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9 Dec 2003 : Column 419Wcontinued
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of (a) the estimated total number of disputes requiring adjudication under a tenancy deposit scheme and (b) the estimated costs of those procedures. 
Keith Hill: The estimated maximum number of disputes is 127,000 per year. Extrapolating from jurisdications which have compulsory deposit schemes, the figure is 19,000 per year. On the second part of the question, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 8 December, Official Report, column 350W.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his latest estimate is of (a) the rate of alleged unreasonable withholding of deposits by landlords or agencies and (b) the cost of their retrieval. 
Keith Hill: On the first part of the question, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on 10 November, Official Report, column 164W.
On the second part of the question, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 8 December 2003, Official Report, column 350W.
Mr. Dennis Turner: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what assumptions will be made in the operation of the transitional protection scheme concerning the use of the option of housing authorities to apply to his Department for a special direction to transfer any amount of the 200102 Housing Revenue Account to the General Fund; 
(3) if he will provide before 1 January 2004 exemplifications of the impact of the Transitional Protection Scheme at an individual local authority level based on the latest available audited data on interim grant claims for 200304. 
Keith Hill: Following publication of the rules of the scheme, authorities would have to write in to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister specifying how much they wished to transfer between the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and General Fund in 200405. So long as this amount fell within the maximum amount permissible to them under the rules of the scheme, a direction would be issued to that effect. An authority would be able to apply for a direction for 200405 at any time before the accounts for that year were closed.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is consulting at present on proposals for the transitional protection scheme. Details of the proposed maximum amount transferable based on the audited figures for 200102 have been provided at an individual authority level with the current consultation on the draft HRA Subsidy Determination 200405. The closing date for consultation is 16 December 2003. The Office intends
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to issue the final rules of the scheme, including confirmed maximum amounts transferable by each authority in 200405, before 1 January 2004.
Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the extent of the areas which are under Taliban or Jihadist control in Afghanistan. 
Mr. Mike O'Brien: Although scattered elements of Al Qa'ida and the Taliban remain in Afghanistan and continue to mount attacks against international and Afghan targets, the perpetrators cannot be said to control the areas in which they operate. Many attacks are carried out by insurgents who cross between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Others are mounted on a hit-and-run basis by groups within Afghanistan. Extremists are undoubtedly attempting to establish bases from which to operate. But successful military operations conducted by the Coalition and units of the Afghan National Army are preventing them from doing so. Apparent isolated instances of low-level control generally amount to no more than evidence of Taliban intimidation of local communities.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much (a) heroin and (b) methamphetamine he predicts will be produced by Burma this year; and how much he estimates will reach the UK. 
Mr. Rammell: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that 81,400 hectares of land were utilised for opium production in Burma in 2002. The UNODC figures for 2003 are not yet confirmed and initial indications suggest that they may show little overall change from 2002.
Burma is believed by UNODC to be one of the largest producers of methamphetamines in the world.
Despite Burma being a major producer of heroin and methamphetamines, there is no evidence that either of these substances is trafficked to the UK in significant quantities from Burma.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the involvement of the Burmese Junta in (a) heroin and (b) methamphetamine production and export, with particular reference to the new factory 15 miles west of Maeken. 
Mr. Rammell: There are reports that some production and trafficking of opium from Burma is carried out with the knowledge of the Burmese authorities. The Burmese authorities' overall response to the continued production and export of heroin and methamphetamines has been limited. According to figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Burma is the world's second largest source of heroin and one of the largest sources of methamphetamines.
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I have no specific information relating to a methamphetamine production facility near Maeken, although I am aware that UNODC reports indicate that such facilities exist in Burma.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Central Asian Drugs Action Plan since it was signed; how much the UK has contributed to it; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Rammell: We welcome and support the aims of the European Union's action plan to help tackle the issue of drugs in central Asia. The plan covers Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukbekistan and should also be seen in the context of significant UK and EU action in Afghanistan, which is the main source country for heroin trafficked through central Asia. The UK does not directly fund the action plan. However we provide bilateral assistance to countries in the region which supports the plan's overall aims and objectives.
Clare Short: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the UK ambassador to Colombia supported the President of Colombia's claim that human rights NGOs were supporters of terrorists. 
Mr. Rammell: Our ambassador and I have repeatedly expressed our concerns to the Colombian Government about blanket condemnation of Human Rights groups and made clear that if there are credible allegations of inappropriate conduct by certain groups they should be investigated by judicial process.
Mr. Pope: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what talks he has had with his counterparts in (a) Syria and (b) Iran regarding human rights in those countries. 
