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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice has been given to the Benefits Agency Medical Services on the recognition of chronic fatigue syndrome by the Department of Health; what new guidance has been given to the Benefits Agency staff as a result; and if he will publish that advice and guidance. [40567]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: This Department fully recognises chronic fatigue syndrome as a potentially very disabling condition. Guidance to Medical Services doctors, who carry out assessments on behalf of the Department, and to decision makers who determine entitlement to benefits, exists in the Disability Handbook. The second edition, published in 1998, contains a section on chronic fatigue syndrome, which was written in discussion with experts in this area, including the ME Association. Guidance also exists in the report of the chief medical adviser's expert group on chronic fatigue, published in 1998.

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The guidance in both these documents is in line with the report recently published by the Department of Health. Therefore no new guidance has been issued. Copies of both documents are available in the Library. The Disability Handbook can be purchased through the Stationery Office, and can also be accessed on the Department's web site.

Industrial Injuries

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will amend Regulation 30 of the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987 to extend the specified 12 month time period on compassionate grounds for making a posthumous industrial injuries disablement benefit claim. [40497]

Mr. Nicholas Brown [holding answer 11 March 2002]: The rules for claiming industrial injuries disablement benefit (IIDB) are designed to be more flexible than those for other benefits that can be claimed by a person appointed to act on a deceased person's behalf by the Secretary of State.

In general most claims can be made only within 12 months of the date of death. IIDB, however, can be claimed within 12 months of the date on which the death certificate is issued. This reflects the fact that in many cases the cause of death recorded on the death certificate provides the basis for the IIDB claim.

We keep all our policies under review but have no plans to amend these rules.

Minimum Income Guarantee

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many pensioners aged under 65 are in receipt of minimum income guarantee. [42635]

Malcolm Wicks: As at November 2001 there were 322,900 minimum income guarantee claimants under the age of 65 in Great Britain.



Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to the answer from the hon. Member for Leeds, Central of 30 January 2002, Official Report, column 271, if her Department will continue to provide funding for Save the Children Fund's "Tibet Basic Education Project". [42964]

Clare Short: SCF is undertaking valuable work in Tibet with DFID support. I would like to see this continue and my officials are currently considering SCF's proposals for a further phase of their basic education project for poor indigenous Tibetans.

Parental Leave Directive

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate she has made of the (a) financial costs and (b) benefits to her Department of the Parental Leave Directive. [42488]

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Clare Short: Two members of DFID staff have taken up the opportunity under the provisions of the Parental Leave Directive. No estimate has been made of the financial costs to the Department.

Debt Relief

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many African countries are in receipt of debt relief; and which have applied but have yet to receive help. [42709]

Clare Short: 21 of the 34 African countries listed under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiatives have, so far, qualified for debt relief. Of the 21 countries, 18 have reached their Decision Point and are receiving interim debt relief and three have completed the HIPC process and are receiving full debt relief. We hope that a further four will reach their Completion Point in the next six months. Of the remaining 13 countries, Sierra Leone is expected to qualify this month. However, further progress on the remaining 10 eligible countries (Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan and Togo) will be difficult, as they either are affected by conflict or have governance problems. Angola and Kenya are not eligible for HIPC debt relief, as they are regarded as potentially sustainable—both countries are eligible for Paris Club treatment on Naples terms, which would be sufficient to reduce their debts to a sustainable level, but have not applied for this.

As for non-HIPC sub-Saharan African countries, Nigeria is not eligible for debt reduction but has received relief through the Paris Club in the form of a rescheduling.

EBRD Projects

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, pursuant to her answer of 6 March 2002, Official Report, column 341W, on EBRD projects, if she will list the names of the projects that officials from her Department told UK representatives at the EBRD to support and the value of each of these projects in each of the last five years. [42770]

Clare Short: The information required is not kept centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress is being made in clearing (a) land mines and (b) unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs in Afghanistan. [40656]

Clare Short: Afghanistan has long been one of the countries most severely affected by land mines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO). In the year 2000 an average of about 88 mine and UXO casualties were recorded each month. During 2000 a total of approximately 13,500 antipersonnel mines, 600 anti-tank mines and 300,000 items of UXO were destroyed.

The onset of hostilities after 11 September meant that mine clearance operations were badly disrupted by the departure of international staff and the threat to the safety of mine action personnel, forcing it to significantly curtail

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its operations. The Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) is now completing a period of retraining and is resuming operations wherever possible. In many areas mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance operations have returned close to the level that existed before 11 September. In addition, the process of expanding capacity to address the UXO threat has begun. The priorities for UNMAS in 2002 are the execution of emergency operations throughout the country and a subsequent return to 100 per cent. operational capacity, and to expand mine clearance capacity as resources become available.

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of the amount of unexploded bomblets emanating from cluster bombs in Afghanistan. [40655]

Clare Short: The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has been notified by coalition forces of 188 sites where cluster bombs were used. UNMAS has estimated the number of bombs used and made an estimate of how many bomblets may be unexploded, but exact numbers are impossible to verify.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether inclement weather has prevented aid deliveries to the Badghis province of Afghanistan; and what actions are being taken to improve aid deliveries. [34951]

Clare Short: Emergency food provision in Afghanistan is primarily channelled through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Needs have been met in most areas, but there remain pockets of unmet need in places difficult to access due to poor weather and insecurity. Badghis province is one of the most remote and seriously drought-affected areas in Afghanistan. Parts of Badghis are extremely difficult to access in the winter months.

Since September 2001, WFP has dispatched and distributed more than 56,000 metric tonnes of food in the western provinces of Afghanistan, including Badghis, to assist an average of 1.3 million people per month. Remote areas in the west of Afghanistan have received enough food to last up to the end of March.

In addition, WFP is deploying six helicopter-borne rapid assessment teams for assessment and delivery of emergency aid to remote areas, including parts of Badghis province. The teams are tasked with streamlining food aid operations, assessing health conditions, investigating non-food emergency needs, monitoring food distribution and verifying reports by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on earlier food deliveries. If necessary, the helicopters will also allow WFP to airlift a limited amount of food aid on an emergency basis.

Overseas Visits

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list each of the overseas trips made by herself and other members of her ministerial team in each of the last four years, specifying the purpose and cost of each trip. [30178]

Clare Short: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on 5 February 2002, Official Report, column 707W.

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