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24 Jun 2004 : Column 1478W—continued

Rental Property

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the Department's current estimate is of the shortage of houses for affordable rent in each London borough; and if he will make a statement. [179642]

Keith Hill: Information on the shortage of affordable houses specifically for rent in London is not held centrally, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. At the end of March 2004, there were 59,000 households in temporary accommodation. Projections for London's population suggest an increase of 336,000 households by 2016. The Mayor's London Plan sets an overall baseline target for the capital of 23,000 new homes per annum (in all sectors and from all sources) and an aspirational target of 30,000 homes per annum. The baseline target is broken down in the London Plan by London borough. The London Plan also has a target that 50 per cent. of new homes should be affordable.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many (a) council and (b) housing association new dwellings for rent he expects to be completed in the current year in each London borough; and what his expectation is for 2005–06. [179643]

Keith Hill: The Housing Corporation estimate the following forecasted rent completions by housing associations in London local authorities in 2004–05 and 2005–06:
Forecasted housing association rent completions
Local authority2004–052005–06
Barking and Dagenham47308
Corporation of London00
Hammersmith and Fulham166283
Kensington and Chelsea4590
Kingston Upon Thames17052
Richmond Upon Thames13868
Tower Hamlets154800
Waltham Forest83221

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In addition in their Housing Strategy Statistical Appendices returns last year, five London local authorities proposed additional affordable housing completions/acquisitions in 2004–05. These were:
Local authorityProposed affordable housing completions/acquisition

These data cannot be broken down for local authority new dwelling completions for rent specifically. No data are held for 2005–06.

Working Time Directive

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many employees in his Department have (a) signed a formal opt out from and (b) are exempt from the Working Time Directive; and how many employees in his Department have recorded hours, including any accruing on a flexitime basis, in excess of the maximum allowed under the Working Time Directive in the last month for which figures are available. [178365]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has (a) 28 staff who have signed a formal opt out and (b) no staff that are exempt from, the Working Time Directive. Payroll records show that, in April 2004, 40 staff worked in excess of 48 hours in any given week. The Working Time Directive applies where an average of 48 hours a week has been exceeded over a period of 17 weeks.
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The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister produces quarterly reminders of the Working Time Regulations for staff and overtime statistics are monitored on a regular basis to ensure that staff are not consistently working in excess of 48 hours per week.


Darfur (Sudan)

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what discussions (a) he, (b) members of his Department and (c) representatives of the UK Government in Khartoum have (i) initiated and (ii) had with (A) members and (B) representatives of the Sudanese Government concerning the facilitation of access to Darfur by non-governmental organisations; what specific complaints were raised during those discussions; and if he will make a statement. [179747]

(2) what assessment his Department has made of the UN Under Secretary-General's statement of 14 June regarding the bureaucratic burden placed on relief agencies trying to reach Darfur in Western Sudan; and if he will make a statement; [179746]

(3) how many complaints his Department has received from representatives of non-governmental organisations relating to access to Darfur in each of the last eight months; and if he will make a statement; [179748]

(4) what assessment his Department has made of the Sudanese Government's policy of removing radio equipment from non-governmental organisations' and United Nations' vehicles seeking access to Darfur; and if he will make a statement. [179632]

Hilary Benn: DFID is facing a humanitarian emergency in Darfur, where the provision of assistance is absolutely vital. In this context, hindrances to the delivery of humanitarian supplies are unacceptable. The UK has been working to facilitate humanitarian access to Darfur, and our Embassy in Khartoum is engaged on a daily basis with the Government of Sudan, although we are making progress, there is still more that needs to be done.

I raised the question of issuing visas to Sudan with the Sudanese Foreign Minister in London on 11 May. He gave me a firm commitment that visas for humanitarian personnel working in Darfur would be issued within 48 hours. There has been a marked improvement as a result of this commitment. On 20 May, the Sudanese Government announced the change to a 48 hour notification system for travel to Darfur, replacing the previous requirement for a travel permit. This improvement has also allowed progress on the ground.

I raised the question of humanitarian access with the First Vice President the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, and the State Minister for Finance in Khartoum on 8 June, where I was given firm commitments that the Sudanese Government would fast-track customs
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clearance for humanitarian goods within seven days, and that new international NGOs applying for registration to work in Darfur would be fast-tracked in 10 days. This has resulted in new international NGO registrations. They also agreed that medical supplies that were on an approved list did not need testing before being brought into Sudan. I raised with them the specific complaint from Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland that 200MT of food and 30MT of medical supplies had been held in Port Sudan for three months. Both Ministers assured me that this would be released within days. This has now taken place.

Following my visit, the British Ambassador has continued to raise on a regular basis the question of humanitarian access to Darfur, including through letters to the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and the State Minister in the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs highlighting specific instances of ongoing bureaucratic difficulties. These included outstanding applications for registration from new international NGOs, the need to give 72 hours notice for passengers on UN flights, the need for clarity about the requirements for testing medical and food supplies, the urgency of releasing radio and communications equipment from customs and the need to issue promptly visas for international health staff. We are calling on the Government of Sudan to consider suspending all regulations relating to humanitarian access to Darfur for a period of three months. The Higher Committee on Darfur will meet on 24 June to discuss humanitarian access where we will raise all the outstanding issues. In addition, I intend to speak to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs this week.

The UK Government has been in constant dialogue with UK NGOs working in Darfur since September 2003. DFID has held regular meetings with the Disasters and Emergency Committee in London on Darfur. In Khartoum, the Ambassador has taken the lead in establishing regular meetings with the Government of Sudan, NGOs and donors to discuss the question of access to Darfur. It would require disproportionate work to answer the question of how many complaints were received by NGOs in each of the last eight months.

DFID has received reports that radios and communications equipments have been held in customs by the Sudanese authorities. Given the essential nature of this equipment for ensuring the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, this is unacceptable. It was raised in the letter from the British Ambassador to the State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs. I intend to follow up closely on the implementation of all the commitments given by the Government of Sudan about humanitarian access to Darfur and will continue to raise specific instances as appropriate.

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