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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Liam Fox) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
By making these changes we expect to save about 2,500 posts by 2014 and some £1.2 billion over the first four years alone, without reducing the effectiveness or reliability of the service that we deliver. This measure will make a significant contribution to the civilian staff reductions and efficiency measures set out last October in the strategic defence and security review.
This is the first such change emerging from the work of the Defence Reform Unit under Lord Levene designed to overhaul the structure of the department. It is a significant change and demonstrates the radical approach to reorganisation and resourcing that we are taking to ensure that we maximise the amount of the defence budget made available for the front line. I hope to announce further such changes in the near future.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My honourable friend the Minister for Armed Forces (Nick Harvey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The UK's chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In accordance with the Government's commitment to openness, I am placing in the Library of the House, a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK's chemical protection programme in 2010.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today the Government are publishing a consultation paper, co-produced with Equality 20251 and disability organisations, which seeks views on the additional support that can be offered to disabled people who wish to become elected representatives.
We want to ensure that our democracy is diverse and that we have a political system that better reflects the people it serves. To this end, the coalition programme contained an important commitment to introduce additional support for disabled people "who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials". This commitment was borne from the recognition that the 10 million and more disabled people in the UK are underrepresented in public life. It also follows the recommendations made by the cross-party Speaker's Conference in January 2010 on how to improve the representation of women, disabled people and minority ethnic people in the House of Commons.
In order to produce an effective strategy, we need to establish the practical support needed by disabled candidates to encourage greater participation in public and political life. This consultation is an opportunity for us to seek a diverse range of views, from disabled people themselves and others, on the measures that would make a real difference.
The consultation paper sets out a range of proposals including the establishment of a fund to support disability-related costs. This will not, however, replace existing obligations for parties under the Equality Act 2010/Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In addition to helping to break down financial barriers, the proposals are intended to address some of the wider obstacles faced by disabled people who seek elected office-for example, introducing measures to raise awareness and tackle attitudes that might discourage disabled people from putting themselves forward for election.
The proposals will apply to English local elections, Greater London Authority (GLA) elections, English mayoral elections, police and crime commissioners and all candidates from all parts of the UK who are seeking elected positions at UK Westminster elections. We would continue to work with colleagues in the devolved legislatures to help best practice from this strategy to be embedded in the electoral practices for their elections.
The consultation will run for a period of 12 weeks, until 11 May. A consultation document and instructions for responding can be found on the Government Equalities Office website at www.equalities.gov.uk and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe (David Lidington) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council will meet in Brussels on 21 February. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (William Hague) will attend the Foreign Affairs Council. I will attend the General Affairs Council.
Ministers will discuss follow-up to the February European Council, which covered energy, innovation and Egypt. Following the council, the Prime Minister reported the outcomes to the House in his Statement on the EU Council and North Africa. The Statement can be found at the following link: www.parliament.uk/business/news/2011/february/statement-on-eu-council-and-north-africa/.
The conclusions of the February European Council meeting can be found at: www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/119175.pdf.
These were agreed at the December European Council, see link: www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/118578.pdf.
Ministers will review the fifth cohesion report and the ongoing public consultation. The report and details of the public consultation can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docoffic/official/reports/cohesion5/index_en.cfm.
Ministers will be briefed on informal consultations held in New York on 14 February between EU member states and the wider UN membership on the draft EU resolution on the participation of the EU in the work of the UN.
Baroness Ashton will brief Ministers on the EU's priorities for the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. These are likely to include securing council adoption of strong resolutions expressing concern at the human rights situation in Burma and the DPRK, and resolutions promoting children's rights and freedom of religion.
This is an opportunity for Ministers to follow up the February European Council debate on Egypt and Tunisia and take stock of the recent momentous events. Baroness Ashton is visiting the region this week and will set out her thoughts on the way ahead for the EU.
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We expect Baroness Ashton and Commissioner Fule to follow up the discussion in last July's FAC (which I reported in my Written Ministerial Statement) of a reinforced EU presence in BiH, by providing more information about EU planning in this regard. The Government agree that there should be a reinforced EU presence in BiH, able to deploy deterrents as well as the incentives inherent in the EU accession process. We will therefore support proposals for the development of an EU toolbox of positive and negative measures. We believe that, in parallel, the civilian executive (Bonn) powers need to be retained, that the conditionality for eventual closure of the Office of the High Representative should continue to apply and that the executive mandate of the EU military force, EUFOR Operation Althea, should be upheld. We will continue to insist on these points in EU and wider international negotiation.
