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South Asia Earthquake: Relief

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I am today committing a further £25 million to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the 8 October earthquake in Pakistan. This will bring DFID's total contribution to the relief effort to £58 million, which together with our pledge of £70 million to the reconstruction effort over three years, means that the UK's total contribution to relief and reconstruction is £128 million.

DFID has focused its initial £33 million of relief support on practical assistance, including shelter and logistics, and funding for the relief programmes of the United Nations, the Red Cross Movement and non-governmental organisations. Although the relief effort has gathered pace, with the onset of harsh winter conditions the need to strengthen relief operations is now critical. In particular, we need to provide for those living above the snow line or in organised or spontaneous camps. Further support for logistics, shelter, camp management, health, water and sanitation, and nutrition is required.

The additional funds announced today will help do this. We will also be giving further support to the United Nations' helicopter operation. As part of this, £5.5 million will go to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, as DFID takes on the contracts for four medium lift Mi-8 helicopters for a four month period. With the onset of winter the need is shifting away from heavy-lift helicopters like the UK CH-47 Chinooks—which are now completing their operations—towards medium-lift helicopters to ensure deliveries to remote and isolated communities. The Mi-8 helicopters are ideally suited to the environmental conditions and will be able to deliver relief to any location in the affected area throughout winter.

I can also report that this funding will help support an 86 strong team drawn from 59 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Engineers to be deployed under NATO command, to undertake emergency shelter building operations in remote high-altitude areas in the Bagh region. The Royal Engineers unit are highly specialist troops who are trained to operate in winter and mountainous conditions.
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DFID will also be providing further support for: shelter and winter kits, including stoves, for high altitudes; management and servicing of camp sites; primary health care centres, mobile clinics, women's health and counselling; water and sanitation in camps, local communities and hospitals; and food in both camps and displaced communities in remote areas.


Commission for Equality and Human Rights

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Meg Munn): The Government propose the Commission for Equality and Human Rights would be based in two sites in England, with a majority of staff
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based in Manchester and a significant presence in London. The CEHR would also have offices in Glasgow and Cardiff and a strong regional presence throughout Great Britain.

The provisions establishing the CEHR are set out in the Equality Bill, which is currently before Parliament.

The decision follows an independent study conducted on behalf of Government to identify suitable options for the location of the new organisation. Further work will be undertaken as to the way in which the functions of the CEHR will be divided between the various sites. All existing Commissions will be fully engaged in this process. The report of the location study, a Race Equality Impact Assessment and Equality Impact Assessment, will be placed in the House Libraries shortly.