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5 Nov 2002 : Column 251Wcontinued
5 Nov 2002 : Column 252W
Mr. Rammell: I join the international community in welcoming the ceasefire deal signed on 27 October by Somali groups taking part in the peace and reconciliation conference at Eldoret. I hope it will pave the way for a return to peace and stability in Somalia.
Mr. Rammell: The Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army resumed the peace talks on 14 October and have agreed a cessation of hostilities and unrestricted humanitarian access for the duration of the talks. We welcome these developments and shall continue to provide our full support as they work for a just and lasting peace.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the status of Operation Lifeline Sudan; and whether flights are reaching those people in need of food and other necessities. 
Mr. Rammell: Operation Lifeline Sudan remains the principal mechanism by which humanitarian assistance is provided to war-affected areas in Sudan. The UN and the Humanitarian Affairs Commission and the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Authority met in Nairobi on 25 October, they discussed the implementation of unrestricted humanitarian access agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding on the Cessation of Hostilities on 17 October. We warmly welcome these developments.
We continue to urge all parties to give all possible help to the UN and non governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure speedy delivery of humanitarian assistance. Our Ambassador in Khartoum raised the general issue of humanitarian access with the Sudanese Minister of International Co-operation on 24 October.
Mr. Rammell: Relations between Sudan and Eritrea were formally restored in January 2000. Recent tension caused by fighting in eastern Sudan has affected relations between the two countries. But this has eased since the signing on 17 October of a Memorandum of Understanding on a cessation of hostilities between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.
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Mr. Rammell: HMG does not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. We acknowledge the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People's Republic of China. Taiwan is one of the world's largest economies and a key economic partner for the UK. Although we do not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, we are keen to develop further economic, financial, cultural, educational, science and technology and other exchanges where we have mutual interests. The British Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei actively promotes these exchanges and represents British interests in Taiwan in the absence of formal relations.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: The coalition against terrorism that we helped to build in the aftermath of 11 September remains resolute in its objective to eradicate terrorism as a force in international affairs. It has a long list of achievements to its credit: apart from Afghanistan, terrorists have been disrupted and arrested around the world, and there have been significant steps forward in international cooperation. But we have no illusions about how much more needs to be done.
Mr. Rammell: Trade Partners UK is a joint FCO and DTI organisation, established to enhance the competitiveness of companies in the UK through overseas sales and investments. It has a comprehensive business plan to help UK firms expand their activity in the Indian Market. This includes a wide range of activities in business sectors where there are commercial opportunities.
The New Delhi Declaration signed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in January this year, includes a section highlighting the importance of our bilaterial trade and investment relationship.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's relations with Uzbekistan with particular reference to human rights and religious freedom. 
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Mr. Mike O'Brien: The UK's relationship with Uzbekistan is developing well. Since 1992 we have seen Embassies established both in Uzbekistan and the UK. Both are extremely active and are doing much to bring the relationship forward. Education and drugs co-operation are key elements of that relationship.
Much of the UK's work in Uzbekistan is devoted to pressing for improvements in the human rights situation. Bilaterally, and through the EU and the OSCE, we have urged Uzbekistan to take greater steps towards democratisation and respect for human rights. We recognise that there have been some small steps to address the human rights situation, including an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture. But Uzbekistan needs to do much more. In particular, we would like to see reform of the criminal justice system, and wider recognition of independent human rights groups, religious groups and political parties. We stand ready to help Uzbekistan make these improvements, in line with its international obligations and commitments.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking, within the United Nations, to secure the right of unrestricted access of weapons inspectors to identify whether Russia has been acquiring undeclared weapons of mass destruction. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Russia is a State Party to all the major arms control treaties governing weapons of mass destructionthe Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Russia already complies with the inspection requirements imposed by its treaty obligations.
Mr. Rammell: Relations between the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe are poorer than at any time since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. The ZANU (PF) regime has undermined the democratic principles on which an independent Zimbabwe was founded. It has manipulated the democratic process to retain power, as clearly seen during the presidential election in March and in elections since. It has used violence, intimidation and the withholding of food aid to cow the opposition and gain political advantage. It has seriously undermined the independence of the judiciary and subverted the rule of law. It has systematically attacked Zimbabwe's free and independent media. Its record on human rights abuses is appalling. Its economic and land policies are major contributors to the current humanitarian crisis. Relations between the UK and Zimbabwe will not improve until a government in Harare makes a genuine attempt to address these concerns.
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Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to include figures for patients awaiting diagnostic tests in the national cancer waiting lists currently published by the NHS. 
Ms Blears: The NHS Cancer Plan set out waiting time targets for cancer. These targets aim to reduce the amount of time patients have to wait from urgent referral to beginning treatment, which will include the diagnostic phase, and from diagnosis of cancer to first treatment. We have no plans to include waiting times for individual diagnostic tests in cancer waiting times monitoring.
Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations his Department has received concerning the number of patients that have been denied treatment with specific cancer drugs, including Herceptin, owing to delays in obtaining NICE guidance. 
Ms Blears: Prior to publication of recommendations by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Department received numerous representations about the availability of Glivec for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia; Herceptin for the treatment of breast cancer and MabThera for the treatment of follicular lymphoma.
The appraisal process, from referral to completion, has been designed to allow the full participation of patients, clinicians, companies and stakeholders. NICE is fully aware of the need to ensure that the process is as streamlined as possible, without losing any of the important safeguards it contains, in order to publish guidance soon after the treatments are launched.
It is not acceptable for funding authorities to refuse to fund a newly licensed treatment just because it is awaiting appraisal by NICE. Decisions on funding should be based on local consideration of the available evidence when NICE appraisals are awaited.
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