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Commission for Africa

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department has taken to make copies of the Commission for Africa Report available in Africa. [49223]

Hilary Benn: The Commission for Africa (CfA) report was launched on 11 March in parallel events at the British museum in London and at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa. A press conference held after the launch in Addis Ababa led to good media coverage in Africa.

Hard copies of the report were sent to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the African Union. Copies were also sent to all British embassies and DFID offices in Africa, many of which will have been passed to African partner organisations.

The story of the Commission's work is told on the Commission website which will remain as a permanent online archive. The full report can be downloaded from this website, without charge in English and French and Part One in Arabic, Swahili, Portuguese (as well as Mandarin and Japanese). The cost of a hard copy of the full report is £10 which includes postage and packing, irrespective of where it will be sent globally.

In addition, I understand that over 26,000 copies of the Penguin version of Part One of the Commission for Africa report have been sold worldwide.

Departmental Expenditure

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many widescreen
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televisions have been purchased by his Department for use in London Headquarters in each of the last five years; and what the cost was in each year. [39145]

Mr. Thomas: DFID has purchased 38 widescreen TV displays for use in the London Headquarters in the past five years, as follows:

Of these, two are used for general display purposes, and 36 form part of video-conferencing facilities. DFID makes extensive use of video-conferences between the two Headquarters in London and East Kilbride, and also to and between offices overseas. These save travel costs and enable meetings to take place which would not otherwise be feasible. The displays are usually purchased as part of complete video-conference units, and it is not possible to separate the cost of the displays from the total equipment costs.

Departmental Staff

Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans his Department has to change the London allowance of its staff; and if he will make a statement. [50011]

Mr. Thomas: Under the Treasury's delegated pay arrangements for staff below the senior civil service, DFID has consolidated its London weighting allowance into basic pay.

We are currently in the second year of a three year pay deal. Salary levels for all UK based staff will be reviewed as part of the pay negotiations for the next pay settlement that takes effect from 1 August 2007.

Economic Partnership Agreements

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the UK position is on trade liberalisation conditions of the economic partnership agreements between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries; and if he will make a statement on the progress made in negotiations of these issues during the UK presidency of the EU. [49222]

Mr. Thomas: The UK position on economic partnership agreements (EPAs) was published in March 2005. It states that EPAs must be designed to deliver long-term development, economic growth and poverty reduction in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. We believe that the ACP countries can benefit from trade liberalisation in the long run, provided they have the economic capacity and infrastructure they need to trade competitively. However, without this capacity or the right conditions including appropriate complementary policies to help manage the change, trade liberalisation can be harmful. The UK also believes that each region in the ACP should have flexibility and make its own decisions on the timing, pace, sequencing, and product coverage of market opening in line with individual countries' national
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development plans and poverty reduction strategies. We will not force trade liberalisation on developing countries either through trade negotiations or aid conditionality.

During the UK presidency in 2005, the European Commission and the ACP did not negotiate on trade liberalisation issues. These issues will be negotiated over the coming year for all ACP regions.

GM Crops (Terminator Seeds)

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact of Terminator seed technology on the food security and livelihoods of small-scale farmers in developing countries. [50139]

Mr. Thomas: Terminator technology (genetic use restriction technologies or GURTs) involves a wide range of complex issues that are developing rapidly. While the Government monitor the impact of this technology, DFID has not undertaken an assessment of the effects of terminator technology on the food security and livelihoods of small-scale farmers in developing countries.

DFID takes genetic modification (GM) in crops and foods and its potential impacts on poor people, including small-scale farmers, in developing countries very seriously. Our approach is based on the principle that the health of people and their environment is of primary concern. We recognise that GM technology in itself will not solve the problem of world hunger. However, biotechnology has the potential to make a contribution to development and poverty reduction, if managed responsibly and applied to those crops on which the poor rely.

Recognising that there are both potential benefits and risks associated with gene technologies and GM crops, developing countries should be able to make their own informed choices. To this end, DFID worked with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the international community to establish the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, under the UN convention on biological diversity (CBD). The protocol adopts a strong precautionary approach and aims to ensure that countries are provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions before agreeing to the import of genetically modified organisms. It also facilitates the exchange of information on living modified organisms and assists countries in the implementation of the protocol. This means that importing countries are able to make a decision to avoid or minimise potential adverse effects of GM organisms, even if the potential extent of such effects is uncertain.

With regard to GURTs, the parties to the CBD decided in 2000, that there should be a precautionary approach to their use while research into the possible impacts of these technologies was carried out. Parties will look to re-affirm this decision at the CBD meeting in March this year. Parties will also discuss the need for further research on the impacts of GURTs and how to share information from these studies.
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Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what aid and support is being given to the Wajir region of Kenya by the UK to deal with the present drought and consequential famine in the region. [51474]

Hilary Benn: The Wajir and Mandera districts are the worst affected areas in northern Kenya. Levels of malnutrition are unacceptably high. The Department of International Development's support is channelled through UN agencies and competent non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to help save the lives of those most at risk.

The total DFID contribution stands at £12.7 million since the start of the crisis in July 2004. This includes the commitment of an additional £3 million made during my recent visit to Wajir.

Our support is focused on the worst affected areas, particularly Wajir, where DFID's main implementing partners are Oxfam, Merlin and UNICEF. The support given in Wajir includes food aid channelled through the World Food Programme, emergency health support, feeding programmes for malnourished children and water provision (boreholes services and water trucking).

Parliamentary Questions

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) how many ordinary written parliamentary questions tabled for answer by him in the last 12 months have been answered (a) within 14 days, (b) between 14 and 28 days, (c) between 28 days and two months and (d) in excess of two months after the date of tabling; and if he will make a statement; [49899]

(2) how many parliamentary questions tabled in the last 12 months for answer by him on a named day (a) were transferred and (b) received a substantive answer (i) on the day named and (ii) after the day named. [49876]

Mr. Thomas: The Department for International Development (DFID) aims to ensure that Members receive a substantive response to their Named Day question on the named day and to endeavour to answer ordinary written questions within a working week of being tabled. Unfortunately, this is not always possible but this Department makes every effort to achieve these timescales.

During the last 12 months, DFID answered 1,136 ordinary written parliamentary questions within 14 days after the date of tabling; 12 ordinary written questions were answered between 14 and 28 days and one question was answered after 28 days.

During the same 12 month period, DFID answered 115 parliamentary questions substantively on the named day; 31 questions received a substantive response after the named day. DFID transferred six named day questions to other Government departments for response.
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