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Bribery Laws

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): I am pleased to announce the publication today of the Government's consultation paper on reform of the laws of bribery.

Although the crime of bribery remains relatively rare in the UK, it is vital that we, through our actions and principles, remain vigilant and promote high standards of propriety at home and abroad. Modernising the criminal law plays an important role in carrying out this aim.

The existing law on bribery, which comprises the common law offence of bribery and a variety of statutory offences dating as far back as 1889, is fragmented, outdated and complex.

The Government sought to address problems in the existing law when we published the draft Corruption Bill; however since the publication of the report of the
 
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Joint Committee, which gave the Bill pre-legislative scrutiny in 2003, opinion has been divided on the way in which the offences should be formulated.

The purpose of this consultation is to seek a new consensus on the way forward. We are conscious that a good deal of criticism of the draft Bill came from those most exercised by the problem of bribery overseas. We therefore also seek views on a new proposal to enhance Serious Fraud Office powers to tackle bribery of foreign public officials.

The consultation, which contains proposals that will apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will run until 1 March 2006 and I look forward to receiving views from a wide range of stakeholders. The Government are committed to reforming the law and today's consultation is a step towards delivering that commitment.

Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The consultation paper is also available on the Home Office website at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/haveyoursay/current-_consultations/.

Scientific Procedures Statistics (Living Animals) 2004

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): The Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals in Great Britain—2004 is being published as a Command Paper today. Copies will be placed in the House Library.

This annual report meets the requirement in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to keep Parliament informed about the use of animals for experimental or other purposes. It also forms the basis for meeting periodic reporting requirements at EU level. The format and content of future reports has recently being reviewed by the Animals Procedures Committee and I hope to be able to respond to their report shortly.

The report shows an overall increase over last year of 2.3 per cent in the number of procedures undertaken. The total number of procedures was 2.85 million, an increase of 63,000 over the previous year. Although this is the highest total since 1992, it does not necessarily signal an established upwards trend in animal use. The overall level of scientific procedures is determined by a number of factors, including the economic climate and global trends in scientific endeavour.

Non-toxicological procedures accounted for about 85 per cent. of the procedures carried out in 2004. These included studies for fundamental biological or applied research in human and veterinary medicine, with the main areas of use being for immunological studies, pharmaceutical research and development, and cancer research.

Procedures for toxicological purposes accounted for the remaining 15 per cent. of all procedures. About 70 per cent. of these were for testing the safety and efficacy of new drugs and medicines.

In keeping with previous years, those procedures which used mice or rats (or other rodents) were the great majority at 85 per cent. Those using fish amounted to 7 per cent. and those using birds, 4 per cent. The total of all procedures using dogs, cats, horses and non-human primates, that is, those species offered special protection by the Act, was less than 1 per cent. of the total.
 
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Genetically normal animals were used in 1,673,000 regulated procedures, representing 59 per cent. of all procedures for 2004 (compared with 63 per cent. in 2003 and 84 per cent. in 1995). Genetically modified animals (nearly all rodents) were used in 914,000 regulated procedures, representing 32 per cent. of all procedures for 2004 (compared with 27 per cent. in 2003 and 8 per cent. in 1995).

These trends have been evident over recent years, reflecting the changing balance in use between genetically normal and modified animals, and are set to continue as advances in genetic science open up new and promising avenues of research.

It is important to point out that the Home Office, as regulatory authority under the 1986 Act, does not control the overall amount of animal research and testing which takes place, but seeks to minimise the numbers of animals used for justifiable purposes. We ensure, in carrying out our licensing function, that the provisions of the Act are rigorously applied in each programme of work. All animal use must be justified, and that for each particular programme of work the number of animals used, and the suffering caused must be minimised.

Further information on the annual statistics 2004 may be found on the Home Office website at http://scienceandresearch.homeoffice.gov.uk/animal-research/.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Southern Africa

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): Since my statement of 11 October, further assessments in Southern Africa have identified an additional 1.4 million people in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique likely to face food shortages in the period up to April 2006. This brings the total numbers in need of assistance to over 11.4 million in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland. This could rise as further reassessments take place, particularly in Zimbabwe.

The Scale of the Problem

Country assessments are carried out by national committees and are co-ordinated regionally by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). They consider whether households will be able to access their normal food requirements between harvests. Assessment reports can be found at the website of the Southern African Development Community: www.sadc.int. The figures include those with potential food shortages ranging from 1 per cent. to over 80 per cent. of their normal food requirements.

The breakdown by country is as follows:

Zimbabwe: The national assessment was formally released on 17 November and indicates that 2.88 million people will face food shortages, assuming stable maize prices. However, maize prices have risen significantly and, while hyper-inflation in Zimbabwe makes it difficult to assess affordability, it is possible that as many as 5 million people face food shortages. The underlying causes remain a combination of erratic rains, HIV/AIDS and bad governance. The World Food Programme, with support from DFID, has been
 
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providing food aid for 1 million vulnerable people, mainly children, and plans to scale this up to cover 3 million people over the next few months, and other donors are distributing to smaller groups. The World Food Programme has also now signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government guaranteeing humanitarian access and freedom from political interference in their humanitarian operations through the role of NGOs as implementing partners.

