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Written Answers

Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2007

Written Answers to Questions

Monday 8 January 2007

Health

Alcohol-related Conditions

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many adults were admitted into accident and emergency departments in Greater London because of alcohol-related problems in each year since 2003. (102080)

The following table shows counts of finished admission episodes, in the years 2003-04 to 2004-05, for selected alcohol related diseases and for selected methods of emergency admissions for patients treated in London. Data are shown by strategic health authority (SHA) areas which existed at the time. These SHAs merged on 1 July 2006 to create one London SHA.

Counts of finished admission episodes for 1selected methods of admission where there was a primary diagnosis code for 2selected alcohol related diseases

Aged under 18

Aged 18 and over

Age not known

All ages

Strategic health authority of treatment3

2003-04

2004-05

2003-04

2004-05

2003-04

2004-05

2003-04

2004-05

North West London

100

84

1,068

1,379

11

20

1,179

1,483

North Central London

74

82

801

1,074

11

22

886

1,178

North East London

91

59

1,088

1,251

1

3

1,180

1,313

South East London

88

88

1,306

1,784

2

1,394

1,874

South West London

168

156

695

850

1

1

864

1,007

1 Selected Methods of Admission:

Emergency (via A & E services including the casualty department of the provider)

Emergency (other means, including patients who arrive via A & E department of another healthcare provider)

2 Alcohol related diseases defined as following ICD-10 codes recorded in primary diagnosis:

F10: Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol

K70: Alcoholic liver disease

T51: Toxic effect of alcohol

3 Strategic Health Authority of Treatment=London Strategic Health Authorities NHS hospitals, England 2003-04 to 2004-05

Notes:

1. Finished admission episodes

A finished admission episode is the first period of in-patient care under one consultant within one healthcare provider. Please note that admissions do not represent the number of in-patients, as a person may have more than one admission within the year.

2. Diagnosis (Primary Diagnosis)

The primary diagnosis is the first of up to 14 (7 prior to 2002-03) diagnosis fields in the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data set and provides the main reason why the patient was in hospital.

3. Ungrossed Data

Figures have not been adjusted for shortfalls in data (i.e. the data are ungrossed).

4. Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Strategic Health Authority (SHA) Data Quality

PCT and SHA data was added to historic data-years in the HES database using 2002-03 boundaries, as a one-off exercise in 2004. The quality of the data on PCT of Treatment and SHA of Treatment is poor in 1996-97,1997-98 and 1998-99, with over a third of all finished episodes having missing values in these years. Data quality of PCT of GP practice and SHA of GP practice in 1997-98 and 1998-99 is also poor, with a high proportion missing values where practices changed or ceased to exist. There is less change in completeness of the residence-based fields over time, where the majority of unknown values are due to missing postcodes on birth episodes. Users of time series analysis including these years need to be aware of these issues in their interpretation of the data.

5. Data Quality

Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) are compiled from data sent by over 300 NHS Trusts and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England. The “Health and Social Care Information Centre” liaises closely with these organisations to encourage submission of complete and valid data and seeks to minimise inaccuracies and the effect of missing and invalid data via HES processes. Whilst this brings about improvement over time, some shortcomings remain.

Source:

Hospital Episode Statistics (HES),

Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Branded Generic Medicines

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what assessment her Department has made of the potential for savings to the NHS from the purchase of branded generic goods; and if she will make a statement; (112809)

(2) why the publication of her Department’s consultation on branded generic medicines has been delayed until after the Office of Fair Trading’s report on the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme in 2007; and if she will make a statement;

(3) whether the Department’s consultation on branded generic medicines will be made public; and if she will make a statement;

(4) what meetings she has held with interested parties on the delay in the publication of the Department’s consultation on generic medicines; and if she will make a statement.

The Department will not be able to determine what savings may be made by the national health service until such time as a number of complex issues raised by the consultation process have been resolved. It will also be necessary to consider these issues in the context of any conclusions reported in the Office of Fair Trading study into the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme (PPRS).

A decision has therefore been taken to defer any final conclusion until the Department receives the report on the PPRS which is expected in the first quarter of 2007.

A summary will be reported when the consultation is formally concluded.

No ministerial meeting has been held to inform interested parties, but these organisations have been advised of the delay.

Capital Resource Funds Allocation

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether any of the capital resource fund allocated in the 2006-07 financial year for investment in health has since been designated to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for sport-related projects; and whether there are any plans to transfer such funds in the future. (113578)

The Department has not reallocated any of its 2006-07 capital resources to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport or sport-related projects and has no plans to do so in the future.

Cholesterol Levels

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what evidence her Department has assessed on the level of risk posed by elevated levels of low density lipopropein cholesterol in coronary heart disease relative to other factors; and if she will make a statement. (113057)

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Effectiveness (NICE) published a health technology appraisal on statins in January 2006. This took account of all available evidence and concluded that it was effective to intervene with statin therapy in patients who scored a 20 per cent. or greater 10-year risk of developing cardiovascular disease, regardless of the starting cholesterol.

NICE is currently working on a guideline on lipid control, due for publication next year, which is also looking at the issue of risk assessment.

There are a number of different risk assessment tools for coronary heart disease (CHD) in use in England. Most of them derive from the Framingham prediction equations, which estimate CHD risk based on patients' age, gender, blood pressure, total cholesterol, high-density cholesterol, presence of diabetes and smoking habit. Relative risk reductions in CHD events in the statin trials appear similar regardless of baseline risk and baseline cholesterol except where baseline cholesterol is less than 5.0 mmol/l when the relative risk reduction is less. This implies that the best way to target patients for cholesterol control and statin therapy to reduce CHD risk is to calculate absolute risk.

Commission for Patient and Public Involvement

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the performance of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health in engaging hard to reach groups and those who are unused to speaking up or participating in the NHS. (113178)

The Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health’s (CPPIH) primary role is to support the work of patients forums. Many patients forums have focused specifically on engaging with diverse and excluded groups on how services can be improved. In the CPPIH’s annual review of the work of patients forums a number of examples of this kind of activity are described, and this is available at:

www.cppih.org/documents/Nationalsummary.pdf

Community Hospitals

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the role of English district general hospitals that serve Welsh patients has been in the consultation process on the possible closure of community hospitals in Wales. (106255)

Contact Lenses: Sales

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what provisions are in place to prevent the sale of contact lenses over the internet without a prescription. (112781)

Under the Opticians Act contact lenses may be sold over the internet, but only where there is a valid prescription.

Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 27 November 2006, Official Report, column 440W, on correspondence, what progress has been made by the chief executive of NHS West Midlands in ensuring that the hon. Member for West Worcestershire receives a response to his letters of (a) 22 August and (b) 17 October, on changes in Worcestershire health service provision. (113114)

This has already been raised with NHS West Midlands. However, the strategic health authority is still awaiting clarification of some further details to enable it to continue with the necessary inquiries before a reply can be sent to the hon. Member.

Dentistry

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will assess the accuracy of the calculations of units of dental activity for dentists working on the new dental contracts; and if she will make a statement. (112935)

Under the new contractual arrangements, providers of national health service primary dental care services undertake to provide an agreed level of services over the course of the year, measured in terms of courses of treatment but with a weighting to reflect relative complexity. Units of dental activity are the measure of these weighted courses of treatment. Dentists previously working under the old general dental services contract were entitled to contracts based on the courses of treatment paid for during the 12-month reference period (October 2004 to September 2005), converted into units of dental activity and then reduced by 5 per cent.

During the period leading up to the implementation of the contract, the Department worked closely with the then Dental Practice Board to make sure that this calculation of units of dental activity represented as fair a reflection as possible of the activity paid for during the reference period. The Department remains confident that these calculations provided a fair basis for calculating the new service requirements, taking into account the 5 per cent. reduction and the opportunity given to dentists to carry out simpler courses of treatment with fewer individual interventions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what (a) guidance and (b) instructions were given by her Department to the Dental Practice Board during the formation of the new system of dental contracts on the calculation of units of dental activity; and if she will make a statement. (112936)

The General Dental Services and Personal Dental Services Transitional Provisions Order 2005 (SI No. 2005/3435) required primary care trusts (PCTs) to calculate the units of dental activity to be provided by the contractor under a general dental services (CDS) contract by analysing the data held in respect of care and treatment provided by the contractor during the year 1 October 2004 to 30 September 2005, categorising that care and treatment in accordance with Schedules 1 to 4 of the National Health Service Dental Charges Regulations and converting into units of dental activity by reference to the criteria specified in Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the GDS Contracts Regulations. The primary care trust (PCT) was then required to reduce the number of units of dental activity so calculated by 5 per cent. The Department arranged for the then Dental Practice Board to undertake these functions on behalf of PCTs.

Similar provisions applied in the case of contractors providing services under a personal dental services (PDS) agreement, but with provision for PCTs and contractors to agree the appropriate number of units of dental activity where data did not exist for the reference period or where it was appropriate to adjust the data.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the proportion of dentists who are likely to meet the targets set for them under the new contractual arrangements; if she will review the effectiveness of the target system; and if she will make a statement. (112938)

Under the new contractual arrangements, providers of national health service primary dental care services receive an agreed annual contract value in return for undertaking to provide an agreed level of services over the course of the year, measured in terms of the courses of treatment they provide, with a weighting to reflect the relative complexity of different types of courses of treatment. The Department has not made an assessment of the proportion of dental providers who are likely to fulfil their annual service commitments. It is for primary care trusts, working with dental providers, to monitor and manage contract performance locally.

For dentists previously working under the old general dental services contract, the new annual service level is based on the weighted courses of treatment paid for during a 12-month reference period (October 2004 to September 2005), but with a reduction of five per cent. By removing the old fee-per-item system of payment, the new arrangements have also been designed to support dentists in carrying out simpler courses of treatment. Dentists should, therefore, generally have the opportunity to carry out fewer and simpler courses of treatment compared with the reference period, enabling them to devote more time to preventative care and to manage their workload more effectively over the course of the year.

The Department has established an implementation review group, comprising representatives of patients, dentists, national health service organisations and other stakeholders to keep under review the impact of the dental reforms introduced on 1 April 2006.

Dyspraxia

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what policies her Department is developing to deal with dyspraxia; and if she will make a statement. (113177)

The national service framework (NSF) for long-term conditions, published in March 2005, is a 10-year plan to raise the standard of treatment, care and support for people with long-term neurological conditions across local health and social care services. As a result of the NSF, people with neurological conditions, including those with dyspraxia, will receive a faster diagnosis, more rapid treatment and a comprehensive package of care.

