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13 May 2004 : Column 474W—continued

Woodcraft Folk

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether any of the Department's (a) present and (b) previous staff are members of the Friends of the Woodcraft Folk. [170753]

Alun Michael: There are no records of staff being members of the Friends of the Woodcraft Folk. Staff are not required to register their private interests, such as membership of clubs or societies, unless these bring them into direct conflict with their official duties. In these cases, staff must declare their interest to senior managers, who will determine how best to proceed on a case-by-case basis.

DEFRA's staff are subject to the provisions of the Civil Service Code. This requires them to act with integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity in carrying out their duties and to conduct themselves in such a way as to deserve and retain the confidence of Ministers.

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions have been held between her officials and Chichester district council about the Woodcraft Folk. [170755]

Alun Michael: The only discussions I am aware of relate to a campsite operated by the Woodcraft Folk in Lurgashall for which an approach was made for a camping exemption certificate. DEFRA has responsibility for camping exemption certificates under section 296 of the Public Health Act 1936. There were objections to the application and correspondence was received from the constituency MP and from MPs representing users of the campsite.

My officials held a meeting with members of the Woodcraft Folk, Chichester district council and Lurgashall parish council on 9 June 2003 to discuss the Woodcraft Folk's application for a camping exemption certificate.

The discussions demonstrated that there were differences of view regarding past usage of the site so I agreed to DEFRA's commissioning an independent mediator to facilitate a further discussion between the Woodcraft Folk and the two councils on 3 and 4 February 2004. In the light of the mediator's report, I agreed to issue a camping exemption certificate to the Woodcraft Folk for one year, subject to further discussion between the parties to resolve outstanding issues.
 
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LEADER OF THE HOUSE

Early Retirement

Bob Spink: To ask the Leader of the House how many employees in his Office took early retirement, and at what total cost, in the last financial year. [172186]

Mr. Hain: In the last financial year no staff in my office have taken early retirement.

PRIME MINISTER

Iraq

Tom Cox: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with the United States Administration, and with whom, on the cases of abuse that have taken place against Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. [173075]

Glenda Jackson: To ask the Prime Minister what changes to the (a) political and (b) military strategy in Iraq are being considered by the (i) UK Government and (ii) US Administration as a consequence of the International Committee for the Red Cross report in February 2004. [173219]

The Prime Minister: Both President Bush and I have made clear that any abuse of human rights, torture or maltreatment of civilians in Iraq is wholly unacceptable and all cases will be dealt with.

TREASURY

Children's Fund

13. Tim Loughton: To ask The Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will make a statement on his intentions for future funding for the children's fund. [172723]

Mr. Boateng: My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Budget statement that the children's fund will be continued to 2008 to allow a smooth transition to new children's trusts, which will be focused on preventative work and developed and delivered with the full engagement of the voluntary sector.

Tax Burden

14. Mr. Jack: To ask The Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will make a statement on the distributional impact of the tax burden projections contained in the Financial Statement and Budget Report. [172724]

Ruth Kelly: The tax projections are based on macroeconomic assumptions set out in the Budget 2004 report. Estimating the distributional impact would require many more assumptions, which are unnecessary for our projections.

World Debt

15. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask The Chancellor of the Exchequer, what discussions he held with international Finance Ministers on tackling world debt at the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank. [172725]


 
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John Healey: At the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank, the Chancellor had various discussions with Finance Ministers. In addition to continuing to support countries in making progress through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, it was recognised that there was an urgent need to support countries as they emerge from conflict and progress towards participation in the initiative.

It was also recognised that it was important to take forward work on the debt sustainability framework that the IMF and World Bank have proposed, in order to support long-term debt sustainability for poor countries.

However, debt relief alone is not sufficient. All HIPC countries will need additional aid to meet the millennium development goals (MDGS). That is why the UK's proposal for an international finance facility is so important. It can provide the much-needed substantial increase in resources—in the form of grants, concessional loans, or further debt relief—needed to attain the MDGS.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what preparations he is making for discussions at the forthcoming meeting of the G7 Finance Ministers on tackling world debt. [172732]

John Healey: At the meeting of the G7 Finance Ministers, the Chancellor will be calling for the full implementation of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative, including additional relief to be provided to countries that have suffered economic shocks, in a full and timely manner. The Chancellor will also be calling for the HIPC initiative to be extended to ensure that eligible countries—many of which are in the process of exiting from conflict—are able to benefit from debt relief.

However, debt relief alone is not sufficient. All HIPC countries will need additional aid to meet the millennium development goals (MDGS.) The Chancellor will press the UK's proposal for an international finance facility, demonstrating that it can provide the much-needed substantial increase in aid—in the form of grants, concessional loans, or further debt relief—needed to attain the MDGS.

International Finance Facility

16. Helen Jackson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consultations he has had with EU partners since 1 April regarding the international finance facility. [172726]

John Healey: The IFF proposal was discussed at the 8 April conference on Financing for Development which the Chancellor co-hosted with French Finance Minister Sarkozy, attended by representatives from over 55 countries including many of our EU partners. At the conference France reiterated its strong support for the initiative. We continue to build on this support with other EU countries in other fora.

17. Ross Cranston: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made on the international finance facility as a result of spring meetings with the IMF and World Bank. [172727]


 
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John Healey: Good progress has been made in taking forward the IFF proposal at the Spring Meetings with a   number of countries expressing their support. Following the developing country statement at the 8 April conference, both the G24 and African Governors endorsed the IFF and called on donors to implement the proposal. The World Bank's interim paper on Financing Modalities found that the IFF is technically feasible and concluded that frontloading of aid holds considerable attractions. Communiqués looked forward to reviewing the on-going joint World Bank and IMF work on aid effectiveness, absorptive capacity and, results-based measurement mechanisms, such as an IFF, at the Annual Meetings in September 2004.


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