DFID has committed over £1 million in response to the Government of Zimbabwe's forced clearance of unauthorised dwellings earlier this year, Operation Murambatsvina ("Clean Up"), which displaced or destroyed the livelihoods of 700,000 people. The Zimbabwe Government have now reversed their refusal to accept international assistance to provide shelter. However, the UN and donors have not yet agreed with the Government on acceptable and equitable mechanisms for providing that aid. In the meantime, UN and non-Governmental agencies continue to operate relief programmes reaching 40,000 affected households, including those affected by HIV and AIDS, with food, blankets, medical care and other essential items. These issues were being discussed in Zimbabwe during the visit there this week by the UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland.

Malawi: The latest assessment indicates that up to 4.85 million people face food shortages. The Government and the World Food Programme have started a coordinated emergency programme targeting the 2.7 million most vulnerable people and plans are in place to reach all of those facing food shortages in the period leading up to the harvest in March/April 2006. A UN appeal for $88 million was launched in September covering food aid and distribution of seeds and fertiliser. This was later revised downwards to $74 million, of which $32 million has been pledged so far, with a further $68 million contributed outside the appeal. The UK Government contributed £10.2 million before the appeal was launched and £5 million in October in response to the appeal. We will contribute a further £3 million to help respond to the increased needs this week, bringing our total contribution to £18.2 million (about $32 million) making the UK the largest contributor to the relief effort in Malawi this year.

Zambia: The latest assessment indicates that 1.4 million people in the Southern, Western and Eastern Provinces will face food shortages before the next harvest in February–March 2006. The Government have now requested assistance. Food distributions by the World Food Programme, the Government of Zambia and an NGO consortium are increasing in response to this and the UK has this week committed an additional £4 million.

Mozambique: The latest assessment indicates that about 800,000 people will face food shortages, mostly in the south of the country. The World Food Programme continues to distribute food aid to some of those worst affected and the Government have established a range of safety nets, such as food for work programmes and free or subsidised seed distribution so that the poorest households have enough seeds to plant for next year.
 
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Lesotho: Assessments in Lesotho have not changed. About 440,000 people could face food shortages. These are virtually all in households that suffer from chronic food insecurity. The Government are responding through safety nets, including a recently introduced old age pension.

Swaziland: Assessments in Swaziland have not changed. About 225,000 people could face food shortages in households that suffer from chronic food insecurity. As in Lesotho, other responses to chronic hunger, apart from food aid, are being encouraged, such as provision of seeds and fertiliser to poorer households.

What are the UK Government doing?

In response to this crisis, the UK Government have now allocated over £64 million in humanitarian assistance for the region this year. Some of this has been channelled through UN agencies and some has gone through Governments or NGOs.

The breakdown of our commitments so far this year is as follows:

Zimbabwe: £40 million covering relief programmes for up to 3 million people provided through non-Government channels, including contributions to the World Food Programme, HIV/AIDS programmes and responses to those affected by Operation Murambatsvina.

Malawi: Over £18 million towards the Government's emergency food distribution, helping to purchase maize, options on additional maize, seeds, pulses and oil, support to the Government's logistics and early warning capacity, and support to UNICEF for nutritional surveillance and response. Government of Malawi planning for the emergency began in March with help from early pledges from the UK.

Zambia: Up to £3,430,000 for food aid distribution to 200,000 households and other support through the World Food Programme and other agencies, and £1 million to Oxfam for cash transfers to 14,350 households in Western Province. In addition, we will provide £500,000 for nutritional surveillance and preparedness, and £500,000 for emergency seed distribution.

Mozambique: £235,000 for provision of seeds to drought affected farmers, using the Ministry of Agriculture's drought mitigation plan.

Lesotho: £350,000 for distribution of seeds and fertilisers and small-scale livestock interventions for affected households.

Swaziland: £300,000 for distribution of seeds and fertilisers and other necessary help for vulnerable households.

I am again urging EU partners to respond speedily to these additional needs and remain in contact with the UN on the international community's response.

The Wider Challenge

The crisis has reinforced the need to address the high levels of chronic hunger in Southern Africa more effectively and take action to reduce the risk of repeated crises affecting the region. I welcome the recent commitment by European Development Ministers—at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 21–22 November—to support safety nets for the most vulnerable in Africa as well as commitments by the US
 
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Government to help break the cycle of hunger in Africa. I intend to work closely with all partners to address these longer-term issues while continuing to tackle emergency food needs effectively. We will continue to monitor the position closely and be ready to take further action if necessary.


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