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10 Feb 2005 : Column 1632W—continued


Clare Short: To ask the Prime Minister whether he is taking charge of UK policy on Nepal following King Gyanendra's coup; and if he will make a statement. [216444]

The Prime Minister: I refer my right hon. Friend to the answer given on 8 February 2005, Official Report, column 1460W, by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign Office (Mr. Alexander) to the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr. Simmonds). The Government have taken a clear position on the actions of King Gyanendra, and all concerned Departments are co-ordinating the Government's response closely.


Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Leader of the House what discussions have taken place between members of the Government and hon. Members concerning the asking of parliamentary questions on issues concerning their own constituency as a means of obtaining statistics for use during a general election; and if he will make a statement. [216048]

Mr. Hain: The asking and content of parliamentary questions is not a matter for Government.
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Aid Agency Accreditation

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what accreditation is required from aid agencies before they are provided with Government funding. [214451]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: DFID engages with a wide range of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) as partner aid agencies. DFID ensures potential partners' fitness to receive funds and this may include checking their 'not for profit' or charitable status. For example, under our Civil Society Challenge Fund and Programme Partnership Agreements, CSOs must provide a copy of their constitution and most recent audited accounts. These documents are used to appraise the viability and validity of their application.

Additionally all our CSO partners must accept DFID accounting arrangements before funds are released to them for the first time and CSOs must report how they have spent each payment we make them.

Aid Conditionality

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress has been made with the review of Government policy on aid conditionality; and if he will make a statement. [215852]

Hilary Benn: At the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank on 2 October 2004, I launched a consultation process on the draft UK policy paper Partnerships for Poverty Reduction: changing aid conditionally". Comments were received from around 90 individuals and organisations. I also chaired a consultation meeting with NGO representatives. We are now concluding the consultation process and plan to publish a final version in the near future.

Aid Pledges

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will list the pledges made by his Department (a) in response to international appeals and (b) at donor conferences in each of the past three years; and what the outstanding amounts due to be released in respect of each pledge is. [213090]

Hilary Benn: It is not possible to list all pledges made by DFID to international appeals and at donor conferences in each of the last three years without incurring disproportionate cost. The following examples, however, illustrate the UK's very positive record for honouring financial commitments made against specific appeals:

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Civil Servants

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the cost of the enhanced early retirement scheme for civil servants in his Department and its agencies was in each year from 1997–98 to 2003–04 and what the estimated cost will be in each year from 2004–05 to 2007–08; and if he will make a statement. [211652]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The cost to the Department for International Development (DFID) of early departures is as follows.
Cost (£)

(1) Estimated expenditure.

The estimated costs for current and future years are based on existing known commitments. They do not include possible costs for any new commitments yet to be entered into.

Debt Relief

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will set out the steps taken by his Department to alleviate the debt of each of the poorest countries in each year since 1997. [214491]

Hilary Benn: The UK Government have been at the forefront of international efforts to deliver debt relief to the world's poorest countries. It provides substantial debt relief through the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. This initiative, launched with the help of significant UK backing in 1999, is delivering many benefits. To date, over US $70 billion in
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debt relief has been agreed for 27 countries, reducing their debts by around two-thirds on average, and freeing up resources for spending on poverty reduction.

The UK has committed £2.3 billion of debt relief for eligible countries to cover our obligations under HIPC, including 100 per cent. relief on bilateral UK debts for these countries. It has also pledged an additional $479 million through the multilateral institutions to further support HIPC.

Fifteen countries have reached Completion Point of the HIPC Initiative, and have received irrevocable debt reduction from all creditors and 100 per cent. cancellation from the UK and other G7 creditors. Uganda was the first to reach Completion Point in 2000, followed by Bolivia, Mozambique and Tanzania in 2001, Burkina Faso and Mauritania in 2002, Benin, Mali and Guyana in 2003, and Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Niger and Senegal in 2004.

A further six countries have reached Decision Point of the HIPC Initiative, and no longer make any payments to the UK. Of these, Cameroon, Guinea Republic, and Malawi reached Completion Point in 2000, followed by Sierra Leone in 2002, and Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003. These countries will receive substantial reduction from all creditors and 100 per cent. cancellation of UK debt and other G7 creditors' debt when they reach Completion Point. Other countries that have received debt relief under the HIPC Initiative did not owe any money to the UK.

The UK has and continues to work with many HIPC countries on a partnership basis. Our country programmes have placed a high priority on assisting these countries as they move through the HIPC process.

The UK has already cancelled the aid debts of the poorest countries under its Retrospective Terms Adjustment policy, and in 1997 launched the Commonwealth Debt Initiative to cancel the remaining aid debts of the 'poorer' (lower middle-income) Commonwealth countries committed to poverty reduction. This initiative covers Commonwealth countries with a GNI of less than US $3,115 and small island middle-income Commonwealth countries. Since 1997, 12 Commonwealth countries have benefited from this initiative: Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Mauritius, Solomon Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tonga, and Turks and Caicos Islands.

In 2004 the UK announced a major new initiative for relief of multilateral debt. From January 2005, the UK will pay its share (10 per cent.) of the debt service owed to the International Development Association (IDA) and African Development Fund on behalf of eligible countries. The initiative already applies to 20 countries (i.e. the 15 post-HIPC countries, as well as Armenia, Mongolia, Nepal, Vietnam, and, in light of the South East Asia Tsunami, Sri Lanka) and more will benefit as they progress through HIPC and strengthen their public expenditure management. The UK is actively working to encourage other countries, in particular our G8 partners, to contribute to the initiative in order to provide full multilateral debt relief.
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