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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 18 December 2003



Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken to encourage (a) the use of alternative crops and (b) non-farming livelihoods in the Afghan provinces. [144859]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: We are providing more than £20 million over three years to our livelihoods programme in Afghanistan. This includes funding a Research in Alternative Livelihoods Project, (£3 million over three years) designed to help the rural poor in Afghanistan build new ways of making a living. Research grants will be given to organisations, which put forward innovative ideas for the development and promotion of new farming and non-farming opportunities in Afghanistan.

Workshops will be held to share lessons learnt and information gathered by the projects being funded with other rural development projects across Afghanistan. We are also building the capacity of key Ministries to enable the Afghan Government to support the new livelihoods opportunities and engage with the local communities through newly established development councils.

Global Fund

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of the UK target figure for the Global Fund his Department has pledged for 2004–05. [141501]

Hilary Benn: For the financial year 2004–05 we will provide £30 million and have extended our current commitment through to 2008 bringing our total planned contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS TB and Malaria (GFATM) to US$280 million.

At the 6th Board meeting of the Global Fund held in October, members of the Board of the Global Fund voted to move to a periodic replenishment model on a voluntary basis for all public donors, complemented by additional ad hoc donations. This is now the agreed system for contributions to the Global Fund and should put the Fund on a firmer financial footing.

Future UK funding will be subject to the GFATM reflecting a clear poverty focus, achieving a better financing system, integrating the Fund's activities more effectively with national programmes and meeting agreed benchmarks to monitor its effectiveness. We have been working closely with the Fund on all of these issues and made some good progress at the recent Board meeting held in October—particularly on improving the financing system by moving to a more reliable system of

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replenishment based on commonly agreed performance measures. Good results will encourage increased contributions to the Global Fund—both from the UK and, importantly, from the wider international community and this will help to ensure its future as an effective instrument to tackle these terrible diseases.

Our contribution to the GFATM reflects only part of the UK's significant contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. At country level, DFID has committed over £1.5 billion since 1997 to strengthening health systems so that better care and drugs can be delivered. Our commitment to HIV/AIDS is demonstrated by the increase in bilateral spending from £38 million in 1997–98 to over £270 million in 2003–04. We are now intensifying our efforts to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the recently published "Call for Action", we state that we will make HIV/AIDS a priority for the extra £320 million the UK will be devoting to development in Africa by 2006. We will also double our core funding of UNAIDS.

We also contribute to other global partnerships, which work on different aspects of these diseases. For example DFID has contributed £48 million over four years (1999–2003) to Roll Back Malaria, a global partnership which aims to halve the world's malaria burden by 2010. This financial year we are providing some £1.2 million in support for public private partnerships to develop a new generation of affordable drugs required for malaria control. DFID plays a major role in supporting TB control and the adoption of good practice in countries such as India, Russia, Zambia, Nepal, Bolivia and South Africa. The UK is also a member of the coordinating Board of the global Stop TB partnership and in 2002–03 we provided £0.75 million to the partnership.

Identity Cards

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the implications of the introduction of compulsory identity cards for his Department. [142950]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: There has been no assessment made.

Iraq (Medicines)

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on shortages of (a) antisera (anti-snake venom) and (b) anti-cancer medicines in Iraq. [143935]

Hilary Benn: Assessments by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Iraqi Ministry of Health earlier in the autumn indicated that there are no major shortages of essential medical supplies in Iraq. There are however still reported shortages of some very specialised supplies including antisera (ie anti snake venom) and some anti-cancer medicines.

A great deal has already been achieved to re-establish drug systems in Iraq. The initial focus was, rightly, on securing adequate supplies of the most essential and most used medicines and vaccines. On 27 October, the Iraqi Ministry of Health estimated that 15,000 tons of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies had been delivered in 150 days. However, new supply systems are

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not yet fully operational. Until these are in place, including comprehensive accounting and reporting processes to ensure that needs are identified before shortages arise, some problems will continue to occur.

Work is currently underway in the Iraqi Ministry of Health to develop a national drug formulary. This will enable improved sourcing of drugs and a new purchasing structure which will facilitate the arrival of some drugs which were almost non-existent under the old regime, including top-tier cancer drugs and other advanced pharmaceuticals. Work is also being done by the Ministry of Health, CPA and WHO to develop a complete overview of missing drugs and supplies. This is scheduled to finish in three months.


Private Health Care

6. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had on financial incentives for private healthcare. [144721]

Mr. Gordon Brown: I have met BUPA and others. We estimate the cost of financial incentives for private medical insurance, including tax relief on private medical insurance and vouchers for private healthcare, at £2 billion.

Council Tax

19. Mr. McWalter: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what mechanisms are available to him to ensure that the resources he makes available to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for the 2004–05 settlement for local authorities will generate council tax rises in that year no higher than the rate of inflation. [144734]

Mr. Boateng: The extra resources for local authorities announced in November and in the pre-Budget report amount to an additional £760 million for local government on top of previously planned increases in grant. Following the provision of these substantial extra resources provided, excessive increases should not be necessary, but the Government have capping powers and are prepared to use them to protect local taxpayers from excessive council tax rises imposed by local authorities.

Information Technology

20. Mr. Bacon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer until what date and for how much money his Department has given financial commitments in relation to the funding of the National Programme for information technology in the health service. [144735]

Mr. Boateng: Although programmes of this scale do need Treasury approval, the Treasury does not commit funding to individual projects. It is for the Department of Health to ensure that the national programme for information technology is affordable within its budget, without pre-empting the results of future spending reviews.

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21. Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action his Department is taking to promote wealth creation in the North East. [144736]

John Healey: All areas of the UK are benefiting from a stable macroeconomic framework, and the measures to promote entrepreneurship and set out in the pre-Budget report.

Regulatory and VAT reforms could benefit 15,700 businesses in the North East:

There has also been an indicative allocation rise, from £227 million in this year to £240 million in 2005–06, for the North East regional development agency to promote wealth creation in the North East.

Child Trust Funds

22. Mr. Leigh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with officials from the Inland Revenue regarding the introduction of Child Trust Funds. [144737]

Ruth Kelly: I am the Minister with specific responsibility for the Child Trust Fund and I have regular discussions with both the Chancellor and officials of the Inland Revenue on a wide range of issues in connection with the Child Trust Fund and its introduction.

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