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Manufacturing Employment (North-West)

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the change in the manufacturing employment in the North West in 2001. [78242]

John Healey: Manufacturing employment declined at a much slower rate in the North West than in the UK as a whole in the 12 months to June 2002, despite declining at a faster rate than in the UK as a whole through 2001.


Keith Vaz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent representations he has received concerning the settlement arrangements for the creditors and ex-employees of BCCI. [78243]

Ruth Kelly: The hon. Gentleman wrote to the Paymaster General, who arranged for him to meet Inland Revenue officials recently to discuss the tax issues arising. I understand the meeting was a constructive and helpful one.

Overseas Aid Budget

Mr. Caton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects the UK Overseas Aid Development budget to reach the UN target level of 0.7 per cent. of gross national income. [78244]

John Healey: The Government remain fully committed to reaching the UN 0.7 per cent. ODA/GNI target. In the 2002 Spending Review we made substantial increases to the aid budget. The UK's level of overseas development assistance will be increased to 0.33 per cent. by 2003/04, up from 0.26 per cent. in 1997, and will reach 0.40 per cent. of GNI by 2005/06. This is the largest ever increase in UK aid and represents a 93 per cent. real terms increase since 1997.

Aid effectiveness is also important as well as aid volumes. We are committed to redirecting the development assistance budget to the poorest countries, particularly those with effective governments pursuing high growth and pro-poor economic and social policies. In addition, we have untied all our aid as from 1 April 2001.

Debt Relief (Africa)

Norman Lamb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on debt relief in respect of those countries affected by famine in Africa. [78245]

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John Healey: The Government are very concerned about food crises in Africa and is acting decisively to limit the impact of famine on those countries affected. We have already committed a total of #68 million for humanitarian assistance and recovery programmes to the region and will continue to monitor the situation closely. Of the eight countries currently affected by famine, 4 are already benefiting from US$11 billion of debt relief that has been committed under the HIPC initiative.

DfID's Southern Africa Humanitarian Crisis Unit (SAHCU) is currently being established in Johannesburg. The unit will assist the ongoing DfID response, carry out situation and needs assessments; and identify opportunities for further UK interventions if necessary.

As part of this commitment to providing humanitarian assistance, DfID is supporting infrastructure programmes, such as the rehabilitation of the rail link between the port of Nacala in Mozambique and land-locked Malawi. The improved link is essential to the special emergency operation being run by the World Food Programme on behalf of the Malawian government to get food to those most at need. The total cost of the programme is #4.26 million, #4.1 million of which will be funded by DfID.

In Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe food shortages have followed a poor season when coping mechanisms are already stretched. Poor governance has played a major role in the shortages, particularly in Zimbabwe where lack of inputs for small-holder agriculture, and the ruling party's disastrous economic and land policies, have both caused shortages and undercut survival strategies. Throughout the region HIV and AIDS has also weakened communities' capacity to cope with additional stress.

The crisis underlines the need for good governance in Africa. The three worst affected countries (Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe) have been hit by drought, but have also suffered in varying degrees from economic problems and poor governance, which have turned a fall in agricultural production into a crisis. The drought has been exacerbated by corruption in Zambia under the previous administration, poor management of food stocks in Malawi, and disastrous land and economic policies in Zimbabwe.

At the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the UK argued strongly that we should be prepared to use the flexibility in the HIPC initiative to provide additional debt relief to ensure a robust exit from unsustainable debt, particularly for those countries affected by extreme circumstances.

The Government is working to strengthen the HIPC initiative to help the most vulnerable countries. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session last year, the Chancellor set out the UK's agenda for strengthening the HIPC initiative. In addition to pressing for more cautious forecasts to assess debt sustainability, the Chancellor stressed the importance of additional debt relief (or topping-up) at Completion Point for those countries which have

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experienced external shocks such as natural disaster. In order to deliver these reforms, the UK has called for a further $1 billion to the HIPC initiative.

At Kananaskis the UK was at the forefront of the international debate on debt relief, helping to secure agreement from the G7 that they fund their share of the $1 billion financing shortfall in the HIPC initiative. The UK is the second largest donor to the HIPC Trust Fund, pledging over $300 million in total since 1999.

Ahead of the September meetings the UK made clear that, once again, we were prepared to shoulder our share of the burden, and called on other countries to follow our lead. The Development Committee welcomed these announcements of support and called upon other countries to make firm pledges and contributions as early as possible. I am pleased to report that, at a recent HIPC Technical Meeting in Paris, not only did the UK reaffirm its commitment to providing $120 million towards the $1 billion financing gap, but was joined by nearly all donors in making firm commitments totaling around $850 million.

Credit Unions

Mr. Drew: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to expand the role for credit unions. [78247]

Ruth Kelly: Credit unions have an important role to play in tackling financial exclusion and in providing greater choice and diversity in the financial services sector. That is why we have been involved in initiatives to help the movement grow and to enable credit unions to offer a greater range of services to their members.

We are in the process of delivering a programme of legislative and regulatory changes to help improve the operational flexibility of credit unions. Also, through the Financial Services and Markets Act, we have brought credit unions under the regulatory supervision of the Financial Services Authority and given depositors with credit unions similar protection to those with banks or building societies. The new regulatory system, combined with our programme of deregulation, will give the movement a strong position from which to build and thrive.

The Government will continue to work closely with the movement to support and encourage its future development.

Company Taxation

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with the Confederation of British Industry regarding the impact of company taxation on state UK businesses. [78248]

Dawn Primarolo: Treasury Ministers meet regularly with business leaders and others to discuss a wide range of topics.

Employment, Scotland

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the future prospects for employment in Scotland. [78250]

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Ruth Kelly: Since 1997 in Scotland, total employment has risen by 100,000 (or 4.4 per cent.) and claimant count unemployment has been reduced by 60,700 (or 37.4 per cent.).

The UK Government and the Scottish Executive have put in place a comprehensive range of policies designed to reduce unemployment and get people back into work. These policies have already paid dividends and, as the figures show, will continue to benefit the Scottish labour market into the future.

Environmental Taxation

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the need for further changes to the taxation system to help deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. [78252]

John Healey: The Government have introduced a range of fiscal measures to tackle carbon emissions, including the Climate Change Levy, and reforms to both Vehicle Excise Duty, fuel duties and the taxation of company cars. The Chancellor considers all relevant social, economic and environmental factors when deciding taxation policy.

Tax Concessions (Sports Clubs)

Mr. Reed: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress he has made implementing his tax concessions scheme for community and amateur sports clubs. [78253]

John Healey: The legislation enabling community amateur sports clubs to benefit from certain tax reliefs was contained in Finance Act 2002. The Inland Revenue is now accepting applications for registration from qualifying sports clubs.

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