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10 Jun 2003 : Column 769W—continued


Mr. Leigh: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of recent British policy on aid for Burma. [117118]

Hilary Benn: Reducing poverty in Burma will require major political, economic and social reform, the prospects for which are currently extremely limited. However, we should not abandon the poor people of Burma. DFID, along with other international agencies, can and does play an important role in addressing the humanitarian needs of poor people of Burma through programmes on HIV/AIDS, health, and the protection of human rights.

The UK's wider policy on Burma is designed to effectively keep pressure on the Burmese regime and those who support and benefit from its misrule. The policy will be maintained until Burma is irreversibly committed to substantive, lasting political change.

Chad and Cameroon Pipeline

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development whether the transitional procedures in relation to the Chad and Cameroon Pipeline Project have been completed. [117385]

Hilary Benn: In their December report, the International Advisory Group (IAG) recommended that interim arrangements be made for management of oil revenues allocated to the oil-producing region of Chad, pending completion of the Regional Development Plan. We await forthcoming reports from the IAG and the External Compliance Monitoring Group to judge progress on this issue. We are not aware of other transitional procedures on the Chad/Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline project.

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Dr. Tonge: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what measures her Department has established to manage better the international supply of coffee. [117075]

Hilary Benn: We share the concern for the way that coffee growers and coffee growing countries have been hit by low prices due largely to global over supply and structural imbalances in the industry.

It is however important to recognise that coffee is traded on a free market and it is unlikely that attempts to intervene in the international coffee market to manage supply will be successful. The UK does however, support action to improve the sustainability of the coffee supply chain and to improve co-operation between all market participants. The UK is a member, through the EU, of the International Coffee Organisation (ICO), a United Nations body established to, among other things, "achieve a reasonable balance between world supply and demand on a basis which will assure adequate supplies of coffee at fair prices to consumers and markets for coffee at remunerative prices to producers".

UK Government officials regularly attend meetings of the ICO. They also meet with representatives of the coffee trade, other interested organisations and other Government Departments with an interest in coffee matters to pursue other approaches to reducing the vulnerability of poor people and poor countries dependent upon coffee.


Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what restrictions are placed on aid payments to Colombia; and if she will make a statement. [18598]

Hilary Benn: We are reducing bilateral assistance to Colombia in line with our focus on the poorest countries in the region. By the end of this year, it will be limited to a £140,000 fund to support civil society. We also contribute the equivalent of about £2 million a year to EC programmes. In recognition of the circumstances in Colombia, these focus on supporting the peace process and humanitarian aid.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what net percentage of forest cover worldwide has been lost in each of the last 10 years; and what total acreage this represents. [117602]

Hilary Benn: According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, during the period 1990–2000, which are the latest data available, the net percentage of forest cover lost worldwide was 2.4 per cent. This represents an annual average loss of 0.22 per cent. or approximately 23.2 million acres.


Hugh Bayley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what the

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conclusions were of the European Commission's review of progress towards the commitment that by 2006 an EU average of gross national income provided as overseas development assistance will reach 0.3 per cent.; what decisions were reached when this review was discussed at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 20th May; and if he will make a statement. [117754]

Hilary Benn: In its summary report on follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development the European Commission noted that in 2002, eight member states had met the target of 0.33 per cent. of GNI as oda. In 2003, 10 member states will reach this objective. Progress already made corresponds to around one third of the amount of additional oda per year that should be made available by the EU from 2006 onwards.

The conclusion of the discussion on this review at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in May 2003 invited the Commission to continue to monitor on a regular basis, and to report annually on, the follow-up to the Monterrey commitments.

G8 Summit

Mr. Battle: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development, what agreement was made at the G8 summit on the transparency of payments to governments by oil and mining companies. [118431]

Hilary Benn: At Evian, the G8 countries emphasised their determination to fight corruption which is one of the key obstacles to economic and social development. They agreed an action plan that includes piloting, on a voluntary basis, an intensified approach to transparency in countries where revenues from extractive industries (oil, gas and mining) are important.

The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) will help develop measures to implement this Action Plan.

At the EITI multi-stakeholder conference being held in London on 17 June, we will be asking those present (governments, oil, gas and mining companies, industry bodies, international institutions, investors and NGOs) to make public statements of support for a Statement of Principles and Actions and to set out how they propose to take the initiative forward.


Norman Lamb: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what reports the Department has received from (a) UNMAS and (b) other sources on the number of (i) air-launched and ground-launched cluster munitions and (ii) unexploded bomblets at the sites where cluster munitions were used during the recent conflict in Iraq. [117198]

Hilary Benn: DFID is not aware of any comprehensive assessment on the number of air-launched and ground-launched cluster munitions used during the recent conflict, nor on the number of unexploded bomblets remaining. However the Ministry of Defence report that during the conflict UK forces dropped 66 air-delivered cluster bombs and fired some 2,000 artillery-delivered bomblet shells.

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We recognise that unexploded ordnance (UXO) is a matter of grave humanitarian concern. The UK is fully committed to facilitating the clearance of UXO as part of the post-conflict reconstruction of Iraq. Demining organisations funded by DFID (UN Mine Action Service £4 million and Mines Advisory Group £81,000) are working alongside local organisations and the Coalition military to plot the locations of all UXO and to carry out disposals.

Llew Smith: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development how much of the £60 million for Iraq announced in this year's budget has been allocated; and to which agencies. [117633]

Hilary Benn: DFID has so far committed £115 million towards humanitarian assistance in the current crisis. This finance is channelled though the organisations best placed to deliver assistance on the ground: UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and NGOs. We have set aside a further £95 million for additional needs as they emerge.

In addition, HM Treasury have earmarked an extra £60 million from the Central Reserve to meet humanitarian and reconstruction needs in Iraq. £5 million of this has been provided to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to fund UK secondees to the Coalition Provisional Authority. The remaining £55 million remains available to DFID to call upon when required.

Medical Assistance

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what use has been made of the tax measures introduced in the 2002 Budget to encourage private sector research and development of new treatments for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in developing countries and responsible donations of medical supplies and equipment to developing countries. [117755]

Hilary Benn: The UK Government are committed to significantly improving access to medicines in developing countries. We need to tackle all the key factors affecting access if we are to make lasting improvements.

The factors recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that can improve poor peoples' access to medicines are: affordable pricing, sustainable financing, reliable health and supply systems, and the rational selection and use of existing drugs.

Clare Short chaired a High Level Working Group on Increasing Access to Essential Medicines in the Developing World, which examined these factors in detail and made a series of recommendations for action in its report of November 2002. Officials across Whitehall are taking forward these recommendations with stakeholders.

One recommendation was to encourage companies to increase Research and Development into medicines and vaccines for diseases prevalent in developing countries, namely TB, malaria and relevant strains of HIV/AIDS, taking forward implementation of the R&D tax credits announced in the budget. The special tax relief for companies developing drugs and vaccines for TB,

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malaria and HIV/AIDS applies to expenditure incurred on or after 22 April 2003. As it is claimed by companies when they complete their tax returns, which they can submit up to 12 months after the end of the accounting period in question, the Inland Revenue do not yet have any information on claims.

Section 55 of the Finance Act 2002, which provides relief from any possible tax penalty on donations of drugs and equipment abroad, is a deregulatory measure which requires no claim by the donor. Accordingly, the Inland Revenue keeps no record of the amounts involved.

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