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13 Jan 2004 : Column 645W—continued


Andrew Smith

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to his answer of 15 December 2003, Official Report, column 721W, what working arrangements there have been between Mr. Andrew Smith and his Department in Sierra Leone prior to the last 12 months. [146417]

Hilary Benn: There have been none.

Company Checks

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what checks officials in his Department make on the identities of shareholders and partners in companies which are contracted to provide services for it overseas; and if he will make a statement. [146419]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: We routinely check the financial standing of companies through Companies House and Dun & Bradstreet reports. We do not normally check the identities of company shareholders or partners unless prompted to do so by our standard financial appraisal or other cause.

Developing Countries

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assessment he has made of the benefits achieved to date for developing countries from the World Trade Organisation agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights and Public Health;. [146592]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I have been asked to reply.

We welcome the Decision of the General Council of the WTO on 30 August 2003 which resolves the outstanding issue from the Doha Ministerial Declaration on the Trade-Related Property Rights Agreement (the TRIPS Agreement) and Public Health—the issue of how countries with insufficient or no manufacturing capacity in the pharmaceutical sector can make effective use of the compulsory licensing provisions within the WTO TRIPS Agreement.

The Decision effectively extends to countries with minimal or no domestic manufacturing capacity the existing flexibility within the TRIPS Agreement to issue compulsory licenses by allowing other countries to produce and export to them. The original TRIPS Agreement allowed for compulsory licensing only where such licensing was primarily for domestic use.

We are currently considering with our European partners how best to implement the new Decision both at EU and at UK level. Beyond our own implementation, we will monitor the wider implementation of the Decision in due course in order to ensure that the Decision is implemented effectively and delivers the intended benefits to developing countries. However, it is

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too early to make a substantive assessment of the benefits achieved to date for developing countries from the new Decision.

In the context of implementing the new Decision, the Government has supported the principle that pharmaceutical companies in developed countries should be able to act as suppliers under the new arrangements—which would include the export of drugs for life-threatening diseases to least-developed countries—if they so choose.

HIPC Initiative

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which countries taking part in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative have reached completion point within the timescale established at their decision point. [147391]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: When the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative was launched in 1999, the fixed three-year performance period of the original HIPC framework was replaced by a 'floating' Completion Point. This means that Completion Point is triggered by the successful implementation of a set of pre-defined reform measures, rather than a set period of time. The Decision Point documents for HIPC countries give a prediction of when a country is expected to meet the floating Completion Point triggers, but these time-scales are intended to be only rough estimates. Of the nine countries that have reached Completion Point, only two (Mauritania and Uganda) did so at the date that had been predicted. Two further countries (Tanzania and Mozambique) reached Completion Point within five months of the date predicted at Decision Point. The remaining five countries (Mali, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso and Guyana) missed their predicted Completion Point date by at least a year. Delay in reaching Completion Point is mostly due to poor policy performance. It should be noted, however, that there has been no delay to delivery of relief, as countries cease to make payments on their debt from Decision Point.

Special and Differential Treatment

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had since 17 September 2003 with (a) the World Trade Organisation, (b) the European Commission and (c) the United States about the use of special and differential treatment. [146585]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I have been asked to reply.

It is important that WTO rules more fully reflect different WTO Members' implementation capacities and stages of development. We are therefore disappointed at the lack of progress which has been made in addressing Special and Differential Treatment issues post-Doha.

We had hoped to see agreement in Cancun to at least an initial package of measures, however limited, which might then have opened the way to a wider dialogue on Special and Differential Treatment within the WTO, perhaps through the creation of an expert working group. In the event, no such package of measures

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was agreed and no progress made on establishing a wider dialogue, through an expert working group or otherwise.

We will continue to press the case for appropriate Special and Differential Treatment within the WTO system with all relevant interlocutors.


Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of the impact on health standards of the strike by doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe. [146756]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: Even before the doctors and nurses went on strike three months ago, the coverage and quality of health services in Zimbabwe were being compromised by severe shortages of skilled doctors, nurses, and other professional staff. Declining numbers due to AIDS mortality and migration has led to vacancy rates of 40 per cent. for nurses, 55 per cent. for doctors, and 90 per cent. for pharmacists. Those who remained saw their standard of living drastically eroded by inflation, which now stands at 700 per cent. per annum.

During the doctors' and nurses' strike the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare attempted to limit damage by deploying military medical personnel and Cuban doctors. The doctors' strike came to an end early this month when substantial increases in salaries and allowances were agreed.

The health impacts of the strike and the ongoing human resources crisis have not been quantified, but recent trends in health status in Zimbabwe are alarming. In less than 10 years, life expectancy at birth declined from 50 to less than 35 years, and mortality among children under five rose by more than 50 per cent. HIV prevalence is currently 25 per cent. among those aged 15–49 years. There are over 3000 AIDS-related deaths per week, and more than half a million children have been orphaned by AIDS.

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of the request by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs for non-food aid for Zimbabwe. [146757]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recently released an update on the UN Consolidated Appeals Process in Southern Africa. DFID agrees with OCHA's assessment that while food shortages remain the most immediate humanitarian concern in Zimbabwe, other factors affecting and threatening the basic needs of the Zimbabwean people should not be underestimated or neglected. These include the crippling effect of HIV/AIDS on households and communities, the lack of agricultural inputs, and the rapid decline of basic social services such as health care and education.

DFID is committing approximately £35 million to Zimbabwe this financial year in support of both food and non-food initiatives through UN agencies and other channels. Approximately £28 million is going towards humanitarian relief programmes, including some support to subsistence farmers to enable them to plant food crops to feed themselves, and the provision of safe

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and clean water to vulnerable urban populations. Our other main programmes help to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis, and support the health sector. No funding goes through the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure the funds are not abused.


Car Theft

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many cases involving the theft of (a) vehicles and (b) property from vehicles were reported during December 2003 in each of the Park and Ride car parks operated under the auspices of the Department of Regional Development in the Belfast area. [147044]

Mr. Spellar: I have asked the Chief Executive of Roads Service to write to the hon. Gentleman in response to this question. A copy of the letter will be placed in the Library.

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