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Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I am certain that the Secretary of State and many Members of the House will be deeply concerned about the ongoing events in Ukraine. In the light of the Government's support of democracy and human rights, will they join the European Union and the United States Administration in calling on the Ukrainian authorities not to certify the election result until fraud allegations have been fully investigated?

Mr. Hoon: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. A passage of my speech will set out the Government's response to the situation in Ukraine.

We have to resolve conflict, build security and tackle the causes of poverty, creating the foundations for democracy around the world. In that context, we cannot have a debate on foreign policy without addressing the recent elections in Ukraine. The Government are deeply concerned that the international observer mission—the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe—has reported serious irregularities in the voting on 21 November and that the election did not meet Council of Europe standards.
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Given the questions that hang over the elections in Ukraine, we have urged the Ukrainian authorities to co-operate with the OSCE to ensure that all proper procedures, including legal challenges to the results, are followed before a final result is declared. The Ukrainian authorities should investigate all allegations of fraud to ensure that the result reflects the democratic will of the people of Ukraine. With large numbers of people on the streets protesting about the election, we have also called on the Ukrainian authorities to show restraint, and urge all sides to avoid violence.

To succeed in our wider objectives, we must work in partnership with our allies in the G8, in Europe, in NATO and, indeed, at the United Nations. In 2005, the United Kingdom will be in a unique position to shape the debate in the European Union, the G8 and the United Nations on the international response to the challenges that threaten our security. Poverty reduction will be at the heart of that debate.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP): The right hon. Gentleman speaks of security and co-operation. Are we right to let off the hook members of the Security Council that, at times, are not helping to deal with international security? I am thinking of the recent decision of France and Germany, and of ourselves, to take at face value the promises of Iran. Are we acting wisely?

Mr. Hoon: I believe that we are. Clearly, it is important for the Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on behalf of the wider international community. It is equally important when important members of that Security Council take a diplomatic initiative that they should be given the opportunity to do so. I am confident that the efforts of, in particular, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in this respect are leading to a positive engagement with Iran, which I hope and believe will lead to a positive conclusion from that country.

In September 2005, the United Nations will hold a summit to review progress in reaching the millennium development goals—to halve absolute poverty, ensure that all children receive primary education, and reduce maternal and infant mortality by 2015—but Africa is not on track for even the 2005 goals, let alone the 2015 targets. That is why Africa is at the top of our list of priorities for our chairmanship of the G8 and the European Union next year. It is also why the Prime Minister has asked the Commission for Africa to take a fresh look at what is holding back Africa's progress and put forward a strategy for Africa's development.

The United Kingdom's aid to Africa will reach £1 billion in 2005. We are on track to reach the United Nations 0.7 per cent. target for our total overseas development assistance in less than a decade.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab): This Government's record is tremendous in terms of what we are doing to wipe out debt and help with the millennium objectives, especially in Africa, but is that not offset by the particular problems in Zimbabwe and Sudan? Everything that has been done to assist those countries is offset by their Governments and regimes.
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Mr. Hoon: There are obviously concerns in both places, which is why it is important that the Government continue their determined diplomatic effort to improve the situation there. In addition, on Sudan, we have offered practical military advice to the African Union. We consider that a sensible way forward in dealing with the crisis in Sudan.

We have led the fight for debt relief, writing off bilateral debt owed to the United Kingdom. We have provided $70 billion of debt relief for the world's poorest countries. We are now taking the lead on multilateral debt. We have made it clear that we will fund our share of multilateral debt relief; and we will now press others to take up the challenge.

Within the G8, we will also take forward work on counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation and support for change and development throughout the broad middle east region.

Climate change will also be at the top of our agenda. We will aim to get agreement on the basic science of climate change and the need to accelerate the development of new technology to meet the threat it poses.

When we hold the EU presidency, we will focus on economic reform and the further liberalisation of trade within Europe. We will take forward the agreement reached between World Trade Organisation members to begin reducing agricultural subsidies—a key goal of the Doha development agenda.

At the UN millennium review summit, we will seek a stronger consensus on the relationship between threats and development, and work to strengthen the power of the United Nations partners to deliver peace and security.

As I have indicated, my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment will deal in more detail with a number of issues, including the middle east peace process, when he winds up the debate. I will now deal with our specific policies in relation to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): On the assumption that the Secretary of State will focus on those three points, may I ask him about a domestic issue relating to defence? He will know that for some time I have been calling for a full independent inquiry into the deaths at Deepcut barracks, because I feel that there are unanswered questions, which the parents rightly have a reason to carry on asking. What steps should I take to try to get the closure that those parents want, because the more I see, as proceedings continue regarding the Deepcut barracks, the more concerned I am that we have not got to the heart of what caused those deaths?

Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue with me on a number of occasions, and I congratulate him on his determination. May I make the point, of which I am sure he is aware, that a further coroner's inquest is still to be held, and it is important that that should have the opportunity of reaching whatever conclusions it does thereafter? If I may invite him to raise the issue with me again in the future, obviously I will give it proper consideration.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East) (Lab): In passing, the Secretary of State said that the winding-up
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speech would deal with the middle east peace process. Will it reflect some evidence-based policy making, which considers the fact that we have supported a process over the past decade that has entrapped the Palestinian people in a situation in which their supposed homeland is criss-crossed by roads used only by the occupying forces of Israel, settlements have encroached more and more on their territories, and the wall is now going to ghettoise them?

Mr. Hoon: I would not be as pessimistic as my hon. Friend. I have visited that area of the world on several occasions, both in my present position and in my previous position in the Foreign Office, as he has. What is important about our current opportunity is that whatever conclusions are reached, they must be agreed by a democratically elected Administration who represent the Palestinian people. That is the first stage in this process, which we are now strongly supporting. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is currently in the middle east having discussions with both sides to facilitate a resumption of the process. I accept that there has been difficulty in recent times. This is an opportunity to overcome those difficulties and make the kind of progress that I am sure my hon. Friend, and certainly the Government, would want to see.

David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Before my right hon. Friend leaves the issue of the middle east, while recognising that there are innocent casualties on both sides, has he seen a report in today's newspaper that an Israeli army officer repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian female? He is being charged, but not with murder. Is there not the gravest concern about such incidents and tragedies occurring in the occupied territories and the feeling that the Israeli army is simply out of control?

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