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30 Oct 2003 : Column 366Wcontinued
Jonathan Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what reasons were given by the President of the Tribunal for allowing the Special Educational Needs Tribunal hearing to be heard in public on the last six occasions. 
(b) the President orders that the hearing should be in public.
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Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many vacant head teacher posts existed in (a) primary schools, (b) secondary schools, (c) special schools and (d) all schools, expressed as percentage of the total number of head teachers, in each year since 1997, broken down by local education authority. 
Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many fatalities there have been among trainees on work placement since the learning and skills councils took over responsibilities, broken down by learning and skills council in the North West. 
Mr. Ivan Lewis: There has been one fatality among trainees on work placement in the North West since the Learning and Skills Council took responsibility for work based learning in April 2001. This took place in the area covered by Greater Manchester Learning and Skills Council. The Department takes the health and safety of learners very seriously and is working with the Learning and Skills Council to ensure that robust arrangements are in place. Any fatality is a matter of serious concern and we are considering what lessons can be learned to ensure that learners in the learning and skills sector are safe learners.
Mr. Mullin: The Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), returned from a visit to Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan where he saw evidence that steady progress is being made towards stabilising the security situation there. In general there have been fewer security problems in the north of Afghanistan than in the south. But there have been long-standing tensions between various factions, most notably between the leaders of the two biggest factions. The Afghan Government moved quickly to defuse the most recent flare-up between them earlier this month, supported by the UN and the UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based in Mazar-e Sharif. The Afghan Interior Minister then brokered a comprehensive peace agreement covering five northern provinces. Implementation of this is being monitored by the UN and the UK PRT. The Afghan Government have now reached agreement with the two commanders on merging their factional forces under neutral and central government command. A number of senior personnel in local civilian and police posts have been replaced by new appointees, which will contribute further to weakening local power bases.
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Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps he has taken to ensure that (a) Ethiopia and (b) Eritrea comply with their commitments under the Algiers Agreement. 
Mr. Mullin: In my meetings with the Ethiopian ambassador on 16 October and the Eritrean ambassador on 11 September, I stressed the need for both parties to comply with their commitments under the Algiers Agreement. I also made clear to both parties that the Boundary Commission decision is legally binding and that they should engage in dialogue to address the issues between them.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what mechanisms he plans to establish to allow for the UK to withdraw from its obligations under the EU Constitution Treaty. 
Mr. MacShane: The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) contains provisions regarding the methods of selecting the Chief Executive of the SAR and the formation of the Legislative Council. The Basic Law (Annexes I and II) provides for possible changes to these methods from 2007 with the "ultimate aim" being the election of the Chief Executive and all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage.
The SAR Government have recently announced that they will start consulting the public about constitutional reform in early 2004. We welcome this. We have made it clear that we hope that the SAR Government will make early progress towards the Basic Law's ultimate aims of universal suffrage, at a pace in line with the wishes of the Hong Kong people.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Syria about the arrest and deportation to Iran of (a) Mr. Ebrahim Khodabandeh and (b) Mr. Jamil Bassam. 
Mr. MacShane: Jamil Bassam and Ebrahim Khodabandeh are not British nationals, so the UK has no legal right of consular access. After the two men were detained in Syria, our embassy in Damascus repeatedly asked the Syrian authorities for information, but the Syrian authorities did not respond to any of the embassy's four formal notes.
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Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to (a) visit and (b) secure the return to Britain of (i) Mr. Ebrahim Khodabandeh and (ii) Mr. Jamil Bassam, both held in prison in Tehran; and what representations he has made to the Iranian Government about their treatment and rights. 
Mr. MacShane: Jamil Bassam and Ebrahim Khodabandeh are not British nationals, so the UK has no legal right of consular access. Our Embassy in Tehran has made it clear to the Iranian Government that we are taking a keen interest in the human rights of these two men. On 5 August Iranian authorities told our Embassy that Mr. Bassam and Mr. Khodabandeh were well, that they continued to be held during investigations and that the Iranian judicial authorities had noted our call for due process. We have urged the Iranian Government on a number of occasions to allow a visit by the International Committee of the Red Cross. We are not aware that one has taken place.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what forums will be used to prosecute crimes against humanity that occurred in Iraq under Saddam Hussein's regime. 
Mr. MacShane: The Governing Council is developing the idea of a Special Iraqi Tribunal to prosecute those suspected of serious human rights abuses under the former regime. No final decision has yet been reached.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on investment in Basra International airport; and who is responsible for its (a) fabric and (b) reconstruction. 
Mr. MacShane: UK military forces are currently responsible for operations at Basra airport, including maintenance of essential facilities. The Iraqi Ministry of Transport and the Coalition Provisional Authority are considering reconstruction and investment.
Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when it was originally intended to open Basra International airport to non-governmental commercial and passenger flights; why it has remained closed to such flights; and when it is now expected to open for them. 
Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what investigations he has undertaken to establish whether (a) components manufactured in the UK have and (b) equipment manufactured in the UK has been used by the Israeli authorities in (i) their military strike in Syria, (ii) incursions into refugee camps in Gaza and (iii) other activities in the Palestinian areas since the resignation of Abu Mazen. 
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Mr. MacShane: We have not carried out specific investigations following these incidents but we routinely tour the Occupied Territories, often in difficult and dangerous conditions, to assess the situation on the ground and the activities of the Israel Defence Forces, including the equipment they use.
However, when considering licence applications for the export of controlled goods we make risk assessments at the licensing stage, including assessments about the proposed end-users and potential end-use of the proposed export. We would not issue a licence unless we were fully satisfied that the equipment would not be misused. Many UK exports have been components for pieces of technology embedded in other systems and are therefore not very visible. The UK has not sold main equipment such as tanks, aircraft, warships or artillery to Israel since May 1997.
Since the outbreak of the violence in the Occupied Territories in September 2000, we have taken account of Israeli military tactics in our licensing decisions. The Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria clearly sets out our commitment to take account of the risk that exports might be used for either internal repression, prolonging an armed conflict or affecting regional stability.
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