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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Foreign and Commonwealth Office


The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi died of a cardiac arrest on 5 April. Vice-President Joyce Banda was declared President on 7 April, following due constitutional process. President Banda has declared a period of 30 days of mourning for the late President. In her inauguration speech President Banda emphasised the need to focus immediately on mourning President Mutharika, and for healing and reconciliation and encouraged the people of Malawi to work together to address the many challenges that face the country. The President has continued this theme, and made it clear that her top priorities include getting back on track with the IMF and normalising relations with the UK.

In my statements to the House of 28 April, Official Report, column 13WS and 14 July 2011, Official Report, column 46WS, I set out the Government’s response to the Government of Malawi’s unwarranted decision to expel the British high commissioner. In both of those statements, I told the House that, while the UK would maintain formal diplomatic relations with Malawi, I would not appoint a new high commissioner at that time.

I have now decided that the time is right to appoint a new high commissioner to Malawi. The Prime Minister has written to the President to convey this decision to her and a copy of this letter will be placed in the Library of the House. I will instruct the new high commissioner, once appointed, to monitor developments in Malawi closely.

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Parliamentary Written Answer (Correction)

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers): I regret to inform the House that there was an inaccuracy in the answer I gave to parliamentary question 98207 on 5 March, Official Report, column 411W and subsequent comments made by the Secretary of State for Transport in debates held on 8 March, Official Report, column 1035 and 23 March, Official Report, column 1049 about how many miles of railway track were electrified between May 1997 and May 2010.

The correct answer is approximately nine route miles were electrified between May 1997 and May 2010, not 39 route miles as previously stated. This total does not include newly constructed railways.

Work and Pensions

Social Fund Budgeting Loans

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): On 6 December 2010 I announced that in the forthcoming Welfare Reform Bill, we intended to introduce legislation to make social fund budgeting loans available to help families to buy maternity items or items for a new baby or to help them towards meeting some of the costs of a relative’s funeral.

I am pleased to report that these changes to budgeting loans will be implemented from 8 May 2012 and will apply to all applications made from this date. This help will be available in addition to the Sure Start maternity grant and the social fund funeral payment.

I will place a copy of the new direction covering these changes to social fund budgeting loans in the House Library later today.