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Written Statements

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 5 June 2003

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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 5 June 2003

Work And Pensions

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) inspection report on Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council was published on Thursday 29 May 2003 and copies of the report have been placed in the Library.In its response to the Housing Green Paper of November 2000, the Department for Work and Pensions developed a performance framework for housing benefits. The Performance Standards for housing benefits' allow local authorities to make a comprehensive self-assessment of whether they deliver benefit effectively and securely. They are standards the Department for Work and Pensions aspires to and expects local authorities to achieve in time.The BFI inspected Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council against the Performance Standards. The report finds that the council is not at Standard for any of the 7 functional areas of the Performance Standards—strategic management, customer services, processing of claims, working with landlords, internal security, counter-fraud, and overpayments.Historically the benefit service has had a low profile within the council. As a result performance in terms of administering benefits, identifying and recovering overpayments and countering fraud has been weak over recent years with no prosecutions undertaken, poor claims performance and a lack of overpayment activity and management information.The report finds that from the autumn of 2002, the benefit service has been regarded as a priority area by senior management and Members.Modernisation of the council has led to greater scrutiny of council business by Members, and a new senior management team has been put in place and has introduced improved systems of reporting.The council has put in place a Vision, underpinned by strategic objectives that link performance, and it has introduced the Verification Framework and management checking, both of which have had a big impact on securing the benefits system.The report also finds that the council has put in place a new counter-fraud policy and strategy which clearly informs the action to be taken against fraudsters.In 2001–02, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council administered approximately £55.1 million in housing benefits, approximately 15 per cent. of its total gross revenue expenditure.

The report makes recommendations to help the council address weaknesses and to further improve the administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, as well as counter-fraud activities.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now considering the report and will be asking the council for its proposals in response to the findings and recommendations of the BFI.

Pathways To Work

The Department for Work and Pensions laid before the house on 18 November 2002 a consultation document entitled: "Pathways to Work—Helping People into Employment". This sets out the next steps in the Government's welfare to work strategy for people with health problems and disabilities. It recommends piloting a number of innovative measures to help people to return to work where they have the capability and expectation of doing so. I will be announcing the detailed outcome of the consultation exercise shortly.My Department, together with the Department of Health and appropriate Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly officials, have been preparing for the implementation of the pilots.On 26 March I announced the locations of the first three Jobcentre Plus pilot districts which will start on 27 October—Bridgend, Derby and Renfrewshire.Today, I am pleased to announce that the further four pilots will be in the Jobcentre Plus districts of East Lancashire, Essex, Gateshead & South Tyneside, and Somerset, starting in April 2004.Objective criteria were used to select the seven pilot areas. The number of pilot areas was increased from the six mentioned in the consultation document to seven in order to reflect the full range of these criteria so we fully understand the potential national impact. The areas represent a mix of geographical and labour market areas and will have fully integrated Jobcentre Plus offices.The pilots will test and evaluate the impact of the extra support we will provide for those sick and disabled people who want to go back to work.

Home Department

Criminal Records Bureau

On 27 February the Home Office issued a consultation paper on the Reform of the Disclosure Process to seek the views of registered bodies and others on how best to take forward a number of the recommendations of the Independent Review Team, Official Report, col. 33–36WS. The consultation period closed on 25 April. Five hundred and seventy responses were received. I have today placed in the Library of the House an analysis of those responses. We will consider carefully the views expressed in response to the consultation before deciding how best to proceed.

Animal Experiments

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Bob Ainsworth)

Each year, to comply with a requirement in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, the Government present to Parliament statistics relating to scientific procedures using animals in Great Britain. The statistics, based on data collected from those conducting licensed programmes of work under the Act, are published as a Command Paper and placed in the Library.For some while suggestions have been made, from different quarters and in various contexts, as to how the statistics might be improved, both as regards the information provided and the way is presented. More recently the statistics have been the subject of recommendations by the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures, in their report published last July.In the Government response to that Select Committee we stated we would have the statistics reviewed to see how their content and presentation might be improved. This is to inform the House that I have today written to the Chairman of the Animal Procedures Committee—the independent advisory body set up under the 1986 Act—asking for that Committee to carry out a thorough review.The review is to take into account all the views and recommendations already put forward on the statistics, and to involve widespread consultation with stakeholders, other interested parties and the wider public. The expected cost of any recommended changes, especially in terms of any additional burden on the scientific community, would have to be fully justified by the likely benefits.I have asked the Animal Procedures Committee to report back to me by the end of 2004. Their recommendations will then be carefully considered.

