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5 July 2006 : Column 1079Wcontinued
The UK strongly supports the Global Fund and wants it to be effective in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria. The Global Fund recently revised its resource needs to an estimated US$5.5 billion for 2006 and 2007. There is a current funding gap of US$2.1 billion for 2006 and 2007. Of this, US$1 billion is needed this year to fund a new round of grants which was launched by the board in April. The Mid-Term Review of the Global Fund (4-5 July 2006) will review the funds performance and mobilise extra resources for 2006-07 to fill the funding gap. The UK has committed £359 million to the Global Fund (2002-08). We have
doubled our pledge for 2006 and 2007 to £100 million in each of those years. This means that our overall share of support for the Global Fund at around 5 per cent. is consistent with our support over the 2001-05 period. The UK is meeting its fair shareother donors need to do the same.
The Global Fund is only one part of our contribution to tackling AIDS, TB and malaria. The UK is committed to spend at least £1.5 billion on the global AIDS response over three years (2006-08), including our support to the Global Fund. We also provide support to the Roll Back Malaria (£7 million pledged to 2008) and Stop TB initiatives (over £49 million pledged from 1999 to 2007), as well as direct support to countries to help tackle diseases of poverty.
The UK will continue to encourage other donors including the private sector to support the Global Fund. The Prime Minister has also recently made clear that we are committed to working with developing countries, NGOs and other partners to encourage the development of long-term10 yearhealth plans and to help ensure that predictable support is available from donors to support them. This will be key in helping countries strengthen their health systems and to be able to more effectively combat AIDS, TB and malaria.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funding his Department has committed for long-term health sector projects in developing countries for (a) 2006-07, (b) 2007-08 and (c) 2008-09. 
Hilary Benn [holding answer 3 July 2006]: DFID does not track long-term health sector spending because we provide pooled financial support for basic health services. But, as the Prime Minister recently made clear, we are committed to making good on our G8 promises, and a key part of this is to support developing countries with long-term, sustainable financing for health. We are currently working with developing countries, NGOs and other partners to encourage development of long-term10 yearhealth plans and to ensure that predictable support is available from donors for them. This long-term support will provide poor countries with the security to make long-term investments and meet the costs of salaries, drugs, infrastructure and training. We have also increased our funding to multilateral organisations supporting countries to strengthen their health services, including to the Global Fund and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). We are spearheading innovative efforts to secure significant additional resources for essential health care through the International Finance Facility for Immunisation, with the first bond issue due in the coming months.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact on the work of humanitarian agencies of Israel's targeting of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip in the military incursions commenced by Israel on 27 June. 
Hilary Benn: DFID is in close contact with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) which is monitoring the humanitarian situation in Gaza. All crossing points into Gaza have been closed for goods since 25 June, with the exception of Karni which was open for one day on 2 July. This enabled some humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza. Karni was closed again on 3 July.
Only diplomats are freely able to enter Gaza. All international staff of humanitarian organisations not holding diplomatic passports, such as those working for non-governmental organisations, require prior co-ordination with the Israeli authorities. No Palestinian staff of humanitarian organisations are able to enter Gaza.
DFID is helping UNOCHA by providing a movement and access specialist to help the UN coordinate with the Israeli authorities. Current information on humanitarian access to the West Bank and Gaza is available at http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/opt/.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact on (a) Palestinian health facilities, (b) the Palestinian economy and (c) Palestinian water supply and sewage disposal of Israel's targeting of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip in the military incursions commenced by Israel on 27 June. 
Hilary Benn: The main impact of recent military action has been to the loss of electrical power following damage to Gaza's only power plant. The closure of the Nahal Oz oil pipeline from 26 June to 2 July and greater difficulty in movement due to the destruction of three bridges providing north-south access have also had an effect. Hospitals in Gaza are maintaining services by using back-up generators, although there are reports that supplies of some essential drugs and supplies are nearly finished. It is difficult for anyone from the south to access to the main referral hospital in Gaza city in the north.
The Gaza economy has been severely constrained since March, when Hamas assumed power. Since then, the access point for exports from Gaza has been closed, trade with Israel has all but stopped and a very limited number of public sector salaries have been paid. Most of the water supply to Gaza is pumped from wells. Supplies are being continued by connecting pumps to generators, but there is concern that fuel for these generators is dependent on the Nahal Oz pipeline remaining open.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact on Palestinian schools of Israel's targeting of civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip in the military incursions commenced by Israel on 27 June 2006. 
Hilary Benn: Palestinian schools are currently on summer break and are scheduled to resume in September. There are as yet no reports that Israeli military activity has caused any damage to education institutions.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of the methods used to reduce illicit opium poppy cultivation in (a) Laos, (b) Thailand and (c) Vietnam. 
Hilary Benn: The UK Government do not maintain any bilateral programme to reduce illicit opium poppy cultivation in Laos, Thailand or Vietnam and have not made any assessment of the effectiveness of programmes undertaken by others in those countries.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, what facilities are made available to Members of House staff to assist with child care costs and arrangements; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: The House provides child care vouchers to the value of £8 per child per day. The Commission favours the child care voucher scheme because of its flexibility and availability to staff wherever they are based. Vouchers are available for children up to and including age 11. The vouchers can be used to pay registered child minders, nurseries, playgroups, crèches, nannies, holiday play schemes for school age children, and close relatives who care for children, thus allowing staff a range of choices when making their child care arrangements. Information can be found on the parliamentary intranet. The scheme is currently under review to ensure the House continues to offer the most appropriate arrangements for the majority of staff.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, how many officials of the House accompanied delegations of hon. Members overseas in the last 12 months. 
