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Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Syrian Government on potential British and US military intervention in Iraq; and what the policy of the Government of Syria is on the issue. [77023]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I met the Syrian Ambassador on 26 September. UK and Syrian officials in both London and Damascus meet regularly to discuss a range of issues, including Iraq. There is also frequent contact between our officials at regular UN meetings in New York on Iraq. The Syrian Government's stated policy is to work for a peaceful resolution of the Iraqi issue. Syria has called both for Iraq to comply with its UN obligations and for the immediate return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.


Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans there are for the British Government to request the use of Jordanian airspace and territory for the use of their planes and ground forces for military intervention in Iraq. [77022]

Mr. Hoon: I have been asked to reply.

No decision regarding the commitment of United Kingdom armed forces to any potential conflict in Iraq has yet been taken. Military action is neither imminent nor inevitable. It is not helpful to speculate on the sort of assistance we might seek from states in the region in the event that military action became necessary.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many hon. Members have made representations to him on the subject of alleged human rights abuses in Nigeria. [76990]

Mr. MacShane [holding answer 28 October 2002]: During the last two months the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received more than 70 letters from hon. Members on human rights abuses in Nigeria. The majority of the correspondence has been about Amina Lawal, sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.


Diana Organ: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of President Musharraf's ability to curb religious fundamentalism and terrorism in South Asia, with reference to the recent electoral success of religious extremist groups in two provinces of Pakistan. [77021]

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Mr. Mike O'Brien: We welcomed President Musharraf's courageous decision to join the international coalition against terrorism. In a speech on 12 January, he condemned all forms of sectarianism and religious hatred. He has also taken steps against militancy in Pakistan and banned five terrorist groups. Pakistan continues to be a staunch ally in the continuing campaign against al-Qaeda. We will continue to encourage Pakistan to sustain these efforts. It is too early to assess the impact the religious parties will have on Pakistan's policies. We have no reason to doubt Pakistan's continuing commitment to act against terrorism wherever it occurs.

Sikh Community

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will meet representatives of the Sikh community following the postponement of meetings on 6 August and 11 September, and for what reason the latter meeting was postponed. [77953]

Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien) had planned to meet a number of Sikh organisations on 11 September and was keen that the meeting should be with as broad a cross-section as possible of representatives of different Sikh groups. Many of our contacts were unable to attend on 11 September, and we therefore decided to postpone the meeting to another date. We hope to arrange a new date for a meeting soon.

South Asia

Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the sequence of activities required to decrease tensions in the South Asian region. [77284]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary warmly welcomed the announcements by India to withdraw forces from the international border and Pakistan to withdraw forces from the international border and Line of Control. These are positive steps towards the reduction of tensions in the region. We hope that this will be followed by further de- escalatory moves on both sides that will lead to a resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan. Only peaceful dialogue can lead to a lasting solution of the Kashmir issue.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the level of abductions and slavery in the Sudan. [76987]

Mr. MacShane [holding answer 28 October 2002]: There have been no new confirmed cases of abduction during 2002. The majority of abductions in recent years have been associated with the Government train to Bahr al Ghazal. We and our EU partners have made representations to the Government, urging suspension of the train until peace is achieved and an end to encouragement for armed horsemen (murahiliin) militias. The train has not operated this year.

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Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which countries the Government categorise as using torture. [76919]

Mr. MacShane [holding answer 28 October 2002]: Torture is inflicted on men, women and children in almost half the countries of the world. The UK believes that torture has no place in the 21st century and is therefore committed to combating torture everywhere. In October 1998 the UK launched an initiative to tackle torture throughout the world. Phase 3 of this initiative was launched in June this year. Over the four years of the anti-torture initiative the UK has established the reputation of having one of the strongest anti-torture stances in Europe. As part of the initiative the UK has been lobbying countries worldwide to ratify the UN Convention against Torture. Since our campaign was launched, 20 new states have ratified, bringing the total to 130. However, the Convention against Torture still remains the least ratified of all the UN human rights treaties.

Torture Allegations (Bahrain)

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress with the police investigation into the allegations made against a person whose name has been made known to him concerning alleged involvement in torture while Head of the Bahraini Security and Intelligence Service. [77528]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: This is a matter for the Police.

Travel Warnings

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what methods of issuing travel warnings to British citizens are regularly employed in addition to notices on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website; and what change there has been in the use of each other method of issuing travel warnings to British citizens since the advent of the FCO website. [76691]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Since 1996 the FCO have published travel advice on the FCO website. The advice is accessed regularly by the travel industry and members of the public. Many regular users arrange to receive automatic updates when travel advice changes, by using the "automatic update facility" on the FCO site.

In addition to this service, those seeking travel advice can contact the Travel Advice Unit during working hours by fax or telephone. A further 30 organisations receive daily faxed updates from the Travel Advice Unit. Travel advice, covering countries and areas to which the FCO either advise against all travel or all non-essential travel, are also published on CEEFAX (page 474). Significant changes in travel advice are also announced via press statements. CEEFAX (page 471) gives contact information for the Travel Advice Unit, and the website address, from which comprehensive travel advice may be obtained. Our posts overseas have discretion to issue local advisories, with information and advice of particular interest to the expatriate community. This is disseminated in a variety of ways, depending upon local

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circumstances. In countries where we have a warden network we ask wardens to pass on significant changes in travel advice.

The FCO has gone to great lengths to improve and to maximise awareness of our travel advice. The Know Before You Go (KBYG) campaign, launched in June 2001, is a market transformation campaign made up of three main strands: the FCO website, strategic partnerships and PR. The key campaign message is simple and applies to everyone: know before you go—get travel insurance and check the FCO travel advice before you go.


Violent Crime

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent assessment he has made of the level of violent crime in the London Borough of Havering. [75107]

Mr. Denham: In 2001–02 there were a total of 3,947 violent offences in Havering.

It should be noted that recorded violent crime is not necessarily an accurate guide to trends in violent crime, as it is subject to changes in reporting and recording. For example, in the British Crime Survey, for England and Wales as a whole, the number of common assaults showed a statistically significant decrease of 24 per cent. between 1999 and interviews during 2001/02, whereas common assaults recorded by the police in England and Wales increased by 15 per cent. over the same period.

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what affect the decision in the Ahmadi case has had on his asylum policy; and if he will make a statement. [75414]

Beverley Hughes: The ruling does not impact on our general policy regarding third country transfers under the Dublin Convention. Nor does it affect the operation of Section 11 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The case impacts on the Secretary of State's power to certify human rights claims as manifestly unfounded where certain types of medical evidence are in issue. We are disappointed that the High Court took the view it did on the particular facts of this case. An appeal against the decision has been lodged with the Court of Appeal. The family's separate appeal to the Independent Appellate Authority has been listed for hearing.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in relation to communications data, how many times (a) the Security Services and (b) each police force sought access to such data from communications providers such as Internet service providers in the last year; and if he will make a statement. [74482]

Bob Ainsworth: The Metropolitan Police made approximately 155,000 requests for communications date to be passed to them under the Data Protection Act 1998. Figures for each police force are not collected centrally. It is policy not to comment on the operational matters of the Security Service.

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