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9 May 2006 : Column 142W—continued

Mr. Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the merits of (a) non-governmental organisations and (b) private sector initiatives funding as a means of sustaining international aid to the Palestinian territories. [68898]

Hilary Benn: Supporting the basic needs of the Palestinian people is a high priority for DFID's programme of assistance. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector play a vital role in meeting the needs of some Palestinians. However, NGOs and the private sector do not have the capacity to substitute for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which, together with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), provides the vast majority of basic services to people in the West Bank and Gaza. We hope that the new Palestinian government will comply with the Quartet principles. If this happened, DFID funding would continue through the PA.

DFID and Her Majesty's Treasury are continuing work that began before the Palestinian elections to take forward the Chancellor of the Exchequer's initiative on the contribution of private sector development and growth to sustained peace in the region. The business environment is clearly very difficult, but we are assessing what opportunities there might be.

Pygmies (Congo Basin)

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken by his Department to provide support for pygmies in the Congo basin who have been affected by conflict. [68232]

Hilary Benn: In 2005-06, DFID provided£29.5 million in assistance to meet humanitarian needs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) out of a total programme of £55 million. We do not earmark our assistance specifically for particular ethnic groups so cannot say what proportion of this would have benefited pygmies. In addition to humanitarian assistance, the majority of our programme is focused on successful completion of the transition process and peace-building activities aimed at reducing the risks of conflict. These activities along with a major diplomatic effort are aimed at seeing a permanent end to the
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conflict in the DRC that has had such a devastating impact on the people including pygmies.

In 2004-05, we also provided £500,000 in assistance to meet humanitarian needs in the Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), also not targeted to any particular ethnic groups.


Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much (a) his Department and (b) its agencies spent on recruitment, search and selection agencies in each of the last five years. [68338]

Mr. Thomas: DFID does not make use of recruitment, search and selection agencies when recruiting staff to the home civil service.

In accordance with The Civil Service Commissioners code, external appointments are made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition.

Our job advertisements are placed in the national press or specialised magazines in addition to appearing on DFID's own website Since 2003, all of our vacancies have also been placed on the civil service recruitment Gateway website

Sex Tourism

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken by his Department to work with developing countries to tackle sex tourism, with particular reference to that involving children. [68174]

Mr. Thomas: The Department for International Development (DFID) is working with Governments of developing countries to reduce poverty. Poverty can make poor people vulnerable to exploitation in local and international sex tourism. DFID has committed approximately £12 million to support countries’ efforts to combat trafficking of poor women and children, many of whom are trafficked for work in the sex industry.

DFID's commitments include support throughthe International Labour Organisation's (ILO) International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour to help eliminate labour exploitation of women and children in the Greater Mekong basin in South East Asia. This six year programme began in 2003 and works with the Governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and the province of Yunnan in China to combat trafficking of women and children. DFID is also supporting a Save the Children Fund programme, which works with communities and is specially designed to complement the ILO's interventions on trafficking at national level.

Sexual Violence

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken by his Department (a) to reduce the incidence of sexual violence in Democratic Republic of theCongo and (b) to improve the status of women in society. [68230]

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Hilary Benn: We are concerned about the continuing reports of wide-scale sexual violence in the DRC, primarily against women, though also against significant numbers of children and men too. Rape seems to have become a weapon of war among armed groups. The prevailing culture of impunity, which creates the conditions for ongoing human rights violations, persists in the great lakes region.

The UK is working with the international community at different levels to deal with causes and symptoms of this, and has raised the issue with the Congolese authorities at all levels on many occasions, reminding them of the need to protect the rights of all vulnerable groups and for judicial action to be taken to bring the perpetrators of such abuses to justice. Specifically, as a member of the International Committee to Support the Transition (CIAT), the UK has joined the international community in highlighting abuses perpetrated by the Congolese army against the civilian population.

To end the cycle of human rights violations in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), there needs to be an end to conflict in the country and the whole great lakes region. Conflict reduction is a major focus of the UK's engagement in DRC, and at a local level in the East we support NGOs who are promoting dialogue and peace building work between communities previously in conflict, with a total commitment of £3.3 million.

In addition, all the projects within this peace building programme try to tackle many of the underlying causes of sexual violence and to enhance women's status in society by working with women's organisations. One example of this type of work is International Alert's support for the South Kivu Women's Forum, which brings together women's organisations from community groups to women politicians to work for women's empowerment and peace.

Other areas of our work aim to address other aspects of women's empowerment. For example we are providing support of £800,000 to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to ensure women's full participation in the electoral process, both as candidates and voters.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken by his Department to provide (a) psychological counselling for rape victims, (b) education for communities to reduce the stigma associated with rape, (c) medical treatment for victims including repair of fistula, (d) support for women made pregnant as a result of rape and (e) other support for victims of sexual violence in Democratic Republic of the Congo. [68231]

Hilary Benn: The high incidence of sexual violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is of great concern to the Government, particularly as recent evidence that suggest that levels are increasing. Providing support to the victims of such violence is a key part of humanitarian work in the DRC and DFID is a major donor to humanitarian programmes in the country, through the DRC Humanitarian Action Plan.

The Action Plan identifies 'protection' as a key sector for support, which includes ensuring that special measures are implemented to protect women and girls
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from violence in emergency situations and providing adequate assistance for survivors of gender-based violence.

