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Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Simon Burns) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Regulations will be laid before Parliament shortly to increase certain National Health Service charges in England from 1 April 2012.

There will be an increase in the prescription charge of 25p from £7.40 to £7.65 for each quantity of a drug or appliance dispensed.



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The cost of a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) will remain at £29.10 for a three-month certificate. The cost of the annual certificate will remain at £104. PPCs offer savings for those needing four or more items in three months or 14 or more items in one year.

Regulations will also be laid to increase NHS dental charges from 1 April 2012. The dental charge payable for a band 1 course of treatment will increase by 50p from £17 to £17.50. The dental charge for a band 2 course of treatment will increase by £1 from £47 to £48. The charge for a band 3 course of treatment will increase by £5 from £204 to £209. Dental charges represent an important contribution to the overall cost of dental services. The exact amount raised will be dependent on the level and type of primary dental care services commissioned by primary care trusts and the proportion of charge-paying patients who attend dentists and the level of treatment they require.

Charges for elastic stockings and tights, wigs and fabric supports supplied by hospitals will also be increased.

The range of NHS optical vouchers available to children, people on low incomes and individuals with complex sight problems are also being increased in value. In order to continue to provide help with the cost of spectacles and contact lenses, optical voucher values will rise by an overall 2.5 per cent.

Details of the revised charges are in the following tables.

NHS Charges: England
New Charge (£)

Prescription charges

Single item

7.65

3-month PPC

29.10

12-month PPC

104.00

Dental Charges

Band 1 course of treatment

17.50

Band 2 course of treatment

48.00

Band 3 course of treatment

209.00

Wigs and Fabrics

Surgical brassiere

25.70

Abdominal or spinal support

38.80

Stock modacrylic wig

63.35

Partial human hair wig

167.85

Full bespoke human hair wig

245.40



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Optical voucher values from 1 April 2012
Type of optical appliance

AGlasses with single-vision lenses: spherical power of = 6 dioptres, cylindrical power of= 2 dioptres.

£37.10

BGlasses with single-vision lenses: spherical power of > 6 dioptres but < 10 dioptres, cylindrical power of = 6 dioptres; spherical power of < 10 dioptres, cylindrical power of > 2 dioptres but = 6 dioptres.

£56.40

CGlasses with single-vision lenses: spherical power of = 10 dioptres but = 14 dioptres, cylindrical power of = 6 dioptres.

£82.60

D Glasses with single-vision lenses: spherical power of >14 dioptres with any cylindrical power; cylindrical power of > 6 dioptres with any spherical power.

£186.50

E Glasses with bifocal lenses: spherical power of = 6 dioptres, cylindrical power of = 2 dioptres.

£64.20

F Glasses with bifocal lenses: spherical power of > 6 dioptres but < 10 dioptres, cylindrical power of = 6 dioptres; spherical power of < 10 dioptres, cylindrical power of > 2 dioptres but = 6 dioptres.

£81.60

GGlasses with bifocal lenses: spherical power of = 10 dioptres but = 14 dioptres, cylindrical power of = 6 dioptres.

£105.80

H Glasses with prism-controlled bifocal lenses of any power or with bifocal lenses: spherical power of > 14 dioptres with any cylindrical power; cylindrical power of > 6 dioptres with any spherical power.

£205.10

I (HES) Glasses not falling within any of paragraphs 1 to 8 for which a prescription is given in consequence of a testing of sight by an NHS Trust.

£191.00

Northern Ireland: Security

Statement

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Owen Paterson) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

In July 2011, when I laid the final report of the IMC before the House, I made a commitment to provide twice-yearly updates summarising the threat. This Statement is the first such update and represents our assessment of the current position.

During the past six months all the dissident republican groups have remained active in Northern Ireland, and the threat level in Northern Ireland remains at "severe", meaning that an attack is highly likely.

The threat level in Great Britain is "substantial", meaning that an attack is a strong possibility.

There have been 13 attacks against national security targets in Northern Ireland since 1 August 2011. These have included attacks on police officers as well as small bombs deployed against a bank in Newry and the City of Culture offices in Londonderry. The most recent attacks have included the attempted murder of a soldier on 5 January 2012, a pipe bomb recovered at the scene of a fire in West Belfast on 17 January 2012 and two pipe bombs set off in Londonderry on 19 January 2012.

Many other potential attacks have been prevented by the actions of security and law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border.

