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Sudan

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the requirement for aid supplies for the Darfur region of Sudan. [159226]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: Access for humanitarian workers is now beginning to open up in Darfur. Some assessments of needs are now possible, in limited areas. We know from initial reports that immediate needs include shelter, water, health and food assistance.

We have contributed over £6 million to the crisis in Darfur, through United Nations (UN) agencies and international non-governmental organisations. We have also provided four humanitarian affairs officers to assist the UN response for three months. Three of these will be based in Darfur and will, among other things, undertake assessments of humanitarian needs.

We are urging all the parties involved to re-establish a ceasefire, preferably with international monitoring, permit humanitarian access to all those in need, and resume talks to find a peaceful solution to Darfur's problems.

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Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the influx of Sudanese refugees into Chad. [159228]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: A DFID Humanitarian Adviser visited Chad between 7 and 12 February. He visited refugees at the border with Sudan, who have fled from the fighting in Darfur in Western Sudan. The present location of refugees along the border is unsafe. New camps are being set up away from the border, where refugees will be safe from attack. Our Adviser visited one of these new relocation camps at Forchana. Other relocation camps are at Touloum and Kounoungu. Eight thousand refugees have been moved to the new camps to date.

The general condition of the approximately 110,000 refugees is poor. Around Tine, Medecins Sans Frontieres established that 27 per cent. of children were malnourished, whereas around Adre only quite low levels of malnutrition were detected. Lack of food, shelter, safe drinking water and sanitation facilities are the main risks.

There is an effective humanitarian response in place led by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), with significant contributions from non-governmental emergency relief organisations. The UK is one of the major contributors to this effort with an early £1 million contribution to UNHCR in October last year.

CABINET OFFICE

Civil Service

26. Kevin Brennan: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will make a statement on the relocation of civil service posts to the regions and nations of the UK. [159456]

Mr. Alexander: Sir Michael Lyons is currently leading an independent review of the scope to relocate civil servants and other public sector workers. Sir Michael will make recommendations to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I understand that this will be shortly.

Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office when the Strategy Unit expects to publish its alcohol harm reduction strategy. [159808]

Mr. Alexander: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) on 3 February 2004, Official Report, column 619.

Better Regulation Task Force

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what assessment he has made of the progress made by the Better Regulation Task Force; and if he will make a statement. [159575]

Mr. Alexander: The Better Regulation Task Force provides an important contribution to the Government's work on better regulation.

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Since its creation in 1997 it has produced 30 substantive reports with around 400 recommendations. The Government have accepted all but 10 of its recommendations.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what the cost was of (a) the establishment and (b) the maintenance since its establishment of the Better Regulation Task Force. [159573]

Mr. Alexander: The Better Regulation Task Force was established in 1997. Before July 1999, the cost of the Task Force was met from within the budget of the Regulatory Impact Unit in the Cabinet Office. It is not possible to identify specific costs for the Task Force within this overall budget.

Since July 1999, the Task Force has been supported by a dedicated support team. The costs of this, and the expenses of Task Force members, now amount to around £0.5 million per annum.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what recent representations he has received on the Better Regulation Task Force; and if he will make a statement. [159580]

Mr. Alexander: The Better Regulation Task Force makes an important contribution to the Government's work on better regulation. I have discussed the work of the Task Force at a number of recent meetings including the seminar for MPs on better regulation held in January and the conference for independent regulators hosted by the NAO in October 2003.

Civil Service Recruitment

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what recent representations he has received regarding Civil Service recruitment; and if he will make a statement. [160036]

Mr. Alexander: Under the Civil Service Order in Council 1995, individual government departments and agencies have delegated authority for the recruitment of staff to the Home Civil Service.

The Cabinet Office has responsibility for the central framework of conditions, as set out in the Civil Service Management Code. As such, the Cabinet Office continues to receive representations from stakeholders and interested parties regarding recruitment to the Civil Service.

Computer Purchasing (Working Practices)

Helen Jones: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what steps the Cabinet Office is taking to ensure that Government Departments purchase computers from firms which ensure that their sub-contractors in developing countries respect workers' rights and provide decent working conditions; and if he will make a statement. [157355]

Mr. Boateng: I have been asked to reply.

Each Government Department is responsible for its own procurement decisions, within the framework of the Government's procurement policy, based on value for money, and the EU procurement rules. The information required from, or obligations placed on,

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suppliers should be relevant to the subject matter and performance of the particular contract and consistent with the requirements of the EU procurement directives, where applicable, and the EU Treaty. This applies to social, employment and ethical issues—whether it is in relation to the supplier itself or to any potential sub-contractors.

Crown Employment (Nationality Restrictions)

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans he has to review the nationality restrictions on Crown employment; and if he will make a statement. [160021]

Mr. Alexander: The Government supports Andrew Dismore's Crown Employment (Nationality) Bill which is currently listed for Second Reading on 14 May.

Government Information andCommunication Service

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans he has to change the level of expenditure on the Government Information and Communication Service. [159334]

Mr. Alexander: Members of the GICS work across government.

Individual departments are responsible for their own expenditure on Communications.

Within the Cabinet Office, funding for existing GICS central functions will be maintained at current levels, pending the transfer of responsibilities to the new Permanent Secretary of Government Communications, whose appointment was recommended by the independent Phillis Review of Government Communications.

Regulatory Impact Assessments/Unit

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what resources have been allocated for the Regulatory Impact Assessment process for each year between 1998 and 2006. [160134]

Mr. Alexander: Information on the total resources allocated to the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) process across Government are not held centrally. Each department is responsible for producing robust RIAs to assess the impact of proposals that are likely to have an effect on business, charities and the voluntary sector which consider all available options including non-regulatory alternatives.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many people are employed in the Regulatory Impact Unit. [160035]

Mr. Alexander: As at the 1 March 2004, 63 staff were working in the Regulatory Impact Unit.

Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what assessment he has made of the impact of the Regulatory Impact Unit; and if he will make a statement. [160038]

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Mr. Alexander: The Regulatory Impact Unit works with other Government Departments, agencies and regulators to promote the better regulation agenda. The work of the Unit covers the private and public sectors, domestic and European issues.

In its assessments of the UK's performance in the area of regulatory reform the OECD has said that the UK is "at the forefront of regulatory reform" and "has almost the lowest administration cost and fewer regulations for entrepreneurs than any other EU country".


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