Many of the individual humanitarian projects that we fund include providing support, especially medical assistance to victims of sexual violence, particularly in Eastern DRC. We are providing £440,000 to the Norwegian non-governmental organisation (NGO,) Christian Relief Network to set up and run a hospital wing in South Kivu treating women suffering from fistula—which is one of the most serious and devastating consequences of sexual violence. Their programme includes some of psychological support for patients as well as medical treatment. We are also supporting the International Committee of the Red Cross, who have recently launched a gender-based violence pilot programme in the East.

We have recently agreed to the addition of medical and psychosocial support for victims of sexual violence to an existing humanitarian health programme implemented by the health NGO, Merlin.

Sierra Leone

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the percentage of the population of Sierra Leone which (a) lives below the poverty line and (b) lives on (i) $1 and (ii) $2 a day. [68150]

Hilary Benn: The Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey of 2003-04 (the latest available figures) found that:

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department has taken to help Sierra Leone develop policies to enable its Government to generate income from (a) diamonds and (b) fishing. [68152]

Hilary Benn: DFID is supporting the objectives set out in the Government of Sierra Leone's Core Mineral Policy. It has two main aims: to maximise the economic and social benefits of the diamond sector to both the Government and the people of Sierra Leone; and to ensure that the benefits accrued from the sector are divided more equitably among those involved. I refer the hon. Member for Cotswold to the answer I previously gave on 7 March 2006, Official Report, columns 1395-6.

DFID is committed to ensuring that the Government of Sierra Leone maximise the revenues it can accrue from its mineral resources, including the diamond sector. As part of this commitment, DFID is recruiting a Director General (DG) for the Ministry of Mineral Resources (MMR), whose principle task will be to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Ministry. The DG's responsibilities will include
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overseeing a work plan that the MMR will develop in close consultation with the Office of the President. The DG will also liaise closely with other ministries, such as the National Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Finance to ensure that the policies developed maximise the revenue potential available to the Government from its extractive sector.

DFID officials are currently assessing options for providing support to fisheries policy development and more effective fisheries management by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. The European Commission (EC) is currently supporting a fisheries stock assessment in Sierra Leone and DFID's assistance would aim to build on this. At the same time, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has shown an interest in engaging with Sierra Leone on issues relating to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Our combined objective is to ensure the wealth of this highly prized fishery accrues to Sierra Leone for use by Sierra Leoneans. It is commonly recognised that currently Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries Liberia and Guinea, are together losing $140 million in fish that is stolen by illegal foreign fleets operating beyond the reach of national policing. A recent DFID assessment mission noted that this would have important benefits for the many small-scale fishers and processors and help them access new markets for their produce.

The mission was undertaken as part of the development of a new Joint EC/DFID Country Strategy Paper for Sierra Leone, which will be published in the autumn.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what percentage of the population of Sierra Leone has access to (a) free education and basic healthcare and (b) fresh water; and what steps he is taking to increase the percentage in each case. [68153]

Hilary Benn: There is currently no accurate or reliable data on the percentage of the population that have access to free education and basic health care services. The Ministry of Health estimates for 2005, indicate that approximately 60 per cent. of the population has access to health services of some kind. I refer the hon. Member to the information on ‘gross school enrolment rates’ in my answer of 13 March 2006, Official Report, column 1941W.

On the percentage of the population who have access to safe water, estimates from the Sierra Leone National Energy and Water Policy Planning Unit vary from21 per cent. to 46 per cent. (Updated water data from a household survey will be available soon and DFID is supporting ActionAid to undertake a water user survey in the Freetown area.)

At the end of the conflict in 2002, DFID agreed a country assistance programme with the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) which focused on promoting peace and security, and good governance. This, with poverty reduction budget support, has formed the core of DFID support to date. As part of the development a new Joint Country Strategy, DFID, the GoSL and the European Commission (EC) are reviewing existing country programmes. This will include an assessment
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of needs in the education, health and water sectors.A draft of the Joint Country Strategy will be available for wider consultation in July.

In the meantime, DFID is funding a number of separate initiatives across all three sectors. These include:

White Papers

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many White Papers were published by his Department in 2005; and if he will make a statement. [68247]

Hilary Benn: No White Papers within the Commands Paper series were published by DFIDin 2005.


Aircraft (Air Supply)

John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the Civil Aviation Authority has started an investigation into the chronic neurotoxic effects of exposure to pyrolised engine oils via inhalation from aircraft engines into the cabin air supply on various types of aircraft; and if he will make a statement. [67802]

Derek Twigg: We have commissioned for the independent Committee on Toxicity (COT) to conduct a comprehensive evidence review of any health risks in cabin air and the CAA are contributing to this process. The formal COT meeting will be held in public later this year.

Cabotage Directive

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the impact of the EU Directive relating to cabotage on the UK haulage industry. [69528]

Dr. Ladyman: Based on figures published by Eurostat, it is estimated that, in 2004, cabotage operations by foreign hauliers accounted for about1.2 per cent. of all road haulage operations in the UK (the cabotage penetration rate for the EU as a whole was also about 1.2 per cent.)

We are working with industry, through the Haulage Industry Task Group, to gather further evidence on the range of challenges facing the haulage industry, including competition from overseas, but also a number of other important issues.

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Corporate Hospitality

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport on how many occasions he has accepted corporate hospitality in the last 12 months. [67529]

Derek Twigg: Paragraph 5.28 of the Ministerial Code sets out the rules on the registration of hospitality.

Departmental Websites

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list (a) the websites operated by his Department and (b) the reports placed on the internet in March 2006, indicating in each case whether paper copies were also made available. [65200]

Derek Twigg: The following websites are operated by the Department for Transport and its Agencies:

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