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2 Feb 2005 : Column 910W—continued


Cleaning Contractors

Dame Marion Roe: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, if he will make a statement on the terms of the employment of contracted cleaners in the House. [214178]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: Most cleaning in both Houses of Parliament is carried out by external contractors. The main cleaning contract was awarded in September 2003 following a competitive procurement exercise. The cleaners who work in the Palace are not therefore employed by the parliamentary authorities but by the contractors who are, in the first instance, responsible for their terms and conditions.
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The contractor has kept the parliamentary authorities informed since issues of pay rates and other terms and conditions were first raised by the representatives of the cleaners. We understand that the contractor and the representatives of their employees are actively involved in discussions.


AIDS (Africa)

6. Linda Gilroy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on programmes to tackle AIDS in Africa. [212233]

Hilary Benn: Last year, I attended a series of meetings with my EU counterparts and Foreign Ministers to discuss ways of addressing reproductive health and HIV in Africa and future EC action on AIDS and other poverty related diseases. My PUSS also met with the European Commission representatives from Directorate-General (DG) Development and DG Research to discuss the need to focus on funding for new prevention technologies for HIV.

DFID officials are engaging with the European Commission on the revision of their framework for tackling diseases of poverty called The Programme of Action to Confront HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through External Action".


7. Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on food rationing in Iraq. [212234]

Hilary Benn: Iraq's Public Distribution System, established during the period of sanctions against Saddam Hussein, provides food virtually free of charge to the entire population regardless of need. The Iraqi Government have recognised that reform is now needed to move to a cash payment system targeted at the poor and unemployed. This should help Iraqi agriculture, encourage private trade and remove price distortions, at the same time as ensuring that families in need are properly provided for. The details will be a matter for the new Transitional Government.

11. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on his Department's activities in Iraq. [212238]

Hilary Benn: Since March 2003, DFID has committed £333 million for humanitarian and reconstruction projects in Iraq, and disbursed approximately £250 million.

DFID's main objectives for reconstruction assistance in Iraq are: rapid, sustainable and equitable economic growth; effective and accountable governance; and social and political cohesion and stability. DFID has offices alongside the British embassy Baghdad and in Basra, helping to deliver and monitor our programme of assistance.
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Current DFID bilateral assistance in Iraq includes: employment generation and infrastructure repair in southern Iraq; building capacity within Iraq's public administration system; strengthening Iraqi civil society groups and encouraging broad political participation; capacity-building across the four southern governorates in both the public and private sector; and support to the justice and media sectors.

More detailed information on DFID programmes in Iraq can be found at

Free Trade

8. Mr. Bacon: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the Government's policy is on the merits of free trade in relieving poverty. [212235]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: We believe that fairer and freer trade rules will contribute significantly to tackling poverty.

Developing countries are heavily punished by the trade barriers that rich countries maintain.

It is for this reason that my right hon. Friend and I are working with other colleagues across Government for continued progress in the Doha Development Round of the WTO process.

Disaster Relief Areas

10. Mr. Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his policy is on developing continuing relationships between communities in the United Kingdom and those in disaster relief areas. [212237]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: DFID supports disaster prone countries around the world with disaster risk reduction programmes at the regional, country and community level and is always ready to provide immediate humanitarian assistance when disasters strike, and support subsequent recovery and reconstruction efforts. Many UK communities have existing links with communities in disaster prone areas, and in such cases it makes good sense to build on that relationship by offering support to the overseas community. Where no such relationship exists, there may well be further scope for developing twinning arrangements with the aim of providing practical support. A first step for those wishing to establish such community links would be to consult the relevant UK embassies and high commissions, and UK-based community organisations of the relevant countries.


12. Mr. Tredinnick: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on reconstruction in countries affected by the Indian ocean tsunami. [212240]

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on reconstruction in countries affected by the Indian ocean tsunami. [212239]

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Hilary Benn: In addition to the £75 million that DFID has already committed for immediate relief in the aftermath of the tsunami, we will also make a contribution to the longer-term rehabilitation of the regions affected. This is likely to focus on providing support to rebuilding livelihoods and services for poor people.

The governments of the countries affected by the tsunami are completing needs assessments with the support of the World Bank and others. DFID's plans for longer-term reconstruction will be formulated in response to these assessments in order to ensure that our assistance forms part of a properly co-ordinated reconstruction plan.


13. David Burnside : To ask the Secretary of State, Department for International Development how much aid has been received by Zimbabwe in the 2004–05 financial year; and if he will make a statement. [212241]

Hilary Benn: DFID expects to spend £25 million in Zimbabwe during 2004–05 compared with £34 million in 2003–04. DFID assistance has given priority to tackling HIV and AIDS, which affects some 25 per cent. of the adult population. We also continue to provide food, seeds, fertilisers and other practical forms of relief to some 1.5 million of the poorest people in Zimbabwe through international NGOs and the UN. The Government of Zimbabwe claim there was a bumper harvest last year and have therefore sharply scaled back international food aid. This claim has been contradicted by independent surveys, UN agencies and other agencies are monitoring food needs closely.

Sustainable Forestry (Africa)

14. Paddy Tipping : To ask the Secretary of State, Department for International Development what steps he is taking to help to secure sustainable forestry in Africa. [212242]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: DFID is currently helping to develop forest policy, implement reforms, and strengthen forest governance in Ghana, Cameroon, Malawi, Kenya and South Africa. DFID recently designed a new £12 million programme of work on forest governance and trade in west and central Africa. This will continue to focus on reforms in Ghana and Cameroon, where EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) partnership agreements offer the opportunity to bring EU consumer market forces into play. We are also supporting civil society strengthening and dialogue between governments, the private sector and NGOs in the Congo Basin region. Later this year we will begin a programme that supports links between the private sector in four African countries and European trade federations. Our aim is to increase the awareness of African companies to new market requirements and opportunities.

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