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18 May 2006 : Column 1189Wcontinued
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of funds available to the Palestinian Ministry of Health; and what action he is taking in this regard. 
Hilary Benn: In 2005, the Ministry of Health incurred expenditures of US$155 million. According to the World Health Organisation, these expenditures were covered by international aid (23 per cent.), domestic taxation (25-29 per cent.) and clearance revenues from Israel (42-46 per cent.).
Following the appointment of the Hamas-led Government and its failure to comply with the Quartets conditions of renouncing violence, recognising Israel and accepting previous international agreements, all three sources of funds have declined. We are aware of reports that the Palestinian Ministry of Health does not have sufficient funds to purchase vital supplies and pay its staff. On 9 May, the Quartet invited the European Union to design a temporary international funding mechanism to help meet Palestinian basic needs. We are working closely with the European Commission to take this forward as quickly as possible, with a focus on direct funding of health sector expenditures.
Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what meetings officials in his Department have had with representatives of the public relations company Portland PR; what contracts Portland PR has with his Department and agencies for which he has responsibility; and what the nature of the contract is in each case. 
Mr. Thomas: The Department for International Development (DFID) does not maintain a central list of such meetings. Civil servants meet many people as part of the process of policy development and business delivery. All such meetings are conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Civil Service Code and Guidance for civil servants on contracts with lobbyists and people outside Government. DFID have no contracts with Portland PR.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much has been paid in (a) salary, (b) travelling expenses, (c) subsistence allowance and (d) removal expenses to special advisers in his private office in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Thomas: Since 2003, the Government have published on an annual basis the names and overall cost of special advisers and the number in each payband. For information relating to the last financial year I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 21 July 2005, Official Report, columns 158-61WS.
Information on special advisers for this financial year is currently being collected and will be published in the normal way when it is ready.
All official travel by special advisers is undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service Management Code.
Other costs are not held centrally and could be obtained only by incurring a disproportionate cost.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many promotion boards have been held in his Department in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Thomas: Since 2003, the Department for International Development (DFID) has held annual grade specific promotion boards for all grades.
This has resulted in six separate promotion boards each year.
Prior to 2003, promotion below the Senior Civil Service (SCS) was on a post by post basis and we do not hold a consolidated record of the number of boards held.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many public consultations his Department undertook in the last year; and what the cost was (a) in total and (b) of each consultation. 
Mr. Thomas: Over the year 2005 the Department for International Development undertook six formal public consultations in order to inform the Department's policy development. Information on the cost of each consultation and the total cost of all consultations could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many complaints of racial abuse have (a) been investigated and (b) upheld in his Department in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Thomas: DFID did not hold a central record of discipline and grievance cases until 1 October 2004. We have no record of any complaint of racial abuse in the last five years.
Mr. Newmark: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will assess the merits of using amphibian aircraft to service the island of St. Helena in preference to the construction of a new airport. 
Mr. Thomas: The merits of using amphibious aircraft to service the island of St. Helena were assessed as part of the 2004-05 feasibility study. This option was rejected for a number of reasons. There are no civilian seaplanes currently in operation that could provide a reliable service in the sea conditions that exist in St. Helena, where there is no shelter from the South Atlantic swells that regularly prevent cruise ship passengers from disembarking. Even if it were possible to make an acceptable safety case to the regulator for
this type of operation, ticket prices would be high and unaffordable to the local population, and long flight times would discourage tourism.
St. Helena requires reliable, affordable access that islanders and tourists alike can depend upon if it is to build its economy and work towards its own goal of financial self-sufficiency. Construction of an airport that supports scheduled flights from a recognised international hub is the best and, in the long term, most cost effective way of achieving this.
David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many staff surveys have been conducted in his Department in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Thomas: DFID has undertaken two staff surveys of all staff over the last three financial years and is planning a third in 2006.
2006Management Survey (pending)
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the situation of women in Sudan. 
Hilary Benn [holding answer 16 May 2006]: DFID and other development partners assessed the situation of women in Sudan as part of the Joint Assessment Mission (JAM), which reported last year. Women have a vital role to play in the recovery and development of Sudan, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and more recently the Darfur Peace Agreement. However, women are marginalised and poorly represented across most of society and the overall challenge is to promote gender equality and empowerment to support progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. DFID promotes the interests of women within all its programmes and we are supporting a range of initiatives in governance and rule of law; gender based violence; capacity building; and basic social services where women stand to benefit.
The UK Government has also funded the Khartoum Centre for Human Rights and the Sudanese Organisation Against Torture to implement a national campaign calling for the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We have also supported a media campaign conducted by the UN Mission on Gender Based Violence, part of which drew attention to the deplorable crimes of rape and sexual violence in Darfur. DFID continues to assess and monitor the situation of women in Sudan, particularly in Darfur, as part of the international response. The Government of Sudan has formulated an action plan to eliminate violence against women and we continue to press for its prompt and effective implementation.
