Previous Section Index Home Page

21 Mar 2006 : Column 345W—continued

UN Human Rights Council

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the United States Administration regarding the creation of the UN Human Rights Council. [58832]

Ian Pearson: We worked closely and at many levels with US, European and other partners throughout negotiations on establishment of the new Human Rights Council, towards our shared goal of a strong, effective and credible new human rights body. We welcome the adoption by the UN General Assembly on 15 March of a resolution establishing the Human Rights Council.

UN Rapid Response

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by his Department to improve the strategic reserves of the UN to enable a rapid response in emergency situations. [58837]

Mr. Thomas: I have been asked to reply.

The key step in improving the strategic financial reserves of the UN has been the establishment of the new Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), consisting of a pre-existing $50 million loan facility and a substantial new grant facility. It was launched on 9 March, with contributions to the grant facility totalling $255 million from 38 donors. The UK is the single largest donor so far, contributing £40 million ($70 million). The CERF will be under the control of the UN Secretary-General, managed by the UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator with administrative support from the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It will allow UN humanitarian agencies to begin responding to a sudden crisis within a few days, rather than having to wait for donor funds to arrive, and also to respond to ongoing under-funded crises by ensuring essential humanitarian activities take place.

DFID also provides core funding to key UN agencies which may be used to establish or strengthen strategic asset and surge capacity. For example, DFID is providing £19 million core funding this year to support the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), including support to the Plan of Action for Strengthening Emergency Response Capacity. In 2005, we provided £500,000 to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for the establishment of the Protection Surge Capacity
21 Mar 2006 : Column 346W
programme (PROCAP), which provides a roster of qualified and experienced protection officers for rapid deployment. DFID has provided nearly £25 million over the past five years to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to improve emergency preparedness and response planning, supply and logistics, and staff training.

DFID is currently providing a core contribution of £5 million per annum to the World Food Programme , of which half will be used to enhance the WFP's effectiveness in humanitarian preparedness and response. We contribute £2 million per annum to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Health Action in Crisis programme to improve the WHO's performance in preparing for, responding to and recovering from health aspects of crises around the world.

DFID holds stocks of relief items in the UK, Dubai and the USA that may be used to further enhance the United Nations emergency response. Together with existing UN global stockholdings funded in part by UK contributions, such material support can be dispatched at short notice to the immediate affected areas. In addition to relief items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets, DFID provides specialised equipment such as communications, IT material and vehicles. The UK is a member of the International Humanitarian Partnership consortium providing surge capacity to enable the United Nations to respond rapidly through the provision of specialist teams and material. DFID supports UN Search and Rescue capability through agreements with UK Fire Brigades and specialist UK non-governmental organisations (NGO)s.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by his Department to improve the UN's capacity for the rapid deployment of troops for peacekeeping and peace-enforcement missions. [58838]

Mr. Straw: The UK supports development of an effective rapid deployment capability in support of UN peacekeeping, and this was endorsed by the leaders of all UN member states at the World Summit in September 2005. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is developing three options: the provision of a rapid deployment capability by regional organisations; the provision of a short-term capability by one or more individual countries and the cooperation arrangements between UN missions in the same region.

Our Mission to the UN is supporting DPKO's work on all these options through provision of bilateral UK advice and participation in a consultation group of interested member states.

We are closely involved in the development of regional rapid reaction capabilities. Within the EU, we have been at the forefront of the development of the EU's rapid response capabilities. In particular, the UK continues to take a leading role in the development of the EU Battlegroups initiative which should reach full operational capability in 2007. While an EU capability, Battlegroups can also be deployed at short notice and on a short term basis in response to a request from the UN.
21 Mar 2006 : Column 347W

In the African Union (AU), the joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence Conflict Prevention Pools are funding technical and financial assistance in setting up the AU's African Standby Force.

Progress has also been made in the area of cooperation arrangements between UN missions. The UK has supported recent Security Council decisions authorising the immediate redeployment of a force from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to respond to the deteriorating security situation in Co(r)te d'lvoire, and for provision to be made within UNMIL for a rapidly deployable contingency force for security of the Sierra Leone Special Court.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of (a) militarisation in Venezuela and (b) its impact on regional stability in Latin America. [58829]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: We regularly monitor military developments in Venezuela, as elsewhere in the world.

We continually assess patterns of military procurement that may affect regional stability across the world, including in Latin America. We monitor developments closely to better inform our own case-by-case consideration of UK export license applications against the Consolidated EU and National Export Licensing Criteria. We also hold discussions on global military procurement, as appropriate, with EU colleagues and other partners.


Air Passenger Duty

John Battle: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much revenue the air passenger duty has raised in each year since its introduction. [60313]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Information on the revenue raised from air passenger duty is available at the UK Trade Info website at:


Mr. Davidson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date meetings have taken place between his Department and representatives of Asda including Asda's parent company Wal-Mart, in the last 12 months; and if he will list the participants. [59960]

John Healey: As part of the normal process of contact with business, Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide range of individuals and organisations. As was the case with previous administrations, it is not the Government's usual practice to provide details of all such meetings. Treasury meetings are conducted in accordance with the ministerial code and the civil service code, as appropriate.
21 Mar 2006 : Column 348W

Child Tax Credit

Anne Main: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many telephone calls (a) by members of the public to the child tax credit helpline and (b) by hon. Members to the MPs' child tax credit helpline were received in each month for which figures are available. [43361]

Dawn Primarolo: (a) I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 14 March 2006, Official Report, column 2137.

(b) I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) on 18 October 2005, Official Report, column 948W. The figures for 1 September 2005 to 31 December 2005 are given as follows.
2005 monthNumber of calls to Tax Credit Office MPs' hotline

Next Section Index Home Page