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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Her Majesty's Government had intended to be represented at the meeting of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers held in Strasbourg from 10-11 May by Mr Keith Vaz, Minister of State at the FCO. He was fully briefed and all arrangements had been made. But urgent Parliamentary business meant that he regrettably had to cancel his visit. Given the circumstances, it was not possible to make alternative arrangements for UK ministerial representation at the meeting, and the UK was represented by our Ambassador Mr Andrew Carter.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The UK has not been represented by the Foreign Secretary at a meeting of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers since the 1997 election. Over the same period the UK has been represented by a junior Minister at such meetings once, at the May 1999 meeting in Budapest, by the then Home Office Minister Lord Williams of Mostyn. At the other six such meetings since 1997 the UK has been unable to be represented by a Minister. The Prime Minister and Mr Lloyd, the then FCO Minister of State, attended the Council of Europe's Second Summit in autumn 1997.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As my honourable friend the Minister of State for Europe said in another place on 20 March 2000 (Official Report, cols. 833836), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of the Joint Entry Clearance unit (the JECU). Copies of the document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. This week the JECU has moved to its new offices at 89 Albert Embankment. By bringing together Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office expertise in a single unit, it will provide a better co-ordinated and more effective service to entry clearance applicants. More information about the new unit, including contact numbers within it, will be circulated to noble Lords.
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