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27 Feb 2006 : Column 321W—continued


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of reports that there may be a reversal in Zimbabwe's land redistribution policy; and if he will make a statement. [52197]

Ian Pearson: There is no evidence of any reversal in Zimbabwe's land redistribution policy. On 12 February, Zimbabwean Agriculture Minister Made, in response to a call from the Commercial Farmer's Union for a freeze on land seizures, stated that Zimbabwe's land policies were sound and would not be changed.

These are the same policies that have been responsible for a drastic decline in Zimbabwe's agricultural sector, with millions now suffering from food insecurity.

This Government, together with EU and other international partners, has condemned the chaotic and brutal land seizures, together with those other policies that have resulted in the fastest shrinking economy in the world.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the levels of violence and intimidation of journalists in Zimbabwe. [52198]

Ian Pearson: The oppressive environment in which journalists try to operate in Zimbabwe shows no signs of improvement. In December 2005, authorities raided the offices of the Voice of the People, the only independent radio station operating within Zimbabwe. Harassment of its trustees and journalists continues.

We condemn efforts by the Government of Zimbabwe to clamp down on the independent media and have raised this with them directly, most recently on 1 February. The African Commission for Human and
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People's Rights has recently passed a Resolution which calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of expression. We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to take heed of this.

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on measures his Government are taking to ensure that Zimbabwean beef licensed to import to the European Communities does not come from farms or stocks seized from their rightful owners. [52567]

Ian Pearson: The EU maintains targeted sanctions on the Government of Zimbabwe's leadership and major human rights abusers. These were first imposed in 2002 and have been extended annually since then. EU partners agreed on 31 January to roll-over these sanctions for a further year from 21 February.

The EU's measures are kept under constant review. They do not include trade or economic sanctions which we believe would only harm further the Zimbabwean people who are already suffering from desperate economic conditions. In the absence of trade sanctions, the British Government cannot prescribe where private companies source their goods.

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the recent wave of arrests in Bulawayo and Harare in Zimbabwe. [53723]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: We have received reports of more than 400 people, mostly women, being arrested in Harare and Bulawayo, during peaceful demonstrations.

This is further evidence of the lack of respect the Government of Zimbabwe has consistently shown in recent years for human rights. Rather than hearing the concerns their people have about poor governance, and the dire state of the economy, the Government of Zimbabwe continues to use draconian legislation and force to suppress any criticism.

The Government condemns the arrests of those involved in the peaceful demonstration by Women of Zimbabwe Arise". This included elderly women, children and students. Our ambassador, Dr Andrew Pocock, raised this with the Zimbabwean Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, on 15 February.
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Advance Market Commitments

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent research he has assessed on Advance Market Commitments; and if he will make a statement. [52658]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The UK has been working with other G7 Member States to consider how to stimulate private investment in vaccine R and D and accelerate the introduction of vaccines for developing countries. In December 2005, Italian Finance Minister Tremonti delivered a report to G8 Finance Ministers on AMCs for Vaccines entitled Advanced Market Commitments for Vaccines: A New Tool in the Fight Against Disease and Poverty". It concluded that AMCs are feasible, innovative and cost-effective market-based tools in the fight against global disease and poverty. G7 Finance Ministers have agreed to work with others on developing a pilot Advanced Market Commitment in 2006 and will consider a specific proposal at their April meeting.

Age-related Allowance

Mr. Horam: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the annual saving to the Exchequer would be of withdrawing the age-related allowance where income exceeds the income limit. [53360]

Dawn Primarolo: Removal of the tapering of age-related allowances at incomes above the age-related income limit in 2005–06 would cost an additional estimated £580 million.

The income tax information is based upon the 2003–04 Survey of Personal Incomes projected forward to 2005–06 in line with 2005 pre-Budget assumptions.

Air Passenger Duty

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what reason transit flights are exempt from air passenger duty; and what estimate he has made of how much extra revenue would be raised per annum were such flights subject to this duty. [52713]

John Healey: Connecting flights are exempt from air passenger duty (APD) to ensure that passengers are not taxed twice for a journey simply because they have to make a connecting flight. HM Revenue and Customs' Public Notice 550 gives details of the criteria for this exemption. Not all transit flights qualify as connecting flights.

HMRC do not collect data on the number of transit passengers that pass through UK airports or their final destinations, and are unable to estimate the possible extra revenue that charging APD on such passengers would raise.

Allsop Report

Graham Stringer: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made on the implementation of the Allsop report on regional economic indices. [52742]

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John Healey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the national statistician who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 27 February 2006:

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