WS which are offered to Iraqi nationals only.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the government of Israel on their refusal last month of permission to Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, to travel to meet Tony Blair. 
Dr. Howells: The Government have made no representation to the Government of Israel on this issue. 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 19 November.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to his Serbian counterpart on statements by Prime Minister Kostunica linking a Kosovo settlement to the future of the entity of Republika Sprska. 
David Miliband: I discussed regional security issues, including Kosovo, with my Serbian counterpart in London on 5 December. Our ambassador in Belgrade, together with representatives of the Embassies of the United States, France, Germany and Italy, met with the Serb Foreign Minister Jeremic to register our concern about the statements made by Prime Minister Kostunica linking a Kosovo settlement to the future of the Republika Sprska. We, along with other EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries, have made it clear to the Serbian authorities that such statements are not conducive to stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Meg Munn: UN Security Council Resolution 1244 leaves Kosovo within Serbia pending the outcome of a political process to determine Kosovos final status. The nature of that outcome is not constrained in any way by Security Council Resolution 1244.