Mr. Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary makes a point of raising our grave concerns about both countries' human rights record whenever he is able to. In 2003 he has done so with his Iranian counterpart on 6 February, 29 June and 24 September. He has not met the Syrian Foreign Minister this year. But we regularly raise human rights concerns with Syria, both bilaterally and in conjunction with EU partners. I spoke of Syria's human rights failings in a Syria adjournment debate on 2 July and my hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Mike O'Brien) raised the issue with President Bashar al-Assad during his visit to Damascus on 5 March.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many families of the Iraq Governing Council were living in Iraq before the Allied invasion this year; and how many are living in Iraq. 
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Mr. Rammell: A number of families of Iraqi Governing Council members were living in Iraq prior to military action, and others returned when hostilities ceased. This number changes as the families come and go.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the contracts which the Office of the Iraq Programme reported in November 2002 had been approved but for which no funds were available due to political disagreements between the governments of the US and UK and the then government of Iraq; what these contracts were for; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Rammell: Gaps in funding for approved contracts were due to insufficient revenues from Iraqi oil exports, exacerbated by the former regime's unilateral decision on several occasions to halt exports. These contracts covered a range of sectors. The UN regularly urged the Iraqi Government to prioritise its requirements and ensure that minimal funds required to fund priority sector contracts were available, but the former regime refused to do so. Instead, Saddam Hussein continued to abuse the Oil For Food Programme, ordering many non essential goods, such as equipment for a new Olympic sports stadium.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is his policy that NATO should have a role in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Rammell: NATO currently provides limited support to the Polish-led Multi-National Division in south central Iraq. We do not envisage NATO taking on a major role in Iraq in the short term, although we do not rule out further involvement at some stage.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps Coalition forces are taking to deal with shortages of medicine in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Rammell: Coalition forces are not responsible for the distribution of medicines in Iraq, but assist where appropriate. The public health system was left an empty shell by the former regime, but since May the Iraqi Ministry of Health has estimated that 15,000 tons of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies have been delivered. New drug supply systems are not yet fully operational. Until the supply accounting and reporting systems are in place, some difficulties will continue to occur.
Work is under way in the Iraqi Ministry of Health to develop a national drug formulary. This will form the baseline for future purchases throughout the country and will improve the sourcing of drugs. The Iraqi Ministry of Health, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the World Health Organisation are also furthering a complete review of missing drugs and supplies. This is scheduled to finish in three months.
These initiatives provide the best and only ways to ensure that full medical supplies are getting through to the Iraqi people and we will continue to support them.
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Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps Coalition forces are taking to deal with waste water being pumped untreated into rivers in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Rammell: The Coalition has carried out emergency repair and rehabilitation work on several waste water treatment works in Iraq. Coalition partners have also partly funded UNICEF's environmental and sanitation programme in Iraq, with the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) contributing £6,835,187. DFID has also given £16,500,000 to the Red Cross movement, whose work includes water and sanitation activities.
We understand that a request to the US Congress for $675 million specifically for waster water treatment has been successful and will be invested (by the Coalition's Programme Management Office) over the next two years.
Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's estimate is of the numbers of Muslims killed directly or indirectly by Saddam Hussein since 1979, based on additional information discovered since 1 May. 
Mr. Rammell: From 1979 Saddam Hussein's regime was involved either directly, or indirectly in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the large majority of whom were Muslims. These deaths occurred during conflicts with neighbouring countries and through internal repression. Since 1 May, a large quantity of documentation has been found in Iraq relating to killings and persecution by the former regime. We are working with Iraqi Ministries and other organisations to analyse this documentation. Until this work is complete, a final figure will not be known.
Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many mass graves have been discovered in Iraq since 1 May; and what estimate he has made of the number of people buried in each of those graves. 
Mr. Rammell: Since 1 May, some 270 mass graves have been reported to the Coalition Provisional Authority, with more sites still being discovered. Of these, about one third have been assessed so far, with one third of these confirmed as mass graves. The UK has seconded a forensic team to the CPA to co-ordinate and prioritise forensic work. From documentary and physical evidence found so far, it is estimated that around 300,000 people may be buried in mass graves in Iraq, although the true number will not be known until full investigations have been completed.
Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what evidence of torture and killing of Iraqi citizens under the regime of Saddam Hussein have been discovered in Iraq since 1 May. 
Mr. Rammell: Since 1 May, both physical and documentary evidence has been found which details the torture and killing of Iraqi citizens under Saddam Hussein's regime, including systematic abuse in police stations and prisons. UK secondees in the Coalition
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Provisional Authority Office of Human Rights and Transitional Justice are helping to analyse documentary evidence and take personal testimonies of human rights abuses by the former regime.
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