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Mr. MacShane: As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stated in the House on 29 November, Official Report, column 359, "the international election observer mission led by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has concluded that the presidential elections held in Ukraine on 21 November were flawed. On that basis, we cannot accept that the process was either free or fair."
We welcome developments in Ukraine since then. The Rada (Parliament) voted on 8 December to amend the constitution and election law. Together with the Supreme Court's earlier decision to invalidate the second round of the election, and the appointment of a new Central Election Committee, this has effectively resolved the political crisis.
We now look forward to the re-run of the election on 26 December, and are calling on all parties to ensure that this will be free and fair and reflect the will of the people. It is vital that the Ukrainian authorities work closely with the OSCE to guarantee this. We will support the OSCE's efforts and plan to contribute at least 100 election observers.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Uzbekistan about (a) freedom of the media, (b) freedom of religion, (c) freedom of speech and (d) freedom of assembly. 
Mr. Rammell: We regularly stress to the Uzbek Government the importance of the freedom of the media. In November we, together with our EU partners, drew the attention of Foreign Minister Safayev to the importance of open debate in the media on the merits and drawbacks of the electoral law and process, including a role for the views of opposition parties.
We frequently lobby the Uzbek Government with respect to religious freedom and it is a constant feature of our bilateral dialogue. On 19 October our Charge d'Affaires met with Deputy Foreign Minister Norov to underline the importance of drawing distinctions between those practising religion outside state structures and religious extremists. At a further meeting on 1 December, Norov informed our Charge d'Affaires that Uzbekistan had begun to experiment with a religious curriculum in the Tashkent area. A delegation from Uzbekistan, including the Presidential Adviser on
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Religious Affairs, came to the UK in July 2004. We plan to follow up these contacts with substantive proposals. A follow up seminar is planned for 2005.
In November we joined our EU partners in expressing our concerns to Foreign Minister Safayev about the forthcoming elections and the limited choice available to voters. Candidates and parties should be free to present political alternatives to the electorate. In a letter to Safayev dated 23 November, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stressed the importance of allowing NGOs to speak freely, saying "the activities of civil society groups such as Human Rights Watch are an important part of a healthy democracy".
On 10 December our Charge d'Affaires approached the Foreign Ministry regarding an earlier demonstration outside our embassy. He sought clarification of reports that protesters had been held, and said that if people had been detained for wishing to participate in a peaceful protest we would be concerned and would expect them to be released quickly.
Mr. Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not estimate GDP growth in Uzbekistan, instead relying upon the data from the Uzbek authorities and other International Financial Institutions. The Uzbek authorities' estimate for real GDP growth in 2003 is 4.4 per cent. However, the World Economic Outlook (WHO) database gives a figure of 1.5 per cent. This database can be found at WEO@imf.org.
Mr. Rammell: We have not been able to obtain any figures from the Uzbek Government. However, the latest Economist Intelligence Unit Country Report gives the cotton crop as 3.53 million tonnes for 2004 (a 20 per cent. year on year increase) and as accounting for nearly 20 per cent. of total exports in 1993.
Gold mined last year is estimated to be around 86 tonnes compared to an annual average of around 70 tonnes in the early 1990s. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit this month, gold probably contributes to around 1015 per cent. of the country's total export revenue.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the level of (a) inflation, (b) unemployment, (c) money supply growth per annum, (d) per capita income and (e) annual average earnings growth are in Uzbekistan. 
Mr. Rammell: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) relies on economic data from the Uzbek authorities and other international financial institutions. Because Uzbekistan does not allow public release of these reports, we are not able to quote IMF figures. Caution is advised with the official figures, which may not provide a wholly accurate representation of the state of Uzbekistan's economy.
(e) Official sources give the annual average earnings growth for the first half of 2004 as a 17 per cent. increase over the first half of 2003. For 2003 the increase was 12.3 per cent. compared to the previous year.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with President Karimov of Uzbekistan about human rights abuses in the country. 
