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Parliamentary Ombudsman

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will list those occasions when the recommendations of a report from the Parliamentary Ombudsman have been (a) rejected and (b) partly rejected by her Department since 1997. [76262]

Bridget Prentice: Since 1997 the DCA and its predecessors, including its executive agencies and NDPBs, have declined to give full effect on two occasions to recommendations made by the Parliamentary Ombudsman. These were both in relation to complaints made under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The Ombudsman's reports on these two cases are in the Library.

Rape/Domestic Violence

Margaret Moran: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) how many rape cases were abandoned by the Crown Prosecution Service because of failure of the (a) victim and (b) accused to attend court proceedings in the last period for which figures are available; [76733]

(2) how many rape cases in (a) England and Wales and (b) Bedfordshire were dropped because of witness non-attendance at court proceedings in the last period for which figures are available. [76759]

Ms Harman: In cases listed for trial in the Crown court during the period October 2005 to March 2006 there were eight rape cases where the prosecution ended the case because a witness was absent or withdrawn. There were a further five cases which were adjourned to a later date because a prosecution witness, other than a police officer or expert witness, was absent and an additional 21 cases adjourned because the defendant failed to attend court.

In England and Wales there were 18 rape cases listed for trial where the trial did not take place through witness non-attendance on the day. Of these eight cases were ended by the prosecution and 10 cases were adjourned and listed for another date. There were no such instances recorded at Luton Crown court in Bedfordshire during this period.

Figures relating to magistrates court proceedings are not collected centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost to the Department.

Margaret Moran: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the maximum number of court appearances was in (a) domestic violence and (b) rape cases after which the case failed to be heard in (i) England and Wales, (ii) Luton and (iii) Bedfordshire over the last five years. [76734]

Ms Harman: This information is not collected centrally and could be provided only at a disproportionate cost to the Department.

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International Development


Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will bring forward legislation preventing the provision of UK public funding to any organisation or programme which supports or participates in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation; and if he will make a statement. [77570]

Mr. Thomas: We do not intend to bring forward legislation on this issue. The UK does not provide funds to organisations that support or participate in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation.


Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what projects his Department funds in Burma to support (a) the Shan ethnic minority and (b) the Pa-o ethnic minority in Shan state. [77800]

Mr. Thomas: DFID funds a number of projects in Shan state: the Fund for HIV/AIDS in Myanmar, to which DFID has committed £10 million over five years, provides anti-retroviral treatment in almost every township; a project to strengthen the capacity of doctors to provide affordable TB and malaria services to low-income people (£393,275 over three years) operates in the north and west of the state; and a programme with Save the Children to provide early childhood care and education (£2.7 million over three years) in the most northern townships. These projects have been designed with the primary purpose of reducing poverty, rather than to support specific ethnic minority groups, any of which are able to access all of these projects.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what cross-border aid has been provided to Karen refugees following the Burmese Government's recent military offensive against civilians. [78099]

Mr. Thomas: DFID has not provided funds for cross border aid from Thailand for internally displaced people in Burma. We are, however, supporting efforts to provide limited emergency assistance to displaced people from inside Burma and we are providing funding to help support refugees in Thailand.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development to what reforms the regime in Burma has agreed to facilitate the new three diseases fund for Burma. [78487]

Hilary Benn: The concept of DFID involvement in the new multi-donor fund to tackle HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Burma was agreed by Ministers in March 2006, but the detail of the project has yet to be finally approved. In the process of preparing for a decision, DFID is, with the other donor partners, involved in a process of consultation with the
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regime in Burma to ensure that they do not seek to apply restrictions which would prevent the effective operation of the Three Diseases Fund.


Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [78083]

Hilary Benn: The humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is very serious across the country, especially in the eastern provinces of Katanga (particularly North Katanga), North and South Kivu and Province Orientale (especially Ituri district). The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that approximately 1.6 million people are internally displaced and over 300,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries.

Increased conflict in North Katanga since November last year has led to a rise in displacement and this has contributed to a much higher monthly average of new displacements in 2006 compared to 2005, at over 100,000 newly displaced per month compared to 35,000 per month last year. It is hoped that the recent surrender of a Mayi-Mayi commander from that region may lead to greater stability.

Elsewhere in the East, external armed groups such as the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) in the Kivus and other rebels groups operating in Ituri, as well as ill-disciplined brigades of the DRC army, are committing abuses such as theft and violence, including high levels of sexual violence, against the civilian population. Operations by the Congolese army against the armed groups, often carried out jointly with MONUC (UN Peacekeeping force in the DRC), are frequently the cause of civilian displacement.

Mechanisms are in place to get assistance to those who need it quickly, but lack of access due to insecurity and logistical difficulties can lead to delays.

The UK has strongly supported efforts by the UN to mobilise greater international funding to meet humanitarian needs. DFID has increased UK humanitarian support to the DRC to £60 million over two years. Some other countries have also increased funding, but overall support remains far too low to meet all the needs. The DRC remains a neglected crisis. I have called on my donor counterparts to do more and will continue to keep up the pressure to ensure that funding is forthcoming to meet all the desperate needs in the DRC.

Foreign Travel

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much was spent on foreign travel by his Department in each of the last eight years. [76063]

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Mr. Thomas: Figures for travel costs within administration cost budgets for years which information is readily available are shown in the following table:












The figures for travel reflect all domestic and overseas travel for Ministers, Advisers and Officials and include costs for all travel, accommodation and subsistence. It is not possible to disaggregate costs for Officials' travel overseas without incurring a disproportionate cost. Information for earlier years is not readily available and in some cases will no longer be held.

