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Sugar Regime

Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with representatives of (a) Barbados, (b) Belize, (c) Guyana, (d) Jamaica, (e) St. Kitts and Nevis on the impact upon their economies of the EU proposals to reduce sugar prices over the next four years. [36340]

Mr. Thomas: My right hon. Friend, Hilary Benn met the Prime Ministers of the Caribbean at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta where their discussions focused largely on the changes to the EU sugar regime. As the DFID Minister with responsibility for the Caribbean, I have met a number of times with Government and sugar industry officials from Jamaica and Guyana to discuss the impact of the proposed reforms on their economies, their concerns about the timescale and the extent of the price reductions. During my visit to Jamaica a year ago, I also listened to the concerns of sugar workers in Clarendon.

Mt right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, has also recently met with the Prime Ministers from Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and Jamaica in London and in Malta. In addition, other ministerial colleagues at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have met regularly with representatives from the countries in question to discuss these issues.

Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State forInternational Development (1) what steps he will take to ameliorate the impact of European Union reforms to the sugar sector on Caribbean sugar producing nations; [36493]

(2) what steps he will take to ensure the EU provides sufficient funds to meet the restructuring needs of(a) Jamaica, (b) Guyana and (c) Belize arising out of the reduction in sugar prices set for the next four years. [36570]

Mr. Thomas: We are working to ameliorate the impact of the EU reforms to the sugar industry by providing support for development of the national sugar action plans and by pressing for an appropriate amount of EU transitional assistance.

It is important that each country's sugar action plans sets a clear framework for donor support and private sector investment. DFID is supporting five of the six sugar protocol countries in the Caribbean (Belize, Jamaica, St, Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago) in the development of these plans and will shortly be providing technical assistance to Barbados as well. We will also ensure that, where possible, our ongoing bilateral support to Jamaica and Guyana, and our work with Caribbean regional organisations, respond to the needs created by the sugar reform.
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DFID, as part of a wider UK Government effort, continues to do all it can to push for an adequate transitional assistance package for those countries affected by the EU reduction in sugar prices. We funded a study to estimate the impact of EU sugar reform on the sugar protocol countries, and through our support for the action plans are helping to identify the financing needs for each country. Lobbying of other member states is likely to secure an initial €40 million for 2006. DFID will continue to play an active role in the wider UK efforts to lobby both member states and the European Commission to ensure adequate levels of transitional assistance for the period 2007–13.

We will also be exploring, with other Government Departments, how we might help promote inward investment to the sugar producing countries.

Derek Conway: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the number of people who may become unemployed in (a) Jamaica, (b) Guyana and (c) Belize as a result of the EU's decision to reduce sugar prices over four years; and what assessment he has made of the social impact this may have. [36569]

Mr. Thomas: DFID commissioned consultants (LMC) estimated in June 2005 that the proposed 39 per cent. price cut for sugar would put 44,800 jobs at risk in these three countries—33,000 for Jamaica, 1,200 in Guyana and 10,600 in Belize (assuming that the current sugar quotas allowing duty free access for the African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP) producers are maintained). These figures are hotly contested in the region and the national Sugar Action Plans currently being developed by the Governments of these countries seek to identify both alternative employment opportunities and training programmes for those made redundant. The full social impact of the price changes, and mitigating measures, will be set out in the completed plans. DFID is funding an analysis of the social impact in Jamaica to contribute to the Jamaica Plan.

Trade Liberalisation

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what position he will take at the forthcoming World Trade Organisation talks on the extent to which developing countries should undergo greater market liberalisation and privatisation. [36930]

Mr. Thomas: The UK Government will continue to work hard to support the poorest and most vulnerable producers, be it through multilateral negotiations in the World Trade Organisations (WTO) or regional trade agreements such as the Economic Partnership Agreements. In the context of the WTO negotiations, we are firmly committed to ensuring that developing countries are given appropriate flexibility to adjust to trade reforms, i.e. special and differential treatment (SDT). These include proposals for special products in developing countries, which may require protection due to their importance for rural development and food and livelihoods security. They also include proposals for a special safeguard mechanism for developing countries to temporarily protect vulnerable sectors if affected by import surges.
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In the negotiations poor countries are not being forced to open their market through any trade negotiations, multilateral, bilateral or otherwise. The UK Government believes that developing countries should be allowed to choose the best policies for the poor and the environment. New trade rules made in the WTO have to be agreed by consensus and thus all countries have the right to veto any agreement they do not consider to be in their best interest.

The UK Government believes that trade rules should take account of different .countries' development needs. The answer, however, is not greater protectionism in the form of higher tariff barriers as these will limit the opportunities for poor countries to trade with each other, and with developed countries, and thus exclude them further from the benefits of international trade. Instead, we believe that existing and new trade rules should be made flexible enough so that they meet developing countries' needs. This is the policy the Government is pursuing in the WTO.

In services such as water, education and health, increasing access, coverage and quality is vital if countries are to reach the Millennium Development Goals. In March 2005, DFID published a policy paper entitled 'Partnerships for Poverty Reduction: changing aid conditionality', which shows that we are committed to helping Governments of developing countries make their own decisions about how to develop their economies and provide services to their people, based on evidence of what works best in reducing poverty. The policy makes it clear that DFID will not make aid conditional on specific policy decisions by partner Governments or attempt to impose policy choices on them, including in sensitive economic areas such as privatisation or trade liberalisation.

DFID also encourages developing countries to make their own decisions about service delivery, including whether or not to open their service sectors to foreign providers. However developing countries are not obliged to accept any request or to open up their services sectors. It all comes down to which option is the most effective in reducing poverty, a decision for Governments of developing countries to make through their own political process.

The WTO Ministerial Conference taking place in Hong Kong this week, represents an important opportunity to make a significant contribution to reducing global poverty. The UK Government is working to achieve an outcome that delivers real gains for developing countries, including the poorest.
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Departmental Guidance (Evidence/Documentary Access)

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what her policy is with regard to (a) Ministers and (b) officials in her Department giving evidence to the (i) Scottish Parliament, (ii) National Assembly for Wales and (iii) Northern Ireland Assembly committees; and to what categories of document she gives (A) full access, (B) restricted access and (C) no access to (1) the Scottish Parliament, (2) National Assembly for Wales, (3) Northern Ireland Assembly and (4) House of Commons select committees. [37399]

Mr. Lammy: Requests for the attendance of Ministers or officials to give evidence to the devolved legislatures, and for the provision of information to the assemblies, will be considered on a case by case basis. The consideration will reflect: the principles set out in the Cabinet Office guidance Departmental Evidence and response to Select Committees (July 2005); the policy outlined in the Department for Constitutional Affairs' Devolution Guidance Note #12 Attendance of UK Ministers and Officials of Information Act. The principles underlying the provision of at Committees of the devolved legislature; and the requirements of the Freedom information to House of Commons Select Committee are set out in Departmental Evidence and response to Select Committees, particularly sections 4B and 4C.

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