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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 22 May 2006

International Development

Air Miles

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many air miles have been accrued by senior civil servants in his Department on official business in each of the last three years; and how they were used. [70509]

Mr. Thomas: DFID staff may not use for private benefit, air miles earned on official travel. We have arranged with certain partner airlines for staff to donate their air miles to the earth miles initiative under which air miles are exchanged for contributions by the airlines to the cost of carbon offset projects. Staff are also encouraged to use air miles for official travel.

The Department for International Development (DFID) does not hold details of individual staff membership of frequent flyer schemes and therefore has no record of air miles accrued.

Asian Tsunami

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans he has to implement the recommendations of the recent report on his Department's response to the Indian Ocean disaster. [71589]

Mr. Thomas: DFID is drawing on some of the recommendations to help inform and guide DFID's support to and relationship with the UN agencies, Red Cross movement and non-governmental organisations that DFID funded in response to the disaster. DFID aims to strengthen its partners and their response capacities, seeking to build on some of the lessons identified in this review.

For example: the report highlighted how UN agencies handled co-ordination in each sector. DFID has since helped to identify and second staff to act as cluster coordinators for each UN lead agency following the Pakistan earthquake. This has led to much improved sectoral co-ordination.

DFID has also benefited from the recommendations about DFID's relationship with the UK military, placing a Civil Military advisor in Pakistan following the 2005 earthquake.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment his Department has made of the (a) role, (b) performance and (c) accountability of partners involved in channelling UK aid to areas of need in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. [71591]

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Mr. Thomas: DFID has published a “Report on DFID’s Response to the Indian Ocean Disaster” containing DFID’s assessment of the performance of DFID-funded UN agencies, the Red Cross movement and non-governmental organisations and recommendations for actions to be taken by DFID and its partners. It is available at http://www.dfid.gov.uk/pubs/files/report-dfid-response-tsunami.pdf.

The UK NGOs grouped under the UK Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has also published information on http://www.dec.org.uk/index.cfm/asset_id,1674/pr,1.

The NGOs’ Tsunami Evaluation Committee report is expected to be published soon, providing more recommendations for future responses.

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development who the authors were of the recent report on his Department’s response to the Indian Ocean disaster; and how much the report cost to produce. [71592]

Mr. Thomas: The report was compiled by staff from DFID’s Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department (CHASE) Operations Team and a consultant. It incorporated a synthesis of field monitoring missions to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives and UN agency headquarters by five staff and four consultants. The cost of this complete monitoring programme was £64,281.

Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effect of the recent attacks by Tamil Tigers on the post-tsunami recovery process in Sri Lanka and if he will make a statement. [71637]

Mr. Thomas: The increasing violence and communal tension is a major barrier to recovery in the north and east. In the southern districts, not contested by the LTTE and not directly affected by the fighting, recovery is proceeding swiftly, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2007.

The increase in direct fighting between the Sri Lankan military, the Liberation Tigers of TamilEelam (LTTE) and militias associated with each side has been accompanied by an increase in communal tension. Development agencies and non-governmental organisations have evacuated staff for their security and protection and recovery programmes have been suspended. In addition, regular economic activities and recovery work undertaken in communities without external assistance has also been affected by military activity. Able-bodied men are being mobilised for LTTE service, and people are being displaced by fighting, or the fear of fighting.

The situation continues to deteriorate, as evidenced by the recent suicide bombing in Colombo and the subsequent air strikes and naval shelling in the east. Without a considerable improvement in the security situation it is unlikely that much recovery can be undertaken. The international community, including the United Kingdom, is working hard to encourage the Government and the LTTE to curtail violence and to return to the negotiating table. Once the security environment improves we will renew efforts to help ensure delivery of development assistance to communities.

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Family Planning

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Buckingham of 9 May 2006, Official Report, column 129W, on family planning, why his Department is opposed to the United States Administration's Mexico City Policy; whom he consulted while developing his policy; and if he will make a statement. [72176]

Mr. Thomas: The UK Government's approach to promoting reproductive health is set out in the DFID position paper, "Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights". Our approach to achieving the fifth Millennium Development Goal of improving maternal health is outlined in the DFID strategy paper, "Reducing Maternal Deaths: Evidence and Action". Both were published in 2004 after extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, including the research community, NGOs, parliamentarians and civil society groups. A web-based consultation was also held as part of this process.

