Previous Section Index Home Page

9 Dec 2004 : Column 697W—continued


Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance his Department is giving to Liberia, with particular reference to farmers who grow rubber. [203069]

Hilary Benn: Over the last year, in Liberia, DFID has contributed £3 million to The United Nations Trust Fund for Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration, and £1 million to UNICEF for education and reintegration projects for child ex-combatants. DFID has allocated £10.6 million in humanitarian aid, focusing on the emergency
9 Dec 2004 : Column 698W
reactivation of community-based services. DFID is providing consultancy support on public administration reform to the Governance Reform Commission, and have commissioned a report on the justice sector, with a view to possible assistance. DFID's share of the European Union's reconstruction programmes is approximately £7.5 million and have seconded a governance advisor to the EU office in Monrovia.

DFID does not provide support to rubber farmers. However, the European Union's Local Community Development Programme, which supports small projects, includes support for small rubber plantations.


Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to establish a long-term recovery and development strategy to combat food shortages in Malawi. [202819]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: DFID is supporting the Government of Malawi, directly and through the European Union (EU), to remedy problems of chronic and acute hunger. We are supporting development of the Government's new National Food and Nutrition Security Policy. This builds on experience in Ethiopia and Zambia in order to tackle the underlying causes of chronic food insecurity by raising agricultural productivity and providing more efficient safety nets. Other measures include the Food-Nutrition Security Information System and the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee that co-ordinates action.

The Government of Malawi also wants to diversify its economy so as to create more paid employment. DFID and the EU are supporting Government policies that will improve the environment for private sector investment by lowering inflation and interest rates, reviewing the tax regime and cracking down on corruption. DFID support includes poverty reducing budget support and support to the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

To address acute food shortages affecting 1.3 million Malawians this year, DFID and the EU are supporting humanitarian food aid. DFID's contribution is £5 million. This aid will also help prevent the decline in livelihoods over the longer-term that is associated with such crises.

Northern Cyprus

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on EU aid to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. [201330]

Mr. MacShane: I have been asked to reply.

The Government strongly supports EU efforts to end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots and assist the economic development of northern Cyprus. At the request of the General Affairs Council of EU Foreign Ministers, the Commission has produced a regulation to disburse 259 million euros of aid to northern Cyprus. This regulation, along with a regulation enabling direct preferential trade between the north and the EU, has yet to be agreed. The Government strongly supports the EU
9 Dec 2004 : Column 699W
Presidency in their determination to agree these two regulations and to fulfil the Council mandate to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on how many occasions
9 Dec 2004 : Column 700W
between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004 departmental special advisers travelled (a) domestically and (b) abroad in an official capacity; what places were visited; and how much each visit cost. [202254]

Hilary Benn: Between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004 DFID's special advisers made the following trips in an official capacity with the Secretary of State for International Development:
Trip details (date, destination, purpose etc.)Number of
special advisers
Approximate cost to DFID for travel and incidentals (actual cost details are not held centrally for the dates requested) (£)
Rwanda/Uganda/Kenya, 30 July-1 August 200313,690
World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings, Dubai, 21–23 September 200313,250
New York (United Nations meetings), 28–31 October 200313,150
7–11 February 2004, Ethiopia bilateral visit11,900
Approximate total for period 31 March 2003–31 March 200411,990

Both special advisers have attended occasional conferences within the UK (eg Wilton Park) in their official capacity; the costs of these have been minimal.

All travel by special advisers is undertaken in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service Management Code.

Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the total travel costs to his Department have been for (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers and (c) officials for each year since 1997. [203777]

Hilary Benn: Since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all overseas visits undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. On an annual basis, the Government have also published the costs of Ministers' visits overseas. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House. These report information reaching back to 1995–96. Information for earlier years and for official travel before 2001 could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost and in some cases will no longer be held.

In 2001–02 and 2002–03, figures for travel by DFID officials were £2.19 million and £2.32 million respectively. For the same periods, figures for ministerial and special adviser travel were £0.17 million and £0.32 million respectively. It is not possible to disaggregate ministerial and special adviser travel without incurring disproportionate cost.

In 2003–04, DFID introduced new procedures to draw together administration costs, including those travel costs which had previously been recorded on country programme budgets. These changes have improved transparency and management of administration costs, but mean that figures from 2003–04 now include travel costs that were previously funded by country programmes and as a result are not comparable with earlier years. For 2003–04, the figure for official travel was £10.41 million, and £0.27 million for ministerial and special adviser travel.

All official travel is undertaken in accordance with the rules contained in DFID's staff handbook. All ministerial and special adviser travel is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.


Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

14. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made towards implementing the European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive into UK law. [203428]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Government have recently completed a consultation on draft implementing Regulations and draft guidance for the waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive. The Government are considering carefully the views expressed by respondents and in the light of these I and my ministerial colleagues will decide on the final Regulations and guidance.

World Trade Organisation

15. Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the progress of the negotiations at the World Trade Organisation. [203429]

Ms Hewitt: Negotiations in Geneva on the Doha Development Agenda since the agreement of Frameworks at the end of July have been progressing smoothly. Negotiations are currently focused on clearing away the technical undergrowth, which is essential to allow substantial progress to be made by the Sixth WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong in December 2005.

Internet Scams

16. Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received about dial-up internet scams; and if she will make a statement. [203430]

9 Dec 2004 : Column 701W

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The Department has received around 145 written representations about such scams in the past calendar year.

In the summer the Government asked Ofcom to undertake a review of the regulation of premium rate services (prs), the abuse of which has led to some consumers falling victim to dial-up internet scams. The report has been published today and contains a set of recommendations to reduce the scope for consumer harm. The recommendations will, when implemented, tighten up the regulatory regime giving the regulator, ICSTIS, more powers to act more quickly against those abusing the prs payment mechanism. They will improve the likelihood of consumers being able to get their money back where they are the subject of a prs fraud. They will also ensure that consumers are better informed of how to avoid being the victim of prs fraud. The review recommendations include:

Telecoms network providers should not make payments to service providers offering prs for at least 30 days. This will give the regulator ICSTIS sufficient time to assess complaints and fraudulent activity. These payments should also be frozen during any additional investigation that is necessary and if necessary for a further three monthhs after an investigation is complete to fund any customer refunds that ICSTIS concludes are appropriate.

The ICSTIS Code should require network providers to better support ICSTIS by providing detailed information on the identity of those companies offering prs, by taking all reasonable steps to ensure that information is accurate and by providing ICSTIS with call traffic and revenues data when complaints have been received. All this information will make it easier for ICSTIS to identify and act against those that abuse prs.

The ICSTIS Code should require companies offering prs to have effective customer service and refund policies in place. Telecoms providers should be required to make practical information on prs available to their customers, including information on how to bar prs calls and how to protect themselves when using internet dialler services.

The Department, Ofcom and ICSTIS will now form a Steering Committee to oversee the implementation of these recommendations as soon as possible. However the implementation process will take some months to complete as a number of the recommendations will require changes to both the ICSTIS Code and to the Ofcom general conditions of entitlement both of which require full public consultation. There is also a requirement for an EU consultation on changes to the ICSTIS Code which we plan to carry out in parallel with the domestic consultation processes.

Until the recommendations can be implemented the emphasis should be on ICSTIS continuing to use the powers that it has to take enforcement action against those that abuse the prs charging mechanism and on raising consumer awareness of how they can best protect themselves from prs fraud.
9 Dec 2004 : Column 702W

Next Section Index Home Page