While there were fewer attacks in 2011 than in 2010, the intent and capability of dissident republican terrorists remains high. At present, the threat appears to have stabilised as a result of the activities of security and law enforcement agencies. However, there remains a high level of underlying terrorist activity and planning.

The most active groups at present are:

the Real IRA (RIRA);the Continuity IRA (CIRA); andÓglaigh na hÉireann (ONH).

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In addition there are a number of unaffiliated terrorists who are also active. All of these groups are dangerous and pose a real threat-primarily to police officers but also, through their actions, to the wider public.

The UDA and UVF leaderships remain committed to their ceasefires, although there has been unsanctioned violent activity by members of both groups.

Both loyalist and republican groups continue to be involved in a wide range of acts of criminality. Both also continue to carry out paramilitary-style assaults and shootings.

I am grateful to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, An Garda Síochána and the Security Service for their tireless efforts to address the real and severe threat posed by terrorists in Northern Ireland.

I am confident that the national security arrangements are operating in line with the principles set out in Annexe E to the St Andrews agreement. As I informed the House on 19 December (col. 145WS), Lord Carlile's recent report on the operation of arrangements for handling national security matters in Northern Ireland expressed satisfaction that there are no difficulties of any significance in the interoperability between the PSNI and the Security Service. He concluded that their sound working partnership should be commended. Lord Carlile said that he believed that, compared with 2010, 2011 saw more success in containing and stabilising the threat and noted that there were fewer incidents and fewer major attacks.

As this House is well aware, tackling terrorism in all its forms and within the rule of law remains the highest priority for this Government. We will continue to work as closely as possible with our strategic partners in the PSNI, Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government to counter this threat.

Pensions: Automatic Enrolment

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Later today the Government will publish the consultation document Automatic Enrolment and European Employers. This addresses an issue which could potentially place an unnecessary burden on employers to find a pension scheme into which they can automatically enrol dual-status workers-those who are simultaneously jobholders and qualifying persons.

A jobholder is a worker who is working or ordinarily works in Great Britain under the worker's contract. A qualifying person is an individual whose place of work under contract is sufficiently located in an EEA state other than the UK so that the relationship with the employer is subject to the social and labour law relevant to the field of occupational pension schemes of the other EEA state.

The consultation proposes an exemption for employers from having to automatically enrol dual-status workers. The period of formal consultation will begin today and last for six weeks, ending on 2 April.



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I would like to thank all those people and organisations who have offered their views and advice in response to our recent informal consultation, and hope that they will continue to do so now that consultation has moved on to a formal footing.

Draft regulations and an impact assessment will be published alongside the consultation document.

A copy of the consultation will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available later today on the department's website at:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/workplace-pension-reforms

www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2012/

Pharmaceutical Prices

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Simon Burns) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme-Eleventh Report to Parliament has been published today.

The department published the first report on the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) in 1996 following a comment by the Health Committee that the "Department of Health should introduce greater transparency into the PPRS". Since then, the department has published a report to Parliament on the operation and management of the scheme most years, the last report being December 2009. This latest report covers an update on the operation of the 2009 scheme, and other developments on PPRS since the last report. In addition, an update has been provided on innovation provisions under the 2009 scheme, government support for the life science industry and an update on international price comparisons.

A copy has been placed in the Library. Copies are available for honourable Members from the Vote Office and for noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

Prisons: Deaths in Custody

Statement

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Crispin Blunt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The creation of the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody was announced in 2008 and it has been in operation since March 2009. Its creation was in response to an independent review of previous structures-the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody and the Ministerial Roundtable on Suicide. Significant reforms were made to these structures and the council has been working effectively for three years. I am pleased to announce that, following an evaluation of the effectiveness of the arrangements, the council will be funded to

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continue for a further three-year term. Lord Harris of Haringey has been reappointed as chair of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody.

The council comprises three tiers, the first of which is a ministerial board, chaired jointly by the Ministry of Justice and ministerial colleagues from the Department of Health and Home Office. The board brings together senior leaders across the custodial sectors as well as regulatory and third sector stakeholders to take forward an agenda aimed at making custodial settings safer and contributing to a reduction in deaths.

The second tier is the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody. This is an advisory non-departmental public body. It is chaired by Lord Harris of Haringey and consists of six independent expert panel members. The panel is the principal source of advice to Ministers and the board on measures to reduce deaths in custody.

The third tier is a broad-based stakeholder and practitioner group. There are over 100 members of this group, representing the interests of families, third sector organisations, practitioners from all sectors and the inspectorate and investigatory bodies.

