Previous Section Index Home Page

6 Feb 2006 : Column 785W—continued


Fair Trade Fortnight

Helen Jones: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what steps are being taken to mark Fair Trade Fortnight in the House. [49263]

Nick Harvey: As in previous years, the Refreshment Department will mark the Fairtrade Fortnight (6–19 March 2006) by running a special promotion of Fairtrade goods throughout the House of Commons cafeterias. In addition to those Fairtrade products always available—coffee, tea, chocolate, snack bars and, most recently, sugar—a wider range of biscuits, dried fruits, snack bars and fruit juices will be promoted under the Fairtrade Foundation's banner, making Fairtrade your habit". The Department has also secured a consignment of Fairtrade bananas and pineapples, which will be offered during the fortnight.

Freedom of Information Act

Bob Spink: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what total sum has been received by the House for the provision of information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in its first year of operation. [48496]

Nick Harvey: The House has not made charges for the release of information in the first year of operation of the Act.
6 Feb 2006 : Column 786W


Democratic Republic of Congo

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans he has to meet representatives of the Democratic Republic of Congo as head of the African Union. [49324]

Hilary Benn: The new chair of the African Union is President Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.

While I do not have any immediate plans to meet President Sassou-Nguesso or his representatives, officials from both DFID and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are in regular contact with members of the Republic of Congo Government and are seeking to establish suitable senior level meetings at the earliest opportunity.

Ethiopian Women (Fistulas)

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funding he has allocated in 2005–06 to treat women in Ethiopia with open fistulas; and if he will make a statement. [48869]

Hilary Benn: I have not allocated any funds specifically for this purpose. DFID's approach is to provide support to improving health services so that care for patients can be improved.

Fair Trade Produce

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much and what proportion of his Department's catering budget was spent on fair trade produce in the last period for which figures are available. [49238]

Mr. Thomas: Precise figures are not available, but our contracted catering service providers estimate that in the current financial year 2005–06, approximately £70,000, or 20 per cent. of total expenditure on food, drink, etc, was spent on Fairtrade items.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his Department's policy is on the procurement of fair trade produce for consumption on its premises. [49273]

Mr. Thomas: It is DFID's policy that all hot and cold beverages served within the Department are sourced from Fair Trade sources. In addition, our in-house caterer actively promotes and uses Fair Trade products wherever possible, including fruit, confectionery and disposable cups, etc.

Government Accountability

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what action the Government are taking to support (a) parliaments in African countries and (b) the Pan-African Parliament (i) to hold their governments to account and (ii) to improve the effectiveness of public expenditure; and if he will make a statement. [47788]

Hilary Benn: The purpose of DFID support to African parliaments is to help them to hold their governments to account, monitor public expenditure and represent constituency and public interest.
6 Feb 2006 : Column 787W

In Kenya, DFID is working with parliamentary committees such as the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Investments Committee to strengthen their oversight of public resource management and expenditure. We are also supporting the Kenyan National Assembly to develop effective information, research and legal services. Our support for a new library will help Members of Parliament and Parliamentary Committees to scrutinise the executive more effectively. Similarly, in Malawi, DFID is providing support to the national parliament to monitor state spending, the budget and taxation. In Nigeria, Tanzania and Sierra Leone, DFID is working jointly with USAID and an international non-government organisation, National Democratic Institute, to strengthen parliamentary committees in these countries. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia, we are developing capacity building programmes for parliaments. DFID is also supporting the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank, which supports African parliaments to network and learn from each other.

The Pan Africa Parliament is a young organisation. It is an advisory and consultative body. It agreed its first forward plans at the end of 2005. European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA) have asked for DFID support for the parliament. This is currently under consideration.


Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact of Hamas's success in the recent elections to the Palestinian Legislature on UK aid to the Palestinian territories. [47953]

Hilary Benn: This is a time of considerable political change in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Government fully support the recent statements by the Quartet and the European Union on 30 January. We also welcome President Abbas' affirmation that the Palestinian Authority is committed to the Roadmap, to previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Government will continue to monitor the situation carefully in close co-ordination with the EU and other partners. We support the Quartet in urging measures to facilitate the work of the current caretaker government to stabilise public finances.

Jewish Festivals

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his Department did to (a) celebrate Hanukkah and (b) mark Yom Kippur in 2005. [46761]

Mr. Thomas: DFID's diversity policy and practice is overseen by a diversity manager, based in the human resources division.

DFID does not organise official celebrations for the festivals of any religion. The DFID 'Policy on Religious Observance' is available on the Department's intranet; I have also arranged for copies of this document to be deposited in the Libraries of the House.
6 Feb 2006 : Column 788W


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the decision to grant a loan from the World Bank to the government of Kenya; and what representations his Department made concerning this decision. [47814]

Hilary Benn: DFID Kenya supported the World Bank's Reform and Capacity Building Project loan which is focused on public financial management reform and public sector reform. DFID has been closely involved in the design and development of the programme and are supporting complementary public financial management and public sector reform work.

High-level corruption has long been a feature of Kenyan life and the World Bank and DFID remain very concerned, particularly about the recent corruption allegations by the exiled former anti-corruption official, John Githongo. President Kibaki's Government was elected in 2002 on a zero-tolerance of corruption ticket. It is for Kenyans to decide whether they have lived up to this promise. It is for us to decide whether our assistance can be effective in bringing this about.

Mr. Githongo's report is serious and credible. The Kenyan Government now have a unique opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to implement the recently announced ethical code for Ministers. Swift and determined actions by Ministers and others named in the report would send an important signal of commitment to fighting corruption to the people of Kenya, private investors, and the international community. For example, the unprecedented resignation of the Minister of Finance on 1 February, will allow the allegations against him and his Ministry to be fully investigated.

Mr. Wolfowitz has made it very clear to me that he has raised the bar for project approval in corrupt environments. The World Bank has an integrity team looking at their entire portfolio in Kenya. Like us, the World Bank will not go ahead with any project until they are satisfied that the environment is acceptable and that they can account for the funds. Consequently they have decided to delay their support to projects planned in HIV/AIDS, roads, education, and the financial sector, where some concerns are still to be resolved. Clearly the environment is not yet right for their direct budget support either.

At the same time, the international community cannot just call for the highest standards from the sidelines. We have a duty to help the Government of Kenya and the Kenyan people to improve accounting systems to reduce the opportunities for misuse and corruption. The World Bank loan aims specifically to strengthen the very systems that underpin clean and efficient government; transparent, accountable, and responsive budgetary systems and effective public service. Supporting Government systems that reduce the opportunities for corruption is the only way to ensure that all Government of Kenya spending through this and future administrations delivers for its people.

Next Section Index Home Page