We expect Ministers to be presented with a draft security and development strategy for the Sahel region, which they requested at the last October's FAC. The murder of two French nationals in Niger in January and the kidnap of an Italian in Algeria this month underscore the severity of the terrorist threat in the region. Baroness Ashton reacted to the first event in the following statement on 19 January: www.europa-eu-un.org/articles/en/article_10584_en.htm.
Baroness Ashton is expected to give an oral presentation of the outline of the EEAS's Horn of Africa strategy. The strategy is expected to focus on regional and cross-cutting issues, looking in particular at the main causes of conflict and poverty. There will be a more substantive discussion at the March FAC, where we expect the adoption of formal conclusions.
Following discussion at the 31 January FAC, we expect conclusions to be adopted on the issue of intolerance, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion or belief. We believe that these conclusions should send a strong statement of the council's concern at instances of persecution or discrimination based on religion and its commitment to upholding the right to freedom of religion or belief.
EU member states will discuss the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, particularly following the unacceptable execution of dual Dutch/Iranian national Bahrami. Baroness Ashton released a statement on behalf of the EU on 27 January: www.consilium. europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/cfsp/118966.pdf.
Baroness Ashton is likely to provide an update on preparations for the March quartet meeting and report on her recent visit to the Middle East. There is also likely to be a discussion of the implications of wider developments in the region for the MEPP.
The Foreign Secretary will also brief his counterparts on his visit to Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, UAE and Bahrain. Related press releases can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's website: www.fco. gov.uk.
I attended the informal meeting of EU Transport Ministers, organised by the Hungarian Presidency in Budapest and Gödöllo on 7 and 8 February. The theme was TEN-T revision: towards a long-term, well balanced European transport network.
In the plenary debates, I put forward the UK view that the future TEN-T budget should take account of the aftermath of the financial crisis and the need to put recovery on a strong footing. EU funding will be limited and should be focused on projects that deliver real benefits to the network. Cost-benefit analysis should inform funding decisions. Member states should aim to do more with less, concentrating on projects that deliver the best value for money. We think that the current model should be followed, focusing funding on the core network, with some funding also available for the comprehensive network.
In the debate on the role of PPPs, I pointed out that PPP is appropriate only in selected circumstances, implementation can present challenges and requires a high level of commercial skills, and particular attention needs to be paid to the long-term budgetary consequences of its use. I cited the M6 toll road and River Severn crossings as good examples of private investment enabling major pieces of infrastructure to be constructed and the cost returned through tolling. I said that the UK Government are open to tolling as an option for brand-new alignments, with potential private sector investment, but noted that we have ruled out the introduction of a national road user charging scheme (except in relation to heavy goods vehicles).
In the margins of the event I was pleased to be able to have a meeting with the vice-president of the European Commission responsible for transport, Mr Siim Kallas, to discuss a range of current issues.
During my discussion of airport security scanners with Mr Kallas, I welcomed the Commission's general approach to the deployment of scanners. We now need to move quickly to amend existing European legislation to give airports the flexibility to deploy scanners effectively and efficiently. The decision on whether to deploy
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I also discussed the transport aspects of transposition of the air quality directive with Mr Kallas. I pointed out that, although we are fully committed to improving air quality, and we recognise the part that transport has to play, we are keen to ensure that the air quality targets are properly targeted at improvements in health and are consistent with our ambitious goals to reduce carbon and to create growth.
On 1 November 2010 the chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board (the HBLB) informed me that the HBLB had been unable to approve a recommendation from the Bookmakers' Committee as to the terms of the 50th levy scheme. Under Section 1(2) of the Horserace Betting Levy Act 1969, therefore, it falls to me to determine those terms.
I have considered the parties' submissions, taking into account their representations on what target amount would reflect the capacity of bookmakers to pay, what it is reasonable to expect bookmakers to pay and what the reasonable needs of horseracing are in all the circumstances.
I estimate that this will produce levy proceeds of between £73.7 million to £80.8 million (with a mid-range figure of £77.25 million) and believe that the terms outlined above represent a fair deal for bookmakers and horseracing.
I am today writing to the Bookmakers' Committee, British Horseracing and the government-appointed members of the HBLB to thank them for their submissions and explain my decision in more detail. I will also ask that the HBLB finalise the operational details of the scheme as a matter of urgency.