Somalia

Statement

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 (Mr William Hague) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 23 February the UK hosted the London Conference on Somalia. When he announced this initiative in November, our right honourable friend the Prime Minister spoke of the real and pressing need to pull together the international effort on Somalia. The conference brought together 55 delegations representing over 40 countries, the United Nations, African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and other international organisations to discuss how the international community could reinvigorate its approach towards Somalia. Somali leaders, including President Sheikh Sharif, Prime Minister Abdiweli, President Farole of Puntland and President Silanyo of Somaliland also took part.

The conference took place at a key moment in Somalia's history. Somalia is emerging from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. African and Somali troops have pushed Al Shabaab out of Mogadishu and other areas. The transitional institutions come to an end in August 2012, and the people of Somalia want clarity on what will follow. The situation remains precarious and in urgent need of support from the international community.

Decisions on Somalia's future rest with the Somali people. The Somali political leadership must be accountable to the people. The international community's role is to facilitate Somalia's progress and development: our strength is in unity and co-ordinated support to Somalia. The conference noted the importance of listening to and working with Somalis inside and outside Somalia, and welcomed their engagement in the run-up to this conference.



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The conference focused on the underlying causes of instability, as well as the symptoms (famine, piracy, and terrorism). The international community agreed: to inject new momentum into the political process; to strengthen AMISOM and help Somalia develop its own security forces; to help build stability at local level; and to step up action to tackle pirates and terrorists.

More specifically, the conference agreed practical measures in seven areas:

Political process-agreement that the transition must end in August 2012, and that the political process must be broad-based and inclusive, building on agreement at the Garowe consultative meetings; the establishment of a Joint Financial Management Board to increase the transparency and accountability of transitional federal government, and future government, spending.

Security and justice-agreement to create a framework for international support to develop Somali security and justice capacity.

Piracy-agreement on the need to address the causes of piracy on land, and to build judicial and imprisonment capacity in the region; welcome for the establishment of a Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Co-ordination Centre in the Seychelles. Ministers also signed bilateral memoranda of understanding with Tanzania on transferring suspected pirates for prosecution, with the Netherlands and Seychelles on the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Coordination Centre, and a regional burden-sharing statement of principles. Our right honourable friend the Prime Minister also announced the creation of an international task force on piracy ransoms and welcomed the announcement from the shipping industry of funding for UNDP coastal community projects in Puntland.

Terrorism-agreement to build capacity to disrupt terrorism in the region, including disrupting terrorists' travel to and from Somalia and terrorist finances.

Humanitarian-the conference was preceded by a separate meeting on the humanitarian situation, chaired jointly by the International Development Secretary, Baroness Amos (United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs) and the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister. Prominent themes included the continuing fragility of the humanitarian situation in Somalia and the need to create the conditions for voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced people.

Stability and recovery-launch of a new stability fund to channel development support, such as for basic services, jobs, security and justice, to emerging areas of stability across Somalia. Founder members are the UK, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and Denmark. Agreement to a set of principles for local support.

International co-ordination-welcome for the International Contact Group on Somalia's decision to consider restructuring to improve its effectiveness, and a recommendation to establish working groups on the political process, security and justice, and stability and development. The creation of a core group of engaged

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countries to drive progress in support of United Nations, African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development efforts.

We have placed copies of the communiqué agreed by international partners at the conference and the conclusions of the separate humanitarian meeting in the Libraries of both Houses.

Taxation

Statement

The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (David Gauke) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government are fully committed to tackling tax avoidance and will take necessary steps to protect the Exchequer and maintain fairness in the tax system. The Government are therefore acting today to tackle two aggressive tax avoidance schemes that have been disclosed by a bank to HM Revenue and Customs. By acting immediately, the Government will ensure the payment of over half a billion pounds in tax, protect further billions of tax from being lost and maintain fairness in the tax system.

Debt buybacks

The first scheme seeks to exploit corporation tax rules that apply to releases of debt. Normally a debtor company is taxed on the profit that arises when a liability is released for less than the amount borrowed, but special rules apply to connected companies. In such cases, a tax charge arises where a company connected to the debtor company buys the debt from the original creditor, or where debt is held between companies that become connected. These rules were amended in the Finance Act 2010 to block schemes under which banks bought back their issued debt that was trading at a discount in the market. When closing these previous attempts by companies to profit from buying back their own debt without being taxed, the Government at the time made clear in two Written Ministerial Statements that they expected such profits to be subject to corporation tax.

