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15 Jan 2004 : Column 840Wcontinued
Maria Eagle: Negotiations for the 200304 pay award are still ongoing. Subject to acceptance of the current pay offer, the in-year 200304 pay bill for the department will increase by around £120 million. This represents a percentage increase of 3.7 per cent.
Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will reply to the letter to him dated 6 October 2003 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Mr. V. Ilyas. 
Mr. Mullin: Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea are tense. We are urging both parties to take forward the Algiers Agreement which ended the war, implement the final and binding Boundary Commission decision, and to engage in dialogue on all of the issues separating the two countries. I am visiting Eritrea and Ethiopia from 1319 January 2004, and will press these points.
John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on (a) the arrest of Gambia's Information Minister, Yankuba Touray, by President Jammeh's
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forces and (b) the series of arrests of senior governmental officials, civil servants and businessmen in the last seven weeks. 
A number of other Government officials and businessmen have been arrested in recent weeks, largely in connection with alleged misappropriation or currency irregularities. Those concerned have been arrested, detained, charged or released in accordance with local law. The majority leader of the National Assembly has, separately, been held in custody since 26 December 2003 on matters relating to national security.
We are following these developments closely. We welcome the Gambian Government's determination to tackle corruption. We are encouraging them to continue to ensure full respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of the Sudan about the recent disturbances at Khartoum University. 
Mr. Mullin: We discuss human rights issues on a regular basis with the Government of Sudan, both bilaterally and as part of the EU-Sudan dialogue. As we understand it, the recent disturbances at Khartoum University did not directly result in any arrests or detentions, and we therefore see no reason to raise the matter but we will keep the situation under review.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the security situation in Zimbabwe in respect of British citizens travelling to Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: We keep the security situation in Zimbabwe under constant review. Our travel advice available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at: www.fco.gov.uk spells out the current situation and is regularly updated to reflect any developments which might affect the safety of British citizens travelling to Zimbabwe.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the England and Wales Cricket Board about the England cricket team's proposed tour of Zimbabwe in respect of players' and supporters' safety. 
Mr. Mullin: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the England and Wales Cricket Board officials are in close contact. The FCO's advice to visitors to Zimbabwe regarding safety and security is on our website at: www.fco.gov.uk This advice is kept under constant review. The decision whether to tour Zimbabwe this year rests with the ECB.
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Mr. Mullin: The situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate. 5.5 million people need food aid. The economy continues to collapse; inflation is at 620 per cent. Political violence continues. The Government of Zimbabwe continue to restrict press freedoms. We have made clear our condemnation of the present situation. We will continue to help feed Zimbabwe's starving people and promote a return to democratic governance and the rule of law.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the United Kingdom's ambassador in Harare about the situation in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: I receive regular reports on Zimbabwe from our ambassador in Harare. The situation remains grim. We will continue to do all we can to prevent Zimbabweans starving and to secure a return to democratic governance.
Mr. Mullin: I have no plans to meet the Zimbabwean ambassador. We maintain diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe and Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have occasional contact with his staff. The Government of Zimbabwe are fully aware of our views on the need for a return to democratic governance and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Chairman of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Committee on Zimbabwe about encouraging democratic reform in the country. 
Mr. Mullin: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met with the Prime Minister of Jamaica. Chair of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Committee on Zimbabwe, at CHOGM in December 2003. Commonwealth leaders agreed that Zimbabwe's suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth should be maintained, and asked President Obansanjo of Nigeria, and the Commonwealth Secretary General, to encourage and facilitate progress and the return of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the conditions for the re-admission of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth; and if he will make a statement. 
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members. We expect all members of the Commonwealth to adhere to the Harare principles of democratic government, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received on Mr. Robert Mugabe's continuing tenure of an honorary knighthood; and if he will take steps to strip him of the knighthood. 
Mr Mullin: Mugabe's knighthood was conferred in 1994 under the previous Government. Its removal is not our immediate priority, although we are keeping the matter under review. Our present priorities for Zimbabwe are feeding the hungry and working with our international partners to bring about the restoration of good governance and the rule of law.
Mr. Timms: In England, the Broadband Aggregation Project will make sure that the £1 billion Government spend on broadband connectivity for the public sector between 2003 and 2006 will offer the best value for money and widen availability to surrounding communities.
DTI is working with the Devolved Administrations and Regional Development Agencies to extend the availability of broadband still further. We have given them £30 million for pilot schemes to extend the availability of broadband in areas not currently served by the market.
A joint DTI/Defra Rural Broadband Team has been set up specifically to address the issue of availability of broadband in rural areas. It is working to support local community action to secure affordable access to broadband, to ensure rural communities derive the maximum benefit from the deployment of broadband and promote rural access and take up of broadband. Promoting partnerships between the telecommunications industry, government agencies and community organizations, our aim is that every community in the country should have access to broadband by the end of next year.
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