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2 May 2006 : Column 1332W—continued


Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will set out the Government's proposals to increase capacity funding to help African and other developing countries develop their 10 year plans for providing education under his delivering education for all initiative. [65187]

Hilary Benn: We anticipate that the fast track initiative's education programme development fund, to which we are doubling our contribution from £2.5 million to £5 million, will be used to help provide technical support to countries with weak capacity to develop or implement sound 10-year education sector plans. This will be the main channel for identifying where technical help is needed, in consultation with other donors who are supporting the education sector. We are also increasing our support to the fast track initiative's catalytic fund from £50 million to £150 million over two years.

Equal Pay

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are undertaken within his Department to ensure that women are obtaining equal pay to men doing work of equal value. [65848]

Hilary Benn: The Cabinet Office undertook an equal pay review for the senior civil service (SCS) in 2002 which has been re-examined each year since then as part of the Government's evidence to the Senior Salaries Review Body.

DFID carries out a full diversity review, including an equal pay analysis, prior to the implementation of its annual senior civil service (SCS) pay award.

In response to Just Pay", the Equal Pay Task Force report published in January 2001, the Government committed Departments and agencies to review their pay systems for all staff below the SCS, and to address any equal pay gaps by April 2003.

DFID carried out a fundamental equal pay audit and produced a detailed action plan in April 2003. All aspects of pay and reward are audited for diversity purposes, including equal pay, on an annual basis.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with the Government of Eritrea about its decision to expel three international aid charities. [65728]

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Hilary Benn: The British ambassador and DFID staff have raised this issue, in the wider context of the constraints placed on the humanitarian operations by the Government of Eritrea with the Minister for National Development, the Minister for Labour and Human Welfare, the Director General Europe (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the Director of the Office of the President, during a DFID visit to Eritrea earlier this month. The Government of Eritrea said they were concerned about the amount of assistance that they have received, with little impact.

The British ambassador and DFID officials also met with the three international NGOs concerned.

I also spoke with the UN Secretary-General's Special Humanitarian Envoy for the horn of Africa, Mr. Kjell Bondevik, before he departed for Eritrea this week and also with the UN Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, Mr. Jan Egeland. I highlighted my concern about this issue and the lack of reliable information on the humanitarian situation in Eritrea, and encouraged Mr. Bondevik to raise these issues during his visit.


Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what development assistance (a) his Department and (b) the EU has provided to Ethiopia in each of the last five years. [66487]

Hilary Benn: DFID's development assistance to Ethiopia (in the last five complete financial years) is as follows:
£ million


Assistance from the EU (in calendar years) is as follows, with DFID's share of this funding shown in brackets:
£ million

200045.6 (10.2)
200169.4 (11.8)
200277.7 (9.3)
200391.3 (10.3)
200461.5 (11.3)

Gurkha Welfare Scheme

Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what financial support his Department made available to the Gurkha welfare scheme in 2005–06; what such support is planned for 2006–07; and what the reasons are for the change in the level of support. [66364]

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Mr. Thomas: In 2005–06, DFID provided £1.25 million through the Gurkha welfare scheme (GWS) for improvements to water and sanitation facilities in rural Nepal.

For 2006–07, DFID has allocated £900,000 to the GWS. Other competing demands within declining DFID allocations for the Nepal programme meant that it was not possible to maintain or increase the previous levels of support.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the (a) scale of illegal logging transfers from Burma to China and (b) impact illegal logging has on each country. [65723]

Hilary Benn: In April 2005, DFID funded the NGO Forest Trends, in co-operation with the World Agroforestry Centre (formerly ICRAF), to produce a report: 'Navigating the Border: An Analysis of the China-Myanmar Timber Trade'. In addition, Her Majesty's Government officials were consulted on the October 2005 Global Witness Report: A Choice for China: Ending the destruction of Burma's frontier forests". We believe that the analysis of the trade and its impact contained in these reports is broadly accurate. They report that:

China imported 1.3 million m 3 of timber from Burma in 2003, almost 60 per cent. of total world imports of Burmese timber. In financial terms this equates to illegal timber exports worth $250 million to $300 million annually across the border from northern Burma to China's Yunnan province. Global Witness estimate that two-thirds of Burma's total revenue from timber exports came from illegal trade, mostly with China, and that more than 100 Chinese timber companies and 20,000 Chinese loggers are involved in the trade inside Burma.

In Burma, logging is having an adverse effect on both the local population and the environment. Deforestation has caused localised flooding, drought and resulting crop failure, the disappearance of wild animals and birdlife associated with the forests. Local people in Burma derive little direct financial benefit from the logging industry and are frequently worse off as a result of the presence of Chinese logging companies.

In China, the increased concentration of logging firms and workers along the Yunnan-Burma border has meant that the timber buyers on China's eastern seaboard largely bypass inland Yunnan and procure materials directly on the border. The recent wave of migration to the Yunnan-Burma border has, in some areas, led to a visible increase in gambling, drugs and commercial sex work.

In March 2006, in response to these reports, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry took the unusual step of admitting that some of its companies and individual citizens are involved in illegal logging in Burma, and said the Government were paying high attention" to the problem and requests the Chinese companies and individuals to abide by local laws and regulations."
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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have funded follow-up work by Global Witness to identify 'Opportunities for Action' with recommendations for the Burmese Government, Burmese civil society and international community, which should also be considered in the framework of the EU's commitment to fight against illegal logging worldwide as part of the FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) process. The Commission have made a proposal for 'voluntary partnerships' with producer countries to identify legal logs for import into the EU.

Middle East

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to his answer of 29 March 2006, Official Report, column 979–80W, to the hon. Friend Member for Teignbridge, (Richard Younger-Ross), and of 18 April 2006 to Question 63655, on the Middle East, what is meant by programmes aimed at meeting Palestinians' basic needs; what the budget for such funds is; and how such funds will be administered. [65954]

Hilary Benn: Meeting Palestinians' basic needs is about finding other ways to stop poverty getting worse including funding for essential services such as health, water and electricity.

DFID has made £30 million available to the Palestinian programme for 2006–07. This includes a £15 million contribution announced on 25 April to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which provides direct assistance to Palestinian refugees.

We are in close contact with the UN and international partners on identifying other mechanisms for supporting basic needs. We will not be funding organisations where there is a risk of resources being used for anything other than poverty reduction.

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