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18 Apr 2006 : Column 520W—continued

Tenancy Deposit Scheme

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he expects to implement the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. [63417]

Yvette Cooper: Tenancy deposit protection is scheduled to commence in England and Wales on 1 October 2006. There will be two types of scheme: a single custodial scheme (where deposits are paid into and held in a separate account); and one or more insurance-based schemes (where the landlord or agent retains the deposit and any failure on their part to repay it to the tenant is covered by the scheme's insurance arrangements). Each scheme will offer an alternative dispute resolution service. Both types of scheme will apply only to assured shorthold tenancies where a deposit is taken.

Tenant Empowerment Programmes

John Hemming: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the budget for the (a) National Programme of Training for Residents, (b) Tenant Empowerment Programme and (c) Tenant Empowerment Grant was in each year since 2003–04; how much has been allocated for 2006–07 in each case; and if he will make a statement. [59143]

Yvette Cooper: The budget for (a) the National Programme of Training for Residents in 2003–04 was £757,235; for 2004–05 it was £517,260; for 2005–06 it is £399,874 and for 2006–07 £162,368 has been allocated.

The total budget for (b) the National Training and Conferences Programme (including the National Programme of Training for Residents) for 2003–04 was £1,611,438; for 2004–05 it was £1,422,584; for 2005–06 it is £939,783 and for 2006–07 the budget is £679,996.

The Tenant Empowerment Grant budget (c) for 2003–04 was £4,600,000; for 2004–05 it was £4,100,000; for 2005–06 it is £3,600,000 and for 2006–07, £2,640,000.

A large part of the reduction at the end of the current financial year is being taken up by the completion of the five-year Innovation into Action (IiA) programme the budget for which was £940,000 for 2005–06.

The Office further secures tenant empowerment through mainstream programmes offering tenants the opportunity to become much more involved in making decisions about the management and ownership of their homes, through the decent homes option appraisal
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process, and through the implementation of the chosen decent homes option such as arms length management organisations and housing transfer housing associations There is a dedicated programme of £400,000 in the 2006–07 Tenant Empowerment programme to facilitate tenants exploring tenant-led ownership as part of the delivery of decent homes. Tyler-CLT User Conference

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether representatives from his Department will attend the 2006 Tyler-CLT User Conference in Utah, USA in April. [60191]

Jim Fitzpatrick: No.



Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the administration of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. [55202]

Hilary Benn: Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK recently undertook an Evaluation of their Humanitarian and Reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2005. The evaluation found that the humanitarian assistance provided, when combined with internal Afghan political stabilisation and economic recovery, had been successful in responding to the humanitarian challenge. The evaluation assesses the main implementing bodies on performance. The UN agencies, who were responsible for a large percentage of the humanitarian assistance provided by the UK, were judged in a positive light. The evaluation did find, however, that this aid had come at a high cost because of security and logistical constraints, and that for the same reasons had been unevenly distributed between the regions and communities of Afghanistan.

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of progress towards the post-conflict reconstruction of Afghanistan. [55325]

Hilary Benn: Despite a legacy of more than 20 years of conflict, Afghanistan has made rapid progress over the last four years. A new constitution has been established, and a democratically President and Parliament has been elected. The Government is strongly committed to working with the international community to achieve development progress. Economic growth has been good, and for 2005–06 is forecast to be over 13 per cent. There are now 60 per cent. more functioning health clinics, nearly two thousand schools have been built or rehabilitated and 60,000 former combatants have been disarmed.

However, while progress is encouraging, Afghanistan is still one of the world's poorest countries. It is off track on all of the Millennium Development Goals. The political consensus is unstable, with continued insurgency in parts of the country. Reconstruction will take quite some time. Limited capacity within Government institutions is a significant challenge, as is the opium economy, which threatens to undermine progress on all fronts, including on development.
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John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his assessment is of the effectiveness of policies to control the opium trade in Afghanistan. [55351]

Hilary Benn: The effectiveness of policies to control drug production in Afghanistan will only be shown if Afghanistan can achieve reductions in poppy cultivation which can be sustained over the long-term. The updated Afghan National Drug Control Strategy launched at the London Conference on 31 January/1 February 2006, acknowledged that sustainable drug elimination will take many years. The updated strategy sets out the Afghan Government's counter-narcotics policies for the coming three years and highlights priorities where activity is likely to make the greatest impact in the short-term. These are (i) targeting the trafficker and trade; (ii) strengthening and diversifying legal livelihoods; (iii) developing effective counter-narcotics institutions; and (iv) reducing the demand for drugs. DFID believes this is the right approach and is committed to helping the Afghan Government rid Afghanistan of the drugs trade over the long-term through the social and economic development of the country.

Progress has been made, but it is fragile. There was a significant drop in cultivation in 2005, but early indications suggest that the total area under cultivation in 2006 has increased. This demonstrates that eradication will take time, and alternative livelihoods remain a central part of sustainable eradication.

In 2005, the area under cultivation fell 21 per cent. (from 131,000 hectares to 104,000 hectares). There were also more seizures (around 160 tonnes of opiates seized since January 2004) 90 convictions by the Criminal Justice Task Force, 247 more cases under investigation, a new counter- narcotics law passed in December and progress on developing alternative livelihoods.

However, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Opium Rapid Assessment Survey for 2006 carried out over January and February, suggests there may be an increase in the overall levels of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2006, compared with 2005. Although this is only an estimate—we will not know final cultivation figures until the UNODC produce those figures later in the year 2006—it does give cause for concern; but it does not mean policies are failing. The headline figures produced by the Rapid Assessment Survey mask significant progress, particularly in provinces where we saw significant reductions last year. For the first time since the Taliban ban in 2000, reductions will be sustained in a number of areas, particularly around provincial capitals, where a more effective Afghan state appears to be driving cultivation into the less accessible peripheral areas.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on aid policy to Afghanistan. [63138]

Hilary Benn: The Government of Afghanistan's Interim National Development Strategy provides the foundation for DFID's activity in Afghanistan. Under the 10-year Development Partnership Arrangement the Prime Minister signed with President Karzai at the London Conference, we will provide £330 million of
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development assistance over the next 3 years, as part of the overall UK pledge of £500 million, to reduce poverty, improve security and governance, and tackle the opium industry.

DFID Afghanistan's programme concentrates on three areas:

Progress in these three areas is essential to ensuring that long term development can happen.

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