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Mozambique (Royal Visit)

2. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough): If he will make a statement about Her Majesty the Queen's state visit to Mozambique. [99944]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain): Her Majesty the Queen visited Mozambique on 15 November and I was delighted to accompany her. As the Commonwealth's newest member, Mozambique has made remarkable economic, political and social progress since the end of the brutal civil war in 1992 and it now enjoys an established working democracy.

Helen Jackson: I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. I am sure that he will agree that, from being counted as one of the poorest countries in the world, Mozambique is now one of southern Africa's success stories. That is largely due to the way in which its Government have

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worked alongside Britain and other developed countries to establish effective anti-poverty programmes, which have led to two thirds of its debt being written off. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend would tell the House, following Her Majesty the Queen's recent visit, what further steps the Government propose to build on that valuable work.

Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend's comments. Mozambique, having been engulfed by a brutal civil war until the 1990s--effectively supported by elements in the west and the old apartheid regime in South Africa--has now rebuilt its economy and has enjoyed two successive years of double-digit growth. It is a good place to invest. British businesses should look to get in there quickly. I have asked the high commissioner in Maputo to take forward a new programme to improve links between information technology companies and universities in Mozambique and Britain.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): What discussions did the Minister or his officials have in Mozambique on the economic effect of HIV-AIDS, and especially that country's ability to fulfil the structural adjustments programme for the International Monetary Fund?

Mr. Hain: We raised all those issues. AIDS is a dreadful epidemic throughout Africa, claiming 5,500 lives a day--an extraordinary total. Mozambique is also engulfed by that plague. So we have worked with the Mozambique Government and stand ready to do so further. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development runs an active programme of close co-operation with Mozambique and visited it last year. We shall work with Mozambique to improve its economy in every possible way.

Internet (Embassies and High Commissions)

4. Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): What use his Department is making of the internet for giving out information from the UK's embassies and high commissions. [99946]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. John Battle): The Foreign Office is making use of the internet to give out information from our embassies and high commissions and offer a wide variety of information and advice on British Government policy, export leads, investment opportunities and travel advice.

Mr. Bruce: I recently had the need for urgent information about Slovenia and used the Foreign Office system. I congratulate the Minister and all those involved on the efficiency and effectiveness of the system. I understand that it was set up at low cost to Her Majesty's Government. I just wonder--there is always a sting in the tail, in case the Foreign Secretary thinks that I have gone native--whether Foreign Office Ministers could have a word with their colleagues in the Home Office about the use of information technology to produce new passports. Clearly, where the Foreign Office is making savings and provides an excellent service, the

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Home Office is not. I am sure that the Minister agrees that to use information technology to increase the price of passports by a third is ridiculous.

Mr. Battle: The hon. Gentleman has taken a keen interest in computing, websites, the internet and e-commerce--terms that he used before they were popular. I thank him for his compliment. To date, 52 British missions have their own websites linked to the main FCO website. Recently, we announced another £12 million of funding to provide internet-based information kiosks to promote the United Kingdom overseas. That should enhance our web presence for electronic service delivery. We shall be linking through, and signposting, British Trade International, the British Council, the British Tourist Authority and the Invest in Britain Bureau.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's compliments on our FCO site. It has won six new media industry awards and it has recently been shortlisted for the best Government website award, the winner of which will be announced in January. I simply draw that to the attention of the Home Office.

Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): Does my hon. Friend recall how the previous Administration denied to the diplomatic service adequate resources--indeed, imposed severe cuts on it? Does he find it astonishing, as I do, that the Conservative party still resists and opposes further investment in information technology? It does so to such a degree that one believes that it is evidence of xenophobia, not to say hostility to our economic interests.

Mr. Battle: I have made a few visits to posts and I have not found that the staff abroad are resistant to new technology. They are keen to get it up and running. A member of staff in one of our embassies introduced me to the new e-expression "electronic trade portals". This is the future jargon for cyberspace. The staff are keen to get into the modern age and use the best technology available to ensure that they give out the best practical advice to people travelling abroad and people who want to do business well in overseas countries.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

6. Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): What plans he has to encourage progress on the comprehensive test ban treaty and nuclear non-proliferation. [99948]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain): We will continue to work with key countries to bring the CTBT into force as soon as possible and to promote the aims of nuclear non-proliferation.

Mr. Savidge: Does my hon. Friend share the view of the Prime Minister, President Chirac and Chancellor Schroder that nuclear proliferation remains the major threat to world safety as we move into the new millennium? Will Her Majesty's Government consider

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what further initiatives we can take to give fresh impetus to the whole process of confidence-building measures and of disarmament?

Mr. Hain: Of course I agree with the Prime Minister. To answer my hon. Friend's question seriously, we are concerned to make rapid progress on nuclear disarmament; we are working hard to reach agreement on a fissile material cut-off treaty, to bring the comprehensive test ban treaty into force and to encourage many other countries to sign up to it and ratify it, as we have done. We want to see progress in other matters, especially in the run-up to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty conference in New York next spring.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): Is it not a matter of profound concern and disappointment that the United States Senate recently refused to ratify the test ban treaty? Is not that disappointment and concern underlined by proposals in Washington to depart from the anti-ballistic missile treaty of 1972? In the light of those policy developments in Washington, what is the Minister's assessment of the likelihood of persuading India and Pakistan to accept the terms of the test ban treaty?

Mr. Hain: I share--as indeed does President Clinton--the frustration at Capitol Hill's refusal, by a narrow vote in the Senate, to support the comprehensive test ban treaty. That was a grievous blow to the objectives of the treaty--I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, like the Government, wants them to be implemented. However, it is significant that the Administration in Washington has managed to put through their payment to the comprehensive test ban treaty organisation this year. That is a sign of where they stand. The Washington Administration are also committed to negotiate over national missile defence systems--if they decide to proceed with that programme--with the Russians and others, so that would not injure the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley): Does my hon. Friend share my concern as to the likely success of the comprehensive test ban treaty, given the allegation in today's newspapers about the alleged breach of the land mines convention? Should not breaches of that convention, and of the comprehensive test ban treaty--if such breaches are successful--give us grave cause for concern?

Mr. Hain: I am most concerned about the failure of Pakistan and India to sign up to the comprehensive test ban treaty--I think that is what my hon. Friend was referring to. I am also concerned about the reports that a Channel 4 "Dispatches" programme alleges that criminal offences may have been committed under the Landmines Act 1998, and identifies an official at the Pakistani high commission. I view those allegations extremely seriously. The Foreign Office referred the matter immediately to Customs and Excise. This morning, I summoned the Pakistani high commissioner and explained to him the seriousness of the allegations.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): I follow the excellent question of the hon. Member for Colne Valley

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(Kali Mountford) by drawing to the Minister's attention the fact that, in the past, treaties which we thought that everyone had signed in good faith--I refer in particular to the 1972 biological weapons convention--were subsequently systematically flouted, by the former Soviet Union in the case of the 1972 treaty. When the Minister makes statements as to the desirability of strengthening non-proliferation, will he be cautious about referring to a nuclear-free world as the eventual outcome? We must always bear in mind that, desirable though treaties are, people can always cheat on them afterwards.

Mr. Hain: Of course.

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