In 2003-04, DFID introduced new procedures to draw together administration costs, including those travel costs which had previously been recorded on the programme budget. These changes have increased transparency and have enabled DFID to manage administration costs more effectively. Figures for 2003-04 onwards now include travel costs that were previously funded by country programmes and as a result are not comparable with earlier years.

Since 1999, the Government have published, on an annual basis, the total costs of all ministerial overseas travel and a list of all visits by Cabinet Ministers costing in excess of £500. This information is available in the Library. Information for the financial year 2004-05 was published on 21 July 2005, Official Report, column 158WS. Information for the financial year 2005-06 is in the process of being collated and will be published shortly.

All official travel is undertaken in accordance with the rules contained in DFID's Staff Handbook and complies with the Civil Service Management Code.


Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development for how long the UK will provide assistance to the area affected by the recent Indonesian earthquake. [77932]

Mr. Thomas: DFID’s £5 million contribution towards humanitarian relief is for immediate use (£1 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross/Crescent, £3 million to the UN and £1 million to NGOs).

We will consider further financial support covering the next two years, based upon requests from the Indonesian Government.

Sierra Leone

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone. [78084]

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Hilary Benn: The situation in Sierra Leone is stable and the country has made considerable progress since the end of the civil war in 2002. This was confirmed by the withdrawal of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, UNAMSIL in December 2005. However, considerable challenges remain and the state is fragile. Current threats to continued stability include frustration resulting from large-scale unemployment, particularly among young men, and the weak capacity of government to deliver basic services. Poverty is high, with 70 per cent. estimated to be living below the poverty line. The run-up to the 2007 elections is likely to be a period of increased tension within the country and insecurity in other countries in the region may also present challenges to continued stability.

Sierra Leone is currently ranked 176 out of 177 on the Human Development Index and continues to have some of the worst health indicators in the world, particularly in terms of maternal and child mortality. Malaria is a major cause of death. There are occasional epidemics of cholera and Lassa fever poses a regional threat in the east of the country.

There are currently approximately 40,000 refugees in Sierra Leone principally from Liberia. With improved stability in Liberia, many of these have started, or are preparing to go home. Since January 2006, some 9,000 have returned. DFID has supported the care and maintenance of Liberian refugees in camps across the region for some years, and more recently has financed their repatriation from Sierra Leone and other countries. In 2005, £1.1 million was committed for these objectives, and this year, a further £700,000 has been allocated. In addition, DFID has spent over £3.5 million per year for the last three years to help rebuild Liberia and thereby encourage refugees from Sierra Leone and other countries to return home.

DFID's programme since the end of the war has concentrated on security and rebuilding government institutions and these will remain an important component of the country programme. The programme is currently developing its strategy for the next three years, and as part of this is exploring options for expanding its work in the areas of basic services, economic development and job creation. Through our country-office in Freetown, and from Africa Division's Conflict and Humanitarian Unit in London, we are monitoring the humanitarian situation closely.

South America

Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what academic research is (a) being undertaken and (b) planned on the Department's South America policy. [78053]

Mr. Thomas: DFID's central policy in the region is to deliver its assistance to Latin America (including both Central and South America) through its Regional Assistance Plan 2004-2007; copies of this document are available in the Libraries of the House.

Within the framework of this Plan, programmes are tackling regional issues such as HIV-AIDS; improving the impact of the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank on poverty and inequality; strengthening national development strategies and
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donor alignment; and improving understanding of the impact of trade on poverty in Latin America. Analytical and research work is supported as part of these programmes. DFID's Regional Assistance Plan and policy for Latin America is scheduled to be reviewed in early 2007.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make an urgent assessment of the impact of disease outbreaks in internally displaced persons camps in Darfur. [78929]

Hilary Benn: The only significant disease outbreak currently affecting Darfur is that of the 75 cases of acute watery diarrhoea in South Darfur. The outbreak has so far claimed four lives in the state, with cases concentrated in Nyala, Kass and EI-Daein towns. The first report of the outbreak was on 24 May 2006 and all four deaths to date occurred on 24-25 May 2006. This reflects the effective planning and response by the Government and humanitarian agencies. Although, the vast majority of cases have been amongst town residents rather than in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, the unconfirmed reports of a case in Gereida, where 100,000 IDPs have sought shelter, is of concern.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health have established a task force to co-ordinate the response. In accordance with their contingency plans, a public health campaign has been launched, broadcasting hygiene promotion messages on local TV and radio. The immediate response has also included the mapping of cases, identifying high risk areas for chlorination of water supplies and testing. In preparation for an outbreak, the WHO stockpiled cholera treatment kits across Darfur. These have proved invaluable in enabling the immediate response. In addition, a Cholera Treatment Centre has been set up in Nyala with the capacity to handle 50 patients a day.

Water Access

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to support public-public partnerships as a means of improving access to clean water and sanitation in the developing world. [78892]

Hilary Benn: I attach great importance to ensuring increased access to safe water supply and sanitation in the developing world and have recently committed to doubling DFID’s expenditure on the provision of these basic services in Africa to £95 million by 2007-08. However, while we recognise the importance of ‘public-public’ partnerships, our focus is on a pragmatic approach led by our partner countries, to ensure we are doing what works, and recognising that there can be failures of both private and public models.

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