Nick Harvey: The Overseas Office (European Section) in the Clerk's Department comprises five staff, two or three of whom accompany the UK delegations of hon. Members and Peers to each plenary session of the inter-parliamentary assemblies of the Council of Europe, NATO, OSCE and the Western European Union. One or two European Section staff accompany hon. Members and Peers to some of the assemblies' committee meetings.
Over the period from 1 June 2005 to 31 May 2006, eight different House staff were involved in undertaking these duties.
Details of the numbers of staff accompanying Select Committees on visits abroad are given in the annual sessional return published by TSO which is available online, in the Vote Office and in the Library.
The British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the UK Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the British-American Parliamentary Group and the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body are funded directly by the Government; the staff who accompany delegations of hon. Members and Peers belonging to those organisations are not employed by the House of Commons Commission.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, what percentage of the Houses senior staff are women; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: As at 28 June 2006, 28.9 per cent. of staff in the Senior Commons Structure pay bands were women. This compares with some 48 per cent. for the House service overall. The proportion of women at senior levels is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what steps the Commission is taking to improve the representation of ethnic minority communities in the House's senior staff; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: The House's diversity forum action plan, available on the parliamentary intranet, has a wide range of actions aimed at all aspects of the diversity agenda. Representation of under-represented groups has improved in recent years as a result of measures to remove potential bias from recruitment and internal career progression arrangements, but the effects will inevitably take some time to feed through fully to senior levels.
Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, what the cost was of the sittings of Parliament in September (a) 2003 and (b) 2004; how many contracts were changed due to the decision to sit in September in each year; and what resulting additional cost was imposed on the House in (i) wages and (ii) salaries. 
Nick Harvey: The overall daily resource cost of running the House administration in 2003-04 and 2004-05 was £487,000 and £520,000 respectively. The difference in cost between sitting and non-sitting days is small, as the major costs of accommodation and staffing are not appreciably affected. Major works and other contracts were negotiated on the basis of the revised sitting arrangements in both September 2003 and 2004. It is therefore impossible to determine with any accuracy what the actual costs of alternative contracts might have been, but it is estimated that around £90,000 of additional works expenditure was incurred directly by the House sitting in each September period.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, what allowances are made available to senior House staff to assist with travel costs in the event of a late sitting. 
Senior House staff (in common with all staff) on official duty are entitled to use the late night
transport service in the event of a late night sitting. A late night transport service is provided for staff on official duty if:
the House rises between 11 pm (or if the motion for the Adjournment is moved at or after 10.30 pm) and 9 am the next morning; or
a Committee rises between 11 pm and 9 am the next morning.
If there is a major disruption to public transport, the late night transport service is provided from 10 pm irrespective of what time the House rises. The House meets the cost of journeys of 25 miles or less. Staff wishing to travel outside this radius are advised (at the time of booking) to enter into a private arrangement with the driver and pay him/her the additional cost of the journey. Where practicable, taxis are shared between a number of staff.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, when staffing levels in the House were last reviewed; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: The last significant review of staff numbers was a review of the needs of the Committee Office in 2003, conducted jointly by the Houses Internal Review Service (IRS) and the National Audit Office. More generally, staffing levels are controlled by a budgetary mechanism rather than by limits on staff numbers. The IRS has recently completed the first stage of a review of staff grading. Subject to the views of the Administration Estimate Audit Committee, the second phase will be conducted later in the year.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, pursuant to the answer of 14 June 2006, Official Report, column 1250W, on tours, why it is not the Commission's practice to make available details of the use made by individual hon. Members of the organisation of tours of the House; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: Details of the use made by individual hon. Members of House facilities and services are regarded as personal data, and not appropriate for publication.
Mr. Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether local authorities are required to submit revised constitutions to the Department for evaluation. 
Mr. Woolas: There is no requirement for local authorities to submit revised constitutions to the Department for evaluation.
Local authorities are required to submit proposals to the Department for Communities and Local Government in respect of a change from one constitutional model to another. There is no such requirement in respect of revisions to the same constitution. Local authorities will keep their constitutions under review and make amendments as necessary, and it is for the local authorities themselves to ensure that their constitutional arrangements are appropriate and compliant with legislation. The Department has no statutory role in evaluating local authority constitutions.
Mr. Gauke: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her policy is on local authorities outsourcing administrative functions overseas. 
Mr. Woolas: Local authorities are responsible for taking their own procurement decisions subject to the requirements of best value legislation and to the EU/UK regulatory framework. This includes any decision to outsource administrative functions overseas. Any specific complaint that best value is not being met in a particular set of circumstances would need to be addressed in the first instance to an authoritys external auditor.
Mr. Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many local authorities do not offer the chairmanship of any oversight and scrutiny committees to opposition parties in the council. 
Mr. Woolas: The Department for Communities and Local Government does not hold the information requested.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make it her policy to make copies of deposited papers available in (a) the Vote Office and (b) Printed Paper Office at the same time as copies are deposited in the Library; and if she will make a statement. 
Angela E. Smith: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 3 July 2006, Official Report, column 729W by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.
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