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Pension Liabilities

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will estimate the net
 
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present value of accrued pension liabilities in respect of (a) present and (b) former employees of his Department and its predecessor. [52111]

Mr. Thomas: The Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme is an unfunded multi-employer defined benefit scheme and individual departments' pension liabilities are not available. The Cabinet Office: Civil Superannuation Resource Accounts for 2004-05 showed that the total pension liability at 31 March 2005 was £84.1 billion. The value of pension liabilities was assessed as follows:
£ billion
Liabilities for current members still contributing to the scheme37
Deferred pensions and contingent pensions for dependants in respect of members no longer contributing12.7
Current pensions for members and contingent pensions for dependants34.4

As a result of a change in the discount rate used for calculating pension liabilities with effect from 1 April 2005, the total pension liability at 1 April 2005 increased by £10.6 billion to £94.7 billion.

Relief Aid

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what factors his Department takes into account when deciding how much relief aid is offered to disaster areas; and if he will make a statement. [52705]

Mr. Thomas: DFID responds to emergencies based on an analysis of humanitarian need. At the onset of a disaster, DFID seeks information from humanitarian agencies and contacts on the ground to establish the extent of humanitarian need. DFID may also send its own assessment personnel to affected areas. The decision to respond and the scale of DFID's response is weighed up against a number of considerations: the extent of unmet needs, the coping capacity of affected countries, the response of other donors and the value that a DFID response could add to the overall effort.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps have been taken by his Department to support renewable energy projects in developing countries. [53868]

Mr. Thomas: Improved access to affordable and reliable energy supplies and services is essential for developing countries to increase their economic growth and achieve the UN millennium development goals.

We welcomed the decision in 2004 by the World Bank Group to increase its annual lending for renewable energy and energy efficiency by an average of 20 per cent. per year, over the five years to 2010. The World Bank is scaling up its financial support for renewable energy and energy efficiency and announced in December 2005 a rise to $299 million for the year to June 2005, compared to an average of $209 million per annum over the previous three years. These figures
 
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exclude large hydropower projects and exceed their commitment. We are working with the Bank to see if a higher level of such investments can be achieved.

DFID has provided £10 million for energy research projects, mostly over the past eight years, of which about £3.6 million was spent on the development and promotion of renewable energy, especially for rural communities. This has included a wide range of technologies such as wind, small hydropower, solar and biomass.

DFID is working with international networks such as the global village energy partnership (GVEP) and the EU energy initiative (EUEI) to promote access to affordable energy services, drawing on the full menu of technology options, including renewable energy.

We have supported the creation of a new €220 million EU energy facility, which will invite calls for proposals later this year. This grant fund aims to improve access to reliable and affordable energy, especially in Africa, and is encouraging viable renewable energy proposals.

Solomon Islands

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on his Department's (a) work and (b) expenditure in the Solomon Islands. [54277]

Mr. Thomas: DFID no longer has direct bilateral programmes in the Pacific, but our high commissions administer a Small Grants Scheme. This has provided nearly £100,000 for projects in the Solomon Islands in the last two years. DFID continues to provide assistance to the Solomon Islands through the EC. The UK also contributes significant indirect funding to the region through the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and United Nations agencies.

The 9th European development fund (EDF) covering the period 2003-09, has an allocation to the Solomon Islands of €21.15 million or £13.8 million; the UK share of this is some £1.75 million. The focus of the 9th EDF is sustainable rural development and community development, with a micro-projects programme and a capacity building and institutional strengthening programme as key elements. The EDF also provides resources under the STABEX mechanism, which provides compensation for adverse fluctuations in earnings from agricultural and mineral commodities. These have been allocated to education, transport, agriculture, forestry and rural development.

United Nations Population Fund

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations (a) Ministers and (b) officials have made about the decision of the Bush Administration not to fund the United Nations Population Fund; and if he will make a statement. [52536]

Mr. Thomas: There have been no representations directly by DFID Ministers or officials to the United States in response to the decision by the Bush Administration in July 2002 to withhold $34 million
 
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funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) based on claims that the fund supported coercive abortion in China.

At the Executive Board in September that year several other donors including the UK announced support for UNFPA, and signalled an increase in their contribution to UNFPA. The UK is providing £80 million core support to UNFPA over its four year funding framework from 2004-05 to 2007-08. We reiterated our support for UNFPA at the Executive Boards in June 2005 and January 2006 when the UK said

A State Department team that investigated UNFPA-supported projects in China submitted a report in May 2002, explaining they found no evidence that UNFPA had knowingly supported or participated in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in the People's Republic of China. UNFPA has also publicly stated that it has never, and will never, be involved in coercion in China or any part of the world. The Fund is a staunch supporter, and promoter, of the human rights-based approach to family planning.

In the same year DFID supported a study tour for three UK MP's to visit China to study its population and reproductive health policies and UNFPA's work in China. The team was made up of my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Chris McCafferty), the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) and the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb). Their report concluded that UNFPA was a force for good, and a copy was placed in the Library of the House.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Burma

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice her Department has given to the Heritage Lottery Fund regarding sourcing timber from Burma. [52218]

Mr. Morley: The Department has published general guidance on procuring timber from legal and sustainable sources and this has been drawn to the attention of the Heritage Lottery Fund. This general guidance makes no specific mention of Burma.

The Heritage Lottery Fund did receive an inquiry, from a trade journal, related to Burmese teak. The Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET), a helpline service set up by my Department, advised the Heritage Lottery Fund not to approve any timber that did not meet the Government's criteria for legality. CPET further advised that it was not then possible to say how a particular source of timber would match up against the Government's requirements until a suppler submitted specific evidence for assessment.
 
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