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John Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance the Government are giving to the Government in Belize (a) to tackle corruption and (b) to combat the trafficking of drugs; and if he will make a statement. [14468]

Mr. Thomas: The UK Government's principal support to the Government of Belize (GoB) has been relief on its aid debts under the Commonwealth Debt Initiative. This relief is provided to GoB on the basis of its progress in controlling corruption and improving governance, economic management and poverty reduction. It also serves as a tool to encourage greater civil society participation in the GoB's policy. The UK Government are also providing a Strategic Fund for the GoB (£200,000 per year) to help improve their ability to undertake governance reforms, develop medium term economic plans and identify ways to reduce poverty. The Small Grants Scheme, and other programme funds for Belize, provides a further £35,000 a year that can be used for projects with civil society.

Although Belize is not specifically a major transit country for drugs destined for the UK, we do continue to help combat drug trafficking on a regional basis within Central America and the Caribbean. As part of CARICOM (the Caribbean Community), Belize benefits from the recently agreed UK/CARICOM co-operation plan that encompasses work on border security, intelligence and information sharing, maritime co-operation and a human resource development strategy. This partnership assists Caribbean states to combat drug trafficking. The UK also funds the training of Belizean officials on regional and UK drug specific training courses.
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Departmental Conferences

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much the Department spent on (a) organising and (b) sponsoring conferences in each of the last five years. [10276]

Hilary Benn: This information is not available and to obtain it would incur a disproportionate cost.

English Wine

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will ensure that English wine is made available at dinners, receptions and parties he hosts at which hospitality involving wine is appropriate (a) during the EU presidency and (b) generally; and if he will make a statement. [9162]

Mr. Thomas: All procurement within DFID is undertaken in line with the EC's procurement rules and to obtain value for money for the Department. Where possible British products are used, and our in-house catering contractors can offer a range of British items.

Planning for EU presidency events is ongoing and we are considering, where possible and while taking value for money into account, using British products including where appropriate, English wine.

Microfinance/Financial Sector Development

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans he has to increase the number of countries receiving aid aimed at financial sector and microfinance development; and if he will make a statement. [12655]

Mr. Thomas [holding answer 19 July 2005]: DFID is funding financial sector development programmes, including microfinance, in 25 countries. Four new financial sector programmes are currently being designed in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. DFID also funds international agencies that actively support microfinance and financial sector development, such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank.

DFID supports the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), which is increasing its regional presence in support of good practice microfinance. In the Middle East and North Africa, the CGAP is expanding its training programmes in microfinance and sharing its expertise to develop good practice in the region.

The European Union (EU) is launching a new initiative to develop its support to microfinance in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP). DFID will contribute 12.7 per cent. of the €15 million European Development Fund. 71 countries, most of them low income countries, should be able to benefit.

DFID is a principal supporter of the multi-donor global Financial Sector Reform and Strengthening (FIRST) Initiative, which provides technical assistance in all areas of financial sector development. FIRST is developing a strategy to increase its coverage of low income countries.
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DFID is contributing £3 million to a new International Financial Corporation (IFC) facility. This facility (Private Enterprise Partnership for the Middle East and North Africa) supports financial institutions engaged in micro-enterprises and in small and medium-sized enterprise development. The Partnership has staff on the ground in the region, notably in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, the West Bank and Gaza and Yemen. It has approved seven major technical assistance programmes that will benefit 13 countries in the region.

DFID is working with the World Bank and others to improve data on access to financial services in developing countries, including through microfinance, and plans to conduct financial access surveys in a number of African countries. This data will be important for the design of more effective policies and programmes to extend microfinance and develop financial systems.

The United Nations have declared 2005 as the International Year of Microcredit. The impact of microfinance is greatest when poor people have access to a wide range of financial services (savings, credit, insurance and transfer payments) that they use to invest in health, education, nutrition, businesses and other opportunities and protect themselves against shocks faced by the households and the wider community.

Remittances are a critical and growing source of income for many millions of poor people. DFID is developing programmes of remittance activities with a number of developing countries, including Bangladesh, Ghana and Nigeria. We are also supporting the expansion of the website that provides information to diaspora in the UK wishing to send remittances.

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much funding is allocated to international initiatives promoting financial sector development in (a) 2004–05, (b) 2005–06 and (c) 2006–07. [12656]

Mr. Thomas [holding answer 19 July 2005]: During 2004–05, DFID funded over £30 million directly to microfinance or financial sector development programmes. DFID also funded microfinance and financial sector development through multi-sectoral programmes and indirectly through its support to international agencies. Multi-sectoral programmes may include a component on financial sector development as part of a range of activities to promote private sector development for example, or as part of a wider programme to improve rural livelihoods.

A number of the international agencies that DFID supports are active in promoting microfinance and financial sector development. The World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and several regional development banks all provide significant funding or technical assistance in these areas. This is indirect DFID support however, for which we do not have the necessary level of disaggregation of figures to provide an estimate of the total going towards microfinance and financial sector development.
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We are not able to give exact figures for 2005–06 and 2006–07. DFID's departmental report presents an indicative budget for what it plans to spend over the next three years, but this is not broken down into specific sectors. Spending is also affected by the pace of implementation of existing programmes and initiation of new programmes.

DFID views access to financial services, and stable and secure financial systems, as important to achieving the millennium development goals.

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many UK companies are involved in joint microfinance projects with his Department; and if he will make a statement. [9274]

Mr. Thomas: DFID does not have 'joint' microfinance projects with UK companies. DFID does contract companies to provide technical or management services where appropriate, through open competition. A UK company manages the Financial Deepening Challenge Fund that supports the expansion of microfinance in developing countries.

In the last year DFID's headquarters and country offices have used UK consulting firms on microfinance projects on a number of occasions, for example to prepare and teach a training course, to conduct reviews of projects, and to conduct a survey of microfinance data.

There are three UK consulting firms on the panel of UK and international consultants that are selected for technical assistance projects in the area of microfinance by the DFID-supported global Financial Sector Reform and Strengthening (FIRST) Initiative, The FIRST Initiative itself is managed by a UK company.

DFID has also directly supported microfinance initiatives by companies through the Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. One UK-based telecommunications company received a grant through this Challenge Fund.

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