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Volume 462: debated on Tuesday 3 July 2007

10. What discussions he has had with the caretaker Government of Bangladesh on the forthcoming elections in Bangladesh. (146822)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett), the then Foreign Secretary, met the foreign affairs adviser of the caretaker Government of Bangladesh on 19 April. She welcomed the Government’s commitment to restore democracy before the end of next year, looked forward to free and fair elections, applauded the Government’s drive against corruption, and stressed the need to respect human rights and due process.

I am grateful for that answer. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be aware of the high level of concern in the Bangladeshi community here in the UK about the situation in Bangladesh and the need for a proper democratic Government there. What will my hon. Friend’s Department do to impress on the caretaker Government the need to work with the political parties in Bangladesh to get them re-established and working again properly, so that they can play a proper part in free and fair elections?

I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend. We believe that the lifting of the ban on party political activities will be an important step towards creating the right conditions, and we stand ready to offer practical assistance. We await the findings of the United Nations Development Programme’s assessment of the extent of the assistance required to pave the way for free and fair elections.

I understand that the Bangladeshi Government recently met representatives of the European Union and gave a commitment that the Bangladeshi electoral commission would bring forward a road map for elections by mid-July. During the Minister’s negotiations with her opposite number in Bangladesh, will she ensure that any assistance needed for the production of that road map will be provided?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We are assisting with that and will continue to press the Bangladeshi Government to keep to that timetable.