14. Martin Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on recent developments in the international debate on climate change. 
Ian Pearson: In December 2005 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol agreed to begin negotiations on shaping a plan on climate change action for the post-2012 period. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change parties also agreed to launch a dialogue on action to implement the Convention. The first discussions on these decisions are taking place this week in Bonn.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of methane emissions from trees and other plants. 
Ian Pearson: Following publication of a study suggesting that trees and other plants may be a source of methane emissions, my Department assessed available scientific literature and sought expert opinion on this issue. This showed that, even if the findings of the study are confirmed, the possible methane source would offset no more than a few percent. of the carbon taken up by growing forests. Therefore, the climate change benefits provided by forests through storage of carbon far outweigh their possible contribution to global warming through methane emissions.
16. Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research he has commissioned into increasing public access to coastal areas. 
Barry Gardiner: Research is in hand to assess current usage and demand for costal access, as well as the economic social and environmental costs and benefits of different options for improvements. A public consultation setting out the facts and ways to increase access to the English coast will be issued in October 2006.
17. Mr. Dunne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress the Rural Payments Agency has made in validating entitlement letters for single farm payments for 2005. 
David Miliband: By 15 May some 71,000 out of 120,000 applicants had entitlement statements which have been issued in respect of fully validated claims. Claimants who originally received a provisional statement are being sent a confirmatory Statement once their claim has been fully validated.
Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make an application to the European Union to further delay the payment of single farm payments until October 2006. 
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he has asked the European Commission for an extension to the UK deadline for payments under the Single Payments Scheme; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with the EU on the extension of the Single Farm Payment. 
Barry Gardiner [holding answer 11 May 2006]: 85 per cent. of the £1,500 million of expected payments for the 2005 SPS scheme year have been distributed. The residual element of payments will be made as soon as possible to those who have received a partial payment, and those who to date have not received either full or partial payment will be dealt with thereafter. Against that background and in order to safeguard the interests of UK taxpayers, a request was made last month to the European Commission to extend the EU regulatory payment window until 15 October 2006. This would ensure that any farmer whose claim remained outstanding as at 1 July should not be denied payment under the scheme.
Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding the Government holds for distribution to farmers in single farm payments. 
Barry Gardiner: The Government makes payments under the single payments scheme from the funding voted annually by parliament and is then reimbursed from the Common Agricultural Policy administered by the European Commission.
The payments made are based on the National Ceilings established for each member state in accordance with the relevant EC regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 319/2006 of 20th February 2006).
Mrs. Dorries: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average waiting time was for farmers who are entitled to single farm payment scheme payments from the Rural Payments Agency in the last period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: The regulatory payment window for the 2005 single payment scheme (SPS) runs from 1 December 2005 to 30 June 2006. The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) announced in January 2005 that payments were unlikely to start until February 2006.
RPA met this target, with first payments made from 20 February 2006. By close of business on 4 May 2006 over 58,000 claims, representing 48.5 per cent. of the population, had been fully paid.
RPA has now made over 31,000 partial payments to claimants. 31,000 are not included in the partial payments system; 26,000 because their claim amounted to less than 1,000 Euro; and 5,000 because of a diverse
range of other factors which made their cases particularly complex. Making full payments to this group of 5,000 will now be given the highest priority by the Rural Payments Agency.
The positive action being taken by RPA to make full and partial payments is set out in my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of States written statement on 9 May 2006.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many telephone calls have been made to the Rural Payments Agencys Customer Service Centre on or since 13 April 2006 to report the non-receipt of claim forms for the 2006-07 single payments scheme. 
Barry Gardiner: The Rural Payments Agencys (RPA) Customer Service Centre (CSC) received 76,000 telephone calls between 13 April and 5 May 2006.
The CSC does not keep separate statistics relating to total telephone calls from customers specifically relating to the non-receipt of claim forms.
Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many single farm payments in (a) Tamworth constituency and (b) Staffordshire have (i) been cancelled, (ii) yet to be cancelled and (iii) been invalidated. 
Barry Gardiner: 1,171 applications to the single payment scheme 2005 were rejected due to (a) an incomplete application or (b) being received after the final deadline of 10 June 2005.
The single payment scheme is not administered on a regional basis; therefore the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) does not hold information specific to Tamworth constituency or Staffordshire.
18. Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many municipal incinerators he expects to be commissioned in the next five years. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The number of new incinerators built will depend on the technologies and scale of facilities chosen by local authorities. We estimate that waste to energy of all types will account for about 25 per cent. of municipal waste by 2020, compared to 9 per cent. now, which is less than forecast in 2000 due to our better than expected performance on recycling.
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