With the determination concluded, I would like to restate my disappointment that the relevant parties were not themselves able to come to terms and I would strongly encourage them to develop a less adversarial relationship going forward. I have tried to be fair by listening to the advice of the independent members of the Levy Board and I will continue to be guided by their advice in future years until what should be a straightforward commercial negotiation can be taken permanently out of the hands of Ministers.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The vast majority of those who work in health and social care are committed individuals with a strong sense of professionalism who aspire to deliver the highest standards. However, where there is poor practice or behaviour that presents a risk to the public, it is vital that swift action is taken, whether by employers or by national regulatory bodies.
Ensuring a strong and effective system for regulating health and social care professionals is one of the cornerstones of our strategy for delivering improved outcomes for people who use health and social care services. The current system of professional regulation helps to ensure this by setting high standards of education, training, conduct and ethics and by taking action to remove unsuitable workers in the rare cases when things go wrong. Regulation of healthcare workers and social workers therefore makes an important contribution to safeguarding the public, including vulnerable children and adults.
However, the regulatory framework is also complex, expensive and requires continuous government intervention to keep it up to date. More generally, reducing regulation is a key priority for the coalition Government. By freeing society from unnecessary laws, the Government aim to create a better balance of responsibilities between the state, business, civil society and individuals and to encourage people to take greater personal responsibility for their actions.
While regulation of some professionals is vital to ensure high standards of care, it is only one component of a wider system of safeguards, controls and clinical governance, and ultimate responsibility for the provision of high-quality services must rest with employers and those contracting with health and social care workers. We believe that the approach to professional regulation
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I have today laid before Parliament a Command Paper, Enabling Excellence-Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers (Cm 8008) setting out the Government's proposals for how the system for regulating healthcare workers across the United Kingdom and social workers in England should be reformed, to sustain and develop the high professional standards of those practitioners and to continue to assure the safety of those using services and the rest of the public.
The reforms, many of which are being progressed through the Health and Social Care Bill, will give greater independence to those who work in healthcare across the UK and social care in England, to their employers and to the professional regulatory bodies, balanced by more effective accountability in how they exercise that freedom.
We will seek to drive up standards for some groups of unregulated health and social care workers to improve service users' experience through a system of assured voluntary registration. Employers and commissioners will be able to give preference to workers on voluntary registers to ensure that they contract with suitably skilled and qualified workers. In line with the Government's overall social work reform programme, the proposals will also strengthen social work as a profession in England.
Enabling Excellence-Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers is available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The issue of whether or not practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be statutorily regulated has been debated since the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology's report in 2000 recommended statutory regulation for the first two of these groups.
We have today published an analysis of the 2009 consultation by the four United Kingdom health departments, which sought views on the possible regulation of practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. This factual report has been placed in the Library and can be found on the Department of Health's website at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Responsestoconsultations/DH_124337.
I can now set out how we intend to take forward the regulation of herbal medicine practitioners and traditional Chinese medicines practitioners, specifically with regard to the use of unlicensed herbal medicines within their practice. As this matter is a devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland, we have had discussions with health departments in the three devolved Administrations, which have been constructive, and we are committed to a unified UK-wide approach to the regulation of these practitioners.
When European directive 2004/24/EC takes full effect in April 2011 it will no longer be legal for herbal practitioners in the UK to source unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines for their patients. This Government wish to ensure that the public can continue to have access to these products.
In order to achieve this, while at the same time complying with EU law, some form of statutory regulation will be necessary and I have therefore decided to ask the Health Professions Council to establish a statutory register for practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines. This will ensure that practitioners meet specified registration standards. Practitioner regulation will be underpinned by a strengthened system for regulating medicinal products. This approach will give practitioners and consumers continuing access to herbal medicines. It will do this by allowing us to use a derogation in the European legislation to set up a UK scheme to permit and regulate the supply, via practitioners, of unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines to meet individual patient needs.
The Health Professions Council is an established and experienced statutory regulatory body which has the necessary experience to be able to successfully establish and maintain a statutory register for practitioners wishing to supply unlicensed herbal medicines. Subject to parliamentary approval, such practitioners who wish to supply unlicensed herbal products will be required by law to register with the HPC.
