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22 Oct 2002 : Column 198W—continued


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what measures he has undertaken in respect of the kidnap of Elchanan Tenenbium; [74874]

Mike O'Brien: HMG has made a number of representations to governments in the Middle East about the fate of Elchanan Tannenbaum and missing Israeli soldiers, and will continue to do so. Most recently

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our Ambassadors in Beirut and Damascus raised them with their host governments on 3 October 2002 and 19 September 2002, respectively. They took note of our interest. Also on 12 December 2001, our Ambassador in Beirut raised hostage taking in general terms with Hizballah. On each occasion we emphasised that hostage taking was wrong and that those holding hostages should free them at once.

Our Ambassador in Tel Aviv met families of the missing men, including Mr. Tannenbaum's son, on 9 September 2002.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will obtain a copy of the two video tapes in the possession of Taria Larsen of the UN showing the kidnap of Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Umar Souad on 7 October 2000. [74872]

Mike O'Brien: There are no videotapes or photographs of the abduction of the soldiers in the UN's possession: the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) did not witness or film the kidnapping. The UN has two related videotapes, which it has shared with the families of the abducted soldiers. These two videos are not available for release.

The first tape—filmed by the Indian battalion assigned to UNIFIL on 8 October 2000—is of the attempted recovery of two UN vehicles. The UN did recover items from within them. But during the operation Hizbollah returned and claimed the vehicles. The second tape—filmed by an unknown person—showed the shelling of Israel Defence Forces positions along the Blue Line. Neither tape gives any indication about the fate of the kidnapped soldiers.

Dr. Lesley McCulloch

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to secure the release of Dr. Lesley McCulloch from detention in Indonesia; and if he will make a statement. [75679]

Mike O'Brien: We have raised Lesley McCulloch's case with the Indonesian authorities a number of times and at high levels. We have urged the Indonesian authorities to process Ms McCulloch's case expeditiously. Our consular staff have visited Ms McCulloch and continue to give her all the assistance they properly can.

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute, dated 20 September, regarding Dr. Lesley McCulloch. [75680]

Mike O'Brien: My noble Friend, Baroness Amos, Minister responsible for Consular matters, replied to the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute on 17 October.

Diego Garcia

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government have taken in response to the High Court judgment in 2000 upholding the special military status of Diego Garcia. [75105]

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Mike O'Brien: Following the High Court judgment, the BIOT Immigration Ordinance 1971 was replaced by the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2000 which exempts Chagossians from the requirement to obtain a permit to return and reside in any part of the Territory except (for defence reasons) Diego Garcia. All other persons still require a permit to enter any part of the Territory.

Saddam Hussein

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the meetings held between Saddam Hussein and British Ministers since July 1979. [75685]

Mike O'Brien: Since July 1979, the following Ministers have held meetings with Saddam Hussein:

Mordechai Vanunu

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) his United States counterpart and (b) his counterparts in the European Union in respect of seeking early release of Mordechai Vanunu. [75452]

Mike O'Brien: We have not discussed Mr. Vanunu's detention with US or EU colleagues. But we have raised it with the Israeli authorities, most recently on 17 October when our Embassy in Tel Aviv did so with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They took note of our interest and agreed to keep the Embassy informed of developments. The Embassy in Tel Aviv will monitor Mr. Vanunu's parole hearing, which is expected to start on 29 October.

Asylum Seekers

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times he has overturned a decision by an ECO to refuse admission to the UK of an applicant. [75655]

Mike O'Brien: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not overturned any entry clearance decisions. As Minister responsible for entry clearance, I have overturned one decision since my appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in May 2002.

Entry Clearance

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many entry clearance operations he has visited since June 2001. [75656]

Mike O'Brien: When travelling overseas, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs makes every effort to meet staff—both UK based and locally engaged—working in all sections of our overseas missions, including in the entry clearance sections.

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Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Ugandan Government in respect of their closure of the Monitor newspaper. [75008]

Mr. MacShane: On 14 October the EU Presidency in Kampala, on behalf of the United Kingdom and other EU member states, raised our concerns about the closure of the Monitor newspaper with the Ugandan Minister of State for Information. The Presidency also underlined the importance the EU attaches to freedom of expression and the independence of the media. The Minister reassured the EU Presidency that the Monitor would reopen shortly.

The Monitor reopened on 17 October.


Nuclear Weapons (Russia)

Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister what matters in respect of United Kingdom support for the dismantling and clear-up of Russia's nuclear weapons, and the management of surplus former military fissile material, were discussed during his meetings in Russia on 10 October. [75874]

The Prime Minister: In our meeting and in the context of the G8 Global Partnership against the Proliferation of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction I impressed upon President Putin the need to conclude the necessary legal framework agreement quickly, in particular resolution of the issue of third party liability. As I confirmed to Parliament in July, the UK is prepared to commit up to $750m over ten years as part of the G8 Global Partnership initiative.

Officials plan a further early meeting with the Russian authorities to try to conclude the UK/Russia bilateral agreement and the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme for the Russian Federation (MNEPR) agreement.

Winning the Generation Game

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Prime Minister, what progress has been made on each of the 75 conclusions in the Performance and Innovation Unit report, Winning the Generation Game: Improving Opportunities for People Aged 50–65 in Work and Community Activity, published in April 2002. [74730]

Mr. McCartney: I have been asked to reply.

Progress report on the implementation of the Performance and Innovation Unit's report Winning the Generation Game has been placed in the library. It is also available on the internet at

The Government will continue to report regularly on the implementation of policies affecting older people.

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Human Rights

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement on the Court of Appeal decisions in (a) R. v. Brent London Borough Council and others and (b) R v. Oxfordshire County Council's Exclusion Panel and Another on the necessity for Government guidance notes to be compliant with statute and the Human Rights Act 1998; and what future role she envisages for guidance notes. [75212]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The key point of the Court of Appeal's judgment in these consolidated cases, as far as my Department is concerned, is that the legislation enabling the Secretary of State to give guidance to headteachers, local education authorities and appeal panels in relation to the exclusion of pupils from school complies with the Human Rights Act 1998, and in particular with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a fair hearing). So far as the guidance applicable to these cases was concerned, the Court went on to hold that neither its content nor the fact that the exclusion appeal panels had a statutory duty to have regard to it in determining the appellant pupils' appeals compromised the pupils' right to a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal. However, the Secretary of State is mindful of the observations which the Court made with regard to using her powers to issue guidance and will bear them in mind when issuing revised guidance.

As to the future, I envisage that the Secretary of State will continue to use her statutory powers to give guidance for the purposes of promoting fairness and consistency in decision-making.

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