Our understanding of the so-called "Mexico City Policy" is that it requires non-US NGOs to agree that they will not perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in order to receive US funding. This means, for example, that non-US NGOs who accept US funding are not allowed to use their own funds to provide information or counselling for abortion care, or to promote awareness of the benefits of legal reform. As the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) "Death and Denial: Unsafe Abortion and Poverty" report makes clear, the policy forces NGOs to choose between carrying on work to protect the health and rights of women or lose funds. No reproductive or maternal health NGOs affected by the policy work to "promote abortion as a method of family planning", and indeed this would be contrary to the global consensus reached at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). What they try to do is to provide a comprehensive range of information and services that can help save women's lives, and reduce the need for abortion. The US policy means that the work of such organisations is compromised, and that is why my Department is opposed to it.


Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of progress in restoring (a) electricity, (b) water, (c) sanitation, (d) health care and (e) education services in (i) Al Basrah, (ii) Al Muthanna, (iii) Dhi Qar and (iv) Maysan provinces in Iraq. [70966]

Hilary Benn: The Government of Iraq, supported by the UK and other donors, have made significant progress with reconstruction since 2003. But there is still a long way to go. Once a relatively wealthy country with high levels of education and health care, by 2003 Iraq had suffered more than 20 years of conflict, mismanagement and chronic under-investment from a brutal regime. Continued violence, especially sabotage
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directed at key infrastructure, and low (but growing) levels of management capacity in Iraq’s national and local government have slowed progress. The UK and international community are committed to helping the new Iraqi Government tackle these challenges.

One challenge is the lack of data, especially at the regional and provincial level. The following information therefore covers the progress that has been made across Iraq, including regional detail only where this is available.

Electricity generation is more equitably distributed across Iraq than before 2003. Nearly 5,000 megawatts (MW) have been added to the national grid since 2003, but Iraq’s average electricity generation has not improved over that period. This is because at the same time as capacity is being added through reconstruction projects, breakdowns of the pre-existing dilapidated systems, shortages of fuel supplies and sabotage are reducing capacity. So Iraqis are not getting the full benefit of those extra megawatts. Demand for electricity also continues to rise dramatically, as the economy grows and more people own and use electrical goods such as fridges and air-conditioning units. The new Iraqi Government will be starting work on a long-term power sector strategy, with DFID’s support.

In the south, average electricity generation levels have increased from approximately 750 MW in January 2004 to over 1,000 MW in December 2005. The south now receives its fair share of national power—whereas under Saddam’s regime, power was often diverted from the south to Baghdad.

To improve power supply in the south, DFID has:

By the end of 2006, we will have:

Water supplies have improved across the south since the end of the conflict, and sewerage systems and water treatment plants are now operating again. Before the conflict, no major sewerage systems were operating. Immediate post-conflict work improved efficiency of water treatment plants and pumping stations. DFID has:

Health services are gradually being restored throughout Iraq. Hundreds of health care facilities have been rehabilitated and 240 hospitals and 1,200 primary health centres are now functioning. Through extensive disease control programmes, there has been a decline in the prevalence of leishmaniasis, malaria, measles, mumps, and polio. Japan and the US have rehabilitated a number of health care facilities in the
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south, as well as supplying essential equipment, ambulances and drugs. The US is constructing a new paediatric hospital in Basra, which will offer improved treatment to children with acute conditions across the south.

5,168 schools have been rehabilitated throughout Iraq, with a further 450 in progress. By the end of 2006, more than 133,000 primary school teachers and 47,500 secondary school teachers and administrators will have received training and technical support. In southern Iraq, the UN has rehabilitated schools and supplied textbooks, and is also rehabilitating vocational training institutes. Japan has provided textbooks to all primary schools in Muthanna. There are 465 schools operating in Maysan, and 348 in Muthanna.

Leased Land

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what (a) land and (b) property his Department (i) leases and (ii) leased in (A) 1979, (B) 1983, (C) 1987, (D) 1992 and (E) 1997 in (1) the Southend, West constituency, (2) Essex, (3) Hertfordshire and (4) the Metropolitan police area of London. [72104]

Mr. Thomas: DFID has leased the following properties, all within the Metropolitan police area of London. No other properties or land have been leased in the Southend, West constituency, Essex or Hertfordshire areas.