Local national health service and social services are responsible for reviewing their services to see if they already meet the quality requirements set out in the NSF. This will help them to decide their local priorities for making changes and improvements, to meet the criteria in full over the next 10 years.

Gershon Review

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much in efficiency savings has been made in her Department and its associated public bodies as a result of the Gershon Review; and if she will make a statement. (108339)

Up to September 2006 we had achieved total savings of £3,700 million.

A more detailed breakdown of these savings has been provided in the Department’s autumn performance report published on 11 December and is available in the Library.

Hand Sanitisation

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps her Department has taken to ensure that all hospitals provide an alcohol-free means of hand sanitisation for visitors. (113378)

The focus of “cleanyourhands”, the national hand hygiene campaign run by the National Patient Safety Agency, is to get health care workers to clean their hands more often as it is staff who play the key role in cross-infection and therefore prevention. Decisions on the use of hand rubs and similar products by visitors are made locally and a variety of alcohol-free products are available.

Infectious Diseases

To ask the Secretary of State for Health for what reasons expenditure on infectious disease fell between 2004-05 and 2005-06 as recorded in the NHS’s resource accounts. (113030)

Following the publication of the 2005-06 NHS resource accounts, an error was discovered in the underlying data for the 2004-05 financial year. Revised figures show that expenditure in the infectious diseases category increased from £1,019 million to £1,211 million an increase of 18.8 per cent. The increase in expenditure in the infections diseases programme, is a result of data re-classifications for primary care trusts in the NHS London area.

Local Involvement Networks

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the statutory basis is for the establishment of early adopter local involvement networks as set out in her Department’s response to the consultation A stronger local voice; and if she will make a statement. (113180)

The early adopter sites do not have a statutory basis. We are working with the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, the Healthcare Commission, the NHS Centre for Involvement and local stakeholders to build on their experience of involvement by looking at the structures required to empower and support local community engagement in health and social care, to help develop Local Involvement Networks.

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance she has given officials at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency on attendance at (a) UK and (b) international conferences on standards; and how much has been allocated for such attendance in 2006-07. [R] (112983)

The Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are responsible for ensuring that medical devices placed on the United Kingdom market meet the appropriate levels of safety and quality.

In order to do so they must meet the relevant essential requirements of the appropriate directive. One way to achieve this is for the device to meet the requirements of the relevant mandated European standard, where one exists. However, the use of standards is voluntary and a manufacturer can if he so wishes demonstrate compliance with the essential requirements by adopting other technical solutions.

Funding for devices work is provided in line with a service level agreement made between the MHRA and the Department. The participation in standards development, at either UK or international level, is not included in the 2006-07 agreement.

Ministerial Visits

To ask the Secretary of State for Health which Ministers in her Department have visited Nottinghamshire in the last 12 months; and where they visited in Nottinghamshire. (112717)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and Ministers in the Department have visited the following organisations in Nottinghamshire in the last 12 months:

Organisation

11 September 2006

Secretary of State

Kings Mill Hospital Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust

12 September 2006

Secretary of State

Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust

12 September 2006

Ivan Lewis

Gedling PCT

11 September 2006

Lord Warner

Wilford Ambulance Station

11 September 2006

Lord Warner

Nottingham Emergency Medical Service

11 September 2006

Lord Warner

Queen’s Medical Centre

12 September 2006

Lord Warner

Kings Mill Hospital Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust

12 September 2006

Lord Warner

Mansfield Community Hospital, Mansfield District PCT

12 September 2006

Lord Warner

Newark and Sherwood PCT

12 September 2006

Andy Burnham

Hawtonville Clinic

12 September 2006

Andy Burnham

Wood Court

12 September 2006

Andy Burnham

Newark and Sherwood PCT

12 September 2006

Andy Burnham

Newark Hospital

6 November 2006

Ivan Lewis

Jack Dawe Home Care Team Social Service Department Nottingham City Council

NHS Buildings

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what her policy is on construction of new NHS buildings on hospital sites that have been earmarked for closure or downgrading; what plans there are for a new CT scanner at the Frenchay Hospital site; and if she will make a statement. (113379)

National health service trusts and primary care trusts (PCTs) are responsible for the provision of health care services in their areas. Regular re-appraisal of their service provision should be carried out to reflect changing demands of health care and consequently the whole or parts of hospital sites may become surplus to their requirements. Under guidance provided by the Department's publication Estatecode, such property should be offered to other local trusts to determine whether these assets could be re-used by them for the provision of health care services. This policy accords with the Government's requirement to make better use of surplus public sector land.

The centrally funded equipment programme is now complete, and there are currently no plans to install a new centrally funded CT scanner at the Frenchay Hospital site. It is the responsibility of the local PCTs to ensure that service requirements in the area are met, and that all decisions are based on local priorities and available resources. NHS South West has reported that the North Bristol Trust is planning to provide a new mobile CT scanner, which can serve more than one site in the Bristol area so as to maximise the use of the facility.

NHS Trusts: Financial Deficits

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many trusts in deficit have had their deficit converted to public dividend capital; what the criteria are for converting deficits to public dividend capital; and if she will make a statement. (113579)

A deficit arises when a national health service trust’s revenue expenditure exceeds its revenue income. Public dividend capital (PDC) is the cash allocated to an NHS organisation to fund capital expenditure. It is not technically possible to convert deficits (an income and expenditure concept) to PDC (a cash concept).

NHS Trusts: Prompt Payment

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the promptness of payments to suppliers by NHS trusts; what mechanisms are in place to monitor their performance in this regard; and if she will take steps to ensure that NHS trusts keep to contract terms in paying suppliers. [R] (113007)

In 2005-06 national health service trusts paid 78 per cent. of non NHS bills within 30 days or contract terms. This is the most recent period for which figures are available.

The Department requires NHS trusts to comply with the Confederation of British Industry’s Better Payment Practice Code (BPPC) which sets a target of paying 95 per cent. of undisputed invoices within contract terms or 30 days where no terms have been agreed.

It is the responsibility of strategic health authorities to monitor the performance of individual national health service bodies, report this performance to the Department and work with poor performing organisations to achieve and maintain a level of payment performance consistent with government accounting regulations and the Better Payment Practice Code target.

North Bristol Trust

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the letter of 15 December from the right hon. the Lord Warner to the hon. Member for Northavon, if she will set out in full the reasons why North Bristol Trust was not supported for foundation trust status; and if she will place in the Library a copy of the correspondence between (a) her Department and (b) Monitor to North Bristol Trust conveying the reasons for that decision. (112889)

The Secretary of State has deferred support for the trust as it is required to repay a significant debt to the Department in respect of an earlier income and expenditure deficit. The trust requires more time to make the necessary arrangements to fund the repayment and ensure that it remains financially viable.

A copy of the correspondence between the Department and the trust has been placed in the Library. There has been no correspondence between Monitor (the statutory name of which is the Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts) and the trust because the trust has not reached Monitor's assessment stage for authorisation as a national health service foundation trust.

Patient Forums

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate she has made of the number of patient forum members at the beginning of 2006; and what her most recent estimate is. (113179)

This information is not collected by the Department but is by the Commission for Patient and Pubic Involvement in Health (CPPIH). The CPPIH’s figures show that at the start of 2006 there were 569 forums in operation with a total membership of 4,666. Following the reduction of primary care trusts from 303 to 152 in October this year there are currently 398 forums in operation with 4,281 participating members.

Private Finance Initiative Projects

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much has been spent by her Department on private finance initiative projects postponed pending further consideration or stopped in the last 12 months. (112665)

The Department announced on the 18 January 2006 that it would be reviewing all private finance initiative schemes yet to reach financial close and with an expected capital value of greater than £75 million. The purpose of the review process is to deliver schemes that are financially viable and sustainable over the long-term, and in pursuit of achieving these objectives certain schemes have experienced limited delays.

In conducting the review process, the Department has so far incurred costs of £220,271. These costs do not include any incurred by the trusts themselves.

Prostate Cancer

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made on the prostate cancer awareness campaign pilot announced in 2005; and when she expects to make a decision on the national roll-out of the scheme. (113181)

The Department has collaborated with the prostate cancer charter for action to fund a pilot public awareness programme on the prostate and its function. The Department provided £100,000 towards the pilot, with signatories to the charter providing a further £50,000.

The pilot took place in Coventry in October 2006, and an independent evaluation is now assessing the effectiveness of the messages used in the pilot, the interventions used to promote the messages, and the impact the pilot has had on national health service services. The evaluation is expected to report in early 2007. The learning from this pilot will help us in deciding the way forward on the public awareness of prostate cancer.

Public Involvement

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the model contract on the role for local involvement networks and their relationships with local authorities will be set out. (105358)

The Government response document to ”A Stronger Local Voice”, published on Monday 11 December, provides some detail about the proposed model contract between local authorities and the hosts of Local Involvement Networks. This contract is being developed with the involvement of stakeholders and will be consulted upon in the new year. The Government response document to “A Stronger Local Voice” is available in the Library and can be found at the following website address:

www.dh.gov.uk/PublicationsAndStatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/PublicationsPolicy AndGuidanceArticle/fs/en?CONTENT_ID=4141027 &chk=YeQaBl

Severalls Hospital

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she expects the sale of Severalls Hospital in Colchester to be completed; and if she will make a statement. (110362)

I have been asked to reply.

English Partnerships and its partner organisations have now completed all the necessary agreements to dispose of the Severalls site. For commercial reasons English Partnerships and its partners have decided to market the site early in new year with a view to completing the sale in autumn 2007.

Sexual Health

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many sexual health leads as recommended in the 2001 National Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV are employed in primary care trusts and strategic health authorities. (113372)

Most primary care trusts (PCTs) and strategic health authorities (SHAs) have a lead for sexual health and HIV, however, exact numbers are still being clarified following the recent re-configuration of the national health service. Details of the employment of these leads are not held by the Department.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the Government plan to make an assessment of the effectiveness of its sexual health campaign Condom Essential Wear in reducing sexual transmitted infections for 18 to 24-year-olds. (113373)

We will be evaluating the success of the “Condom Essential Wear” campaign by conducting regular surveys among our target audience to measure campaign awareness and changes in attitudinal and behavioural indicators such as condom usage and attitudes to sex, relationships, contraception and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

We will measure changes in behaviour and attitudes against a benchmark survey carried out in advance of the campaign launch in November 2006.

