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1 May 2008 : Column 712Wcontinued
Mr. Jim Murphy:
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said on 13 March, Official Report, columns 22-24WS), we have not consistently done enough to build the personal relationships with the scholars which we need to get the most out of these schemes. This applies to all three schemes, but as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also said, we
are working hard to improve the ways in which we build links with scholars right from the start of the selection process.
Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has assessed the steps taken by the (a) Commonwealth scholarship, (b) Chevening scholarship and (c) Marshall scholarship programmes in maintaining contact with alumni. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) maintains good contact with Commonwealth scholarship alumni and we would like to work with the CSC to develop links between Chevening and Commonwealth alumni. The Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission and our US posts maintain good contact with Marshall alumni through the Association of Marshall Scholars in the US. In recent years we have done much to re-establish links with Chevening alumni. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said on 13 March, we are working hard to improve the ways in which we build links with all scholars right from the start of the selection process.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to monitor the treatment of (a) Christians, (b) Ahmadiyyas and (c) other religious minorities in Pakistan following the recent elections in that country. 
Dr. Howells: The UK supports freedom of religion and condemns instances where individuals are persecuted because of their faith or belief. With our EU partners, we have raised our concerns over the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan and the frequent abuse of the blasphemy legislation. Since the elections, we have continued to meet with representatives of minority organisations both in London and Islamabad to monitor the treatment of minorities and inform policy. Our high commissioner in Islamabad recently met Pakistans Minister for Education, who also has responsibility for minority affairs. We will continue to monitor the situation and raise concerns about the treatment of minorities with the Government and encourage reform or repeal of discriminatory legislation through the National Assembly.
We endorse the recommendations made by the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) in its report of 16 April 2008 which stress the need for increased participation of minorities in the election process. A comprehensive and well-harmonised plan of action to support democratic institutions in Pakistan will flow from these lessons, taking full account of the EOM recommendations.
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is undertaking a Universal Periodic Review on the human rights records of a number of countries including Pakistan in May. The UK is participating in this dialogue and will raise the treatment of minorities during the process.
We will continue to encourage Pakistan to fulfil commitments under the UNHRC. We welcome Pakistans decision to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We look forward to early implementation of these instruments which we believe should safeguard the rights of minorities in Pakistan.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under what circumstances the Government have been refused consular access to Simon Mann in Black Beach Prison, Equatorial Guinea; what steps were taken by the Government in response on each occasion; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 30 April 2008]: Our consul from the British deputy high commission in Lagos was refused consular access to Simon Mann during his last visit to Equatorial Guinea in March. Since then the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and our posts in Nigeria, which also cover Equatorial Guinea, have been taking this issue forward with the Equatorial Guinea authorities. Simon Mann's welfare remains our primary concern.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will request his US counterpart to seek regular access to Simon Mann in Black Beach Prison, Equatorial Guinea, on behalf of the Government. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 30 April 2008]: Our consular officials are seeking consular access to Simon Mann through the Equatorial Guinea authorities. Our deputy high commission in Lagos keeps in close touch with the US embassy in Equatorial Guinea, but our priority at present is to gain access for our own consular officials.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what provisions of international law apply to the granting by Equatorial Guinea to another country of consular access to one of its citizens held in prison. 
Dr. Howells [holding answer 30 April 2008]: Both the UK and Equatorial Guinea are party to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Article 36 provides for consular officers of one state party to communicate and have contact with its nationals in another state party to facilitate the exercise of consular functions. Article 36(l)(c) provides that
consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending state who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation.
Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his most recent assessment is of the situation in Tibet; and what steps he has taken to express the Government's concerns to the Chinese government. 
Meg Munn: We remain concerned about the situation in Tibet. We regularly raise our human rights concerns with the Chinese authorities and continue to urge full compliance with international human rights obligations including; rights to freedom of association, expression, religion, access to fair trial and respect for prisoners' fundamental rights. We have urged the Chinese authorities to exercise maximum restraint in dealing with any further unrest in the Tibetan region. Most recently, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown raised issues of human rights in Tibet during their meetings with Chinese leaders at the Economic Financial Dialogue from 14 to 16 April.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contacts his Department has had with the United States Cuba Transition Co-ordinator in each of the last five years. 
Meg Munn: Officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) held meetings with the US-Cuba Transition Co-ordinator during his visits to London in July 2005 and April 2008. In addition FCO staff at our embassy in Washington have regular contact with colleagues at the US State Department including those dealing with Cuban policy issues.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the purpose was of the recent visit to his Department by Caleb McCarry; whom Mr McCarry met; what was (a) discussed and (b) agreed; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: Representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices Americas Directorate met US-Cuba Transition Co-ordinator, Caleb McCarry, on 15 April 2008 during his recent visit to London. They discussed issues of mutual interest concerning Cuba and agreed that the meeting had been a useful exchange of views.