Criminal Records Bureau Corporate Plan

I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of the Criminal Records Bureau's Corporate and Business Plan for 2003–04. After a difficult first seven months of operations, the Business Plan builds on the steady improvements in performance since last autumn. The average number of Disclosures issued each week since October stands at 40,000 compared with 24,500 a week last August. Turnaround times have reduced from over eight weeks to under five and the number of aged applications over six weeks old (and not awaiting further information from the applicant) has been reduced from a peak of 76,000 to under 10,000.For 2003–04 I have set the CRB challenging but realistic service standards which take into account the experience of the first year of operating. The CRB will now seek to process 90 per cent. of applications for a Standard Disclosure within two weeks and 90 per cent. of applications for an Enhanced Disclosure within four weeks.

As a result of the service improvements in recent months the CRB is able to increase its capacity to 60,000 Disclosures a week and consequently it can now commence criminal record checks on care workers postponed last November, 4 November 2002, Official Report, columns 102–04W.

Subject to consultation, the programme for introducing checks will be as follows:

EXISTING CARE HOME STAFF (care home staff who were in post just before 1 April 2002)
The deadline for checks for this group will be brought forward from 31 October 2004 to 30 June 2004. In order to make sure the CRB check has been completed by the new deadline, applications will need to be submitted to the CRB between 1 October and 30 November 2003. In order to make best use of the CRB's increased capacity these checks will be carried out at the level of a Standard Disclosure.
In order to ensure a smooth introduction of these checks, we propose making a distinction between new and existing domiciliary care agency and nurses agency staff. We are consulting on the definitions of new and existing staff in order to ensure that they are clear both to agencies and their customers. All domiciliary care and nurses agency staff will be required to obtain Enhanced Disclosures.

From 1 October 2003, a CRB check will be required before a new agency domiciliary care worker or agency nurse can take up their placement.

Existing domiciliary care agency staff will be asked to submit applications for checks to the CRB between 1 October and 30 November 2003. The CRB will complete these checks by 30 June 2004.

Checks on existing nursing agency staff will commence in spring 2004 once those on existing domiciliary agency staff have been completed.

The Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) list will be introduced as soon as possible.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has today issued a consultation paper on the necessary amendments to the Domiciliary Care Agencies Regulations 2002, Nurses Agencies Regulations 2002 and the Care Homes Regulations 2001.

The lower volume of throughput, as a result of the slower introduction of checks on the key groups mentioned above and the deferment of Basic Disclosures, together with other factors have resulted in higher unit costs. The costs for 2002–03 have been met by the three key departments, namely the Home Office, Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills. The Business Plan develops a costing regime retaining free checks for volunteers and a new full cost recovery plan with full effect from 2005.

The Government made it clear when the current £12 fee was announced, 2 April 2001, Official Report, column 69W, that it was our intention that the Bureau would be self-financing in the medium term. That remains our objective. However, in the short term, the costs of the CRB will continue to be met by a combination of fee receipts and contributions from the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills. As we move towards full cost recovery it is necessary to increase the Disclosure fees. From 1 July the fee for a Standard

Disclosure will be £24 and that for an Enhanced Disclosure will be £29. Volunteers will continue to receive free Disclosures. The necessary amendment to the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations 2002 has been laid before Parliament today.

Deputy Prime Minister

Review Of Area Based Initiatives

The Minister for Social Exclusion and Deputy Minister for Women
(Mrs. Barbara Roche)

I am today announcing the publication of the Review of Area Based Initiatives progress report. Significant progress has been made in giving local people more freedom to deliver, following on from the launch of the Review of Area Based Initiatives some six months ago. A number of changes have been made following the Regional Coordination Unit's recommendations, which have resulted in a marked reduction in the bureaucracy associated with area based initiatives.Copies of the progress report are available in the House Library.

