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Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with (a) her EU counterparts and (b) the UN concerning World Food Programme supplies for Sudan. 
Clare Short: My Department is in regular contact with (a) the EU in Brussels, both the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and the Food Aid Unit, about their plans for food aid to Sudan this year: We have also discussed Sudan with (b) the UN and World Food Programme (WFP) in London, Rome and Khartoum. WFP have asked for 150,000 metric tonnes and we expect a substantial part of this to be provided by contributions from EU member states and the United States. We understand the European Commission will make available 12,000 tonnes for drought and related needs in the north.
Clare Short: Since 1997, the Department for International Development has earmarked £14.4 million for Sudan through the World Food Programme. This contribution was disbursed over 1998 and 1999. No contribution was considered necessary in 2000. We are considering our response in 2001 as the humanitarian situation demands.
Clare Short: There are indications there may be food shortages in some part of Sudan this year. We are monitoring the situation closely both from London and through our DFID representative at the British Embassy in Khartoum. My humanitarian adviser will also be visiting Sudan in May to assess needs and make recommendations.
Mr. Purchase: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the approval by her Department of the National Roads Bridge Replacement Project in the Philippines. 
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Clare Short: DFID is untying by applying the Public Procurement Regulations from 1 April to invite global competition for all new contracts above a threshold value of £93,896. Implementation will be a challenge and we have agreed to share the practical lessons with other development agencies in line with our commitment to international untying. The new policy will not disrupt current programmes. For this financial year only, DFID will consider extension to current contracts where that is necessary for operational reasons and the initial invitation to tender made it clear that a contract may be extended.
Clare Short: I have since 1997 kept our development programme in Zimbabwe under regular review. We remain committed to helping the poorest in Zimbabwe who are suffering the combined effect of economic mismanagement and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. But the situation in Zimbabwe is difficult and we continue to work only where we are confident our support can be effective.
For this reason we have today written to the Zimbabwe Government informing them that we are ending our support to the Privatisation Agency of Zimbabwe and to a Trade Policy Capacity Building Programme. In the continued absence of Government policies likely to reverse current economic decline and reduce poverty, I concluded that these projects were likely to have little beneficial impact for the people of Zimbabwe.
Clare Short: Gaining access to simple, low cost savings and insurance services helps poor families in developing countries to reduce their vulnerability to economic shocks. Small-scale loans from micro-finance institutions (MFIs) also play a very important role in encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in their business, where they are unable to obtain a loan from a conventional commercial bank.
Despite the success of many MFIs in extending savings and credit sustainability to the poor, these services still reach only a tiny proportion of those that need them. Recognising the importance of MFIs in reducing poverty, DFID provides technical and financial support to raise standards in micro-finance, to improve commercial viability, and to extend outreach to millions more poor families. This support is provided in a number of ways.
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DFID is a founding member of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP). CGAP is an international coalition of donors and practitioners working to improve the quality and scale of micro-finance services worldwide, through the development and dissemination of best practice.
DFID also encourages innovation in the provision of financial services to the poor. It supports a micro-leasing company in Uganda, and the replication of indigenous savings methodologies through MFIs in east and southern Africa under the "MicroSave" initiative.
Finally, DFID strengthens links between MFIs and mainstream capital markets--whether commercial banks or equity investors--so as to mainstream micro-finance in the financial markets of developing countries.
Mr. Bruce George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contacts officials in his Department have had with representatives of private military companies since guidelines were introduced as a result of the Legg Inquiry. 
Mr. Battle: There is no accepted definition of a private military company. Since guidance was introduced, contracts have been recorded with 15-20 companies which may be judged to fall within the category of private military/security companies. These have been principally inquiries regarding general HMG policy towards particular parts of the world.
Mr. Battle: Due to difficulties of definition, the possible blurring of boundaries between private military companies and private security companies, and the frequent shift of company identities and locations in this sector, there is no current definitive estimate of the number of private military companies operating out of the UK.
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Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Sri Lankan authorities concerning the attack on 18 February upon a Christian church in the Hingurangoda district of Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Wilson: We condemn all such acts of violence against civilians wishing to exercise their right to religious freedom. We are pleased to see that the Sri Lankan Government have condemned this unprovoked attack and that the President has ordered an immediate inquiry. We hope that this will be completed soon and that it will be open and transparent.
Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what investigations have been made in collaboration with the Commonwealth of Independent States on the detention of members of the British Forces in the Soviet Union after (a) the Second World War and (b) the Korean War; and if he will make a statement. 
Advantage was taken of the changed climate at the end of the Cold War to liaise with the Russian authorities on whether they possessed information on the few British Service men whose fate as prisoners of war remains unknown following the Second World War and Korean War, in spite of extensive investigation.
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This and further detailed research into allegations that British Service men were detained by the Soviet Union after the Second World War has revealed no evidence that the Soviet authorities had a policy of detaining British Service men. Equally, no evidence has been found that British prisoners of war were detained in Korea or elsewhere after the post-armistice repatriations at the end of the Korean War.
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