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Sexual Health (Developing Countries)

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his Department's policy is on sexual education in developing countries; if he will list the 10 countries where his Department has experienced the most difficulty in implementing this policy; and if he will make a statement. [204635]

Hilary Benn: The UK believes that sexual and reproductive health are fundamental human rights and remains committed to the Programme of Action (POA) agreed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and its target of reproductive health for all by 2015. As part of the POA, education about population and health issues, including sexual and reproductive health is recognised as central within curricula for formal and non-formal schooling. These include health issues to promote the well-being of adolescents, education to enhance gender equality and equity as well as educate about responsible sexual behaviour and protection from early and unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS.

The UK is also committed to meeting the goal of universal access to primary education by 2015, with special efforts being made to increase the retention rate of girls in primary and secondary schools.
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DFID's approach is to support countries themselves to develop policy and strategy on these issues, within the context of their own overall poverty reduction plans. It is not feasible to draw up a list of the 10 countries where implementation of these policies has been most difficult, as each country has it's own cultural, religious and ethical standards.

Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether departmental special advisers have made appearances before parliamentary select committees in their official capacity since May 1997. [204312]

Hilary Benn: No DFID special advisers have appeared in an official capacity before the International Development Committee or any other select committee since May 1997.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the debt relief package proposed to the Government of Sudan by the US Administration; and whether the UK Government will be offering a similar package. [203768]

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Hilary Benn: I am not aware that the US Administration has made a formal offer on debt relief to the Government of Sudan at this time. In common with other creditor countries including the UK, DFID would expect the US to extend debt relief to Sudan through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative once a Comprehensive Peace Agreement is in place and the situation in Darfur has improved. The UK Government, together with our G7 colleagues, goes beyond the requirements of the HIPC Initiative and writes off 100 per cent. of all bilateral debts for HIPC countries when they qualify. DFID also plans to assist Sudan in the process of normalising its relations with the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) through chairing a Support Group focused on clearing arrears to the IFIs.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate his Department has made of the percentage of food aid reaching the target population in Darfur in each month since April; and if he will make a statement. [204636]

Hilary Benn: The UN Humanitarian Needs Profile for Darfur reports that the percentage of people in need receiving food aid each month since April is as follows:

(13) Source: WFP

Fluctuations reflect the rising number of people affected by the conflict, problems of access by agencies to determine the number of vulnerable people, the continuing insecurity, and the increase in the capacity of the World Food Programme to deliver assistance. Insecurity continues to be the main constraint on delivery. For example, the recent attack on Save the Children which killed two of their staff on 12 December, led to their humanitarian operations in South Darfur being suspended. We continue to work urgently with the AU and others in the international community to address the security situation both through protection measures on the ground and pressure on all parties to use the political process in Abuja to resolve the issues underlying the conflict.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of the security requirements of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and aid agencies operating in Darfur; how these requirements are being met; what proposals his Department has (a) drawn up and (b) discussed with (i) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and (ii) the Ministry of Defence to improve the security coverage extended to NGOs and aid agencies operating in Darfur; and if he will make a statement. [204638]

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Hilary Benn: Humanitarian agencies in Darfur are operating in a very difficult and insecure environment. The tragic deaths of Save the Children workers in October and December, as well as the recent upsurge in fighting are stark reminders of the challenges faced.

The security and humanitarian protocols signed in Abuja reinforce the need for both side to allow humanitarian operations to go unhindered and the UK is pushing all sides to implement these. The joint FCO/DFID Sudan Unit holds regular update meetings with other government departments including the MoD.

DFID's funding to UN agencies and NGOs includes support for security and communications to help agencies operate safely. The Department has recently committed a further £820,000 to the UN which will fully fund the operation of the UN Security Co-ordinator in Darfur up to September 2005.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of the impact on the humanitarian situation in Darfur of the African Union's mission to Darfur. [204639]

Hilary Benn: The greatest need in Darfur is for an improvement in the security situation. The African Union (AU) mission has a key role to play in this. They are in the process of expanding from less than 500 to more than 3,000 troops. The current mission (of approximately 800) is already having an impact on the ground. They have directly intervened in some areas to defuse tensions and have secured the release of some hostages. DFID is working with other donors to ensure the AU has the support it needs. DFID has committed over £14 million to the mission (from which we have purchased and flown in 143 vehicles) and the Department has provided military planning support to the AU in Addis.

The AU is specifically mandated to "contribute to a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian relief."The AU has offered to provide military escort to relief convoys. The World Food Programme (WFP) has negotiated arrangements under this offer, but has yet to utilise them. However, some NGOs consider that they would be more at risk of being targeted if they travelled under armed escort.


Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office (1) whether Cabinet Office departmental special advisers have been responsible for authorising instances of departmental spending since May 1997; [203928]

(2) whether Cabinet Office special advisers have given instructions to permanent civil servants without the explicit authorisation of Ministers since May 1997. [203957]

Mr. Miliband: The terms and conditions under which special advisers are appointed are set out in the Model Contract for Special Advisers and the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers. Under the terms of the Civil Service Order in Council, up to three special adviser posts in the Prime Minister's office can have executive
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powers which would allow them to authorise expenditure and give instructions to civil servants. One special adviser currently has such powers.


Arts Funding

Mr. Neil Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the value at 1997 prices was of Government support in (a) 1996–97 and (b) 2003–04 to (i) the arts and (ii) opera. [205029]

Estelle Morris: Exchequer funding for the arts is channelled through Arts Council England (ACE). ACE's total arts investment and total opera investment for the years requested is as follows:

Total arts council investmentTotal arts council investment in opera
1996–97 Total investment185,133,00030,233,082
2003–04 Total investment310,455,00041,684,401
2003–04 at 1996–97 prices261,238,56935,076,173

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