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Correspondence

Mr. Cran: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a substantive reply will be given to Captain Alan Croft's letter of 30 October 2001, concerning Mr. Shwe Tun Aung. [36836]

Mr. Bradshaw: I am sorry that, due to an administrative error, the hon. Member did not receive a reply to his letter of 30 October 2001.

The matter will be investigated and I will write to the hon. Member as soon as I am able.

Gibraltar

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Spanish Government since 1 January on the right of self-determination for the people of Gibraltar. [36536]

Peter Hain: I refer my hon. Friend to the oral answer given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle), on 5 February 2002, Official Report, columns 738–39.

Taiwan

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Chinese Government concerning its policy towards Taiwan; and if he will make a statement. [36482]

Mr. MacShane: In my meeting with the Chinese Ambassador on 19 December, I urged China to rule out the rule of force against Taiwan and pursue a peaceful resolution through negotiation. We believe that the future of Taiwan is a matter to be settled by the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

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Vietnam

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Government of Vietnam on persecution of Christians. [37938]

Mr. Bradshaw: Promotion of human rights, including freedom of thought, conscience and religion, is at the heart of our foreign policy. Whenever the opportunity arises we condemn instances where individuals are persecuted because of their faith or belief, in Vietnam and elsewhere, and whatever the religion of the individual or group concerned.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised human rights issues in general when he met the Vietnamese Foreign Minister, Mr. Nien, in London in September 2001. When my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister visited Vietnam in December 2001, he raised the treatment of the ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands with the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nong Duc Manh. The EU Human Rights Working Group in Hanoi, in which our Embassy plays a leading role, has also raised the treatment of religious believers on several occasions during its regular dialogue with the Vietnamese authorities.

Biological Weapons Convention

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will publish a paper making suggestions on methods of strengthening the biological weapons convention; and if he will make a statement. [36749]

Mr. Straw: I intend to publish a Green Paper in April setting out a range of possible measures to deal with the threat from biological weapons. These measures will include ways of strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention.

LNM Holdings

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), during his term of office as Minister for Europe, met (a) Mr. Mittal of LNM Holdings and (b) other employees of that company; and what was discussed. [37153]

Peter Hain: In his official capacity of Minister for Europe my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East met Mr. Mittal of LNM Holdings at a lunch for the President of Kazakhstan on 17 November 2000 where UK/Kazakhstan relations were discussed. There are no meetings recorded between my hon. Friend as Minister for Europe and other employees of LNM Holdings.

Private Military Companies

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures are in place to ensure that a British mercenary is unable to be employed in activity against British interests. [37173]

Mr. MacShane: The Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 makes it an offence for a British subject without licence from Her Majesty to enlist in the armed forces of a foreign

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state at war with another foreign state which is at peace with the UK. However, no successful prosecutions have been brought under the Act.

The FCO published on 12 February a consultation paper entitled "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation", which examines the involvement of the private sector in military and security activity and outlines options for regulation. The FCO welcomes comments on this issue prior to the ministerial decisions.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what regulations are in place to ensure that private military companies based in the UK are held accountable for their actions. [37171]

Mr. MacShane: No regulations specifically directed towards the activities of private military companies are presently in place.

That is why, in its Paper entitled "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation" which was published on 12 February, the FCO outlined options for regulating the activities of private military companies. The Government will make final decisions after the six-month consultation period.

EU-USA Productivity Gap

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures the Government will be proposing at the European Council in Barcelona to close the productivity gap between the European Union and the United States of America. [37180]

Peter Hain: One of the key objectives of the Lisbon economic and social reform strategy is to make the EU the most dynamic and competitive economy in the world. Improving EU productivity levels is central to achieving that aim. At the second annual review of the Lisbon strategy, in Barcelona, the Spanish Presidency is proposing to concentrate on five priority areas: transport and communication networks; energy; education and training; financial services; labour markets. The Government fully support this approach. All five areas have a key role to play in improving EU productivity. Better interconnection between transport and communication networks will improve physical and virtual mobility and delivery; more energy liberalisation and interconnection will improve competition and lower prices; the right approach to education and training will deliver the skills and adaptability required by the 21 Century workplace; integrated financial markets will lower the cost of capital and increase consumer and business choice; more flexible and dynamic labour markets will facilitate job creation and labour mobility.

PRIME MINISTER

Business Contacts

Mr. Collins: To ask the Prime Minister (1) on how many occasions in the last 12 months he has written to

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heads of state or Government of other countries on behalf of companies with fewer than 150 employees in the UK; [37160]

Mr. Gale: To ask the Prime Minister if he will name the companies on whose behalf he has signed letters in support of (a) export and (b) other business interests since 1 May 1997. [37688]

Richard Ottaway: To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of benefit for the British economy of the awarding of a contract to LNM Holdings to build a steel plant in Romania. [37816]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Members to the answer I gave the hon. Members for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr (Adam Price) and for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) on 14 February 2002, Official Report, columns 610–11W.

Mr. Collins: To ask the Prime Minister if the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) has written to him within the last two years concerning (a) Mr. Mittal of LNM Holdings and (b) that company. [37154]

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East did not write to me concerning these matters.

Mr. Collins: To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions he has met Mr. Mittal of LNM Holdings. [37156]

The Prime Minister: As my official spokesman has already confirmed, I have not had any bilateral meetings with Mr. Mittal.

I have meetings with a wide range of organisations and individuals. As with previous Administrations it is not my practice to provide details of all such meetings.

Adam Price: To ask the Prime Minister (1) when he was informed of the attempt by the LNM Group to acquire Sidex; [37931]

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The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him and the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) on 14 February 2002, Official Report, columns 610–11W.


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