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Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Venezuela following the signing of the Media Content Law; and what assessment he has made of the law's impact on freedom of expression in Venezuela. 
Mr. Rammell: During an official visit to Venezuela on 13 December, I raised concerns over certain aspects of the media law in meetings with the Venezuelan Vice-President and Deputy Foreign Minister. I said that I doubted the law was helpful in encouraging reconciliation between the government and the opposition.
Although the media law is targeted to improve the quality of media in Venezuela, we are concerned that the law will place restrictions on the content of broadcasts. There is a risk that this will threaten the freedom of expression that currently exists in Venezuela.
Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to urge the Secretary-General of the United Nations to review the UN's conduct in relation to the 1969 Act of Free Choice in West Papua. 
Mr. Alexander: The report of the UN Special Representative of the UN backed "1969 Act of Free Choice" which resulted in West Papua becoming a province of Indonesia was accepted by a majority vote of the UN in 1969. The British Government welcome the high priority that President Yudhoyono has attached to the resolution of the conflict in Papua and his intention to implement the 2001 Special Autonomy Law for Papua, which includes the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to look at the incorporation of Papua into Indonesia in the 1960s.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's policy on the maintenance in European Communities' employment of named whistleblowers. 
Mr. MacShane: The Government's policy on the continued employment of whistleblowers is that whistleblowers should be protected from detriment resulting from disclosures which they make in accordance with the proper procedures. This is the position that we have provided for in the UK, in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The European Communities' Staff Regulations provide for a similar level of protection for EC employees, who may use a number of channels to express their concerns and have them investigated, without fear of reprisal.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many whistle blowing cases there have been within European institutions in
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the past 30 years; which institutions have been involved in such cases; and what the employment status is of each individual concerned. 
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the proposed accession to the World Trade Organisation of (a) Afghanistan, (b) Iraq and (c) Iran. 
Mr. MacShane: World Trade Organisation (WTO) Members discussed on 13 December requests from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran to begin the process of acceding to the WTO. The European Commission, which negotiates on our behalf in the WTO, supported all three applications.
Accession requests can only go forward with the unanimous agreement of all WTO Members. All agreed to the requests of Afghanistan and Iraq, and these countries will now begin the formal accession process which is likely to last some years. I welcome this development, which is a step forward in helping Afghanistan and Iraq to develop their economies and integrate into the global economic system.
Iran's application has been under consideration for several years. In the meeting on 13 December, the European Commission, acting for the EU, spoke strongly in favour of opening accession negotiations. We actively supported this approach, in line with an undertaking in the 'E3' (UK, French and German) agreement with Iran on 15 November. However, as on previous occasions, Iran's application did not secure the required support of all WTO members.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) European Union and (b) Commonwealth counterparts on the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: We and our EU partners regularly remind the Zimbabwean Government and its neighbours of the need for Zimbabwe to fully comply with African Union and Southern African Development Community protocols for democratic elections. A number of Commonwealth countries have done likewise.
Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) European Union and (b) Commonwealth counterparts on the likely effect of Zimbabwe's new Non-Governmental Organisations Act on democracy groups in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement. 
We and our EU partners have made clear to the Zimbabwean Government and its neighbours our concerns about the Bill. The UN Development Programme office in Harare has also told the
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Zimbabwean Government that the Act breaches various UN and other international treaties to which the Zimbabwean Government is a party. Fellow members of the Commonwealth have made clear they share our concerns.
Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what revenue support has been given by Arts Council England for theatrical activity in each of the last three years for which data is available for projects in (a) Staffordshire, (b) Derbyshire, (c) Cheshire, (d) Warwickshire, (e) Herefordshire and (f) Worcestershire. 
Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether Arts Council England has a strategic plan for the support of theatrical work in specified counties or regions; and if she will make a statement. 
Estelle Morris: In July 2000 the Arts Council of England (now Arts Council England) published the National Policy for Theatre in England, which covers the whole country. In the same month, the Arts Council secured an extra £100 million of Government funding for arts from 200304.
£25 million of this new money was allocated to theatre annually from 200304 in order to implement the National Policy for Theatre in England. This represented a 72 per cent. increase in the budget for regional theatre.
More new writing has been commissioned, ticket sales are up, there are more new productions, bigger cast sizes, more work with young people, more Black theatre and more adventurous programming than ever before.
Claire Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will discuss with the Eastern Region Arts Council possible assistance to ensure that the Coliseum concert hall in Watford remains open. 
Estelle Morris: The Department does not fund the arts directly, but through Arts Council England and individual decisions are taken at 'arm's length' from Government. Ministers have no direct influence on the funding of individual art forms or organisations.
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