Planning And Compulsory Purchase Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
(Mr. Tony McNulty)

The Leader of the House will announce today at Business Questions our intention to recommit the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill to Standing Committee.We have taken this decision to enable us to bring forward provisions which will end the Crown's immunity from planning control, subject to certain safeguards. Given the substantive nature of the proposed amendments I think it is important that the House of Commons is given the opportunity to debate these new provisions fully before the Bill resumes its remaining stages.We will also be seeking to introduce further provisions which will help to implement the Sustainable Communities agenda.Clearly this will mean that the Bill will not be able to complete its remaining stages in this session. Motions have therefore also been tabled today to allow the Bill to be carried over into the next Parliamentary session. We will be seeking to ensure that the Bill reaches the statute book as soon as possible in the next session to lessen the impact of this slight delay.We propose that the provisions relating to crown development extend beyond England and Wales, which would involve the Scottish Executive pursuing a Sewel motion in the Scottish Parliament. We are, of course, discussing this with the Scottish Executive, which has been kept informed of our proposals.The intention to carry over the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill into the next session does not signify any lessening in our commitment to reforming the planning system.

Copies of a short progress report covering the large number of workstreams being taken forward as part of this commitment are available in the Libraries of the Deputy Prime Ministers website

Lord Chancellor

Legal Aid

My right honourable and noble Friend, the Lord Chancellor, has today announced a package of measures, which will help achieve better value for money in the legal aid system while ensuring that help continues to go to those who need it most.A consultation paper has been published today on the Criminal Defence Service (CDS). "Delivering Value for Money in the Criminal Defence Service" sets out a range of proposals to ensure that CDS expenditure is targeted on those areas where legal aid can best advance and protect a client's interests. Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.A further consultation paper on asylum legal aid "Proposed Changes to Publicly Funded Immigration and Asylum Work" has also been published today. This sets out proposals to ensure that we obtain more effective controls of costs and quality in legal advice given to asylum seekers. Copies of this consultation paper have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.He announced that we are setting up a project to consider the likely supply of and demand for lawyers over the coming years and to establish what remuneration rates may be necessary. This will provide an evidential basis for decisions to ensure a sufficient supply of lawyers of the right quality prepared to undertake legal aid work in the coming years.Finally he announced that we are fully implementing the scheme for contracting very high cost criminal cases. These are cases which last (or are estimated to last) over 25 days at trial, or cost more than £150,000. This scheme will ensure better value for money, help the aims of better and earlier case preparation and give the professions greater certainty about payment for work.

Trade And Industry

Gas Quality

The recent Energy White Paper noted that, as we move towards greater dependence on imported gas, there may be implications for gas quality. The Government undertook to keep developments closely under review (Cm 5761, para. 6.21).

The DTI, working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), has now appointed consultants to advise on whether there is in fact likely to be a significant gas quality issue, particularly (but not exclusively) in relation to Wobbe Index. The Wobbe Number represents a measure of the heat release when a gas is burned at constant gas supply pressure.

The upper and lower limits for the specification of gas in respect of Wobbe Index are set out in the HSE's Gas Safety Management Regulations (SI 1996/550). There is anecdotal evidence that some of the potential sources of gas imports for the UK market may have a Wobbe Index that exceeds the current upper limit. High Wobbe gas requires more oxygen to burn completely; and there is a risk that some of the older gas appliances may not be able to draw in sufficient oxygen to work safely.

There may be further issues affecting the specification of imported gas concerning other effects, and other parameters.

Against this background I am today launching a 3-phase strategy, as follows:

Phase one is a scoping study to look, in particular but not exclusively, at the Wobbe Index of future imported gas. It will explore the UK's capability of importing gas of the expected specification, taking into consideration existing gas terminal facilities as well as known future import projects. This phase should be completed by the end of August. ILEX Energy Consulting Ltd have been appointed to take this work forward.

During this phase my Department will hold a workshop, to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to register their interest, and to brief them.

Phase two will depend on phase one establishing that there is a gas quality issue to be addressed. It would be a tripartite (DTI, HSE, Ofgem) consultation on the appropriate policy response. One option would be to increase the current Wobbe limit with an advantage in terms of lower gas import costs but requiring the identification and removal of non-compliant gas appliances. The alternative option would be to retain the current Wobbe limit—avoiding the need to identify/ remove certain gas appliances, but with a penalty in terms of gas import costs, and ease and reliability of access to an increasingly global and liquid international gas market. I should hope to conclude that consultation by spring 2004.

