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3 Nov 2005 : Column 1303W—continued


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 21 October 2005, Official Report, columns 31–32W, on Nicaragua, what steps he takes to ensure monies allocated for dispersal by the Nicaraguan authorities in the Atlantic Coast Region are spent there. [23560]

Mr. Thomas: A key way to ensure moneys are spent as intended is to have an effective, independent and reliable audit system. As the result of the support of a number of donors, the Nicaraguan National Comptroller's Office will soon be able to share its audit of all central
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Government expenditure (for 2004 expenditure) with donors for the first time. DFID, together with German aid, is providing the support needed also to complete the first audit of all municipal government expenditure (for 2004 and 2005 expenditure) by the third quarter of 2006. Together, these audits will enable donors to compare actual expenditure with planned expenditure for the bulk of activities funded by the Government of Nicaragua, including monies allocated for the Atlantic Coast Region.

DFID's support for the audit of municipal authorities is part of a recently approved £1.5 million project to strengthen the accountability of municipal governments. The project will also support the ability of private sector organisations and civil society to monitor the performance of municipalities. This will increase the pressure on them to use monies as intended.

The Nicaraguan Ministry of Finance has recently introduced a financial management system that provides web access to monthly statements of unaudited expenditure by sector, department and institution, this information can be found the web address at: ( The Nicaraguan Ministry of Finance is also able to analyse expenditure by region and intends to make these reports available on the web as well in the near future.


Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what transparency and accountability mechanisms the Department has in place to ensure that debt relief for Nigeria is used to alleviate poverty; and if he will make a statement. [22557]

Hilary Benn: The Nigerian Government have decided that all of the savings from debt relief will be dedicated to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. For 2006, these savings will be around $1 billion. The Nigerian Government are ensuring that this is spent on poverty reduction through an expenditure tracking system known as a Virtual Poverty Fund". This will track the flow of funds into spending on sectors such as health, education, water, agriculture, power and roads.

The President has welcomed international involvement in overseeing expenditure through this mechanism and has set up a high level committee including donors and civil society; the structure should be in place by the end of this year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will monitor progress with reform as part of the debt deal. The World Bank will also carry out a public expenditure review next year.


Mr. Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what response the UK Government have made to the requests by the President of Pakistan for heavy transport helicopters. [19936]

Mr. Thomas: On the 20 October, the Secretary of State for International Development announced that Britain would provide an additional £20 million towards the earthquake relief effort in Pakistan. Part of that provision would fund three British military CH-47 Chinook helicopters (up to £3.0 million), in addition to the helicopter operations already being part-funded
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(£1.0 million) by the Department for International Development (DFID) through the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Renewable Energy

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support his Department has given to promoting renewable energy strategies in developing countries. [23061]

Hilary Benn: Improved access to affordable and reliable energy supplies and services is essential for developing countries to increase their economic growth and achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals.

DFID has welcomed the decision last year by the World Bank Group to increase its annual lending for renewable energy and energy efficiency by an average of 20 per cent. per year, over the five years to 2010. DFID is working with the World Bank to see if a higher level of investment can be achieved.

DFID has provided £10 million for energy research projects, mostly over the past eight years, of which about £3.6 million was spent on the development and promotion of renewable energy, especially for rural communities. This has included a wide range of technologies such as wind, small hydropower, solar and biomass.

DFID is currently working with international networks such as the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) and the EU Energy Initiative (EUEI) to promote access to affordable energy services, drawing on the full menu of technology options, including renewable energy.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effect on the humanitarian effort of militia activity along tribal lines in Darfur. [23984]

Hilary Benn: Tribal allegiance is one factor which influences the organisation and actions of militias in Darfur, for both the Arab militias and the rebel movements, but there are many other factors, including political and financial gain.

In his most recent report, the UN Secretary General refers to frequent harassment and assaults on humanitarian aid workers during incidents of banditry. He states that these attacks have increased in cruelty and violence. Insecurity caused by the presence and activities of armed groups result in limited humanitarian access to vulnerable populations. All parties to the conflict have an obligation to ensure access for humanitarian agencies, and we condemn any activities, which impede the humanitarian response.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the number of people in need of food aid in Darfur. [24388]

Hilary Benn: The UN World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 3.2 million people in Darfur required food aid in October 2005. The WFP and other UN agencies are conducting their annual assessment of
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food needs in Darfur, which will provide a more accurate picture of the needs in 2006. We expect the results will be released in December.

World Trade System

Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had with groups advocating reform of the world trade system. [22697]

Hilary Benn: A trading system which is fair and supports development is fundamental. With the World Trade Organisation's ministerial conference in Hong Kong only weeks away, securing the best outcome from the conference and the trade round itself has been a theme of numerous discussions I have had in recent weeks with counterparts from the European Union, developing countries and civil society groups. This will remain a priority.


Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what reports he has received of fuel shortages in Zambia; and if he will make a statement. [22556]

Hilary Benn: My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State recently visited Lusaka and was briefed by DFID staff about the fuel shortages. He met with Mr. Dipak Patel, Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry, who was subsequently appointed by President Mwanawasa to head a ministerial committee on the fuel shortages. The committee is resolving the crisis and developing a medium term strategy to ensure better fuel supplies.

Recent shutdowns at Indeni in Ndola (Zambia's only oil refinery) seriously disrupted supplies of petrol and diesel. There have been long queues at filling stations around the country. Major businesses including the copper mines and commercial agriculture have been affected. Continued fuel shortages will reduce economic growth and increase inflation. Rising transport costs have pushed up other prices.

Food prices are of particular concern given the recent drought and there may be a rise in the number of people in need of food aid. DFID is assessing the case for more humanitarian relief over and above recently agreed funding of the World Food Programme and Oxfam in Zambia.

Last week, most parts of the country had some petrol and diesel due to more refined supplies being brought into the country by tankers. However, the situation is not back to normal. The Indeni refinery is not yet operating effectively. The lack of reserves remains a concern.

On 5 October 2005, the Zambian Government requested support from DFID to advise on options for future petroleum supplies in the country, including a technical and financial review of the Indeni refinery. DFID organised the visit of an expert to Lusaka to discuss these requests with Minster Patel and agree on their scope. DFID will be providing further support in co-operation with other development agencies.
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