Increased awareness of STIs and improved technology may lead to more people presenting for testing so decreases in levels of infections may not be seen immediately.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she plans to publish her Department’s response to the Independent Advisory Group report on sexual health published on 14 December 2006. (113374)

We plan to publish our response to the Independent Advisory Group’s report before the end of March 2007.

Statins

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what evidence her Department has assessed on the effectiveness of statins in reducing the five-year incidence of (a) major coronary events and (b) stroke; and if she will make a statement; (113059)

(2) if she will assess the likely savings in health care costs which would result from lowering mean low density lipopropein cholesterol levels by one millimol per litre in the population at high risk of (a) coronary diseases and (b) cerebrovascular disease; and if she will make a statement.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Effectiveness (NICE) published a health technology appraisal (HTA) on statins in January 2006. This took account of all available evidence and concluded that it was both clinically-effective and cost-effective to intervene with statin therapy in patients who scored a 20 per cent. or greater 10-year risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), regardless of the starting cholesterol. This updates the national service framework for coronary heart disease (CHD) which had set the threshold for intervention at a 30 per cent. 10-year risk of CHD, both by lowering the intervention threshold and by including the range of vascular conditions—including cerebrovascular disease—which are together termed CVD.

More details can be found on the NICE website at:

www.nice.org.uk

Cost-effectiveness estimates vary as costs change. The cost of generic statins came down sharply while the HTA was in preparation and has dropped again since its publication. The NICE website therefore includes a tool which the national health service can use to determine current cost-effectiveness in their local health economies.

Waiting Times

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average waiting list time was for (a) all hospital patients and (b) cancer patients on (i) 2nd May 1997 and (ii) the most recent date for which figures are available. (106390)

The median waiting times for in-patient admission has decreased from 13.2 weeks in March 1997 to 6.9 weeks in October 2006.

Average waiting times for cancer patients are not available centrally. Latest published figures show that 95 per cent. of patients are treated within two months of urgent GP referral. There are no equivalent figures for 1997, but this compares to 78 per cent. of patients treated within two months of urgent GP referral in June 2004, when this information was first published.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Bangladesh

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps her Department is taking to urge restraint and compromise among Bangladesh’s political parties and to defuse tension ahead of the national parliamentary elections. (112797)

We continue to take a very close interest in the political process and preparations for the elections due in Bangladesh. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Trade during a visit to Dhaka in November, emphasised to the leaders of the main parties the need for responsible leadership and restraint. Officials from our high commission in Dhaka continue to press the political parties to act positively and constructively towards ensuring free, fair and accepted elections. Our high commissioner in Dhaka did so most recently when he met the leaders of the main parties on 24 December and on 1 January.

Bolivia

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the scale of recent protests in Santa Cruz; and what representations she is making to the Bolivian Government on a peaceful resolution to these protests. (113081)

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took part in the recent protests in Santa Cruz and other states in Eastern Bolivia. There were also smaller counter-demonstrations by government supporters. Events are being closely monitored by our embassy in La Paz and discussed with EU colleagues. The EU Troika has been making representations to all sides in the disputes, urging them to attempt to reach consensus through dialogue.

Chad

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the military activities of armed groups in eastern Chad; what representations she has received from (a) the UK ambassador to the UN and (b) her counterparts on the Security Council on those activities; and what her most recent assessment is of the security situation in Darfur. (112795)

We are very concerned about the ongoing violence in eastern Chad, both by armed groups spilling over the border from Darfur and by groups internal to Chad. We continue to call on the Governments of Sudan and Chad to stop supporting each others’ rebels and to fulfil their obligations under the Tripoli Agreement.

Our ambassador to the UN met the Chad Foreign Minister on 20 December. He impressed on Chad the need for a resolution of the crisis in Darfur and an improvement in relations between Chad and Sudan, with both countries implementing the Tripoli Agreement in order to improve stability in the region.

We remain in contact with other members of the UN Security Council on the situation in Chad. The UN Secretary-General is due to report to the Security Council shortly on options for an international presence along Chad’s border with Darfur. We will consider his recommendations carefully.

The situation on the ground in Darfur was relatively calm over the last week of December and early January. However, there remains a strong possibility of a resumption of violence after the Eid al Adha holiday and the underlying security problems remain in place.

China

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the Chinese authorities on harvesting of organs in China. (113408)

The Government have raised concerns about the use of organs from executed prisoners for transplantation with the Chinese government on a number of occasions, most recently at the last round of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in July 2006. The Government welcomed the regulation, which came into effect in China on 1 July 2006, banning the sale of organs and introducing medical standards for organ transplants. But we remain concerned that the regulations do not comply with the requirement for donation to be based on full, free and informed consent, as set out by the World Medical Association and the World Health Organisation.

We have received no evidence to date to substantiate media reports of large-scale organ harvesting in China. The Chinese government has denied such allegations.

European Common Asylum Policy

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on the European Common Asylum Policy. (113497)

The UK has opted-in to all asylum directives and is in the process of implementing the first stage of the Common European Asylum system. At the European Council in December 2006 EU member states agreed to realise the Common European Asylum System by the end of 2010, starting with a preliminary evaluation of its first phase in 2007. The development of its second phase will be accompanied by a strengthening of practical co-operation in the area of asylum.

Indonesia

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the Government of Indonesia regarding the burning of rainforest for the purpose of creating agricultural land; and if she will make a statement. (113185)

We regularly discuss forestry issues, and forest fire haze in particular, with the Indonesian Government. Most recently, on 8 December our ambassador in Jakarta met the Indonesian Minister of Forestry to discuss the Stern Review and reinforce the importance that the UK places on the issue of climate change and the forestry land use changes which contribute to climate change. We are also in contact with the local office of the Association of South East Asian Nations on this issue, to discuss how we can help with their work on developing a Transboundary Haze Agreement.

Iran

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on proposed legislation in Iran to make religious minorities wear identifying insignia; which minorities are affected; and if she will make a statement. (113384)

On 14 May the Iranian Parliament approved the outline of a draft Bill on an Islamic dress code. This Bill set out regulations for the import of clothing and future government support for Iranian clothing producers.

Canadian media reporting initially claimed that the draft Bill included a reference to religious minorities (Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians) having to wear identifying insignia or colours, but there is no mention of this in the draft Bill. The Iranian embassy in London refuted the media reports and the Canadian newspaper in question issued an apology for its inaccurate reporting. We did not make formal representations to the Government of Iran.

Iraq

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer by the Minister for State on 27 November 2006, Official Report, column 472W, on Iraq, whether a British-led investigation was conducted into possible links between the al-Da'wa organisation and the terrorist attacks on the British embassy and the British Club in the 1980s. (113380)

Responsibility for investigating the attacks on the British embassy and the British Club in Baghdad in the 1980s lay with the Iraqi authorities. As my answer to the hon. Member of 27 November 2006, Official Report, column 472W records, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no evidence of involvement by members of the Iraqi al-Da’wa organisation in the planning and execution of the terrorist attacks.

Madagascar

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements are in place in Madagascar for the representation of the interests of (a) British exporters and (b) British nationals; and if she will make a statement. (109833)

UK consular and commercial interests in Madagascar are represented through our high commission in Port Louis, Mauritius.

We continue to push for swift accreditation from the Government of Madagascar for our high commissioner in Mauritius to be non-resident ambassador to Madagascar and for our appointed honorary consul in Antananarivo. Until that authority has been granted to our honorary consul in Antananarivo, our high commission in Port Louis is dealing with all consular inquiries. A British honorary consul has been appointed in Toamasina, and has the necessary authority from the Government of Madagascar to act as the first point of contact for British nationals requiring consular assistance in the Toamasina region. The French embassy in Antananarivo has agreed to provide support for British nationals in the event of a serious consular incident in Madagascar.

Nangpa Incident

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received on the incident at Nangpa on 30 September 2006. (113046)

The EU urged the Chinese Government to investigate the incident at the Nangpa Pass, at the last round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, held in Beijing on 19 October 2006. The Chinese Government confirmed that the incident had taken place and promised to give further information. The EU followed up on 19 December and was told by the Chinese authorities that the incident was a border management issue and there was nothing new to report. The Chinese Government said it is doing its utmost to take care of all those involved, with a special emphasis on the well-being of the children.

Overseas Missions

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many overseas missions the United Kingdom opened in each of the last nine years. (112847)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has opened 30 missions over the last nine years. These were a combination of new posts and upgradings of existing representations. Six of these new posts have since been closed. The following table shows the number of posts opened during each year over this period.

March-April each year

Missions opened

1997-98

1

1998-99

1

1999-2000

4

2000-01

9

2001-02

7

2002-03

2

2003-04

0

2004-05

3

2005-06

0

2006-07

3

Total

30

The FCO continuously reviews the deployment of its resources, assessing them flexibly, in line with UK interests, and to the benefit of the British taxpayer.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) how many visa applications were (a) received by post and (b) made in person at British Missions overseas in the latest year for which figures are available; (113041)

(2) how many visa applications were (a) received by post and (b) made in person at (a) the British Embassy, Beijing, (b) the British Consulate General, Shanghai, (c) the British Consulate General, Guangzhou, (d) the British Consulate General, Chongqing and (e) all British Missions in China in the latest year for which figures are available.

The information requested by the hon. Member is set out as follows:

Applications for FY 2005-06Applications for FY 2006-07 (April-November 2006)

By post

In person

By post

In person

Global

207,495

1,099,454

142,790

519,300

Post

Beijing

7

261

4

1,161

Chongqing

0

1,437

0

1,622

Guangzhou

0

4,291

6

3,996

Shanghai

5

467

2

261

Country

China

12

19,680

2,907

18,341

Note:

The total figures for China include the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

Source:

Monthly Statistical Report

Pakistan

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the government of Pakistan’s agreements with tribal leaders in North Waziristan. (112842)

We continue to receive reports of Taliban influence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. We share Pakistan’s concern about this. We continue to monitor the results of the peace agreement signed in September with tribal elders in North Waziristan Agency.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment she has made of Taliban activity on the Afghan-Pakistan border. (112843)

We continue to receive reports of Taliban activity on the Afghan-Pakistan border. We remain in regular contact with both the Afghan and Pakistani Governments about this and share their concerns.

Palestine

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will take steps to uphold the right of British nationals to enter the Occupied Territories. (110227)

We made our concerns known to the Israeli government most recently on 26 October and 4 December. On 23 October the EU demarched Israel on the issue of entry of EU nationals to the Occupied Territories.