The Government would propose to review the next steps at that time. I would expect that review to take into account the outcome of the consultation process, and also the state of play of the European Commission's work on interoperability of gas grids, which includes work on gas quality. The EU dimension is potentially very helpful in providing a broader context of regulatory stability. But it is important that any policy conclusions reached next spring should be robust against changes at the EU level. That may require delaying decisions here, until the EU aspect clarifies.

Phase three would be the implementation of the policy. There are unavoidable uncertainties about the timing of phase three. However, I would hope that phase three could be initiated during the first half of 2004. If the policy decision is to increase the upper Wobbe limit, that would require amendment to the HSE's GSMR, and a major exercise to identify and remove non-compliant gas appliances. Consequently the new Wobbe limit would be unlikely to take effect before the end of 2005.

I shall report to the House in due course on the outcome of phase one, and on the timetable for the remainder of the exercise as it firms up.

This exercise has been developed by the DTI as a member of the Sustainable Energy Policy Network (SEPN) which is working to deliver the Energy White Paper "Our Energy Future—creating a low carbon economy".

Environment, Food And Rural Affairs

Rural Delivery Arrangements

Lord Haskins' Rural Delivery Review will help improve the way rural policies are delivered and make a real difference to local people.The seven guiding principles of the review—the first outcome of Lord Haskins' work—were published today. They are:

Better accountability: policy development should be managed separately from policy delivery, whilst ensuring that proper communication exists at all stages between the two functions. Accountability for success or failure cannot be determined if there is confusion between the two.
Readiness for policy change: the Government must prepare for the delivery of a major new agri-environmental agenda in the coming years.
Devolution: delivery of economic and social policy must be devolved in accordance with the principles of public service reform.
Customer focus: the services available to rural businesses and rural communities, and visitors to the countryside, need to be more accessible and transparent.
Simplicity: the complex range of agencies currently engaged in delivering the government's rural policies should be simplified.
Co-ordination: the environmental, social and economic elements of rural delivery should be better co-ordinated at a regional level.
Value for money: the taxpayer must get better value for money as a result of changes to the current arrangements.

Ministers are very grateful for all the work Lord Haskins has done so far, meeting hundreds of individuals and organisations throughout England, as well as visiting Scotland, Wales, France, Germany and Belgium. The principles he has developed are a very useful first indication of his thinking and are consistent with existing work across Government bringing services closer to local people, for example through devolution and decentralisation.

Ministers want to see real improvements in service delivery to rural people and we expect the Rural Delivery Review to build on these principles to produce imaginative and effective proposals. We now look forward to receiving Lord Haskins' final conclusions in the autumn.


Financial Services

I can now announce that legislation to bring mortgages and the selling of general insurance within the scope of Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulation will be laid before Parliament today. This follows extensive consultation with interested parties including consumer groups and the industry.Regulation will provide major benefits to UK consumers in two large and important markets. Each year UK consumers pay £26.4bn of general insurance premiums and take £219bn of mortgage loans. Consumer protection in these markets will be increased, with regulation providing safeguards for consumers and introducing minimum standards of advice. Intermediaries selling a range of financial services products will have to deal with one regulator, the FSA rather than the current complex mix of statutory and self regulatory arrangements.The Government consulted on their proposals to implement mortgage regulation in February 2002, publishing the responses in August 2002. This legislation incorporates the outcome of this consultation.This legislation also incorporates the outcomes of the consultation "Regulating Insurance Mediation" the publication of which was reported to Parliament on 21 October 2002 (

Official Report, columns 83–84W). The consultation set out the Government's proposals to regulate various activities relating to the sale and administration of general insurance. This will implement the Insurance Mediation Directive (the Directive). I am grateful to the 400 or so respondents who took the trouble to reply to the consultation. A summary of the consultation responses and the Government's decisions have today been placed in the Library.

The Directive requires the regulation of insurance mediation activities in relation to all contracts of insurance. However, it provides for certain exemptions for insurance sold as part of a package, including travel insurance sold with a holiday and some extended warranties that are contracts of insurance.

