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The spokesman of the UN, Secretary General Kofi Annan gave a briefing in New York on Monday 31 October, expressing the deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. The UN continues to receive reports that tens of thousands of people are still homeless and in need of assistance, months after the eviction campaign, called 'Operation Drive Out Rubbish' began in May 2005. DFID has already provided £1 million to UN agencies to provide emergency food, blankets, medical assistance and other
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non-food items to the victims. The Government of Zimbabwe have now formally rejected offers of UN assistance to provide temporary shelter for these victims, stating publicly that there is no humanitarian crisis. The Secretary-General made a strong public appeal to the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that those who are out in the open, without shelter and without means of sustaining their livelihoods, are provided with humanitarian assistance in collaboration with the United Nations and the humanitarian community.
In terms of the broader humanitarian situation, despite compelling evidence of a very low grain harvest earlier this year, the Government of Zimbabwe similarly denies that the country needs international assistance to address food insecurity. Independent surveys indicate that between three and five million people will face food shortages in the coming months. The UN, through the World Food Programme, has secured agreement from the Government of Zimbabwe to distribute 300,000 tonnes of food to the most poor and vulnerable households. DFID has already pledged £10 million for this programme.
The UK fully supports the UN position on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. We strongly condemn the cynical and callous attitude of the Zimbabwe Government towards the well-being of its own citizens.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list formal consultations being sponsored by his Department; and what the (a) commencement date and (b) deadline for responses is in each case. 
David Cairns: The Scotland Office is not currently undertaking any consultations. The Office has previously consulted on the size of the Scottish Parliament and Sunday working in Scotland. The details can be found in the consultations section of the Scotland Office website at:
The Executive's current entry criteria for administrative grades require a minimum of two SCE standard or ordinary grades, including English and a subject that clearly indicates competency in figure work. Tests may sometimes be offered to give candidates the opportunity to display an equivalent level of numeracy and literacy. Where posts require a higher level of
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literacy or numeracy skills, the minimum criteria will be adjusted accordingly and the level of skill may be tested during the assessment process.
In the DCA, there is no formal requirement for all new recruits to be assessed in literacy and numeracy skills. General recruitment asks for administration experience or a minimum of five GCSEs for administrative grades or two A levels for executive grades; both minima require English. The DCA uses competence and job specification based recruitment which assesses candidates against the criteria in both the application form and at interview.
The Scottish Executive recognises the importance of continuous support to staff, through training, to improve their skills and marketable qualifications and offers a range of training courses to do this. The need for training and improving skills more generally is identified as part of the staff reporting system within the Executive.
In the DCA, testing for literacy and numeracy is available for all staff on demand through their Skills for Life" initiative. Staff can undertake written or computerised tests. The Department has undertaken to fund any training identified to improve individual literacy and/or numeracy levels resulting from the tests and has worked with local colleges and Union Learning representatives to address those needs.
The works of art displayed within Ministers' offices have been provided on loan from the Government Art Collection (GAC). I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell) in respect of GAC expenditure in 200405 on 1 November 2005, Official Report, column 896W.
Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of whether the greater distance to Gloucester Parkway station from Cheltenham Spa station will result in greater use of car transport. 
Ms Buck: All major scheme project bids including that of Gloucester Parkway are subject to detailed economic appraisal to determine the effects of the scheme and its value for money. This work is currently being undertaken.
Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport to how many ports the Transport Security Directorate has provided technical assistance in respect of compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code since its introduction. 
The Department has provided technical assistance to approximately 550 port facilities in the UK in approving some 380 port facility security plans in accordance with the requirements of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
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Ms Buck: The Government have a two-strand approach to tackling the problem. The first strand is to seek reductions of noise at source through international negotiation and agreement, implemented by national regulation. The second strand is to provide for controls on operational noise and the mitigation of its worst effects. Stansted is designated for the purposes of section 78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, making the Secretary of State directly responsible for those controls.
The 2004 annual noise exposure contours for Stansted were published in August 2005 and are on the Department's website at www.dft.gov.uk together with ERCD Report 0503 which provides data on the areas and populations within the contours and comparisons with earlier years. Between 1988 and 1998 areas and populations within the contours generally rose in line with movements but in 1999, despite the high traffic growth, the area within the 57 dBA Leq contour fell by 19 per cent. and this improvement has been maintained so far despite further significant growth in traffic.
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