The EU also held a meeting with Major General Yossef Mishlev, the Head of Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) on 13 December. During this meeting, Major General Mishlev confirmed that new arrangements for the entry of EU nationals were to be put into place. These include an order not to stamp any more passports with a “last permit” stamp; a visa can be renewed even if there is a “last permit” stamp in the passport and reintroduction of the policy of issuing a three-month tourist visa.

COGAT has established a contact person at the Allenby crossing to help with all individual problems. A similar contact person will be stationed at Ben Gurion airport.

We will be monitoring the implementation of these new procedures closely.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) she, (b) her Department and (c) any agency thereof has received reports of funds being provided to Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza by (i) agents and (ii) agencies working on behalf of the United States in the last six months. (112894)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has received no reports of any such support in the period referred to.

On the third point of the hon. Member’s question, it is the longstanding policy of the Government not to comment on intelligence matters.

Peru

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received of activity of the Shining Path guerrilla movement in the Ayacucho region of Peru; and what recent representations she has made on tackling illegal coca-growing in that country. (113040)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office follows events in Peru closely through our embassy in Lima and with our EU partners. We are aware of the recent events that took place in Ayacucho. The UK has regular discussions with the Peruvian authorities about terrorism and drugs, including the alleged links between remnants of Shining Path and the illegal drugs trade. We also support a number of projects on drugs and crime prevention, at national and regional level. In October this year the Head of the Peruvian National Commission for Development and Life Without Drugs, the government agency tasked with co-ordinating national drugs policy, visited the UK. Following a series of meetings, further areas of co-operation were identified.

Sierra Leone

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what steps the United Kingdom is taking to help monitor the Sierra Leone elections (a) unilaterally, (b) through the EU and (c) through the UN; and what representations she has received on this matter; (113044)

(2) what steps the UK Government are taking to ensure free and fair elections in Sierra Leone; and what representations her Department has received on the participation of international observers in those elections.

The Government view credible elections in Sierra Leone in July this year as crucial to consolidating the post-conflict peace and stability there. Practical support to Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission (NEC) is a high priority and we have committed £4 million to the UN Development Programme's “basket fund”, which finances the NEC and contributes to the cost of the elections. It is essential that Sierra Leoneans should be able to participate fully in the elections and that the result should reflect their choices. To this end, the UK is implementing a £2.5 million programme of electoral support that will provide training for political parties, strengthen the capacity of national and local media to cover the elections and address the gender disparity surrounding elections. Our high commission in Freetown is also working with the full range of political and civil society to support free and credible elections.

Effective election monitoring will also play an important role in the elections. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development (DFID) received representations on this issue from the interim leader of the People's Movement for Democratic Change, Charles Margai, during his December tour of the UK. Our high commission and the DFID office in Freetown have also discussed election monitoring with the main political parties, the NEC, local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international partners, in order to assure adequate coverage before and during the polls.

Our £2.5 million electoral programme will support a coalition of national election monitors, the “National Elections Watch”, which intends to host observers in every polling station in Sierra Leone. DFID will also be funding international election observers through the National Democratic Institute (NDI), an international NGO with expertise in election issues. NDI will host two observer missions prior to elections, one during the voter registration period and another during the campaign period, and one mission of 34 observers on election day. UK Government election observers will also be deployed for the critical phases of the electoral process and for the elections themselves. We have also called, in the EU Africa Working Group, for the deployment of an Election Observation Mission. Additionally, we are also engaging wider partners, including the UN, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Carter Centre, to push for international support for the election monitoring effort.

Somalia

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of recent conflict in Mogadishu; what steps she is taking with (a) the EU, (b) the UN and (c) bilateral relationships, to prevent escalated conflict in Somalia; and what discussions she has held with the (i) Ethiopian Government and (ii) Somali Government based in Baidoa. (110384)

We are concerned about the conflict in Somalia. With our international partners we are working actively to promote a peaceful resolution to Somalia’s difficulties on the basis of a sustainable peace process.

We have frequent bilateral contacts with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and countries in the region including Ethiopia. We are working closely with EU partners and in the UN Security Council to achieve peace and stability in Somalia.

We urge rapid implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1725, adopted unanimously on 6 December 2006, which authorises the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union to establish a protection and training mission in Somalia. In this regard, we look forward to Ethiopia withdrawing its troops from Somalia as quickly as it can, as it has stated it wants to.

We are also encouraging all parties inside and outside Somalia to use the current opportunity to embed a political process across Somalia as envisaged in the Transitional Federal Charter. We will support the Transitional Federal Institutions and Transitional Federal Government in pursuing this.

Sudan

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she expects the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur to be implemented. (110382)

The UN-African Union (AU) hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur will be implemented as the third and final phase of increased UN support to the AU mission. We want this to happen as soon as possible. The force was agreed at the High Level Consultation on Darfur in Addis Ababa on 16 November. The first phase is a light support package of logistical and material support that is currently being implemented. It will be followed by a heavy package that is being finalised between the UN and the AU and will prepare the ground for deployment of the full hybrid force. It will be vital that the necessary infrastructure, training and equipment is in place before the full force is deployed.

Uganda

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the second ceasefire extension agreed between the Ugandan Government and the Lord's Resistance Army; what representations she has made on the ceasefire and the Juba peace talks; what discussions she has held with the (a) UK high commission, Kampala, (b) African Union and (c) United Nations on this matter. (113082)

The mediation process remains fragile. We were encouraged when the Lord's Resistance Army and Government of Uganda delegations returned to Juba in mid-December after a lengthy recess.

Officials from our high commission in Kampala, along with other representatives of the international community, visited Juba on 14 December to discuss progress with all parties. Subsequent talks between the delegations resulted in a further extension to the cessation of hostilities agreement being signed on 16 December.

We continue to discuss the mediation process with both the African Union and the UN, most recently on 13 December and 19 December respectively.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Government of Uganda on the Commonwealth Harare Declaration of 1991. (113501)

The Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991 sets out the Commonwealth's commitment to democracy, the rule of law and good governance.

We do not hold formal talks with the Ugandan Government on the Harare Declaration, but we continue to discuss the importance of promoting good governance, deepening the multi-party political system in Uganda and addressing the long-running conflict in northern Uganda.

These discussions are regularly held at the highest levels of government, including with the President.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the arrest of Dr. Kizza Besigye in Uganda. (113514)

Following his arrest on 14 November 2005 Dr. Besigye was released on bail on 2 January 2006. On 7 March 2006 High Court Judge Katutsi dismissed the rape charges against Dr. Besigye, saying that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. Dr. Besigye continues to face a number of treason charges in the Ugandan High Court. President Museveni has assured us that due process will be followed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the ruling of the Ugandan Supreme Court on Dr. Kizza Besigye's election petition. (113515)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) on 29 November 2006, Official Report, column 744W.

UK-funded Medical Treatment

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many members of foreign governments have received UK-funded medical treatment since May 1997; and if she will list the countries involved. (107197)

I have been asked to reply.

Successive Governments have not required the national health service to provide statistics on the number of overseas visitors—including members of foreign governments—who have been seen, treated or charged under the provisions of the “NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 1989”, as amended, nor any costs involved. It is therefore not possible to provide the information requested.

Uruguay and Argentina

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications for the policy of recent tensions between Uruguay and Argentina over a planned mill on the border. (113079)

The tensions between Argentina and Uruguay have not affected UK relations with either country. The UK view is that the construction of a cellulose plant at Fray Bentos in Uruguay should be treated on its merits. Accordingly, the UK voted in favour when the project was discussed by the International Finance Corporation on 21 November.

Venezuela

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations the UK Government has made to the government of Venezuela on the Bolivarian missions in that country. (113204)

We have not made any representations to the Government of Venezuela on this domestic issue. We welcome the emphasis the Venezuelan government is putting on tackling poverty and the improvements the missions have brought in Venezuela’s healthcare and education provision. We do, however, have some concerns about the longer-term sustainability of the missions.

Visas

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the cost to her Department of appeals against initial decisions by entry clearance officers on visa applications for each month in 2006. (110423)

There is no separate calculation that shows the actual cost of an appeal against a specific decision to refuse an entry clearance.

Zimbabwe

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the possible postponement of Zimbabwe's presidential elections; and what discussions she has had with (a) the UK Embassy in Harare and (b) her counterparts in other countries on those reports. (112845)

At their December Party conference, ZANU(PF) took note of a resolution to postpone the presidential elections to 2010 and merge them with the parliamentary elections. The resolution has now been referred to the ZANU(PF) Central Committee. We are concerned that Mugabe will use this resolution to extend his current term of office from 2008 to 2010 reference to the Zimbabwean people. Our embassy in Harare discussed the ZANU(PF) Conference with other EU Heads of Mission on 19 December.

It is clear that what Zimbabwe requires is a truly democratically elected government that is determined to work for its people, and is committed to economic and governance reform: the economy has shrunk by 30 per cent. in the last five years; young Zimbabweans will be lucky to live past their 40th birthday; those made homeless by Operation Murambatsvina are living in poor, overcrowded conditions without proper access to food and medicine; and law enforcement authorities continue to respond to peaceful demonstrators with brutal violence and torture. Whoever governs Zimbabwe, it is clear that a dramatic change of policy direction is required.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports she has received of comments made by the President of Uganda on Zimbabwe's land policy; and what assessment she has made of the effect of those comments on the situation in Zimbabwe. (113513)

We continue to call on African leaders to speak out against Mugabe's bad policies. We are not aware of any recent public statements by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, on Zimbabwe’s land policy. But independent surveys of the fate of Zimbabwe's agricultural population tell a tragic story: 75 per cent. of farm workers and their dependants have been forced out of their farmland homes. These people, who number at least two million, now live marginal lives without income, access to proper shelter, food or medicine. We fear that many of these people have died. We are concerned that the Gazetted Land Act, which Mugabe signed into law in December, will be used as an unjust pretext for further intimidation and attacks on farmers, with more damage to Zimbabwe’s economy.

We have always said that we would support a land reform programme that was transparent, fair and legal and that was carried out within a macro-economic framework that formed part of a wider Zimbabwe Government programme to reduce poverty.

Communities and Local Government

Barker Review

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations she has received on the Barker Review of Land Use Planning. (112789)

Kate Barker published the final report of her independent Review of Land Use Planning on 5 December 2006. The Government have welcomed Kate Barker's report and will set out in a White Paper in spring 2007 our proposals in response to her recommendations for improving the speed, responsiveness and efficiency of land use planning.

In the meantime, the Government have said they will be interested to hear responses to the report. To date, the Department has received about 15 responses from a range of bodies and individuals.