Following extensive consultation the Government have decided not to regulate travel insurance sold with a holiday. The consultation provided insufficient evidence of consumer detriment to warrant the extra costs of regulation, particularly for small independent travel agents.

However I recognise that there are concerns about this market. The Treasury will therefore hold a review of this decision two years after implementation of general insurance regulation in early 2007.

I can confirm that the Government will await the outcome of the Competition Commission enquiry into extended warranties on domestic electrical appliances before taking a decision as to whether extended warranties that are contracts of insurance should be regulated.

The appointed representatives regime will apply to insurance mediation. This will allow representatives of FSA authorised persons to carry out regulated activities without themselves being authorised provided the authorised person has accepted responsibility for their conduct. Following representations during consultation this regime will be extended in relation to general insurance contracts. As well as being able to arrange and advise on contracts of general insurance, appointed representatives will also be able to conclude contracts of general insurance as agent. They will also be able to assist in the administration and performance of contracts of general insurance. These changes reflect market practice and should make it easier for firms and individuals to become appointed representatives if they and their principals wish.

The Treasury received representations regarding transitioning of complaints. Some respondents wanted the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) to be given powers to deal with consumer complaints which arise after FSA regulation starts but which relate to products bought before FSA regulation commences from firms regulated by Mortgage Code Compliance Board (MCCB) or the General Insurance Standards Council (GISC). Transitioning these complaints would benefit consumers. However this has to be weighed up against the possibility of additional costs for firms, and any differences in approach and scope between the FOS and the current self-regulatory schemes. The Government will therefore hold an open consultation later this summer to give all interested parties a chance to respond on these issues.

I can also announce that the Government will be holding an open public consultation this Autumn on whether to bring home reversion plans into the scope of regulation by the Financial Services Authority.

There are two main types of equity release plans, mortgage backed equity release plans and home reversion equity release plans. Under mortgage backed equity release plans a homeowner takes out a loan secured against a property. The loan is used to provide a regular income or provide a lump sum payment. Ownership remains with the homeowner. The loan is repaid when the property is sold either upon death of the owner or if the borrower moves house. Mortgage backed equity release schemes will fall within the scope of FSA regulation when the FSA takes on responsibility for regulating mortgages in October 2004.

Under home reversion equity release plans homeowners agree to sell all or part of their home in return for a lump sum payment and the right to remain in the house rent free until they die or move home. At such a time the home reversion provider is free to sell the property. A key part of the transaction is therefore the underlying agreed house valuation. A home reversion plan is not in itself a financial services product. Any potential decision to regulate home reversions would go beyond the FSA's scope as defined in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, and would therefore require primary legislation.

The Pensions Green Paper "Simplicity, Security and Choice: Working and Saving for Retirement"—published by the Department for Work and Pensions on 17 December 2002—said that the Government would be looking at options to create a level playing field for the regulation of equity release and home reversion plans to protect consumers and make the market work better.

The Government have had discussions with a number of stakeholders. These stakeholders have provided no evidence of consumer detriment at present in the home reversion equity release plan market. However there are concerns about the potential for consumer detriment as the market grows and as the FSA takes on responsibility for regulating mortgage backed equity release schemes from 31 October 2004. Therefore I have decided that there is a need for a more in depth analysis of the costs and benefits of regulating home reversion plans and we will hold an open consultation in the autumn.

Economic And Monetary Union

In considering the precise release arrangements for the documents supporting the decision on the single currency, the Government have been guided by two key principles: first, the legitimate right of Members of Parliament to have as much of the relevant background material as possible ahead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement to the House of Commons on Monday 9 June, as recognised by the recommendation of the Treasury Committee that the eighteen supporting studies be published ahead of the assessment; and second, the need to take into account market sensitive information. The Government have sought to strike a balance between these two potentially conflicting objectives. In doing so, the Government have decided on the following arrangements for releasing the EMU documentation which accompanies the Chancellor's statement to the House on 9 June.The Treasury assessment of the five economic tests and third outline national changeover plan will be available from the Vote Office immediately after the Chancellor has completed his statement. The eighteen EMU studies which accompany the assessment will be available from the Vote Office at 9.00 am on 9 June.All the material will be accessible on the Treasury website at the same time as it is released to the House. The Treasury will notify media organisations of the precise arrangements for them for the collection of the documents.

