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Boris Berezovsky

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): Russian citizen Boris Abramovich Berezovsky was granted asylum in the UK in 2003, as is public knowledge. The grant of asylum to Mr. Berezovsky was made after due assessment by the relevant authorities of his case and of the UK's obligations under the 1951 UN Convention on refugees and domestic law. He did not enter the UK at the invitation of Her Majesty's Government. A grant of asylum does not imply support from the UK Government for an individual's views, activities or statements.

We are aware of the comments made by Mr. Boris Berezovsky in an interview on 24 January. Advocating the violent overthrow of a sovereign state is unacceptable and we condemn these comments unreservedly. The UK Government respects Russia's constitutional arrangements and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. We enjoy a close working relationship with Russia, as a valued partner of the UK.

Those granted asylum in the United Kingdom have duties to the UK which require in particular that they conform to its laws and regulations. They are advised that their refugee status can be reviewed at any time where it is considered their presence is not conducive to the public good. As we have made clear on many occasions, the UK Government will take action against those who use the UK as a base from which to foment violent disorder or terrorism in other countries.

Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I am today announcing the winding up of the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust (ISSLT) in accordance with the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust Act 1987. The ISSLT was founded in 1922 to provide support for Irish First World War veterans and their dependants. In 1997 my predecessor gave direction to commence the final winding up of the Trust. This process has now been completed. The residual assets and liabilities of the ISSLT will now be taken forward by the Milibern Trust which has managed the day to day running of ISSLT holdings since 2001 and will continue to use the assets for the benefit of all Irish ex-service personnel in need and their dependants.


Gleneagles Implementation Plan for Africa

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): In my written statement of 12 December, I set out the Government's commitment to ensuring that the pledges on Africa and development made at the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in July are implemented. The Gleneagles implementation plan for Africa consists of the milestones that the Government believe need to be achieved, and I indicated that we would update this plan on a monthly basis. I am placing a copy of the first
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update in the Libraries. This highlights progress made against the milestones set for December and January, and also incorporates new milestones that have been adopted by the international community.

All the milestones for December and January have been achieved, with the exception of the implementation of the multilateral debt relief initiative by the African Development Bank (AfDB). This is now expected by July and the AfDB will apply debt relief retrospectively to January 2006. As expected the International Monetary Fund (IMF) implemented this initiative in January, and the World Bank will be implementing it in July.

EU Heads of Government agreed a new EU strategic partnership with Africa at the European Council in December. This provides a framework to guide Europe's activities as it increases its support to the continent.

The World Trade Organisation Ministerial in Hong Kong in December did not achieve as much as the Government would have wished. However, it did agree a deadline of 2013 for the elimination of agricultural export subsidies, and that developed countries should provide quota and duty free access to their markets for most products (97 per cent.) from least developed countries by 2008. Substantial new funds were also pledged to build developing countries' capacity to trade, including £100 million a year by 2010 from the UK.

The United Nations Peace Building Commission was established and the UK has been elected as a member. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption entered into force on 14 December, following ratification by 30 countries. The UK has sent its instrument of ratification to the UN on 30 January and ratified it on 9 February. A new Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who attended the Forum, confirmed the Government's strong support for this Plan.

Two future milestones have been adjusted. The first is the bonds for the International Financing Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) which are now likely to be launched in April rather than February, due to delays in finalising the legal documents with donors. The second is the Central Emergency Revolving Fund which is now expected to be launched in March, rather than February.


Priority Funding Packages

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Angela E. Smith): My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Lord Rooker) has made the following ministerial statement:

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Discretionary Social Fund

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Secretary of State will be making a number of minor changes to the discretionary social fund, with effect from 3 April 2006. The improvements included in this amendment to directions and guidance has been made as a result of recommendations made in the Child Poverty Review.