Building Standards

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to give more powers to local authorities to impose higher building standards with regards to (a) insulation, (b) energy efficiency and (c) built-in micro-generation. (113052)

In “Building a Greener Future”, published for consultation on 13 December 2006, we set out our policy framework for moving towards zero-carbon development. In doing so, our aim is to provide certainty for the development industry and other related businesses without over-regulating the sector. With an ambitious national framework in place to strengthen building regulations, local authorities should not need to devise and impose their own detailed standards for the environmental performance of individual buildings. The draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on climate change, published for consultation alongside “Building a Greener Future”, recognises there may be local development or site specific opportunities to justify higher levels of building performance than set out nationally. The draft PPS sets out what is expected of local planning authorities in considering and justifying any local approach.

Church of Scientology

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the eligibility of the Church of Scientology for non-domestic rate relief; and if she will make a statement. (112720)

The Local Government Finance Act 1988 set out the eligibility criteria for non-domestic rate reliefs. It is for local billing authorities to decide whether to grant rate relief in any given circumstance based on the facts of the individual case.

Compensation Payments

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much in compensation payments was paid by her Department in 2005-06; and what the reason for the payment was in each case. (108209)

Compensation payments totalling some £941,061.32 were paid by the former Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) in 2005-06. The vast majority of this amount (£935,041.66) was in respect of 47 personal injury claims, mainly relating to former Property Services Agency (PSA) staff who have contracted an asbestos related disease as a result of occupational exposure; and £5,889.68 was to cover four claims for repair costs following damage to hire vehicles.

Consultants

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much was spent on external consultants and advisers by her Department since its creation; and what the expected costs are for 2006-07. (104063)

Communities and Local Government has engaged external professional services to provide advice, and specialist design, development and implementation skills in response to the need to develop sustainable homes and communities. The skills required were not available from civil servants. The budget for external professional services for 2006-07 is £64,376,748 and the spend to date is £31,844,679. The budget reflects the current expected outturn for the year and is likely to change as the year progresses to reflect the needs of the Department.

Specialist skills including project management, finance, engineering, technology specification, building specification and design, security and resilience have been engaged to support the delivery of projects to enhance the ability of the Fire and Rescue Service to respond to major incidents. The work undertaken includes radio engineering expertise for the new radio systems for the Fire and Rescue Service; also, logistical support and design for responding to chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear incident, and search and rescue incidents. Around 60 per cent. of expenditure has been in support of these projects.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her Department’s annual budget is for employing workers on a consultancy basis; and how much of this budget was used in each of the last five years for which records are available. (103019)

The information requested is set out in the following table.

Communities and Local Government has engaged external professional services to provide advice, and specialist design, development and implementation skills in response to the need to develop sustainable homes and communities. The skills required were not available from civil servants.

Specialist skills including project management, finance, engineering, technology specification, building specification and design, security and resilience have been engaged to support the delivery of projects to enhance the ability of the Fire and Rescue Service to respond to major incidents. The work undertaken includes radio engineering expertise for the new radio systems for the Fire and Rescue Service; also, logistical support and design for responding to chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear incident, and search and rescue incidents. Around 60 per cent. of expenditure has been in support of these projects.

Financial year

Budget (£)

Spend (£)

2006-07

64,376,748

131,844,679

2005-06

60,115,563

53,000,000

2004-05

81,518,452

80,000,000

2003-04

n/a

47,000,000

2002-03

n/a

n/a

1 To date

Council Houses

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what factors were taken into account when setting the cap on the discount available to council house residents in the North West who buy their homes; what assessment was made of variations in house prices between areas in the North West when setting the cap; and if she will take steps to adjust the cap annually in line with house price inflation. (112956)

Decisions on the discount in the North West took account of average house prices in the region and the results of the consultation in 1997 and 1998.

The Government have no plans to change uprating to Right to Buy discount limits. However, it has invited local authorities to consider offering those tenants who are unable to afford outright ownership the opportunity to purchase a share in their homes, under the new Social HomeBuy scheme which it introduced in April 2006. Local authorities may retain all the receipts from sales under Social HomeBuy, to reinvest in affordable housing.

Council Tax

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the causes of changes in the level of council taxes since 1997-98 in (a) London and (b) England. (104995)

Council tax levels are a matter for local councils.

By 2007-08, the increase in Government grant for local services, since taking office, will be 39 per cent. in real terms and we remain committed to protecting local people from excessive increases in council tax.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will rank each local authority in England by the percentage of total expenditure met by (a) council tax and (b) central government grant in 2005-06. (105213)

E-democracy Conference: Budapest

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much her Department spent on sending officials to attend the local e-democracy conference on the internet and democracy in Budapest in July. (103893)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 6 November 2006, Official Report, column 868. The travel and subsistence costs of the officials who spoke at or attended the conference is estimated at under £3,500.

Expanded Open Market HomeBuy Scheme

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the budget is for the Expanded Open Market HomeBuy scheme in each region for each of the next five years; and how many people have (a) completed purchase of a house through the scheme and (b) attended (i) a financial interview with a financial adviser and (ii) presentations as compulsory elements of the application process for the scheme in each month since its launch. (107347)

The Expanded Open Market HomeBuy scheme was launched on 2 October 2006. The following table sets out the current budget for the Expanded Open Market HomeBuy scheme in each region between October 2006 and March 2008.

£ million

Region

Expanded Open Market HomeBuy (funding allocation, October 2006 to March 2008)

East Midlands

3.0

West Midlands

4.6

East of England

26.3

South East

73.1

London

107.0

South West

7.1

Yorkshire and Humber

2.0

North East

0.7

North West

6.3

Total

230

Funding for the scheme beyond March 2008 to 2011 will be decided following the next spending review.

The scheme was launched at the beginning of October so only limited figures are available. 4,000 households have been accepted by HomeBuy agents on to the scheme already since it was launched just 10 weeks ago and are now looking for properties or beginning the process of buying a home. The first 42 households have been approved to exchange on their property and the first five households have completed their sales just 10 weeks after the programme was launched. We expect to help up to 10,000 households through the scheme by the end of March 2008.

We do not hold information centrally on the number of applicants who have attended a presentation and/or an interview with a financial adviser to undergo a financial assessment as part of the application process.

All applicants to the Expanded Open Market HomeBuy scheme will receive information on the low cost home ownership options available to them, and undergo a financial assessment—along with other eligibility checks—before being accepted on to the scheme, but different HomeBuy agents will fulfil these functions in different ways depending on local circumstances, and the scale of delivery in their area.

Those HomeBuy agents handling large number of applications tend to ask applicants to first attend a presentation on low cost home ownership opportunities in their area, before they visit a financial adviser to undergo the financial check. Those operating on a smaller scale tend to direct applicants to their website for further information, and conduct financial checks in-house.

Once applicants are accepted on to the scheme, they are strongly recommended to visit a financial adviser of their choosing, before making the decision to proceed with a purchase

Flood Plains: Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate her Department has made of (a) the number of houses planned for construction on flood plains and (b) the level of flood protection required to protect houses built on flood plains. (112741)

The Department does not collect centrally the number of houses planned for construction on flood plains, which depends on a large number of local decisions. It is a matter that regions and local planning authorities should consider in preparing regional spatial strategies and local development documents, and in taking decisions on individual planning applications.

Government's aim is to avoid inappropriate development in areas of high flood risk. The new Planning Policy Statement No. 25 directs development away from these areas through a sequential, risk-based approach. More vulnerable development, such as housing, should not be permitted in those areas unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the development will be safe, without increasing flood risk elsewhere and provides wider sustainability benefits that outweigh the flood risk.

Goods/Services: Discrimination

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether publicly funded goods, facilities and services are covered by the proposals on outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods and services. (110239)

The Government published a consultation paper in March setting out proposals for regulations that will prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services. The Government will publish a Response to consultation after the Christmas recess in good time for the laying of the regulations to come into force next April, alongside Part 2 of the Equality Act outlawing discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in the provision of goods and services.

Home Inspectors

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many home inspectors are in training. (112778)

There are some 4,050 Home Inspectors currently in training. A further 650 have either completed training or are fully qualified.

Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many local authorities paid a dowry to registered social landlords taking over their housing stock in each year since 1996; and what the amount was in each case. (105271)

Information on dowry payments made by local authorities to RSLs after transfer of their housing stock is not held by this Department.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many homes have been built on green belt land since May 1997. (110460)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) on 14 December 2006, Official Report, columns 1278-79W.

Local Government Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effect on local council budget plans for 2007-08 of the provisional financial settlement announced on 28 November. (109755)

The provisional financial settlement announced on 28 November confirms the increased investment in local services in 2007-08. Total Government grant will be £65.764 billion, an increase of £3.1 billion or 4.9 per cent. on 2006-07 on a like-for-like basis. This includes an extra £508 million above existing spending plans following joint work with the Local Government Association to identify pressures and the ways that they can be mitigated. Our proposals enable local authorities to deliver effective services without the need to impose excessive council tax. These provisional figures have been available to local authorities for the last year, facilitating the practice of advance planning and budgeting based on predictability. The deadline for comments on our proposals is 5 January.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what proportion of local authorities have been in (a) negative and (b) positive housing subsidy situations in each of the last 10 years; (107135)

(2) how many local authorities were in an (a) negative and (b) positive housing subsidy position in each of the last 10 years; and what sums were involved in each case.

Figures showing the positive and negative subsidy situations for local housing authorities in England for the ten years 1994-95 to 2004-05 (the last year for which audited figures are available) have been included in a table which has been placed in the House Library.

The housing revenue account subsidy system assesses each authority's notional income and notional need to spend in each year; where assumed income is greater than the assumed need to spend, the subsidy entitlement is shown as 'negative subsidy' and is captured by the system to cover assumed deficits in other authorities' housing revenue accounts. In recent years total surplus amounts redistributed have been smaller than total deficits and the Exchequer has contributed the difference.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities have challenged the population estimates used in calculating the 2007-08 local government funding settlement. (109359)

The following local authorities have made specific representations regarding the mid-year population estimates: Barking and Dagenham, Brent, East Lindsey, Enfield, Haringey, Hounslow, Lambeth, Leeds, Lewisham, Newham, North Tyneside, Slough, Southwark.

Local Government Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what progress has been made in discussions between the Local Government Association and the Local Government Employers group in introducing new pension scheme arrangements in England and Wales for local government; and how existing members of local government pension schemes are protected under transitional arrangements; (113527)

(2) what protection is available for existing members of the local government pension schemes in England and Wales; and what the cut-off date is for full protection for schemes in England and Wales.

