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Free Basic Education

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much of the UK's total international aid budget is spent on basic education; and if she will make a statement. [33519]

Hilary Benn: In 2000–01 around £130 million of DFID's bilateral programme was spent on basic education (9 per cent. of the bilateral total). This shows an increase from 1998 when such expenditure represented 5 per cent. of the bilateral programme. However these figures do not fully represent our effort in this area as they exclude

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contributions to NGOs (both national and international) and multilateral organisations, none of which can be disaggregated to this level of detail.

Water Shortages

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what evidence her Department has collated of civil unrest resulting from water shortages in developing countries in the last 12 months. [33514]

Hilary Benn: The DFID strategy paper "Addressing the Water Crisis" identifies the increasing potential for conflict as water demand rises. In areas where water is scarce, increased competition for limited supplies can lead to local tensions, in some cases resulting in violent conflict.

In the past 12 months, DFID has witnessed this problem in Northern Kenya and Uganda. Different pastoralist groups, competing for water and grazing land, inhabit the area. During drought periods, the groups often come into conflict with one another. Since they are well armed this has led to deaths in the past year. Another example is in the Central Rift Valley in Kenya where protesters barricaded a road as a result of horticulturalists upstream depleting their irrigation water supplies.

While water shortage as a single issue does not generally result in large-scale civil unrest, it is important to try and satisfy competing demands for water to avoid local conflict. DFID aims to approach water problems from a livelihoods perspective to help ensure that all competing demands for water, and particularly the needs of the poor, are taken into account.

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations the Government have made to the United Nations regarding the decline in water tables in certain developing countries. [33512]

Hilary Benn: Unsustainable exploitation of groundwater aquifers, in a number of developing countries, is recognised by the UN relevant agencies. The United Nation Environment Programme's publication "Groundwater: A Threatened Resource" focuses on over- abstraction and pollution of groundwater aquifers. DFID's strategy paper "Addressing the Water Crises" also highlights the issue. We recently funded two World bank publications on sustainability of urban and rural groundwater, drawing on the results of DFID funded research. DFID also currently supports an expert to the World bank to identify groundwater issues in key World bank programme countries.

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with European Union Ministers regarding the decline in water tables in developing countries. [33513]

Hilary Benn: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not had any discussions with European Union Ministers on this particular issue. At official level there is discussion with EC counterparts. DFID has also co-funded the European Commission Guidelines for Water Resources Development Co-operation, "Towards Sustainable Water Resource Management", which recognises the problem and provides guidance on sustainable management of groundwater.

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Third World Debt

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what action her Department has taken to eradicate third world debt; and what steps have been taken to encourage other European states to fulfil their role on this issue. [33490]

Hilary Benn: The Government have played a major role in tackling the unsustainable debt burden of the poorest countries. We led the way in securing the revision of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, which was agreed in September 1999. Up to US$100 billion debt could be written off for the 42 HIPC countries. So far, 24 countries have qualified for this exceptional relief, and these countries will receive more than $54 billion of debt relief, so reducing their debts by more than two-thirds on average. We hope that at least two more countries—Ghana and Sierra Leone—will qualify for debt relief in the coming months, but substantial further progress will be difficult, as many of the remaining HIPC countries are affected by conflict.

The UK is the second largest contributor ($306 million) to the HIPC Trust Fund to help the Multilateral Development Banks meet their share of HIPC costs. This figure includes our share ($85 million) of the substantial EC contribution of US$661 million for which we pressed. Most of our partner states in the European Union have also made bilateral contributions to the trust fund, on top of their share of the EC contribution. In addition, those member states that are major creditors deliver bilateral debt relief through the Paris Club of Official Bilateral Creditors to countries that have qualified for HIPC relief, with the majority—like the UK—providing 100 per cent. debt relief on their remaining bilateral debts.

Debt Relief

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations she is making to the World bank to deliver deeper debt relief to countries with strong national education-for-all plans; and if she will make a statement. [33520]

Hilary Benn: The UK works closely with the World bank in implementing the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. The revised framework provides faster, wider and deeper debt relief to poor countries committed to eradicating poverty. Up to US$100 billion debt could be written off for the 42 HIPC countries so reducing their debts by around two-thirds, on average, and freeing up resources for spending on poverty reduction. Last November, I met the World bank president, Jim Wolfensohn, at the annual meetings of the World bank and IMF, in Ottawa, to discuss debt and other development issues. I plan to hold further talks with both the bank and the Fund at the forthcoming spring meetings, in April.

The central focus of the Government's international development policy is a commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, which include universal access to primary education. Debt relief is a key element is meeting these goals. It is now widely recognised that there was a

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need to strengthen the link between debt relief and pro-poor policies. HIPC countries, and other poor countries, are now developing national poverty reduction strategies, setting out how they will tackle poverty and specifying how the debt relief savings, and other development resources—from multilateral and bilateral sources—will be used. For the 24 countries that have already qualified for HIPC debt relief, social expenditure is projected to rise by some $1.7 billion per year. On average, 40 per cent. of this increased social expenditure is being directed towards education. HIPC countries will spend much more on such priority social investments than on debt relief.


Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many staff were seconded between (a) PWC Consulting and PricewaterhouseCoopers, (b) Ernst & Young, (c) Deloitte & Touche, (d) KPMG and (e) Andersen and her Department in (i) 1999–2000, (ii) 2000–01 and (iii) April 2001 to the latest date for which figures are available. [33876]

Hilary Benn: No DFID staff have been seconded to these companies since 1999.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans the Government have to increase the aid budget to support education; whether the Government will press other countries to increase their aid budgets; and if she will make a statement. [31143]

Mr. Boateng: I have been asked to reply.

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The Government remain focused on their long-term goal of helping to tackle global poverty, and achieve the internationally agreed millennium development goals by 2015 that include universal primary education for all children.

The UK Government have been at the forefront of the HIPC initiative that means the savings from debt relief can be used to develop comprehensive national poverty reduction strategies. Countries receiving HIPC debt relief have benefited from increased social spending of $1.7 billion in 2001–02, equivalent to 1.2 per cent. of GDP. And spending on education has accounted for 40 per cent. of the savings made on debt, equivalent to nearly $700 million in 2001–02.

The Government's commitment to poverty eradication means action beyond debt relief is needed, and they have increased the Budget of the Department for International Development (DfID) to £3.6 billion—a 45 per cent. increase in real terms between 1997–98 and 2003–04. Moreover, in his speech in New York and in his pre-Budget report speech, the Chancellor emphasised his commitment to ensuring further substantial increases in development assistance. The forthcoming Spending Review is an opportunity to consider plans for development spending beyond 2003–04, alongside other priorities and pressures.

The Government are also promoting a significant increase in development aid from all donor countries and international institutions to build capacity and address the long-term causes of poverty in the poorest countries. The Government have proposed an International Development Trust Fund to pool contributions and build on the work of the World bank, the International Monetary Fund and the regional development bank.

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