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Tunisia

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Tunisian Government about the arrest and detention of the journalist Sihem Ben Sedrine; and when he last received reports about the human rights situation in Tunisia. [4738]

Mr. Bradshaw: I will write to the Tunisian Deputy Foreign Minister to express my concern at the arrest and detention of the journalist Sihem Ben Sedrine. In addition to regular reports from FCO officials, I have also received the latest statement from Amnesty International and other international human right organisations about the human rights situation in Tunisia.

Chechnya

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action is being taken by the Government to bring an end to the ill-treatment of civilians in Chechnya by Russian forces; and what human rights violations have been reported to have occurred last week during operations by Russian forces in the Chechen villages of Sernovodsk, Assinovskaya and Kurchaloi. [4735]

Peter Hain: I will write to my hon. Friend shortly, and copies of the letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Diplomatic Staff

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in which British diplomatic missions locally engaged staff are paid below local poverty datum lines; and if he will make a statement. [4541]

Mr. Bradshaw: The salary scales and conditions of service for locally engaged staff are set in each country by reference to the good local practice of comparable employers, at a level enabling our posts to recruit, retain and motivate suitable staff. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office greatly values the contribution of its local staff.

British Consulate (Punjab)

Ann Keen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made to establish the British Consulate office in Jalandhar, Punjab; and if it will provide full consulate services. [4799]

Mr. Bradshaw: We propose to open visa liaison offices in Jalandhar (Punjab) and Ahmedabad (Gujarat). The objective behind this initiative is to make our visa services in India more accessible to our customers. The offices, which will be staffed by locally employed personnel, will assist applicants in completing visa application formalities and offering guidance on visa related matters to those who need it. We also hope that entry clearance officers from Delhi and Bombay will visit the offices on a regular basis to assess the visa applications of those who would find it difficult to undertake the long journey to one of our visa issuing posts, such as old and infirm applicants.

The Indian authorities have welcomed these proposals, but have not yet given formal approval. Without this, we are unable to identify office accommodation or to recruit

20 Jul 2001 : Column: 486W

and train new staff. But we remain committed to opening these offices as soon as possible, and are ready to move quickly once formal agreement is given.

Lord Levy

David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what office accommodation, staff and other facilities have been made available to Lord Levy at the Foreign Office. [5259]

Mr. Bradshaw: Lord Levy has the use of an office in the FCO Main Building in London. He receives part-time help from FCO officials as required in support of his role as the Prime Minister's envoy.

David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what classification of papers and official documents will be seen by Lord Levy. [5260]

Mr. Bradshaw: Lord Levy will see papers and official documents relevant to his role as the Prime Minister's envoy.

Departmental Events

David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) national and (b) international awareness events his Department has participated in since June 1997 in the form of (i) sponsorship, (ii) departmental attendance, (iii) similar departmental activities and (iv) a message of support. [5046]

Mr. Straw: My Department has been involved in many international and national awareness events since June 1997 in support of departmental objectives. The information requested is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. I would be happy to provide the right hon. Member with further details if he could be specific about the events he has in mind.

Israel

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received regarding (a) the seven Israeli soldiers and (b) the Israeli civilian, Elchanan Tenenboim, held captive by Hezbollah; and what plans he has to take steps to assist in bringing about their release. [5188]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 19 July 2001]: This Government condemn hostage taking under any circumstances. On 3 May my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friend the then Minister of State met the families of the three soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah on 7 October and the reservist Colonel kidnapped on 4 October. We have received a number of letters from Members of this House and members of the public raising their concern about the fate of the captives.

The Government are doing what they can to help and have raised these cases, and continue to do so, with the relevant countries in the region pressing particularly for access to the hostages for the ICRC. We strongly support all efforts to secure the release of all hostages, particularly efforts led by the United Nations Secretary General.

Although there is no clear evidence on the fate of the other four servicemen, three of whom have been missing in action since 1982, it is important that they are not forgotten.

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We have continued to raise the fate of these missing servicemen with those who might have information about their whereabouts whenever a suitable opportunity arises.

Visit Visas

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list, for each British post abroad which operates a pre-sift system for people applying for visit visas, how many people (a) were advised to withdraw their applications and (b) followed that advice, in (i) 1999, (ii) 2000 and (iii) 2001 for the latest date for which figures are available. [5406]

Mr. Bradshaw: We do not record the number of applicants who are advised to withdraw their application at the pre-shift stage. To ask posts to provide this information now would require them to carry out a manual search of their records. This could be done only at disproportionate cost.

The number of applications actually withdrawn at posts operating a pre-sift during 1999 and 2000 is shown.

The 2001 figures are based on monthly statistical reports received from the 109 largest posts up to May 2001. The remaining posts submit information on an annual basis. To answer this question for all 164 posts we would have to ask those additional posts to extract the information requested. Given that these posts are smaller it is unlikely that many of them will pre-sift applications.

Pre-sift withdrawals

Number
1999
Abdu Dhabi61
Abuja43
Accra1,516
Addis Abba2,210
Amman353
Amsterdam254
Baku1
Bangkok46
Banjul687
Beirut3
Belgrade98
Bombay5,212
Bucharest216
Calcutta109
Casablanca333
Colombo33
Copenhagen54
Damascus958
Dar es Salaam542
Dhaka1,002
Dubai192
Dublin181
Dusseldorf564
Geneva105
Islamabad24,943
Kampala21
Khartoum11
Kingston858
Lagos1,341
Los Angeles2,435
Madras1,101
Manila119
Maseru2
Nairobi2
New Delhi6,078
Oslo85
Paris1,741
Peking 2
Quito149
Rome349
Sana'a858
Sarajevo20
Stockholm34
Suva21
Tashkent1
Tegucigalpa4
Tehran1,835
Tunis463
Ulaan Baatar40
Wellington34
2000
Abu Dhabi69
Abuja883
Accra9,221
Amman422
Amsterdam145
Ankara1
Athens29
Bangkok38
Banjul1,271
Beirut1
Belgrade214
Bombay4,334
Bucharest2,614
Cairo246
Calcutta276
Casablanca440
Colombo230
Copenhagen85
Damascus1,051
Dar es Salaam355
Dhaka610
Dubai560
Dusseldorf1,091
Geneva209
Honiara1
Islamabad25,106
Kampala540
Karachi1,604
Kiev80
Kingston918
Kinshasa37
Lagos580
Lima2
Los Angeles2,908
Luanda150
Madras836
Madrid58
Manila163
New Delhi8,407
Oslo23
Paris2,504
Peking12
Quito108
Sana'a812
Stockholm145
Tehran1,876
Tripoli57
Tunis535
Wellington120
Zagreb98
2001(6)
Abu Dhabi39
Abuja186
Accra3,975
Addis Abba16
Amman229
Amsterdam22
Ankara3
Bahrain8
Banjul530
Belgrade75
Bogotá300
Bombay1,766
Bucharest921
Cairo74
Calcutta197
Casablanca141
Colombo132
Copenhagen14
Damascus229
Dar es Salaam137
Dhaka352
Dubai74
Dusseldorf233
Geneva79
Islamabad6,813
Kampala255
Karachi1,115
Kiev52
Kingston293
Lagos506
Los Angeles859
Luanda137
Madras612
Madrid99
Manila13
New Delhi4,542
Oslo4
Paris967
Peking102
Quito72
Sana'a74
Sarajevo1
Sofia1,084
Stockholm70
Tehran636
Tunis257
Washington2
Wellington48
Zagreb49

(6) To May


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