Since making my written Statement to the House on 23 November 2006 I am aware that several stakeholders, including the Local Government Association and the Local Government Employers, have made good progress in discussions about the reform proposals for a new-look Local Government Pension Scheme. Draft regulations to give effect to my Statement were issued for analysis and comment on 22 December 2006. The closing date for responses is 27 February 2007.

Other things being equal, the transitional protections effective from 1 October 2006 mean that all members of the Scheme at 30 September 2006 will continue to accrue rights up to 31 March 2008, as if the discriminatory provision had not been removed. Beyond 1 April 2008, members who are 60 and would have satisfied the rule of 85 by 31 March 2016, will be fully protected. Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2020, actuarial reductions on rights accruing from 1 April 2007 will be phased in to overcome the cliff edge effect for members born either side of a cut off date. It is also proposed in the current consultation that all members of the Scheme will enjoy an improved accrual rate for membership from 1 April 2008.

Places of Worship

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of which constituency has the most places of worship per head of population. (101635)

The Department for Communities and Local Government has made no estimates of which constituency has the most places of worship per head of population.

Planning

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will end the practice of allowing repeat planning applications for the same site. (105720)

Local planning authorities have the power to decline to determine a repeat application where it is the same or similar to an application that has been turned down previously and where they believe it is being submitted to wear down opposition to a development proposal. The power can be exercised where a previous application has been called in and refused by the Secretary of State or has been dismissed on appeal and, since 24 August 2005, where there has been no call in or appeal subject to there having been at least two similar applications refused in the past two years.

Regeneration

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what funding was provided directly by her Department and its predecessor to local authorities in England to support regeneration projects in each year from 2001-02 to 2005-06; and what funding has been allocated for 2006-07 and 2007-08. (112794)

The Department for Communities and Local Government and its predecessor, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has provided funding to local authorities totalling £3.075 billion for regeneration projects during the period 2001-02 to 2005-06, and has allocated £1.837 billion for the period 2006-07 to 2007-08. A more detailed breakdown of this funding is shown in the following annex (a).

Annex (A): Funding provided by ODPM & DCLG For local authorities to support regeneration projects in England, 2001-06 and allocations for 2006-07 - 2007-08

£ million

Actual expenditure

Allocation

Provision

Programme name

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

Overall total

Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF)

200

300

400

450

525

525

2,400

Neighbourhood Management Pathfinders (NMPs)

3

7

14

22

19

65

New Deal for Communities (NDCs)

81

178

239

283

274

277

250

1,582

Wardens

10

19

24

20

8

80

Local Area Agreements (LAAs)

110

635

745

Safer Stronger Communities Fund (SSCF)

40

40

Overall totals for ODPM and DCLG

294

504

677

775

826

952

885

4,912

Notes:

1. CENs, NMPs, Neighbourhood Element and LEGI all absorbed by LAAs from 2006-07 onwards.

2. NRF and SSCF absorbed by LAAs from 2007/08 onwards.

Source:

Kurt Horder (P&C LMAT) - 2/1/2007

Regeneration: Liverpool

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much her Department spent on regeneration projects in Liverpool in each year since 1997; which projects received more than £5 million; what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of each project; and what funding she has allocated for future regeneration projects in Liverpool. (104402)

Since 1997, Liverpool has seen significant improvements in housing, infrastructure and economic and social development. Last year (2005-06) through New Heartlands, the Housing Market Renewal (HMR) scheme, there were in excess of 1,300 new homes constructed and over 1,600 homes refurbished in Liverpool. There was also an additional £10.5 million of private sector funding invested within the Liverpool pathfinder area, of which £4.2 million went specifically into HMR projects.

Liverpool John Lennon airport, one of the fastest growing airports in the UK, received European objective 1 funding towards increasing terminal capacity and improving passenger and public transport facilities. The airport is a key economic driver in the regeneration of the area, and direct on and off-site employment at the airport has risen from 500 employees in 1997 to 2,350 in 2005.

Under the 2000-06 Programme of European objective 1 funding in Merseyside, over 1,700 projects have been approved, in excess of 37,000 jobs have been created and over 6,000 business start-ups have been assisted.

Social improvements are demonstrated by the city’s progress towards narrowing the gap against key national floor target indicators. Particular progress has been made in education, housing and liveability, which has seen the gap reduce from 11.3 in 2003-04 to 8.6 in 2004-05. Furthermore, the overall Liverpool employment rate has increased at a higher rate than the UK average, 1.3 per cent. compared to 0.3 per cent.

In addition, GVA growth in Liverpool (1998 to 2003) outstripped the national average rate. Liverpool has also seen a significant expansion in knowledge-based employment and benefited from substantial private sector investment in its tourism infrastructure.

The total funding Communities and Local Government has invested in Liverpool for regeneration projects since 1997 is in excess of £670 million. Additionally Liverpool is also eligible to benefit from a further £393.3 million which Communities and Local Government has invested into the wider Merseyside region. The European objective 1 programme (2000-06) also provides a further £910 million for investment in Merseyside and Liverpool will benefit from this investment.

We do not hold the total figures of regeneration spend for Liverpool in every funding stream since 1997 on an annual basis. However, the following table details the main regeneration funding since 1997, available directly to Liverpool or from which Liverpool can benefit.

Regeneration funding

New Deal for Communities:

10-year scheme: £62 million in Kensington, Liverpool (ends 2010)

Neighbourhood Renewal Fund:

£167.76 million 2001—eight including a residual NRF allocation

Community Empowerment Networks

£6.1 million over six years 2001 to 2007 paid to CVS as Accountable Body. £519,185 in final year paid through Safer, Stronger Communities Fund

Neighbourhood Element/Cleaner Safer Greener Element

£4.7 million 2006-10 for Neighbourhood Element. £2.1 million 2006-08 Cleaner Safer Greener element. Both paid through the Safer Stronger Communities Fund

Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder

£184 million 2004-08 covering inner Liverpool, South Sefton and Birkenhead/Tranmere in Wirral. Paid in two tranches, £86 million in the first and £98 million in the second

Liverpool Housing Action Trust

£260 million 1992 to 2005

Liverpool Vision URC

£167.8 million 1999-2007. Funding from English Partnerships (£63.5 million) and North West Development Agency (£104.3 million)

English Partnerships (Merseyside)

£85.1 million on major strategic investment projects and HMR-related activity up to 2008

NWDA (Merseyside)

£56.2 million on major strategic investment projects

Single Regeneration Budget

£68 million 1999 to 2007 (NWDA)

European money is routed via Government Office for the North West on behalf of Whitehall departments, and during the period specified the following major projects, administered on behalf of Communities and Local Government, received grant funding in excess of £5 million. Additionally, three European projects valued at over £5 million, administered on behalf of DTI and DFT, also benefited Liverpool.

European objective 1 (2000-06), Communities and Local Government projects over £5 million grant

£

Project name

Total cost

ERDF1 grant

Kings Waterfront Redevelopment—Phase 2

131,100,000

45,962,000

Liverpool Neighbourhood Renewal Programme

32,000,000

16,000,000

Liverpool South Parkway

32,000,000

10,823,000

Merseytram Pre Development Costs Lines 1, 2 and 3

20,876,258

10,438,129

NWDA—Edge Lane Acquisitions

20,839,336

10,419,668

Centre For Tropical and Infectious Diseases (CTID)

24,100,828

9,000,000

New Anfield—Stanley Park Regeneration

24,631,214

9,000,000

Edge Lane Improvement Scheme

27,750,000

8,262,000

Airport Development Phase III

21,500,000

7,852,646

Cruise Liner Facility Construction and Operation

16,856,502

7,089,540

The Liverpool Canal Link

16,848,330

6,739,332

Capital of Culture Phase 3

14,844,183

5,126,713

Museum of Liverpool

31,831,000

5,000,000

Liverpool Airport Phase IV Development

12,500,000

5,000,000

Sentinel and Unity (Sentinel Office/Mixed Use Development)

26,605,891

5,000,000

£

Project name

Total cost

ESF2 grant

LNRP Measure 27

12,000,000

6,000,000

LNRP Measure 26

11,600,000

5,800,000

LNRP Measure 25

11,200,000

5,600,000

1 European Regional Development Fund.

2 European Social Fund.

During the 1994-99 programme, £8 million of ERDF grant was allocated to the Liverpool Airport Development Phase 2.

Additionally, the following table details the funding granted to wider Merseyside projects, which will also benefit Liverpool.

£

Project name

Total cost

ERDF grant

Special Investment Fund 2

99,039,000

36,000,000

Extension to ERDF Project 00/41 By the Addition of the Liver

26,700,000

20,000,000

Business Growth and Development for Greater Merseyside

30,037,256

12,007,746

Merseyside: Growing with confidence

15,000,000

6,000,000

Make It Merseyside

13,290,000

5,296,000

£

Project name

Total cost

ESF grant

GMLSC—Merseyside Measure 15

29,200,000

14,600,000

GMLSC—Merseyside Measure 14

24,807,237

11,113,642

LSCGM 2005-08 Measure 4

30,030,030

10,000,000

LSCGM 2005-08 Measure 12

30,030,030

10,000,000

GMLSC Measure 4

29,948,000

9,840,000

GMLSC Measure 12

26,998,770

8,854,629

LSCGM—Merseyside 2005-08

13,000,000

6,500,000

In respect of European investment, of the funding that remains to be formally approved under the 2000-06 programme, around £24 million has been allocated for future regeneration projects in Liverpool, although the projects earmarked to take up this funding have yet to be formally appraised and approved.

A further €468 million of European Competitiveness, Phasing-in funding, has been allocated to the whole of Merseyside for the 2007-13 Programming period, of which €281 million is ERDF and €187 million is ESF. At this stage it is not possible to estimate what proportion of the funding will be invested in Liverpool.

In terms of evaluation, each of these European projects have been subject to detailed and rigorous appraisal prior to funding being agreed. After that, during the implementation phase, they are subject to performance monitoring by the responsible agencies and in many cases audit. In addition, the programmes themselves are subject to review and evaluation, in order to ensure they are yielding the outputs and outcomes expected. The effectiveness of each European Programme as a whole is also reviewed at its halfway stage through a comprehensive ‘Mid-term Evaluation’ and on closure through an ‘Ex-post Evaluation’.

All other programmes are subject to monitoring and evaluation to review the effectiveness of the investment, for example, Communities and Local Government have not long concluded an evaluation of the URC, Liverpool Vision.

