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Ivory Coast

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin): It is with regret that last Friday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, decided temporarily to suspend operations in our embassy in the Ivory Coast with immediate effect. This decision is based on the uncertain security situation and our inability adequately to protect our staff or UK nationals in the case of a further outbreak of violence. But the decision also reflects the lack of progress in the peace process; until leaders truly commit to finding a political solution, there is little point in us remaining.

On Friday we changed our travel advice to urge British nationals to leave while there is calm and commercial means are available. Consular and visa services will be provided from Accra.

We have informed the Government of Ivory Coast of our decision, and that we will review the situation in June.

UN Report: "In Larger Freedom"

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): The Government warmly welcome United Nations Secretary-General Annan's report "In Larger Freedom", released in New York on 21 March.

As my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and International Development Secretary said in a joint press statement on Monday 21 March, the report offers bold proposals to enable the UN to deal with the challenges faced by the international community. We agree with Kofi Annan that we need a shared global agenda that recognises that security, development and
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human rights are not competing priorities, but fundamentally interrelated goals, underpinned by rule of law. Nations will never be truly secure unless they are built on stable institutions, social progress and development, the rights of the individual and rule of law.

We are studying the report carefully and hope that it will lead to a successful outcome at the UN millennium review summit in New York in September. We intend to play a major role in helping deliver a successful outcome, not least as G8—and from July, EU—presidency.

We strongly support the SG's lead in putting key issues on the agenda for leaders in September, including:

The Government will make a full contribution to the summit and its preparations. Our G8 priorities—on Africa and climate change—reflect key themes on the UN summit agenda. We hope the Gleneagles summit will help build momentum for a successful UN summit.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has launched, with the UN association, an extensive public debate on the secretary generals' earlier high level panel report aimed at informing our approach.

I have placed copies of the "In Larger Freedom" report in the Library of the House. It is also available on the internet at:

Westminster Foundation for Democracy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) is well known to many Members of this House who have committed time and effort to work on behalf of the WFD, promoting democracy around the world through training; sharing experiences; and mentoring. I would like to make particular mention of the efforts of those Members who have served on, or are current members of, the WFD's Board, and especially to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), the chairman of the board.

In May 2004, the FCO and WFD commissioned jointly a firm of consultants, River Path Associates, to conduct a full review of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. The review was conducted according to Government guidelines on reviewing non-departmental public bodies.

The final report of the review has now been presented to me and I am placing copies of it in the Library of the House. The report is also available on the FCO website,
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The Government have considered the recommendation of the review carefully. We are seized in particular of a need for the WFD to operate with proper accountability and transparency. We have decided not to accept the recommendation that the work of the non-political part of the WFD, known as WFD central, be brought back into the FCO. WFD central will remain in its current form and the FCO will work with it to continue to improve the effectiveness of WFD central in building democracy overseas. This decision is based on two points: (i) our judgement that WFD central deserves recognition for the progress made in recent years; and (ii) the added benefits of conducting democracy building work through an arms-length body, rather than directly through Government.

We have also considered carefully the review's recommendations on the WFD's work with British political parties. We see merit in the recommendation of the reviewer, that this work be funded through Parliament. But this is an important issue and we want to be sure that we reach a decision that has broad support.

To this end I am announcing today the beginning of a three-month consultation exercise on the future of the WFD. I would encourage all Members of both Houses to involve themselves in the consultation.

There are two elements to the exercise:

These documents are all available on the FCO website. Alternatively, I would be happy to send copies to Members who write to me to request them.

We will also be seeking views from a wide range of others in the consultation process. We will particularly target those who know the WFD, but will also welcome views from specialists in democracy promotion from within the UK and abroad. I would encourage Members to make this exercise known to those they believe might be interested in commenting.


Cancer Drugs

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson): Following continuing interest in both Houses about variations across the country in the use of cancer drugs approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), this statement informs the House of the key messages from cancer network action plans provided to the Department of Health by strategic health authorities (SHAs) following the National Cancer director's report of 14 June 2004 on this subject.

SHAs have confirmed that:

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The National Cancer Director has analysed the action plans and said that they are encouraging, confirming that the profile of implementing NICE appraisals has increased and that where problems have been identified they have been, or are in the process of being, addressed. A repeat analysis will be conducted in the autumn to confirm if variations have been reduced as a result of this action.

A letter to key cancer stakeholders in the National Health Service, voluntary sector and pharmaceutical industry has also been issued today setting out these messages in more detail. Copies will be placed in the Library.

The Department will continue its work to support the NHS in implementing NICE guidance.

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