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Civil Service Pay

Dr. Marek: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what the notional (a) minimum and (b) maximum salary is for each of the senior five administrative civil service grade pay scales assuming the same pay awards and an averaging of performance related pay for each grade. [160857]

Marjorie Mowlam: In 1996, the senior civil service was created to cover the top 3,000 civil servants formerly in grades 1-5. Members of the senior civil service are placed in one of nine overlapping pay bands broadly according to job weight. Permanent Secretaries have a separate pay range.

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The band minima and maxima for 2001-02 are as follows:

£

MinimumMaximum
Band 144,03869,178
Band 248,55277,869
Band 353,53487,598
Band 459,08898,494
Band 564,768104,292
Band 670,905110,428
Band 777,635116,904
Band 884,811123,856
Band 992,696131,276
Permanent Secretaries104,292179,022

The average individual performance-related award for members of the senior civil service for 2000-01 was 4.8 per cent.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Democratic Republic of Congo

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures he will take in response to the UN report on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [160679]

Mr. Wilson: We have taken careful note of the panel's work so far. We have also supported the extension of the panel's mandate to give it a further opportunity to provide a fully balanced analysis and to include corroborated evidence relating to all parties in the conflict. We now await the panel's final report.

Working Time Directive

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of senior civil servants in his Department have signed waivers to work voluntarily more than 48 hours a week; and if he will make a statement. [160886]

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Mr. Wilson: The Department does not hold central records of those who have voluntarily signed waivers.

India

Mr. Rowe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Indian authorities concerning the continuing violence and intimidation suffered by Christians in India. [160924]

Mr. Wilson: We have raised our concern over attacks on Christians with the Indian Government on a number of occasions and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Palestinian Authority Prisons

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the number of members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad released from Palestinian Authority prisons since the start of the current intifada. [160991]

Mr. Wilson: There have certainly been releases, but no reliable figures are available. A few of those released have been rearrested.

Entry Clearance

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 30 March 2001, Official Report, column 797W, on entry clearance, for what reason a backlog of replies to hon. Members' letters on entry clearance cases accumulated; and what has been the reduction in waiting times since the Minister for Europe assumed responsibility. [158335]

Mr. Vaz: A backlog of replies to right hon. and hon. Members' letters had accumulated due to a shortage of staff in the Visa Correspondence Unit. This has now been addressed. I assumed ministerial responsibility for entry clearance in October 1999. In that month 38 per cent. of letters received from hon. Members were replied to within 15 working days. In March 2001, 92 per cent. were replied to within that period.

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if information given to an entry clearance officer during an informal assessment of a visitor's visa application is retained and used in a later fresh application by the same applicant. [160682]

Mr. Vaz: If an applicant decides not to pursue a visit visa application after the preliminary assessment, the visa application form may be retained. If the applicant subsequently lodges a formal application, the interviewing entry clearance officer can consider any evidence relevant to the application when making a decision on the case. The information taken at the pre-assessment stage may be put to the applicant, who would be invited to explain any discrepancies that emerge.

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what procedures are in place for an applicant to challenge the contents of an entry clearance officer's notes taken during an informal

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assessment of the prospects of the award of a visitor visa on the grounds of the applicant's statements being misunderstood. [160697]

Mr. Vaz: The pre-assessment is the procedure whereby an entry clearance officer can give advice to an applicant that their application is unlikely to succeed. The applicant does not have to accept this advice and can proceed with the application at any time. If an applicant therefore believes that his or her statements have been misunderstood during the preliminary assessment, he or she will be given the opportunity to make this clear during the formal visa interview.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the nature of the reduction in the amount of paperwork required from applicants for entry clearance at Islamabad. [160843]

Mr. Vaz: The visa section in Islamabad has recently significantly improved the service they offer. A special exercise conducted in March reduced the non-settlement queue from 42 working days to a same day service and brought all the settlement queues back within the Ministerially agreed targets.

Alongside the special exercise, it was felt that less emphasis should be placed upon the documents submitted with an application when making a decision on the case. Islamabad formerly produced forms which listed in great detail the documents that an applicant should submit with each type of application. Applicants are offered the INF series of visa information leaflets, which clearly explain the Immigration Rules and how to make an application.

Israel

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by what means the EU Association Committee at its meeting in May will assess the compliance of Israel with the human rights clauses within the EU-Israel Association Agreement; and what factors it will take into account. [158806]

Mr. Vaz: The EU and Israel will have a wide ranging discussion at the Association Committee meeting on 21 May. There are no restraints on the dialogue. The EU will be raising issues of concern.

Bahrain

Mr. Ernie Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent EU-Gulf Co-operation Council Ministerial meeting in Bahrain, indicating at what level the United Kingdom was represented and what the outcome was. [160614]

Mr. Vaz: My hon. Friend, the Member for Cunninghame, North, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, attended the EU-Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) Joint Council in Manama, Bahrain on 23 April. A copy of the Joint Declaration, covering the issues discussed at the Joint Council, has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

Kosovo

Mr. Colman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what action the

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Government are taking to help protect the Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo from vandalism and destruction; [160664]

Mr. Vaz [holding answer 9 May 2001]: We have received representations from a variety of sources including the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, MPs and members of the public. The protection of religious and patrimonial sites is an important role for KFOR, undertaken to improve security and the way of life for all communities in Kosovo. KFOR provides armed guards to protect churches and monasteries throughout Kosovo, but unfortunately attacks against churches do still occur.

Turkmenistan

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to his counterparts in Turkmenistan regarding the imprisonment of Shageldy Atakov; and if he will make a statement. [160714]

Mr. Vaz: On 23 February the British Government, with EU partners and the US, issued a demarche to the Turkmen Foreign Minister regarding reports that Mr. Shageldy Atakov had been beaten and that he was seriously ill, and called for his release on humanitarian grounds. In the absence of a formal response from the Turkmen Foreign Minister, EU and US Ambassadors called on him again on 2 May to press him once more to release Mr. Atakov. The Foreign Minister maintained that as Mr. Atakov refused to ask the Turkmen Government for a pardon he could not be released except under a general amnesty. The Government will continue to press the Turkmen Government for Mr. Atakov's release.


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