Renewable Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 4 December 2006, Official Report, column 185W, on renewable energy, what figure this represents as a percentage of total kWh used by her Department; and what plans her Department has to increase the amount of energy acquired from renewable sources. (109786)

On 12 June 2006 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced new sustainable operations targets for the Government Estate. Government Departments are mandated within the new targets to source at least 10 per cent. of electricity from renewables (such as wind, wave, tidal, solar, thermal and photovoltaics (PV’s)) by March 2008.

In the year 2005-06, the amount of renewable energy as a percentage of total kWh used by the Department is as follows:

Renewable energy consumed (kWh)

Percentage

Headquarter buildings

99

Agencies

52

These figures have yet to undergo independent verification and so must be regarded as provisional.

This answer does not include the buildings occupied by Government Offices, who carry out functions on behalf of 10 Government Departments.

Communities and Local Government and its Agencies review the proportion of energy purchased from renewable resources on an annual basis. This review takes into consideration factors such as cost, market forces and Government commitments.

Repossessions and Evictions

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many privately owned houses have been repossessed in the past three years; how many evictions there were from private rented accommodation over the same period; what assessment she has made of the reasons for each; and if she will make a statement. (110112)

The Department for Constitutional Affairs collect data relating to mortgage and landlord possession actions in county courts for England and Wales. The data cover both local authority and private mortgages and social and private landlord actions. The figures do not indicate how many houses have been possessed through the courts either by mortgage lenders or landlords.

The number of possessions of mortgaged properties in the UK is available on the Council of Mortgage Lenders website at:

http://www.cml.org.uk/cml/filegrab/lAP4.xls?ref=2753

A copy has been placed in the Library of the House.

The figures since 1990 are as follows:

Properties taken into possession in period

Number

Percentage of all loans

1990

43,890

0.47

1991

75,540

0.77

1992

68,540

0.69

1993

58,540

0.58

1994

49,210

0.47

1995

49,410

0.47

1996

42,560

0.40

1997

32,770

0.31

1998

33,870

0.31

1999

29,990

0.27

2000

22,870

0.20

2001

17,310

0.15

2002

11,970

0.11

2003

7,700

0.07

2004

6,030

0.05

2005

10,310

0.09

Section 106 Agreements

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether her Department defines Section 106 agreements as a tax. (103886)

The Department for Communities and Local Government does not define what is a tax or not. The definition of tax is part of the national accounts, which are compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). ONS’s National Accounts Classification Committee has not considered planning obligations.

Solar Panels

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps she is taking to simplify the planning process for the installation of solar power panels on domestic properties. (110140)

The Government believe the planning system should make it easier to install microgeneration technologies, including solar panels. We are currently reviewing the regulations on what equipment a householder can install without having to apply for planning permission. Our aim is to produce a system that is both clearer and permits more microgeneration. We will be consulting on proposals in the new year.

International Development

“Responsibility to Protect”

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to implement the United Nations’ policy initiative “responsibility to protect”. (113395)

The “responsibility to protect” concept, endorsed at the 2005 UN World Summit, made clear that individual states hold the primary responsibility to protect their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The international community also confirmed its readiness to act, collectively, to prevent and stop such crimes, through the United Nations. Such action includes using appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, including sanctions. On a case by case basis, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations, the UN Security Council may authorise the use of force.

Since the World Summit, the UN Security Council has adopted resolutions on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict and on Darfur, both of which refer to the World Summit agreement on the responsibility to protect. In addressing the situation in Darfur, we have also used diplomacy and applied political pressure; reminded the Sudanese Government of their own responsibility to the people of Darfur; worked through the Security Council to apply sanctions; referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court; and are working on UN support to the African Union Mission in Sudan.

Through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool, the UK is also supporting an NGO network to raise the profile of responsibility to protect with national governments and civil society, particularly in Africa.

The Government will continue to advocate appropriate and speedy responses—bilaterally, within the EU and UN, and at the Security Council—to protect vulnerable populations against genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Afghanistan

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what role his Department had in formulating the UK contribution to the Bonn Accords on the Afghan constitution; and if he will make a statement. (113196)

Based on the Bonn Agreement, the constitution-making process in Afghanistan essentially followed a three-stage process: (i) drafting of a preliminary Constitution by the Constitutional Drafting Commission; (ii) deliberation on, refinement, finalisation and distribution of the first draft Constitution by the Constitutional Commission; and (iii) the adoption of the Constitution by the Constitutional Loya Jirga.

DFID contributed £650,000 to help fund a public consultation programme on the draft Constitution before the adoption of the document by the Constitutional Loya Jirga on 4 January 2004. A further £500,000 was also spent on outreach programmes to make the wider community aware of the purpose of the Constitution and provided a reasonable understanding of its key features.

The adoption of the new Constitution ensured a presidential system of government with a bicameral parliament. The document contains explicit recognition of equal rights for women and men and paved the way for national elections and the development of democratic institutions.

Aid Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what percentage of UK’s GDP was used for international aid in each of the last 10 years. (113345)

International Aid figures are reported as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI) and the UK figures for the last 10 years are listed in the following table.

Further information on UK international aid as a percentage of GNI is published in Table 5 of “Statistics on International Development 2001/02-2005/06”, a copy of which is available in the Library.

Official development assistance (ODA)

Other official flows (OOF)

Official aid1

Total

GNI

Total as a percentage of GNI

1996

2,050

52

232

2,334

762,853

0.31

1997

2,096

-69

206

2,233

811,797

0.28

1998

2,332

-33

262

2,561

869,706

0.29

1999

2,118

-15

252

2,355

904,737

0.26

2000

2,974

-47

290

3,217

954,054

0.34

1,005

2001

3,179

2

320

3,501

313

0.35

1,069

2002

3,281

-3

329

3,607

839

0.34

1,132

2003

3,847

30

428

4,306

938

0.38

1,202

2004

4,302

-85

455

4,672

075

0.39

1,253

2005

5,923

-54

416

6,285

561

0.50

1 Official Aid ceased to exist from 2005 for OECD-DAC reporting purposes. However, the UK Government still give aid to countries that would previously been classified as Official Aid, such as Russia and new EU member countries.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much the Government has spent on aid projects in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq in each of the last five years. (113346)

UK Bilateral Aid and the Imputed share of Multilateral Expenditure for Afghanistan and Iraq for each of the last five years for which data are available is set out in the following tables.

The full breakdown of Bilateral Aid is published in Table 12.3 of “Statistics on International Development 2001/02-2005/06”, a copy of which is available in the Library.

Table 1: Total spending in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last five years

£000

Development assistance1

Humanitarian assistance

Total DFID bilateral programme

Aid from other UK official sources2

Total bilateral gross public expenditure

Afghanistan

2001-02

53

49,943

49,996

31

50,027

2002-03

30,292

44,253

74,546

1,472

76,018

2003-04

69,225

10,457

79,683

19,912

99,595

2004-05

72,522

7,067

79,589

19,370

98,959

2005-06

95,040

3,390

98,430

28,519

126,949

Iraq3

2001-02

7,760

7,760

7,760

2002-03

18,853

18,853

18,853

2003-04

99,261

110,052

209,313

5,000

214,313

2004-05

27,724

21,383

49,107

342,400

391,507

2005-06

82,105

4,764

86,869

339,380

426,249

1 Includes financial aid, technical cooperation, grants and aid in kind, and total DFID debt relief.

2 Includes non-DFID debt relief, British Council, and the Global Conflict Pool.

3 Recorded flows to Iraq before 2003-04 are humanitarian assistance provided through UN agencies and Civil Society Organisations for Iraqi citizens. No aid was provided to the Government of Iraq during that period.

Source:

Statistics on International Development 2001/02 - 2005/06.

Table 2 : Imputed multilateral shares for Afghanistan and Iraq

£ million

EC

Other

UN

World Bank

Grand total

Afghanistan

2000

2.6

0.0

1.3

0.0

4.0

2001

5.4

0.0

1.3

0.0

6.7

2002

11.5

2.9

2.1

0.0

16.5

2003

14.3

3.0

1.4

0.0

18.7

2004

21.3

1.5

4.0

0.0

26.7

Iraq

2000

1.1

0.0

0.4

0.0

1.4

2001

1.3

0.0

0.4

0.0

1.8

2002

1.0

0.0

0.7

0.0

1.7

2003

4.2

0.0

1.1

0.0

5.3

2004

13.8

0.0

0.5

0.0

14.3

AIDS

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact of the outcome of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions talks with pharmaceutical companies on the availability of affordable HIV/AIDS treatments in (a) developing countries and (b) least developed countries. (108736)

We welcome any serious attempt at getting AIDS drugs more accessible and affordable for those who need them. Partnerships between employers, unions and manufacturers are an integral part of what is needed to see progress in tackling HIV and AIDS in developing countries.

We have not made a detailed assessment of the impact of the outcome of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions talks with pharmaceutical companies on the availability of affordable HIV/AIDS treatments. We would certainly encourage the pharmaceutical sector to do all it can to make essential drugs more easily available and affordable to poor countries.

This is why in 2005, the Department for International Development (DFID) published a framework for good practice in the pharmaceutical industry to help increase access to essential medicines that treat diseases of poverty including HIV/AIDS in all developing countries. DFID continues to subscribe to the framework’s principles and welcomes all efforts to improve both access and affordability, including through differential pricing and negotiating agreements to lower the price of HIV/AIDS treatments. Our support to UNITAID, the new drug purchase facility, is helping to do this, most recently with the assistance of the Clinton Foundation.

We hope that it will be possible for both parties to reopen negotiations at some stage in the future, given the potential benefits overall. Trade Unions as well as companies play a vital role in efforts to tackle AIDS. Working with employees in large, small and medium sized companies, in the formal and informal sectors—and in the public and private sectors—Trade Unions can support the implementation of effective company work place policies. In turn this will ultimately reduce the impact of AIDS on employees and businesses.

BBC World Service Trust

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what projects have been launched by his Department in collaboration with the BBC World Service Trust since 2002. (113205)

Since 2002 DFID has launched 10 projects in collaboration with the BBC World Service Trust—the details are outlined in the chart as follows:

Country

Project title

Start date

End date

Commitment (£)

Purpose

Afghanistan

Media Development

February 2002

May 2002

1,000,000

Humanitarian response to provide equipment, training to journalists and technicians, and to provide capacity for sustained media development.

