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Sustainable Development

Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps the Government are taking to promote sustainable development in the developing world towards the reduction of global greenhouse gases; and if he will make a statement. [60454]

Mr. Thomas: DFID takes the issue of climate change very seriously. We are working with others, in particular the World Bank and other multilateral development banks, to increase investment in low carbon energy, particularly in developing countries. This is in line with the Gleneagles Plan of Action for Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development, which the G8 signed up to in July 2005. This included commitments to encourage increased investment in cleaner and more efficient energy technologies.

Specifically, the World Bank and Regional Development Banks are developing the Energy Investment Framework to address obstacles to investment in low carbon development and encourage both public and private sectors to invest more in clean energy in developing countries. The Framework will also look to improve the effectiveness of existing strategies in developing world countries, for example, by integrating climate change into transport sector strategies.

In addition to this, the Government have been supporting EU efforts to promote low carbon energy in developing countries. At the EU-India Summit in September 2005, both parties agreed to launch an EU-India Initiative on Clean Development and Climate Change. One aim of the Initiative will be to increase funding and promote public-private partnerships for
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research and development of cleaner technologies. It will also look to reduce the price gap between cleaner" and less efficient" technologies.

Similarly, an EU-China Partnership was signed in September 2005. As a focal part of this, the UK is supporting a new initiative on near-Zero Emissions Coal with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to address the challenge of tackling increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the use of coal in China. The aim is to bring forward the time when new Chinese coal plants are built with CCS. Near-Zero Emissions Coal and large-scale deployment of CCS in China could halve their projected emissions by 2030. This will be a significant achievement as on current levels China is set to overtake the United States as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the next 20 years.


Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on recent discussions with the Government of Uganda on (a) the humanitarian situation and (b) its support for a negotiated end to the conflict in the north of the country. [60493]

Hilary Benn: We have regular discussions with the Government of Uganda on the humanitarian situation in the north and efforts to end the conflict, both at ministerial and official level.

Most recently, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, attended a ministerial meeting in Geneva on 20 March to discuss how best to take forward international community efforts to address the conflict and its humanitarian consequences. At the meeting high-level delegations from the UK, US, Netherlands, Norway, United Nation agencies and the Government of Uganda discussed a range of proposals for better political involvement and strengthening the co-ordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance on the ground. The next step will be detailed follow up at official level in Kampala over the next few weeks.

We have been one of the largest humanitarian donors in Uganda over the last five years and this year we have provided over £20 million in humanitarian assistance. We have also provided financial support for conflict resolution and mediation. We have a major commitment to help end the conflict and rebuild the shattered communities of northern Uganda.

World Food Programme

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what criteria he uses to assess whether the UK Government contribute to the World Food Programme's disaster derivative insurance scheme; [60428]

(2) what discussions (a) he and (b) his officials have had on contributing to the World Food Programme's disaster derivative insurance scheme; [60429]

(3) what his assessment is of the World Food Programme's decision to buy natural disaster insurance cover in case of drought in Ethiopia. [60430]

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Mr. Thomas: The World Food Programme's (WFP) pilot drought insurance project was launched in Ethiopia earlier this year, for one year. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not had discussions with the WFP on this issue, but DFID officials have followed the project's evolution closely and, with other WFP members, have provided detailed feedback in the WFP executive board meetings and privately to the secretariat. The Government are not contributing to this pilot, which has received the funding it needs from other sources. The key criterion we will use in deciding whether or not to contribute to any future schemes will be the extent to which we believe they can ensure timely and reliable delivery of assistance to those who need it most.

The current pilot in Ethiopia is designed to benefit farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by drought of the severity experienced on average once every 10 years in Ethiopia. It does not target all those whose lives are threatened by insufficient food. They would depend on other mechanisms, including emergency food aid operations and the existing Productive Safety Nets Programme in Ethiopia; DFID contributes resources to both.

Over the past 15 months, the UK Government have proposed a number of reforms aimed at making the humanitarian system more effective. These include investing 10 per cent. of emergency response funds in measures to prevent, or reduce the impact of, future disasters, and reforming and expanding the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund, to enable the UN to launch an immediate response wherever it is needed. DFID will continue to monitor the WFP's scheme and other developments in the area of disaster insurance.


Business Rates

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether a de minimis size is set for (a) a business property and (b) a piece of permanent stationary business equipment to be liable for business rates. [59125]

Mr. Woolas: There is no minimum size below which a hereditament is not liable for business rates. However, size may in certain very particular circumstances specified in the Valuation for Rating (Plant and Machinery) (England) Regulations 2000 be one factor in determining whether a piece of equipment is rateable.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the business rate liability is for a (a) pico cell, (b) micro cell and (c) macro cell mobile phone mast. [60125]

Mr. Woolas: The liability for business rates of any hereditament is calculated by multiplying its rateable value by the appropriate multiplier and applying any applicable reliefs. The rateable value, determined by the valuation officer, of hereditaments, which includes
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mobile phone mast installations, is a professional view of the annual rent of the individual hereditament established in accordance with the provisions of schedule 6 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988, at a set date—1 April 2003 for the current 2005 rating lists. The rateable value for these types of mobile phone masts would depend on, and be reflective of, rental evidence from the locality in which they are sited.

Comprehensive Performance Assessment

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has for comprehensive performance assessment. [60194]

Mr. Woolas: It is anticipated that the current framework for single tier and county council comprehensive performance assessment (CPA) will be in place until 2008. The Audit Commission has recently consulted on its approach to the assessment of district councils during the same period, and is due to confirm its approach shortly.

No decisions on the future of CPA beyond 2008 have yet been made.

Government Offices for the Regions

Mr. Syms: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what proportion of Government offices for the regions staff are (a) male and (b) female. [60022]

Jim Fitzpatrick: As of 17 March 2006 the Government offices for the regions staff in post is made up of 53.7 per cent. female and 46.3 per cent. male staff.

Mr. Syms: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what proportion of Government offices for the regions staff are in each ethnic group. [60023]

Jim Fitzpatrick: As of the 17 March 2006 the proportion of staff in each ethnic group for the Government offices for the regions is illustrated in the following table;
Any other Asian background0.5
Any other black background0.14
Any Chinese background0.18
Asian and white0
Black African and white0
Black Caribbean and white0
Any other mixed ethnic background0
White background77.48
Any other ethnic background0.86

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