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Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions have taken place between the Government and the Russian Federation on the regime in Turkmenistan. [199039]

Mr. Rammell: We have periodic consultations on all aspects of the situation in Turkmenistan with Russian officials in both Ashgabat and Moscow.

Mr. Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment has been made of the (a) political and (b) economic situation in Turkmenistan. [199040]

Mr. Rammell: We remain seriously concerned by the absence of democracy in Turkmenistan. Parliamentary elections have been scheduled for 19 December. However, although the Turkmen authorities have announced each seat will be contested by more than one candidate, Turkmenistan remains a one-party state. We believe that there is no prospect that the December elections will meet even minimal democratic standards. Parliament in any case has few genuine responsibilities in a country in which power is firmly held by President Niyazov.

We supported the tabling of resolutions at the 59th and 60th sessions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2003 and spring 2004 and also at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in 2003. We are doing so again at this year's UN General Assembly. These have noted the limited positive steps by the Turkmen Government and have raised serious concerns about the human rights situation and the absence of democracy in Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan has substantial reserves of natural gas and oil deposits. However, there are reasons to doubt whether this will underpin successful long-term economic development. Firstly, most of its gas exports have traditionally gone to countries in the former Soviet Union like Ukraine which pay well below world market prices. Secondly, there is little evidence that the revenues generated by the energy sector are effectively invested in areas—such as health and education—which would provide a basis for continuing growth prospects in the future. The distribution of wealth is very uneven; poverty is rife while the large profits of the energy sector are shared between a relatively small section of the population.

There has been little economic reform and no agreement concluded with the IMF. The Turkmen economy is highly reliant on the production of energy and cotton. Any hopes of significant diversification are hindered by the failure of the Turkmen Government's economic policies to promote a business environment which stimulates new investment.

United Nations Reform

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what research he has commissioned regarding reform of the United Nations; and if he will make a statement. [197807]

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Mr. Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not commissioned any recent research on the reform of the United Nations. Ministers and officials are, however, in close touch with many academics and practitioners who are engaged in the international debate on this subject. For example, I hosted a seminar on UN reform involving leading UK academics in June 2003 and followed this up with a round-table with academics in July 2003 on the same subject. 1 have also held a number of meetings with New York based academics during my regular visits to the United Nations.

We have been closely involved in discussions surrounding the work of the High Level Panel set up by the UN Secretary-General to make recommendations on improving the UN's work on peace and security. The Government's position on this and other aspects of UN reform was set out in the Command Paper "The United Kingdom in the United Nations" (Cm 6325) published in October.

West Papua

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Government of Indonesia on the future of West Papua, with particular reference to the role of the security forces within the area. [198613]

Mr. Alexander: Together with our European partners, we regularly raise our concerns about the situation in Papua. On 28 October, EU ministerial representatives visited Indonesia and met with the newly elected President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hasan Wirayuda. Both expressed their view that two of the key issues for the new Indonesia Government were a resolution to the problems in Papua and the promotion and protection of human rights throughout Indonesia. We hope that this will lead to a peaceful and negotiated solution to the situation in Papua.


Children's Broadcasting

Mr. Chris Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment she has made of the impact on children's broadcasting funded wholly or partly through advertising of the proposals set out in the Government's Public Health White Paper. [199235]

Estelle Morris: The Government's Public Health White Paper sets out a range of options for tightening the rules on broadcast advertising, sponsorship and promotion of foods to children. We recognise that some of these could have an impact on the funding of children's broadcasting and this is referred to in the Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment associated with the White Paper and on which comments are sought.

As the White Paper makes clear, the options to be pursued by Ofcom will be dependent on the nutritional profiling scheme being developed by the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency. Ofcom will consult on proposed rule changes in due course and will,
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if they are likely to have a significant impact, undertake a full Regulatory Impact Assessment as required under the Communications Act 2003.

Departmental Events (Funding)

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will list the (a) conferences, (b) publications, (c) initiatives, (d) projects and (e) receptions organised by her Department which have received funding from outside commercial bodies since May 1997, broken down by (i) funding body and (ii) amount paid. [196599]

Mr. Caborn: It has not proved possible to respond to the hon. Member in the time available before Prorogation.

Digital Television

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps she is taking to improve the reception of digital television signals in Newcastle-under-Lyme. [198689]

Estelle Morris: The Government are committed to ensuring that at Digital Switchover everyone who can currently get the main public service broadcasting channels in analogue form (BBC1 and 2, ITV, Channel 4/S4C and Five) can receive them on digital systems.

At present around 73 per cent. of UK households can access Digital Terrestrial Television services. In Newcastle-under-Lyme as in other areas, the transmitters that broadcast the digital services have to be limited to avoid interference with the analogue signal. This situation will not change until switchover.

The 22 July statement made to the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—indicated that while the broadcasters have not reached a full consensus on the optimum timetable, some—including the BBC—have suggested that 2012 may be the most appropriate date for the completion of switchover. This was reflected in the draft Digital Replacement Licences for commercial Public Service Broadcasters on which Ofcom recently consulted. A final decision on the timetable will be made in due course.

English Heritage

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans English Heritage have to retain the post of chief archaeologist; and if she will make a statement. [198846]

Mr. Caborn: As part of its modernisation programme, English Heritage has integrated its Archaeology and Historic Buildings and Areas departments. This will ensure a more holistic approach to the study and conservation of the historic environment. In this context, the chief archaeologist post has been replaced with a new post of Archaeological Adviser.

European Commission (Audiovisual Services)

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what representations she has
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received about the changes in responsibility for audiovisual services within the European Commission; and if she will make a statement. [198394]

Estelle Morris: None.

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