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21 Feb 2005 : Column 397W—continued


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what measures his Department is taking in order to prepare for a possible food shortage in Zimbabwe. [215669]

Hilary Benn: Recent assessments by NGOs working at community level in Zimbabwe suggest that malnutrition is not presently high by emergency standards, but that food availability and affordability are decreasing. The Government of Zimbabwe claimed last year that there had been a bumper crop and that it would not need international food aid during the period up to the next harvest (around April 2005). However, independent surveys suggest that the last harvest was much lower than the Zimbabwean Government claim.
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The Government cancelled the UN crop assessment and have not provided information to donors and UN agencies about their imports, stocks or their ability to sell or distribute grain. Even if the Government of Zimbabwe can import and distribute enough food, many vulnerable groups will not have resources to buy it. The World Food Programme continue to provide targeted feeding through their regional programme predominantly through institutions such as schools and clinics and some food supplements to Home Based Care programmes.

DFID Zimbabwe, in collaboration with other major donors and the UN system, will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe closely, while continuing to provide targeted food assistance and other humanitarian support to the most vulnerable sections of Zimbabwe society through NGO programmes which we are able to fund directly. At present DFID provides support to over 1.5 million of the poorest people with the goal to improve household food security through agricultural inputs and targeted food aid.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the Zimbabwe Government's refusal to accept food aid from the United Nations. [215670]

Hilary Benn: The Government of Zimbabwe's decision not to renew their appeal to the United Nations for food aid is of concern to the humanitarian community. The absence of an appeal may restrict the World Food Programme's capacity to plan, seek funding for, and implement further emergency operations over the coming months. Many observers believe that the Government intend to control the supply and availability of food in the country over the coming months as a political tool to gain votes in the parliamentary elections, scheduled for 31 March 2005. Donor-funded relief programmes have remained generally free of political interference. But there has been some evidence that access to food distributed by the Zimbabwe Government is being politicised. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.


Allowances (Midlothian)

David Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in Midlothian receive (a) reduced earnings allowance and (b) retirement allowance. [217293]

Mr. Pond: At 30 June 2004 there were 690 people receiving reduced earnings allowance and 330 receiving retirement allowance in Midlothian parliamentary constituency.

Benefit Claims (Scotland)

Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many people claimed attendance allowance in each constituency in Scotland in the latest period for which figures are available; [215387]
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(2) how many people claimed disability living allowance in each constituency in Scotland in the latest period for which figures are available. [215389]

Maria Eagle: The administration of attendance allowance is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Disability and Carers Service, Mr. Terry Moran. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Vivien Hopkins to Mr. David Marshall, dated 21 February 2005:


Recipients by constituency at 31 August 2004AADLA
Aberdeen Central1.83.0
Aberdeen North1.93.3
Aberdeen South1.82.7
Airdrie and Shotts2.26.1
Argyll and Bute2.23.2
Banff and Buchan1.94.7
Caithness Sunderland and Easter Ross1.32.9
Carrick Cumnock and Doon Valley2.45.9
Central Fife1.75.6
Clydebank and Milngavie2.23.9
Coatbridge and Chryston2.15.2
Cumbernauld and Kilsyth1.74.1
Cunninghame North1.94.4
Cunninghame South1.64.6
Dundee East3.04.7
Dundee West2.54.3
Dunfermline East1.44.6
Dunfermline West1.43.4
East Kilbride2.43.4
East Lothian2.33.9
Edinburgh Central1.53.0
Edinburgh East and Musselburgh1.74.4
Edinburgh North and Leigh1.73.7
Edinburgh Pentlands1.72.8
Edinburgh South1.83.2
Edinburgh West1.82.6
Falkirk East1.94.0
Falkirk West1.94.9
Galloway and Upper Nithsdale2.14.2
Glasgow Anniesland2.65.5
Glasgow Baillieston2.36.3
Glasgow Cathcart1.54.6
Glasgow Govan1.94.4
Glasgow Kelvin1.83.6
Glasgow Maryhill2.06.0
Glasgow Pollok2.35.6
Glasgow Rutherglen2.45.2
Glasgow Shettleston2.46.9
Glasgow Springburn2.26.2
Greenock and Inverclyde1.84.1
Hamilton North and Bellshill1.64.8
Hamilton South1.75.1
Inverness East Nairn and Lochaber2.33.4
Kilmarnock and Loudoun2.54.2
Motherwell and Wishaw2.25.3
North East Fife1.42.2
North Tayside2.03.1
Orkney and Shetland1.01.5
Paisley North1.75.0
Paisley South1.74.2
Ross Skye and Inverness West2.03.2
Roxburgh and Berwickshire1.72.7
Strathkelvin and Bearsden2.23.5
Tweeddale Ettrick and Lauderdale1.82.5
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine1.62.0
West Renfrewshire1.54.0
Western Isles0.81.0

1. Figures taken from a 5 per cent. sample at 31 May 2004
2. Figures are in thousands and rounded to the nearest hundred.
3. From November 2002, the methodology for producing these figures was changed to allow statistics to be published much sooner. This has resulted in a small increase in the reported caseload. This is because some cases which have actually terminated but have not yet been updated on the computer system are now included.
IAD Information Centre.

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Benefit Office Closures

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many redundancies are proposed for each of his Department's benefit offices in Scotland. [217079]

Maria Eagle: Detailed work force plans are currently being developed for Scotland the outcome of which will inform any requirements for funded early releases. Until detailed business cases are fully developed it is too early to say if any redundancies will be required. Our intention remains that wherever possible we will avoid compulsory redundancy.

Benefits Agency

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the policy of the Benefits Agency is on visiting people who wish to make a claim but cannot attend an office; and if he will make a statement; [214797]

(2) what assistance is available from the Benefits Agency to people who wish to make claims but cannot understand the forms they are to complete; and if he will make a statement. [214798]

Mr. Pond: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Jobcentre Plus, David Anderson. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Mr. David Anderson to Mr. Laurence Robertson, dated 21 February 2005:

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