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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, in declaring an interest, how long should people taking HRT to combat osteoporosis stay on it?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I cannot give a definitive view of the length of time. We know that there are potential risks as well as benefits in the use of hormone replacement therapy. We know that some women cannot tolerate the therapy but, equally, it is an important way of countering and reversing osteoporosis. This is a matter on which clinicians should advise women on an individual basis. We need to recognise that there is a balance between its benefits and the risks involved.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in Millbank we are now able to get advice on and an investigation into our health. I was told that one of the most important things is that we should take good exercise to avoid any of these problems in the future?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am glad to hear that. I do not know whether my noble friend the

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Chief Whip will agree, but certainly the more Divisions that are called in your Lordships' House the more we need to run and walk to get here quickly.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, given the Minister's response in regard to the risks of long-term HRT and the risks that are recognised in hysterectomised women on oestrogen-only replacement, with in excess of three ovarian cancers per 1,000 women over 10 years, what are the Government's plans to instigate ovarian cancer screening in this sub-group of the population who are particularly at risk?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Government have made clear in relation to screening that we shall be advised by the national screening committee. When the committee reaches a view that screening is appropriate in relation to particular conditions, the Government will consider the matter carefully.

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, screening for bone density is extremely important in preventing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. I understand that the average wait for screening is about nine weeks and that screening is mainly concerned with patient monitoring rather than with diagnosis. What will be the situation as regards screening in the future?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lord, clearly, where screening is considered to be effective, we would wish to see programmes put in place to ensure that people have access to screening as soon as is practical. In fact, the expert advice that we have received is that bone scanning is not appropriate for the general population. The UK National Screening Committee considered this matter in June 1999. Its recommendation was that population-based screening should not be offered in general, although bone scanning can be helpful in monitoring treatment in individual cases.

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are many diseases—including osteoporosis, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and many cancers—that are treatable successfully if diagnosed early enough? Does the Minister foresee a time when any government will have the sense to invest in preventive treatment that does not necessarily show success within a given five-year period?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, a number of actions that the Government have taken have indicated that we do indeed take the view that investment in prevention pays dividends over many years ahead. Indeed, our intention to give resources to the NHS over a longer period of time will help in that process. The work by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to produce guidelines will give emphasis to the preventive approach in the way the noble Lord has suggested.

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2.52 p.m.

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consultation they have had with the leaders of the member countries of the New Economic Programme for Africa's Development and the African Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries regarding the situation in Zimbabwe.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, Ministers and officials are in regular dialogue with African and ACP leaders about the situation in Zimbabwe. During the EU/SADC meeting in Maputo on 7th and 8th November, I discussed Zimbabwe with, among others, President Chissano of Mozambique, South Africa's Foreign Minister Zuma and Mauritian Foreign Minister Gayan, More recently, during the Africa/EU ministerial meeting in Ouagadougou on 28th and 29th November, I discussed Zimbabwe with a number of other EU and African colleagues.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness has had those discussions. Will she confirm that all three organisations mentioned in the Question have stated that they will ensure the observance of human rights, the rule of law and good governance in the member countries? Have the G8 countries made it clear to the southern African members of these organisations that, if they do not go ahead and do their best to improve the catastrophic situation in Zimbabwe which is now infecting neighbouring countries—which is within their power, if they have the will—the G8 countries will be reluctant to provide the aid and investment that is so sorely needed? If the G8 have not yet made such an approach to those countries, will Her Majesty's Government suggest that they do?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can confirm that human rights and good economic and political governance in a range of different ways is reflected in the principles that underpin the work done by the African Union, the ACP, SADC and the European Union.

I have just returned from a G8/NePAD meeting in Accra in Ghana. We had substantial discussions on a range of issues, including the political and economic aspects of NePAD—in particular, the peer review process. We had substantial discussions on Zimbabwe and the concern felt not only by the G8 but by African countries about the impact that the situation in Zimbabwe is having on their economies and on the perception that people have of African countries more generally.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the EU/SADC meeting was a great disappointment, in that no clear statement was made

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about the appalling human rights violations in Zimbabwe? Where the meeting made oblique reference to the use of food as a political weapon, it did so without mentioning Zimbabwe by name. Does the Minister accept that the failure of Zimbabwe's neighbours to do anything concrete about the human rights violations in Zimbabwe raises fears in the minds of many people outside, including in the G8 countries, about the effectiveness of the proposed African peer review mechanism? In that context, will the Minister comment on the correspondence in which M. Jean Chretien, chairman of the G8, has tried to clear up ambiguities in statements made by President Thabo Mbeki about the application of the peer review mechanism to political matters?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, at the EU/SADC meeting we worked very hard to get an agreed statement on Zimbabwe. This was blocked by Zimbabwe within SADC. So the EU made a very strong statement that we could not agree a statement which we could make together. It is important that noble Lords understand that the EU and some southern African countries share an analysis of what is going on in Zimbabwe, particularly with respect to the humanitarian situation. But we differ on what action we believe needs to be taken. With respect to the peer review process, some 12 countries have now volunteered for peer review. The matter of political and economic governance—the issue that concerned Prime Minister Chretien when he wrote to President Mbeki in a personal capacity—has now been resolved.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, what consultation are the Government having with the three groups referred to in the Question that will lead to the ending of Zimbabwe's continuing and huge-scale pillage of mineral and other resources from the DRC?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the House will be aware that the report of the UN panel on the exploitation of mineral resources in the DRC was recently published. A number of individuals and organisations are mentioned in that report, including Zimbabwean individuals. We have requested further information from the UN panel, as have other members of the Security Council. We await that information. We shall talk to our Security Council partners in deciding what further action should be taken.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I know that the noble Baroness is as keen as anyone to put pressure on Mugabe and his henchmen to prevent them poisoning and undermining development in southern Africa and the whole NePAD project. In that context, is it correct that a visa has been granted to the vice-chairman of the ZANU-PF Harare executive, Chris Pasipamire, who is a well-known and brutal activist in farm evictions in Zimbabwe and who has apparently come here to study land reform? If that is correct, will the Minister re-examine the whole matter?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am aware of this case having been raised. Allegations were made in The

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Sunday Times about this individual and his activities in Zimbabwe. I understand that the allegations against him were dropped. He was granted a visitor's visa to come to the UK, not a student visa. Were he to want to study in the United Kingdom, he would need a different kind of visa.

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