However, we regularly and repeatedly bring our concern about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan to senior level attention within the Uzbek Government. We have done this in Ministerial and official contacts and together with EU partners.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Uzbekistan about the destruction of bridges in the Ferghana Valley. 
We continue to be concerned by Uzbekistan's protectionist economic policy. During his meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Ganiev earlier this year, my hon. Friend the then Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Mike O'Brien, said that it was essential for Uzbekistan to implement economic reform in line with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development benchmarks.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to President Karimov of Uzbekistan about (a) the extension of his term of office and (b) the prohibition of Erk, Birlik and the free farmers from contesting parliamentary elections this month. 
We have not made any direct representations to President Karimov regarding an extension of his current term in office. His second official term in office is due to finish in 2007. Chapter 19, Article 90 of the constitution of the Republic of
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Uzbekistan states that "One and the same person may not be the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan for more than two consecutive terms".
We were very disappointed to learn that no opposition political parties had achieved registration in Uzbekistan for the parliamentary elections this December. We have lobbied and will continue to lobby the Uzbek authorities on the registration of political parties in the run-up to the elections. This issue was raised most recently on 11 November by our Charges d'Affaires and other EU Heads of Mission with Foreign Minister Safayev.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the use by the Government of Uzbekistan of (a) increased tariffs and (b) non-tariff barriers in the form of certification and safety procedures and Uzbek language labelling. 
Mr. Rammell: The Uzbek Government continues to employ a protectionist economic policy. Trade controls such as tariffs, together with non-tariff barriers, limit the imports of consumer goods, enabling the Government to retain hard currency and follow its policy of building up a protected domestic industrial sector.
Trade restrictions have adverse effects on the economy, relations with neighbours and on ordinary Uzbeks. Tariffs are prohibitive for traders and we believe widespread smuggling and bribery are direct consequences.
We continue to urge the Uzbek Government towards economic reform. In a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Ganiev earlier this year, my hon. Friend the then Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Mike O'Brien, said that it was essential that the Government of Uzbekistan demonstrate its commitment to implementing economic reforms in line with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development benchmarks.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the levels of foreign direct investment in Uzbekistan from (a) the United States, (b) Japan, (c) the European Union and (d) the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Rammell: The figures requested are not publicly available. The Economist Intelligence Unit December 2004 report estimates that inflows of foreign direct investment are estimated to have increased slightly over the past two years, to an annual average of just below $170 million.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Uzbekistan about the expulsion of the Open Society Institute from Tashkent. 
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what work has been undertaken by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy with members of the Democratic Forum in Uzbekistan. 
However, our embassy in Tashkent frequently maintains links with independent political parties and has brought the WFD to the attention of the Democratic Forum. Together with our EU partners, we have lobbied in support of registration for the political parties that belong to the Democratic Forum throughout 2004.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the claim made by Mr. Craig Murray in his speech to Chatham House on 8 November, that a British businessman this year had his assets awarded by an Uzbek court to an Uzbek former partner who had already been paid for his share. 
We have since heard that the Supreme Court has annulled the findings of the City Court on the grounds that new information has come to light. The Supreme Court has instructed the City Court to review the cases, taking into account the new evidence. We shall continue to monitor the case closely.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the claim made by Mr Craig Murray in his speech to Chatham House on 8 November, that a UK company had its share in a joint enterprise with an Uzbek state entity reduced in a court case of which it had not been informed. 
In October 2002 a dispute over the share of the assets was brought before an Uzbek court. Our understanding is that the court reduced the British partner's share to 40 per cent. and increased the Uzbek side's holding to 60 per cent.. According to the British partner, no consideration was given to the clause in the joint venture which stated that disputes should be settled by arbitration. The British company was advised it could protest formally to the Prosecutor's Office which it did at the end of October 2002. It has received no reply.
We have followed this case with concern. In September 2004 the Co-Chairman of the Uzbek-British Trade and Industry Council brought it to the attention of Deputy Prime Minister Ganiev.
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