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Volume 453: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the UK Government (a) have committed and (b) plan to commit to support democracy in Tonga; what discussions she has had with the New Zealand Foreign Ministry regarding its efforts to bring peace to Tonga; and what discussions she has had with the British high commission in Nuku’alofa regarding the current conflict. (102321)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is providing £20,000 for a constitutional adviser to advise the Government of Tonga on constitutional reform and development and on the drafting of a new constitution. This project is being jointly funded with the Commonwealth Secretariat. The adviser will offer assistance on developing and drafting a new constitution which includes making two assessment visits to Tonga. The first visit was in March 2006. The adviser will report back to the Commonwealth Secretariat on the outcome of each of the visits. The FCO has no plans at this stage to provide further support for the constitutional reform process in Tonga.

I discussed the issues of democracy and constitutional reform with the Tongan Prime Minister when I met him in Fiji in October.

Officials from the FCO and our high commission in Wellington met with representatives from the New Zealand high commission in London and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, respectively, to discuss the situation in Tonga.

Following the closure of our high commission in Nuku’alofa in March 2006 responsibility for the UK’s relations with Tonga have been handled by our high commission in Suva, Fiji. Officials at the FCO have been in regular contact with our high commission in Suva to discuss the current situation in Tonga.