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28 Mar 2006 : Column 868W—continued


Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development why Lesotho was not included in the final round of countries to be considered for debt cancellation. [60918]

Mr. Thomas: An increased number of countries have become eligible for the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative on the basis of their debt burdens at the end of 2004. They must now begin to make progress through the initiative by the end of 2006 in order to continue to be eligible.

There are two requirements to be eligible for HIPC status:

Lesotho is an IDA only borrower, but does not meet the criteria defining unsustainable debt.

Lesotho could however qualify for the UK's multilateral debt relief initiative (MDRI) providing debt relief to both HIPC and low-income countries (LIC). Under this initiative, the UK pays its share (10 per cent.) of the debt service costs to the World Bank (IDA loans) and African Development Fund debt, of non-HIPC, low-income countries like Lesotho. To qualify for reliefunder this initiative, countries are required to demonstrate robust public financial management
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systems to ensure the savings are used for poverty reduction. We are using poverty reduction support credits (PRSC) as a proxy measure of this.

Lesotho is discussing the possibility of a PRSC with the World Bank. DFID is also providing support to Lesotho to improve its financial management systems in order to help it qualify for MDRI.

Lesotho will benefit indirectly from the G8 multilateral debt relief initiative (MDRI). The G8 MDRI will result in HIPCs receiving full debt cancellation of remaining debts to the World Bank (IDA loans), the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Donor support for this will be allocated by these institutions to all poor countries (including non-HIPCs), and therefore Lesotho.

Palestinian Territories

Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the role of private sector initiatives as a means of sustaining international aid to the Palestinian territories. [62048]

Hilary Benn: I refer my hon. Friend to the response I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham) on 2 March 2006, Official Report, column 881W.


Mr. Holloway: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of aid distribution to those areas affected by the December 2004 tsunami, with particular reference to whether it has been distributed without reference to religious, political or other such considerations. [54918]

Mr. Thomas: We have monitored the distribution of DFID aid to those affected by the December 2004 tsunami. We did learn of some problems in India, where there was some reluctance by the authorities to allow aid to reach certain castes. This was overcome through representations made to the authorities. More recently, however, we have seen the January 2006 report of a five-country study by a group of international charities reporting internal discrimination. Although we manage and monitor DFID humanitarian aid very closely and have found no evidence of discrimination in the distribution of DFID aid in tsunami-affected countries, we take such reporting seriously and are prepared both to discuss this with the international charities and to intervene again, if necessary, with the national authorities.

DFID has provided £1.5 million to the North East Provincial Council Secretariat (NEPC) in partnership with the Governments of Germany and Sri Lanka to improve its capacity to deliver aid and to help ensure that Tamil areas received improved access to development assistance. DFID also channelled £3 million through the United Nations Development Programme for the 'UN Recovery Framework for Post-Tsunami Rehabilitation and Reconstruction' which is helping to ensure that the needs of socially-excluded groups are met during recovery.
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A group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), jointly funded by DFID and International NGOs, initiated a Social Equity Audit process in response to claims that some Dalits in India and other groups were being excluded from some post tsunami humanitarian efforts. A group of independent auditors have been trained by experts identified by the International NGOs. The International NGOs will submit their programmes to these auditors to assess how inclusive their post tsunami activities have been in order to improve their programmes and identify ways to make their humanitarian efforts more inclusive in the future. TheUnited Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children's Fund have signed up to the initiative and a Social Equity auditing manual is likely to be produced which DFID will disseminate to NGOs and agencies.


Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what resources his Department has allocated to assisting the Government of Uganda to carry out a review of its armed forces; and if he will make a statement. [61597]

Hilary Benn: Human security is essential to help reduce poverty. At the same time it is important for governments to strike the right balance between security expenditure and expenditure on areas such as education and health.

DFID has provided approximately £500,000 between December 2001 and December 2005 to help the Ugandan Ministry of Defence carry out Uganda's first strategic Defence Review. The aim of the Defence Review is to make the Uganda People's Defence Force more professional and accountable within the resources available for defence expenditure. In particular, the review has systematically assessed Uganda's security needs and identified the reforms required to address these needs most cost effectively. Its implementation will ensure that Uganda's defence budget is appropriate and affordable in the context of other competing priorities.

Already the review has been the basis for the development of a Defence Corporate Plan that prioritises expenditure and includes indicators which can be used to monitor performance for example in procurement, financial management and management of human resources. The Defence Review and the Corporate Plan provide a basis for more effective dialogue between Government and development partners about Uganda's defence expenditure.


Legal Aid (Support Services)

25. Ms Abbott: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on the Legal Services Commission's decision to end legal aid funding to specialist support services, with particular reference to the recent report of the Constitutional Affairs Committee. [61529]

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Ms Harman: The Legal Services Commission published its five-year strategy for the Community Legal Service on 23 March 2006. They will be consulting on proposals on the future of the specialist support initiative in line with that strategy. We will be responding shortly to the Select Committee Report.

House of Lords Reform

26. Barbara Keeley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the timetable is for establishing the Joint Committee to consider reform of the House of Lords. [61530]

Bridget Prentice: The Government want to create a reformed upper chamber that is effective, legitimate and more representative without challenging the primacy of the House of Commons. We are committed to establishing a Joint Committee of the two Houses to look at the powers of the House of Lords and I trust we shall be able to proceed with the establishment of the Joint Committee as soon as possible.

Domestic Violence Courts

27. John Smith: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on the introduction of specialist domestic violence courts. [61531]

Ms Harman: By 1 April 2006, the Government's Specialist Domestic Violence Court programme will be supporting 25 specialist domestic violence court systems across England and Wales. These are not just about the courthouse or the practices of the court but are about a multi-agency approach which makes the court system and the CJS part of a community wide response to domestic violence.

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