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Volume 455: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2007

His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho dissolved Parliament on 24 November for an election to be called within 90 days, in accordance with the constitution. The election will be held on 17 February. Our non-resident high commissioner, Paul Boateng, visited Lesotho on 4 December. High commission staff are monitoring the situation and remain in regular contact with Lesotho Government Ministers and officials, the chairman of the independent electoral commission, political parties and civil society organisations.

The Minister will be fully aware of the strong links that exist between Welsh communities and the Kingdom of Lesotho, especially in the field of education. He will know that among the problems affecting the country’s economic stability are poor health and the exacerbated problem of AIDS. The situation is being made even worse by the exodus of medical practitioners and doctors from the area. What are the UK Government doing to stabilise the situation so that Lesotho can deal with its health problems, tackle its economic problems and bring about political stability?

The United Kingdom is the only developed country to implement and review systematic policies that explicitly prevent the targeting of developing countries in the international recruitment of health care professionals. The NHS leads the way in the ethical recruitment of health care professionals and has worked with the Department for International Development to draw up a list of countries from which it will not actively recruit, including all countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. The NHS will contract only with private recruitment agencies that are signed up to the code of practice.

In retrospect, would not the Government have been in a better position if they had not reneged on a commitment to maintain a full-time high commissioner in Maseru?

No, certainly not. Our high commissioner based in Pretoria visited Lesotho three times in 2006; his most recent visit was in December 2006. That small poor country will be adequately covered by our high commissioner in Pretoria.

One of the major challenges facing the new Government in Lesotho will be the delivery of primary education for the first time to the country’s young people. Will my hon. Friend commend the work being done to carry through the global schools initiative by Dolen Cymru/Wales link, which is sending school teachers from Wales to Lesotho for long periods to assist in the delivery of education to young people for the first time in a country that has been starved of opportunities in the past?

I commend the excellent work of Dolen Cymru in Lesotho. My hon. Friend reminds us of the strong links that Wales has with Lesotho and other communities; my town of Pontypridd has strong links with Mbale in Uganda. Such links are based on teachers and doctors working with professionals in those countries so that no money donated is wasted, and it is all used to the best effect.