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Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) what categories of submissions from civil servants to Ministers, other than those relating to (a) intelligence and (b) personnel matters, are not circulated to Special Advisers; [143826]

Mr. Wills: Special Advisers in this Department have access to material produced by permanent civil servants in accordance with paragraph 14e of the "Model Contract for Special Advisers".

Northlea Comprehensive School, Seaham

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the most recent Ofsted report on Northlea Comprehensive School, Seaham, Co. Durham. [144328]

Ms Estelle Morris: The only secondary school in Seaham, Co. Durham is Seaham Comprehensive School, which was inspected during October 2000. The inspection report will be available from Ofsted's website. I have asked HM Chief Inspector of Schools, Mike Tomlinson, to write to my hon. Friend and to place copies of his letter and the inspection report in the Library.

New Deal (Vale of Clwyd)

Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many people have benefited from the introduction of the New Deals in the Vale of Clwyd, broken down by each New Deal category. [144452]

Ms Jowell [holding answer 8 January 2001]: Figures to the end of October 2000 show that in the Vale of Clwyd constituency the following numbers of people have benefited from participation in New Deal:

Starts on New DealJobs gained
New Deal for Young People771378
New Deal 25+32169
New Deal for Lone Parents359136

Note:

'Starts' include those currently on New Deal.


FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

British Council

Mr. Trend: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of

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15 December 2000, Official Report, column 298W, on Belarus, what criteria the British Council uses to assess the importance of countries to the UK. [143838]

Mr. Hain: The British Council's geographical priorities are based on an assessment of a country's importance to the United Kingdom--in political, commercial and historical terms--and of the Council's ability to achieve long-term influence and impact for the United Kingdom. The criteria for assessing the Council's ability to achieve impact include the need to change perceptions of the United Kingdom, the demand for Council services and receptivity to Council programmes, the accessibility of the Council's target audiences and the availability of other mechanisms for influencing perceptions of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Trend) of 15 December 2000, Official Report, column 298W, on Belarus, when his Department was informed of the British Council's decision; and what consultation took place with his Department as part of the British Council's strategic review. [143709]

Mr. Hain [holding answer 8 January 2001]: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was fully consulted in the course of the strategic review which led to the decisions taken by the British Council's Board, in October 2000, to make changes to its overseas network.

Ministerial Travel

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many flights including helicopter flights were taken by Ministers within his Department for UK and overseas visits in each year since 1995; on how many occasions (a) charter flights were used and (b) first and club class tickets obtained; and who accompanied the Ministers on each trip. [143871]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 21 December 2000]: Ministers are under a duty to make efficient and cost-effective travel arrangements. This Government have given a commitment to publish an annual list of visits overseas by Cabinet Ministers costing more than £500 as well as an annual figure on spend by all Ministers on overseas visits. The list for 1999-2000 was published on 28 July 2000, Official Report, column 969W.

Western Sahara

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what visits officials from his Department plan to make to Western Sahara. [144515]

Mr. Hain [holding answer 8 January 2001]: UK officials visit Western Sahara three or four times a year. The most recent was in early December. No dates have yet been fixed for the next visit, but we expect it to be some time in the first quarter of 2001.

Iran

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last raised with the Iranian Government the position of the Jews imprisoned in Iran; and if he will make a statement. [144369]

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Mr. Hain [holding answer 8 January 2001]: We and our European partners have taken every opportunity to raise our concerns about the unsatisfactory nature of the case, which I last raised with the Iranian ambassador when I met him on 19 October. While noting the reductions in the sentence of between two and six years on appeal, we hope that the Iranian judiciary will now show clemency. The EU sponsored the 4 December General Assembly Resolution expressing concern about discrimination against people who belong to religious minorities and Iranian failure to comply with the international standards on the administration of justice.

Mr. Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to encourage religious tolerance in Iran. [143904]

Mr. Hain: Human Rights are a high priority in our dealings with the Iranian Government. We and our EU partners take every appropriate opportunity to press the Iranian authorities over our concerns about their treatment of religious minorities in Iran, particularly the Bahai and Jewish communities. The EU sponsored a United Nations General Assembly Resolution adopted on 4 December which expressed concern about discrimination against people who belong to religious minorities. The Iranian authorities are well aware that we and our EU partners view persecution on religious grounds as totally unacceptable.

Departmental Projects

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the projects undertaken for his Department by (a) outside consultants, (b) academic researchers and (c) university departments since 1 May 1997, giving the total expenditure incurred in each category. [144084]

Mr. Hain: FCO expenditure on projects involving outside consultants was £15.8 million in 1997-98, £14.5 million in 1998-99 and £14.0 million in 1999-2000. Their expertise was sought mainly to help obtain value for money in property and information technology capital projects, both in the UK and abroad. It would involve disproportionate expense to list the projects individually.

The FCO does not collect separate data on expenditure on academic researchers and university departments. It would involve disproportionate expense to retrieve this information and itemise the projects.

West Bank

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the circumstances of the attack in the West Bank on the vehicle carrying the British Consul-General last week; what representations he has made to the Israeli Government on action taken by the Israeli Defence Forces to stop the attack; and what plans the Israeli Government have to take action against those who attacked the Consul-General. [144007]

Mr. Hain: On 12 December, at about 1.45 pm, the British Consul General in Jerusalem, his wife, his driver and one of the Consulate General's staff were threatened, and the Consul General's car damaged, while detained at a temporary Israeli Defence Force (IDF) checkpoint just north of Halhoul on the West Bank.

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The Consul General's official car was stopped by the IDF when it approached the checkpoint. Also present were a group of armed civilians who had partially blocked the road with a bus. While the Consul General's car was stationary, the armed civilians made threatening gestures towards the car and its occupants, and one threw a rock at the car, damaging the rear window. The IDF personnel who were present did nothing to prevent these events from taking place.

The British Embassy in Tel Aviv has made a strong protest to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has demanded an explanation of the IDF's failure to intervene during the incident. We have been assured that the IDF will conduct a thorough investigation. We continue to press the Israelis for a response to our protest.


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