Burma

“Mandalay Road”

January 2003

September 2006

1,998,000

A soap opera to raise awareness about health care including HIV/AIDS among population.

Cambodia

Strengthening Response to HIV/AIDS

January 2003

December 2007

3,300,000

Implementation of Government led mass media initiative around HIV/AIDS

Nigeria

DFID Nigeria / BBC World Service Partnership

June 2003

August 2007

5,466,000

Raise awareness among poor rural people to better governance, public services and livelihoods.

Iraq

‘Al Mirbad’

February 2004

March 2007

7,520,000

To establish an Iraqi managed broadcasting station for the four provinces of southern Iraq.

Bangladesh

BBC The State of Nation Debates

November 2005

December 2006

620,000

Broadcasting public debates on governance issues

Africa Regional

Africa Media Development Initiative (AMDI)

January 2006

January 2007

417,000

To support Africa media practitioners develop evidence based policy to allow the media to play a full role in Africa’s development—as recommended by the Commission for Africa

Sudan

Support to the BBC World Service Trust in Darfur

June 2006

November 2006

401,000

Promotion of Darfur Peace Agreement among population

Bangladesh

“Sanglap II”

September 2006

June 2007

665,000

Broadcasting public debates on governance issues

Global

Global Advocacy Campaign for ICD

November 2006

March 2011

2,500,000

To advocate the importance of Information and Communication for Development in supporting effective development to the international development assistance community

British Overseas Territories

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development when he last visited each overseas territory; and what plans he has for such visits in 2007. (113431)

DFID only provides bilateral assistance to three Overseas Territories, Montserrat, St. Helena and Pitcairn. I have not visited them. My hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to whom I have given lead responsibility in the Department for oversight of our work with the Overseas Territories, visited Montserrat in 2004. There are no current plans for visits to Overseas Territoriesin 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans he has to increase his Department’s disbursements to British Overseas Territories in 2007. (113676)

For all programmes, budgets for 2007-08 are currently being reviewed. Any changes to the expenditure plans indicated in the DFID 2006 departmental report will be included in the 2007 report. Budgets for 2008-09 to 2010-11 will be set after the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Decisions on allocations to individual territories will be taken following annual budget discussions with the territories concerned. These discussions were held with Montserrat in November 2006, and are due to take place with Pitcairn and St. Helena in January and February 2007 respectively, with final decisions for each reached by April 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans his Department has to further improve transport links to promote the tourism industry in the British Overseas Territories; and if he will make a statement. (113678)

DFID currently provides development assistance to three Overseas Territories, Montserrat, St. Helena (including Tristan da Cunha) and Pitcairn. Following completion of Gerald’s airport in 2005, the next priority for improving transport links to Montserrat will be the improvement of the port at Little Bay. The project is currently at the design stage. It is expected to be jointly funded by DFID and the European Union (EU), and may include an extension to the existing jetty and construction of a breakwater. The cost will depend on the options selected, but could be up to £10 million.

In March 2005, I announced the development of air access for St. Helena, through construction of an airport on Prosperous Bay Plain, and introduction of scheduled flights. The new airport will both meet our commitment to maintaining access, and contribute to economic regeneration through tourism. The project includes significant funding for tourism marketing. The project budget cannot be divulged in order not to prejudice the current procurement competition for the construction works. We also plan, with joint funding from the EU, to develop Jamestown Wharf. Currently the Wharf is the single point of entry to the island for all cargo and passengers. The proposed project addresses the need to improve cargo operations and to develop safe landing facilities for St. Helenians, business visitors and tourists. Costs will be about £11.5 million.

In Tristan da Cunha, DFID, with joint EU funding, is currently rehabilitating Calshot harbour. Repairs to Tristan’s harbour and breakwater were last carried out over 10 years ago and continuous wave action and storm damage now threaten to cause permanent damage to the island’s only point of entry. Total project cost is about £3 million.

Plans for the construction of a breakwater on Pitcairn, again with joint EU funding, are well advanced. Consultants have been appointed to prepare a detailed design and costing, estimated to be about £6 million. A breakwater would provide more predictable and safer access to Pitcairn Island through Bounty Bay. This in turn will promote tourism on the island by increasing the opportunities for cruise ships, yachts and other ships to disembark passengers.

Carbon Emissions

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what account he takes of forecast carbon emissions from proposed projects when distributing funding in developing countries; and if he will make a statement. (113362)

Projects funded by DFID by themselves have a very small effect on global emissions. They are part of a much wider development effort. We are therefore supporting developing countries to develop energy strategies to improve access to services while taking climate change into account. DFID’s work with the World Bank and other development agencies allows us to influence these processes to the sustainable benefit of the poorest people in developing countries.

DFID is providing assistance to the World Bank and other regional development banks to develop a framework for accelerating public and private investment in low carbon energy in developing countries. We have committed £6.9 million over three years from 2005 to support this work.

DFID has committed £140 million to the Global Environment Facility fourth replenishment (2006-10), making the UK the fourth largest donor. A third of the Global Environment facility’s funding is used to address climate change. In China for example, GEF is providing more than £18 million to help reduce China’s heavy reliance on coal by helping to install five wind farms (190 mega watts) and 200,000 solar-powered systems.

Carbon Offsetting Fund

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much his Department will contribute to the Carbon Offsetting Fund; and where trees that this fund may purchase will be planted. (112824)

DFID expects to pay at least £130,000 into the fund.

The Government Carbon Offsetting Fund, which is managed by DEFRA, will purchase Certified Emission Reductions from Clean Development Mechanism projects. DEFRA have recently announced that EEA Fund Management Ltd. has won the contract to fulfil the Government's obligation to offset its own air travel. Over the next three years, EEA will source and deliver up to 255,000 Certified Emission Reduction credits—with a provision for a further 50,000 credits—from a portfolio of small-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency Kyoto-registered projects in countries such as Brazil, Thailand and the Philippines.

CDC Group

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what investments have been made by the CDC Group since 2003. (113200)

CDC’s investments since 2003, totalling £556.2 million, are listed as follows. They are broken down by region/country and by sector.

CDC new investments since 2003

£ million

2004

2005

2006

Total since 2003

By country

Africa region

19.8

8.7

28.3

56.8

Algeria

0.5

0.5

Burkina Faso

1.4

1.4

Burkina Faso and Senegal

3.5

2.1

5.6

Egypt

39.5

2.7

42.2

Ghana

1.3

4.9

6.2

Kenya

1.6

2.3

0.1

4.0

Nigeria

27.9

15.1

3.2

46.2

Rwanda

2.5

(0.3)

2.2

Senegal

2.3

2.3

South Africa

16.3

34.1

19.5

69.9

Tanzania

27.6

2.5

0.6

30.7

Tunisia

11.7

11.7

Uganda

1.5

1.5

Zambia

1.2

2.3

0.3

3.8

Asia Pacific region

0.5

19.1

3.0

22.6

China

12.5

2.4

4.1

19.0

Indonesia

0.9

0.9

Malaysia

4.0

0.6

4.3

8.9

Philippines

0.2

(0.2)

0.0

Papua New Guinea

0.2

0.2

Singapore

5.5

5.5

Solomon Islands

0.7

0.7

Americas region

0.5

0.4

1.8

2.7

Bolivia

26.1

0.7

26.8

British Virgin Islands

0.3

0.3

Costa Rica

1.5

3.8

5.3

Cuba

1.0

0.1

1.1

Dominican Republic

5.1

5.1

Haiti

0.4

0.4

Panama

43.7

43.7

Peru

0.5

0.3

6.2

7.0

St. Lucia

0.7

0.7

South Asia region

2.4

4.2

14.9

21.5

Bangladesh

0.7

4.9

5.6

India

10.0

15.9

23.7

49.6

Pakistan

0.6

17.0

17.6

Sri Lanka

2.6

2.6

Global—poor1

9.1

14.5

23.6

Total

200.2

155.5

200.5

556.2

By sector

Agribusiness

7.7

10.9

1.6

20.2

Financial services

50.3

20.8

73.0

144.1

Infrastructure

17.1

12.2

7.1

36.4

Minerals, oil and gas

5.9

27.8

19.1

52.8

Manufacturing

2.9

50.5

2.4

55.8

Other

5.5

11.6

17.6

34.7

Power

96.6

11.0

76.8

184.4

Telecoms, media and IT

14.2

10.7

2.9

27.8

Total

200.2

155.5

200.5

556.2

1 Global poor refers to investments in funds that are spread globally or across more than one region.

China

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations the Government have made to the Government of China on the environmental impact of development in that country; and if he will make a statement. (113356)

DFID has substantial programmes of co-operation with China in support of achievement of the millennium development goals in three areas: health (TB and HIV and AIDS), basic education, and water resource management, water supply and sanitation. The environmental impact on development is a strong theme throughout, but particularly in the water area.

DFID also works with China on international development issues, and is involved with the UK-China sustainable development dialogue. This is led by DEFRA, but with strong support from DFID. The four priority themes agreed with the Chinese for the next two years are natural resource management (especially forests, water and soils); sustainable consumption and production; capacity building for sustainable development; and sustainable urban communities. All of these themes address the environmental impacts of development, and involve collaboration and technical exchanges between different departments in the UK and China, as well as a range of small projects involving government, NGOs and the private sector.

Finally, DFID is a key participant in the UK-China working group on climate change, and plays a particularly strong role in promoting the need to adapt to the anticipated impacts of climate change, through both projects and dialogue.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much UK aid was given to China in each of the last six years; and if he will make a statement. (113357)

Total UK bilateral aid to China in the last six years was as follows:

£ million

2000-01

56.740

2001-02

50.266

2002-03

44.386

2003-04

42.406

2004-05

42.746

2005-06

36.854

In addition the imputed UK share of multilateral aid to China from calendar years 1999 to 2004 (the last year for which information is available) was:

£ million

1999

5.50

2000

37.50

2001

65.50

2002

4.40

2003

98.90

2004

22.50

The UK’s bilateral aid to China is concentrated in three main areas: basic education; health, in particular the prevention of tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS; and in water supply and sanitation. We are helping China to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in these sectors. We are also working with China on international development issues, particularly on Africa, sustainable development and climate change, aid harmonisation and effectiveness, and learning from China’s successes in reducing poverty.

Cluster Munitions

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which officials from his Department will be attending the conference to discuss a future cluster munition treaty in Oslo on 21st to 23rd February 2007. (110453)

Final decisions on DFID attendance at the meeting in Oslo have yet to made but it is likely that a member of our Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department will join the UK delegation.