The four UK health departments will consult jointly on the draft legislation once it is prepared. This will give practitioners and the public the opportunity to comment. Subject to parliamentary procedures, we will aim to have the legislation in place in 2012.
Until the new arrangements are in place the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will continue to take appropriate compliance and enforcement action where products are in breach of the regulatory requirements. In line with the MHRA's normal approach, the action taken will be proportionate and will target products that pose a public health risk. Guidance issued by the MHRA makes clear their view that, where practitioners hold stocks of unlicensed products on 30 April 2011 that legally benefited from transitional arrangements under the European directive, the practitioner can continue to sell those existing supplies to their patients.
The 2009 consultation also looked at practitioners of acupuncture. The practice of acupuncture is not affected by the EU directive and, therefore, compliance is not required. I am confident that acupuncturists
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The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): At its meeting on 14 February, the Procedure Committee decided to discontinue printing the weekly cumulative list of unanswered Questions for Written Answer, which hitherto has been printed on the last sitting day of each week alongside House of Lords Business.
The cumulative list will continue to be published and updated daily online at http://www.publications. parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldcumlst.htm. In addition, the Printed Paper Office will be able to supply paper copies of the up-to-date list on demand. This change will not affect the daily summary of Questions unanswered after 10 working days, which will continue to appear in House of Lords Business.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): On 7 January 2011, the Government announced their intention to enhance the independence of the Information Commissioner as part of a wider package of measures to extend the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, I wish to announce to the House today that the Government will strengthen the role of Parliament in the appointment of the next commissioner in 2014. For this appointment, the Government will offer the Justice Select Committee a pre-appointment hearing with the preferred candidate and will accept the committee's conclusion on whether or not the candidate should be appointed. This will make the appointment process more open and transparent and enhance the independence of the office.
The Information Commissioner plays a vital role in promoting transparency and protecting the rights of individuals in relation to their personal data. The Government are fully committed to an independent commissioner and the critical role that he plays as a champion and protector of information rights.
The commissioner is already entirely independent in the decisions that he takes to enforce the legislation that he regulates. However, the provisions to be included in the Protection of Freedoms Bill will further enhance his day-to-day corporate and administrative independence. The commissioner will no longer need to seek the
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Taken together, these steps-to be underpinned by a revised framework document outlining the day-to-day relationship between government and the Information Commissioner-will result in a real and tangible enhancement to his independence.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Jeremy Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
From 1 April 2011, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Legalisation Office in Milton Keynes will accept only applications received by post and will process all straightforward applications within 24 hours (excluding postal times). Updated guidance on how to submit applications will be on the Legalisation Office website from 1 March.
A majority of customers already send their applications by post-they will see the turnaround time halved from 48 to 24 hours. A third of customers come to the office in person-they will now need to submit their applications by post.
Ten per cent of customers are businesses, which currently have their applications processed within 24 hours. Business customers who submit large volumes of documents on a daily basis can pre-register to have access to a drop-off and pick-up facility at Milton Keynes with the same 24-hour turnaround. There will be no charge to customers for this service. There will be no change to the service offered at the Legalisation Office at Centre Point in central London, which serves business customers only.
This change is driven by a desire to ensure that we can provide the most efficient service possible. At present these three different service levels are offered all for the same price. This change moves to a single service level for a single price. Over time the changes may also deliver efficiency savings by removing the costs associated with maintaining a public area.
Legalisation is the official confirmation that the signature, stamp or seal on a UK document is genuine. The legalisation does not certify the authenticity of a document or give Foreign and Commonwealth Office approval of its content. Legalisation is usually required by foreign authorities before they will allow a UK document to be used for official purposes in their country. The Legalisation Office is the only competent authority in the UK to issue legalisation or apostille certificates in the UK.
To complement the local transport White Paper Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon, my department has been working on a basic carbon tool for local authorities to assist them in demonstrating the carbon benefits of transport interventions in their areas.
The tool fully supports local authorities in making their own decisions about the carbon benefits of small-scale interventions and enables them to input their own assumptions and data from best estimates of take-up and effects for their areas. The tool also brings together in one place central research on local transport and carbon, improves access to national transport data that can impact on emissions and simplifies carbon appraisal guidance.
The tool can assist authorities in demonstrating the carbon benefits of bids to the local sustainable transport fund, but it is for local authorities to decide what tools and evidence best meet the criteria and objectives of the fund in the context of their overall bids.