International Development

Algerian Earthquake

An earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter Scale hit the northern coast of Algeria at 19:44 local time (18:44 GMT) on 21 May 2003. There were a number of aftershocks. The most powerful (on 27 May) caused further building collapse and some deaths and injuries. According to the latest reports from the Algerian Interior Ministry, 2,268 people have died as a result of the earthquake, while those injured number over 10,100. Preliminary estimates are that up to 200,000 people have been rendered homeless by the earthquake.Telecommunications were widely disrupted. However, to date, some 80 per cent. of the damage has been repaired. The undersea telephone cables between Algeria and Europe were also damaged. Damage to public buildings is still being assessed; of those so far examined, only some 10 per cent. are beyond repair, and 75 per cent. have been declared safe. The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) has advised that purification of water is now adequately covered, but distribution of potable water remains a problem. Sanitation systems and electrical generation and distribution systems are under repair by the authorities.With the initial search and rescue phase over, people whose houses have been destroyed or become unsafe to live in require short-term relief assistance, including shelter, food and water, emergency relief items like blankets, kitchen sets, hygiene kits, and water jerry cans. Some specific needs will arise as a consequence of regrouping homeless people in temporary tented camps that will have to be equipped with adequate sanitary facilities. In the medium to long-term, significant rehabilitation work will have to be carried out to repair infrastructure damage, re-establish the water supply system and provide permanent housing for those made homeless by the earthquake. On 30 May, the Algerian government approved plans to build new homes for 80,000 people left homeless.Following news of the earthquake UK Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams were placed on standby. 95 SAR personnel and 7 search dogs, supported by two DFID Operations Team staff were despatched by DFID funded chartered aircraft the same day. Within the group were teams from the UK Fire Services Search and Rescue Team and the NGOs CANIS Specialist Search Dogs, International Rescue Corps, British International Rescue Dogs and Rescue and Preparedness in Disasters. DFID also supported the UNDAC Team by providing two British members. The flight departed at 23:30 on 22 May, arriving in Algiers at 03:30 the next morning, 23 May 2003. The SAR teams conducted rescue operations in the worst affected towns, in structures in which search dogs or equipment indicated possible survivors. They were also asked to use their sophisticated search equipment and dogs to verify that some previously searched buildings were indeed empty of survivors. During this operation, they found nobody alive.Following the calling-off of the SAR operation by the Government of Algeria, the teams returned to the UK on Monday 26 May 2003. The UNDAC Team continued to support the Government of Algeria in assessing humanitarian needs for a further two days. The full cost of the deployment will be over £100,000.In total, International Search and Rescue Teams eventually numbered over 1,000 personnel and some 75 dogs most have now left Algeria. More than 100 relief flights arrived carrying tents, blankets and plastic sheeting, water purification and distribution equipment, medicines and two field hospitals. These are expected to be largely sufficient to meet immediate and medium term needs. The challenge is to ensure that the aid that has already arrived is distributed efficiently.Support has been provided by a range of donors and non-governmental organisations, a number of United Nations agencies including the United Nations Development Programme and the World Food Programme, and also by the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. The European Community Humanitarian Office is planning a response for a period of up to six months to support health and sanitation interventions.DFID made a further emergency contribution of £95,000 on 29 May to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which is supporting the Algerian Red Crescent Society in providing shelter items, water and sanitation to those who have been displaced.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Osce Arms Embargo

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Mike O'Brien)

HMG remain committed to the OSCE arms embargo against both Azerbaijan and Armenia, which we interpret as covering all goods and technology controlled under entries in Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994 (commonly known as the military list).In December 2002, the Government approved an export licence application for demining equipment for the HALO Trust for demining operations in Armenia and Azerbaijan.The decision was made in accordance with our practice occasionally to make an exemption to our interpretation of the embargo by approving exports of non-lethal military goods to humanitarian, media or peacekeeping organisations where it is clear that the embargo was not intended to prevent those exports and there is a strong humanitarian case for them.