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29 Mar 2006 : Column 982W—continued

Child Soldiers

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support his Department is providing for programmes to reduce the number of child soldiers. [61760]

Mr. Thomas: The UK strongly supports UN Security Council Resolution 1612, condemning the use of child soldiers and backing Kofi Annan's action plan to reduce their number. DFID supports programmes in this area, in conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), both from DFID resources and from Her Majesty's Government Global and African Conflict Prevention Pools.

For example, in the last year DFID has provided:

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Commission for Africa

Ann Keen: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the future programme of the Commission for Africa. [62123]

Hilary Benn: The Commission for Africa (CFA) ceased to exist after it launched its report in March 2005, although its website ( has been established as a permanent resource for those interested in development and Africa.

The Commission's report set the tone for the unprecedented international attention that Africa received during 2005, not least the G8 summit. At Gleneagles, G8 leaders took up many of the Commission's recommendations and agreed a detailed set of commitments to tackle poverty covering areas including peace and security, good governance, human development and growth. To mark the first anniversary of the launch of the CFA report on 11 March 2006, the Government published a detailed report on the UK's contribution to taking forward the Commission's recommendations and to ensuring that the G8 deliver on their Gleneagles' commitments. This report, entitled Implementation of the Commission for Africa recommendations and G8 Gleneagles' commitments on poverty": The UK's contribution', was deposited in the Libraries of the House on 9 March, and was also sent to all Members of Parliament.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many and what proportion of (a) staff and (b) new staff employed in (i) his Department and (ii) each of the agencies for which he has responsibility, were registered as disabled in each of the last three years for which data are available. [61383]

Mr. Thomas: The numbers of staff and new staff in DFID who have declared a disability in each of the last three years is as follows:
Number of staff declaring a disability as at 1 April in each year

NumberPercentage of total

Number of new staff declaring a disability in each financial year

NumberPercentage of total

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The Cabinet Office also collects and publishes data from all departments on the numbers of staff who have declared a disability. The latest available information, for April 2004, is available in the Libraries of the House and on the Civil Service website at the following addresses:

for data relating to 1 April 2004, and

for previous reporting periods.

The figures published in these returns are rounded, and do not include data on the number of staff and new staff in DFID who have declared a disability.


Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effect of the Government of Lesotho's achievement of international debt repayment on funding of internal health and education programmes. [60919]

Mr. Thomas: In June 2005, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted a debt sustainability analysis (DSA) and concluded that Lesotho's debt levels were sustainable. This means it does not classify as a heavily indebted poor country (HIPC). Its annual interest payments on international debt in the financial year 2005–06 were 86.7 million Maloti roughly £8.2 million. Expenditure on health in that year was 390.3 million Maloti (approximately £37.2 million) and education 1128.6 million Maloti (approximately £107.5).

Interest payments on international debt were 1.8 per cent. of total Government expenditure, spending on health was 8.2 per cent. of Government expenditure and spending on education was 26.3 per cent. of Government expenditure.

The cancellation of Lesotho's international debt would not therefore, have significantly changed Lesotho's ability to fund health and education programmes.

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will take steps to cancel the debt owed to the UK by the Government of Lesotho. [61130]

Mr. Thomas: The UK cancelled all eligible bilateral aid loans to Lesotho in 1979 under the Retrospective Terms Adjustment programme. Only one loan remains outstanding to the UK, with £329,000 due as the UK's share of a loan made with other, then European Economic Countries (EEC) member states through the World Bank. The UK is in the process of agreeing debt relief treatment on this loan with the other creditors.

Lesotho does not have any outstanding debt to CDC (formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation), but does have £1.66 million of outstanding debts to the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD). These cannot be cancelled by the ECGD outside of an international agreement by the Paris Club of Government
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creditors without full compensation to the ECGD by DFID. This would involve re-allocation of DFID's budget at the expense of other poor countries.

Lesotho is not a heavily indebted poor country (HIPC), and so is not eligible for the exceptional debt relief offered under the HIPC initiative. However, the UK is committed to ensuring debt relief for all low-income countries that can use the resources effectively for poverty reduction. DFID is currently providing assistance to the Government of Lesotho to strengthen its financial management systems. Once the country's public expenditure management systems are sufficiently robust to meet the entry criteria, the UK will begin paying 10 per cent. of Lesotho's debt service payments to the World Bank and African Development Bank under our multilateral debt relief initiative.

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