Despite these clear statements, the bank has now entered into a scheme using contrived arrangements that once again seeks to ensure that the profit on a buyback of such debt is not subject to corporation tax and therefore that a substantial amount of tax, of around £300 million, is avoided.

The Government will amend these rules in the Finance Bill 2012, effective from today, so that the legislation in question cannot be circumvented in future. They will also make retrospective amendments to the legislation in relation to debt acquisitions on or after 1 December 2011 to ensure the bank, and any other company that has engaged in a similar scheme in the same period, is taxed as it should be on this transaction. This is not action that the Government are taking lightly. But the potential tax loss from this scheme and the history of previous abuse in this area mean that the Government believe that this is a circumstance where action to change the legislation with full retrospective effect is justified to ensure that the system is fair for all and that those who seek to benefit from this aggressive avoidance do not get an unfair advantage.



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The bank has adopted the code of practice which contains a commitment not to engage in tax avoidance. The Government are clear that this not a transaction that a bank that has adopted the code should be undertaking.

The protocol on unscheduled announcements of changes in tax law published by the Government at Budget 2011 states that "changes to tax legislation where the change takes effect from a date earlier than the date of announcement will be wholly exceptional". The Government view the avoidance outlined here and the circumstances as being a "wholly exceptional" case as envisaged by the protocol.

The draft legislation, Explanatory Note and Technical Note published today will form part of Finance Bill 2012 and will be available on the HMRC website.

Authorised Investment Funds

The second avoidance scheme seeks to exploit provisions of the authorised investment fund (AIF) regulations to generate the repayment of tax (whether directly or through set off against other liabilities) that has never been paid.

Legislation to block this scheme, which is effective from today's date, has been made by regulations and will be available at legislation.gov.uk.

The Government have acted on a number of occasions in the past to block avoidance schemes exploiting both these areas of the law. The previous action and this Government's action in the present case makes it clear that the Government consider that certain contrived arrangements-these are arrangements involving financial products designed to create tax credits that can be repaid or offset against a bank's other income where the tax in question has not been paid, or to avoid being taxed on profits on buyback of the bank's own debt-are wholly unacceptable and against the intentions of Parliament and the spirit of the law.

Ministers will consider closing any future avoidance schemes involving such arrangements with full retrospective effect to ensure that the system is fair for all and that those that seek to benefit from this aggressive tax avoidance do not get an unfair advantage.

UK-France Summit

Statement

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.

I would like to update the House on the UK-France summit on 17 February in Paris.

Last Friday's summit followed that of November 2010 which resulted in the signature of two historic defence treaties at Lancaster House.

The Summit

The summit was hosted by President Sarkozy at the Elysée Palace. President Sarkozy was accompanied by Prime Minister Fillon and his Foreign, Defence and Energy Ministers.



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The British delegation was headed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and me.

France and the UK are co-operating more closely on foreign and security policy issues than at any time since the Second World War. Discussions covered foreign policy, defence, security and energy issues, highlighting our shared challenges and priorities. Within this context, we discussed the importance of stabilising the eurozone and restoring growth to the European economy. There were also frank exchanges in areas where we disagree, including the proposal for a financial transaction tax.

At the conclusion of the talks, the President and Prime Minister issued joint declarations covering defence and security, energy and Syria. These can be found at: www.number10.gov.uk

Energy

A centrepiece of the summit was our landmark agreement to strengthen co-operation between France and the UK on civil nuclear energy. The joint declaration signalled our shared commitment to the future of civil nuclear power, setting out a joint long term vision of safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy, that supports growth and helps to deliver our emission reductions targets. The declaration reiterated our commitment to the role of nuclear energy as part of a diversified energy mix, agreeing to work together with the International Atomic Energy Agency to strengthen international capability to react to nuclear emergencies and establish a joint framework for co-operation and exchanging good practice on civil nuclear security. British and French public and private sector bodies in the civil nuclear power industry will also work more closely on education and training, research and development, and security. This strengthened co-operation will be supported by a new Franco-British high level group on nuclear energy, bringing together industry, government, and other key stakeholders.

This partnership agreement was underpinned by a number of commercial deals in the field of nuclear energy, worth more than £500 million and creating more than 1,500 jobs across the country. These agreements represent a significant strengthening of the relationship between France and the UK in the field of civil nuclear development and signal the emergence of a competitive supply chain capable of servicing global opportunities. They also constitute the first concrete orders which make the UK new nuclear programme a reality, thus meeting critical objectives for securing our energy supplies and meeting our carbon reduction targets.

