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Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am not entirely sure what the noble Baroness is asking me. We have a High Commissioner on the ground and he will remain there. He is reporting back to us on a regular basis.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, perhaps I may explain what I meant. As the BBC has not been allowed to make any broadcasts, to what extent is the public speaking capability and the integrity of the British High Commissioner now at stake?
Baroness Howells of St Davids: My Lords, in the appraisal of Zimbabwe, can the Minister say how much time Her Majesty's Government expect the country to take to move from apartheid into full democracy?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we have not carried out any analysis, and I know of no research having been done, into the time it takes a country to move from an apartheid situation into a democratic situation. However, Zimbabwe has held elections in the past; we are all aware of that. There were parliamentary elections in 2000. Observers were present for them and they made a full report. That is why this time, when violence and intimidation have marred the run-up to the elections, the international community has been so concerned.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, can the noble Baroness confirm that, whatever the outcome of the Zimbabwean elections and desperate though the situation is in that country, the Commonwealth is a very much larger issue? As someone who comes from Australia, I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether, during her visit, she detected the feeling in Australia that the Commonwealth must remain strong and should continue.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I detected a strong feeling that the Commonwealth is regarded as important and of value. It was recognised that the Commonwealth, as an international organisation comprising 54 diverse countries all operating on an equal footing, is almost unique in the world. Furthermore, a number of different issues were discussed at the meeting. For example, we discussed the position of the smaller states with regard to environmental concerns. A wider discussion was held on issues related to African development and the New Partnership for Africa's Development. As I said, a range of issues were discussed, but the situation in Zimbabwe dominated the agenda.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, given the atmosphere of violence that has pertained in Zimbabwe for several months now, can the noble Baroness say how many Zimbabweans have been refused entry to the UK over the past three months?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am unable to give that figure to the right reverend Prelate. However, he will be aware that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made it absolutely clear that until after the elections are completed Zimbabweans requesting asylum will not be returned to that country.
The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, Mr Rae was unable to move the sculptures to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park as planned last year because of restrictions on movements due to the foot and mouth outbreak. I understand that Mr Rae has now assured William Weston, the chief executive of the Royal Parks Agency, that the exhibits will be removed by the end of April.
Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful and constructive reply, which was worth waiting for. Is she aware that during this long campaign I have had the generous support of my noble friend Lady Oppenheim-Barneswho unfortunately cannot be with us todayso much so that we have become known in park circles as "Bonnie and Clyde"? Does she agree that it is not a question of residents' interests, but the rights of all urban dwellers to enjoy the parksthey are their countrysideand to enjoy the grass, flowers and trees, among which they can walk, play and picnic peaceably?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I hope that "Bonnie and Clyde" do not come to the bad end that the fictional characters came to, in a shoot-out in one of the Royal Parks. Of course I entirely agree that the Royal Parks are there to be enjoyed by people throughout London and, of course, by visitors from all over the world. However, in earlier plans for the park put forward, I believe, by the Marquess of Bute, it was suggested that sculptures should be exhibited in different parts of the park. I believe that the Ronald Rae sculptures, which I know the noble Lord did not much like, were appreciated at least by some members of the public. But the important point to make is that they are now going to be removed.
Viscount Falkland: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that in October 2000 the noble Lord, Lord St John of Fawsley, described the statues as "disfiguring" that corner of the park? However, when I visited the area on my motorcycle earlier today, I found three peopleonly three because it is a Mondayvisiting and photographing the area. Two of them were entirely in support of the statues and liked them very much, while one was non-committal. I have been lobbied by a number of peopleall of them young, curiously enoughwho love the statues, particularly now that they have weathered. Will the noble Baroness take into account the fact that that corner of the park has now been established as a very good area for statues? Furthermore, when the statues are removed, as is likely to be the case, will she be certain that we do not go down rather than up in terms of quality and suitability in that part of the park; that is, if she does intend to see that other statues are put in the place of the Ronald Rae statues?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, perhaps I may explain further to the noble Baroness. I did not actually suggest that the sculptures had caught foot and mouth disease, but I did suggest that removing them to Yorkshire was a problem. I have not seen the sculptures myself, but I am told that they are rather large and therefore require to be transported across the countryside in large lorries. It proved to be impossible to do that while the restrictions were in place during last year.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, given that earlier this year London Zoo lost its elephants, which are prone to foot and mouth disease, it will be a great shame to lose the rather fine elephant statues that are now to be removed? Can the Minister say whether, as a result of the loss of the real elephants, we might have some further sculptures of elephants to replace those which are to be transferred to Yorkshire?
Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, will the noble Baroness take this opportunity to say something about the future of the Royal Parks Agency? Are any developments being planned? Is it to be guaranteed that any activities will be adequately funded from public money rather than from private events, which destroy the very characteristics which people visit the parks to experience?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord St John of Fawsley, may be aware that there is a plan to turn the Royal Parks Agency into a non-departmental public body. That will allow the new body to obtain support from a variety of different funds for different projects, including the lottery, which is not possible at the moment. However, that does not in any way mean that the current public funding of the Royal Parks will decline.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, the size, composition and mission of the International Security Assistance Force have proved adequate for helping the Afghan Interim Authority to provide the security and stability in Kabul which is needed for the Afghans to begin the rebuilding of their country. Its success and the warm welcome the ISAF has received from the people of Kabul are evidence of that and much more.
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