1The web address is http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/carbon-tool/
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Henry Bellingham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is today publishing a report of the non-policing costs handled by the FCO on behalf of Her Majesty's Government and the Catholic Church during the visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom which took place from 16 to 19 September 2010.
This was an historic visit, as the first ever official visit by a Pope to the UK, and an important milestone in the relationship between the UK and the Holy See. It was on a far bigger scale than a normal state visit: police estimates suggest that 500,000 people saw the Pope either during events or along the Popemobile routes. Approximately 3,000 media representatives were accredited to cover the visit. The combination of official events, pastoral events, through which the Pope engaged with Britain's Roman Catholics, and meetings with the
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The visit programme included both state and pastoral elements. HM Government agreed with the Catholic Church that costs would be shared accordingly, with all the costs of the pastoral elements of the programme met by the church. HM Government met the costs of events that were entirely part of the state visit programme and contributed to the costs of other events in relation to measures necessary to meet HM Government's responsibility for the safety and security of the public and of the Pope. The Scottish Government also contributed in relation to these measures for the Scottish part of the programme.
I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk).
The visit paved the way for further co-operation between the UK and the Holy See on a number of international issues where we share a common goal, including addressing the challenge of climate change, promoting multi-faith dialogue, as a means of working for peace in the world, and fighting poverty and disease. These were among the issues discussed both in bilateral meetings during the visit and at the working dinner with the papal delegation hosted by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary.
The success of the visit was a testament to the close co-operation and effective joint working by the Catholic Church, HM Government and many other organisations and individuals throughout the UK. I wish to place on record HM Government's gratitude to all those who worked together to achieve that success.
In 2007, an initial agreement was reached between Crossrail Ltd, the Department for Transport, Transport for London and Berkeley Homes. This agreement stated that Berkeley Homes would build the basic box structure of a station at Woolwich and subsequently construct its own extensive mixed-use development above it. This would be done at Berkeley Homes' cost and risk, to the specification laid down by Crossrail Ltd, in a way that ensured that the Woolwich station box did not add to the current cost of Crossrail. This agreement was outlined to Parliament by the then Secretary of State for Transport in March 2007.
The Department for Transport, Crossrail Ltd, Transport for London and Berkeley Homes have in recent months been working urgently to turn this initial agreement into a final, legally binding, agreement.
I am therefore pleased to inform the House today that a final agreement has now been reached by all parties. This means that engineering work on Woolwich station box can now proceed and the benefit of Crossrail investment can be secured for the residents of Woolwich.
In due course, fit-out of the Woolwich station box would be required to bring it to operational status. The Government are clear that, in line with the 2007 agreement, no additional public sector contribution can be made available to fund the fit-out of the station box. Instead, the fit-out is conditional on receiving sufficient funding contributions from developers and businesses operating in the area. Berkeley Homes has an obligation to enter into discussions with the Department for Transport, Transport for London, Crossrail Ltd and Greenwich Council, in order to provide for the subsequent fitting-out of the station box. All parties, including Berkeley Homes, have made it clear that they understand and support this position.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (William Hague) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The EU has announced today its decision to roll over the Zimbabwe restrictive and appropriate measures. Following an in-depth assessment, the UK and its EU partners have unanimously agreed to the renewal of the measures for a further 12 months, while removing
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Although this amendment reflects the progress made by the Government of Zimbabwe on economic issues and in delivering public services, it also reflects our strong concern that this has not been matched by equivalent political and democratic reform. Essential reforms to promote the rule of law, human rights and democracy, as agreed under the global political agreement, have not yet been implemented. We are particularly concerned at the upsurge in political violence and intimidation in recent weeks. We have, therefore, extended the travel restrictions and asset freeze applicable to the remaining 163 people and 31 economic entities for a further 12 months. The arms embargo remains in place and EU and UK bilateral development aid will continue to be channelled directly to the people of
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The UK and our EU partners emphasise our willingness to revisit the measures at any time should there be further concrete developments on the ground in Zimbabwe. In this context, we fully support the Southern African Development Community and its member states in their effort to facilitate agreement among the parties in Zimbabwe on creating an environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.
Britain remains a committed friend to the people of Zimbabwe. We gave our largest ever aid package to Zimbabwe last year and the DfID Secretary of State recently signalled that the UK would significantly increase its development effort in Zimbabwe over the next four years if there are free and fair elections and a reforming Government in place.
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