Maternal Health

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what steps are being taken by his Department (a) to develop a comprehensive maternal health strategy and (b) to disseminate this strategy to other international donors; [68244]

(2) what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in (a) the EU, (b) the G8 and (c) the UN about improving maternal health in developing countries; [68158]

(3) what steps are being taken by his Department to increase international action on maternal health issues. [68159]

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Mr. Thomas: DFID is the only major bilateral donor to already have a specific strategy focusing on maternal health: “Reducing maternal deaths: evidence and action”, which was launched in 2004. We have disseminated this comprehensive maternal health strategy throughout the international system, with other donors, the UN, and most importantly, with the developing partners we support.

The strategy provides the basis for DFID support to improve maternal health at country level, which we do through a combination of programmes to strengthen health services and improve overall reproductive and child health, along with specific maternal health programmes and HIV interventions. Long-term support for maternal health in Nepal, for example, is demonstrating significant increases in women’s access to emergency obstetric care in remote areas and in a fragile state. This work highlights the importance of support for community level action to overcome cultural and socio-economic barriers to accessing care, as well as the importance of addressing infrastructure (roads, bridges) and communications issues to ensure an effective referral system. In Malawi, DFID is supporting an Emergency Human Resource Programme to address the acute shortages of health workers, an issue which has been compounded by the AIDS epidemic. Overall investments for maternal health (including reproductive health services) have increased by over 40 per cent. over the past three years, to £242.9 million in 2004-05.

The maternal health strategy also provides the platform for DFID’s regular policy discussions with other donors, such as the EU, G8 and the UN, on the actions needed to improve maternal health in developing countries and the importance of doing more on maternal health. We are seeking to highlight the importance of maternal health within the current G8 process, although the prime health theme at present is infectious disease. We are also working to ensure that the new Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health can play a useful role in advocating more action on maternal health, and to improve the way UN agencies work together on this issue.

Importantly, good advocacy is based upon good data. Getting reliable information on maternal deaths is difficult in most developing countries where maternal deaths are not recorded and where more than half of all births take place at home, without a skilled attendant but either with relatives or alone. This is why DFID, along with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Gates Foundation, supports IMMPACT, the only global research initiative which is successfully identifying effective ways in which maternal deaths can be measured and the statistics used for high level advocacy. DFID further supports a recent global partnership, Health Metrics Network, which aims to provide country level support to Governments to get better data.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what measures are in place to ensure that the holders of traditional knowledge (a)
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are made aware of patent applications and (b) are able to be fully involved in assessing intellectual applications based on traditional knowledge. [72240]

Mr. Thomas: The UK Patent Office publishes details of patent applications in its weekly publication “The Patents and Designs Journal” which is publicly available free of charge on the Patent Office Website at: http://www.patent.gov.uk/patent/dbase/index.htm.

Worldwide published applications may be viewed using “Espacenet” which is a publicly available free of charge service which lists over 45 million patent specifications including GB specifications from 1918 to the present. This is available at: http://ep.espacenet.com.

Indigenous peoples (holders of traditional knowledge) play an important role in the World Intellectual Property Organisation Inter-Governmental Committee on Traditional Knowledge, Folklore and Genetic Resources (IGC) where these matters are discussed. A voluntary fund has recently been set up to help ensure their participation in and attendance at this committee. The IGC has done important work on traditional knowledge databases and also on amending the international classification system for patents to include traditional knowledge and hence make it easier for holders of traditional knowledge to access patent applications based on traditional knowledge.

The assessment of intellectual property applications is done by patent examiners and trademark examiners in the relevant country or jurisdiction. In the UK anyone can file observations on patentability with regard to patent applications, including the holders of traditional knowledge. This will then be taken into account when the patent is examined. In a similar manner, anyone can make observations about the registrability of a trademark. Further, trademarks applications can be opposed or subsequently invalidated if the mark designates a characteristic of those goods or services, or is otherwise non-distinctive. Similar arrangements are in place in most countries and jurisdictions.

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