Defence and Security

The summit reinforced both sides' commitment to the increased co-operation initiated in the 2010 Lancaster House treaties. We are similar-sized powers, with similar-sized armed forces and similar ambitions. The strength of our relationship and our determination to improve it were demonstrated throughout our leadership of the campaign to protect citizens in Libya. As part of our work to establish a new joint rapidly deployable force, we will design and develop a deployable headquarters

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comprising permanent and experienced staff drawn from existing French and UK high readiness command structures; this will be enhanced by an increase in the number of exchange officers on both sides. Beyond this, we agreed to work together to move to the next stage of developing a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles. We also discussed a wide range of actual and potential co-operation on equipment procurement and support to enable both improved capability and interoperability while delivering efficiency savings.

We also confirmed our joint approach to a range of current foreign policy challenges, including the threat of Iran's nuclear programme, Somalia ahead of the London conference, Afghanistan and Burma.

Syria

Our discussions on Syria focused on the continued and appalling violence and concluded with a declaration that set out the joint measures that our two countries will take in support of the Syrian people and their aspirations for a better future. These included calling on the UN and other humanitarian agencies to carry out an urgent assessment of humanitarian needs, an increase in humanitarian aid, support for increased pressure on Assad, including an asset freeze on the Central Bank of Syria, and support for a subsequent transition process in Syria.

Conclusions

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has stated, the summit showed the strength and depth of the UK's ties with France. One year on from the Libya uprising, we are working together to stand up to the murderous Syrian regime and to stop a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran. At the United Nations, we co-sponsor more than three-quarters of Security Council resolutions. Our commercial relationship is deep and growing with exports increasing and French investment sustaining almost 10,000 jobs in the UK. Our armed forces are working together at the cutting edge of military technology. The UK and France are committed to working together, for the security and the prosperity of both our nations.

Zimbabwe

Statement

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 its decision to roll over the Zimbabwe restrictive and appropriate measures. Following an in-depth assessment of the current situation on the ground, the UK and its EU partners have unanimously agreed to the renewal of the measures for a further 12 months, while removing 51 people and 20 companies from the list of those subject to an EU visa ban and asset freeze on the grounds that they are no longer involved in or associated with human rights abuses or

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undermining democracy or the rule of law. These amendments reflect the positive progress made by the inclusive government and SADC facilitation process in the implementation of the global political agreement and preparing for credible and peaceful elections in Zimbabwe.

While our assessment is that there have been demonstrable improvements in the overall situation in Zimbabwe, there remains a pressing need for further progress. The implementation of political reforms remains slow. Politically-motivated looting, violence and intimidation continue, albeit on a lesser scale than in previous years. Further political and democratic reform is essential to promote the rule of law, human rights and democracy, as agreed under the global political agreement. For these reasons, we have extended the travel restrictions and asset freeze applicable to the remaining 112 people and 11 companies for a further 12 months. The listing of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) will be reviewed in six months. The arms embargo remains in place.

The restrictions on appropriate measures covering EU development assistance have also been renewed for six months. During this period, the EU will engage Zimbabwe in preparations for a country strategy paper in the framework of the European Development Fund. The EU will also invite the Government of Zimbabwe to intensify political dialogue, including through the Zimbabwe Ministerial Re-engagement Team, and to define further steps towards a normalisation of EU-Zimbabwe relations. The appropriate measures will be reviewed again at the end of the six months on the basis of progress on the ground in Zimbabwe, including core Cotonou principles of human rights and rule of law. EU and UK bilateral development aid will continue to be channelled directly to the people of Zimbabwe through the UN and non state actors, rather than through the Government of Zimbabwe.

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 (SADC) 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. To facilitate unfettered dialogue between the EU and Zimbabwe the EU has agreed to suspend the travel bans on the two ZANU-PF members of the Zimbabwean Ministerial Re-engagement Team.

Britain remains a committed friend to the people of Zimbabwe. UK aid to Zimbabwe this financial year (2011-12) will reach £80 million-our largest ever programme. Over the next four years UK aid will provide almost one million more people with clean water, give more than 700,000 women access to family planning, create 125,000 new jobs and help 80,000 children complete primary education. UK aid to Zimbabwe is channelled through UN agencies and NGOs, not the Government of Zimbabwe, and its delivery is independently monitored.


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