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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 31 October 2006

Leader of the House

Departmental Staff

Harry Cohen: To ask the Leader of the House if his Office will (a) carry out an age audit of its staff to establish an age profile of its workforce, (b) negotiate an age management policy with trade unions and employees to eliminate age discrimination and retain older workers, (c) identify and support training needs and offer older staff flexible working to downshift towards retirement and (d) extend to over-fifties the right to request to work flexibly and the right to training with paid time off; and if he will make a statement. [96498]

Mr. Straw: The Office of the Leader of the House of Commons has 15 staff and the age profile is readily available. An audit is not therefore necessary.

My staff are members of the Privy Council Office (PCO), which provides administrative support. The Privy Council Office recruitment process complies fully with current legislation. There is a compulsory retirement age of 65, but staff who wish to work beyond that age may do so if there is a clear business need for retention of individual skills and experience.

The PCO identifies and supports the training needs of all staff, regardless of age. This extends to paid time off when the training has a clear business need. The PCO also has a number of flexible working practices, including part-time working and flexible working hours, which are open to all staff, regardless of age.

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Leader of the House (1) whether his Office recognises the International GCSE as an acceptable substitute for a GCSE for the purposes of recruitment; [96721]

(2) what proportion of vacancies in his Office in the last 12 months required candidates to have at least a grade C in (a) English and (b) mathematics GCSE. [96755]

Mr. Straw: Staff in the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons are part of the Privy Council Office (PCO). External recruitment in the PCO is only undertaken for the administrative grade and is based on a standard competence framework. This includes qualifications, where they are relevant to the post being advertised. No advertised vacancies in my Office in the last 12 months have required candidates to have at least a grade C in (a) English and (b) mathematics GCSE.
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Light Bulbs

Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Leader of the House what proportion of light bulbs purchased by the Privy Council Office in 2005 were of the compact fluorescent type. [98254]

Mr. Straw: 90 per cent. of all light bulbs purchased for use by the Leader of the House of Commons Office are of the compact fluorescent type.

NHS Spending

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Leader of the House what the basis was for his statement on the Business of the House, 12 October 2006, Official Report, column 450, that spending on the NHS has more than trebled since 1997. [97926]

Mr. Straw: Table 1 shows the NHS Expenditure in years 1996-97 to 2007-08.(1)

The growth from 1996-97 to 2007-08 is £32.997 billion to £92.173 billion, a 2.8 fold increase.

Table 1: NHS total expenditure: England—1996-97 to 2007-08
Net NHS Expenditure( 5) (£ billion) Percentage increase Percentage real terms increase( 6)






















RB Stage1(2)



















RB Stage 2(3,4,6)










Estimated Outturn














(1) Expenditure pre 1999-00 is on a cash basis. (2) Expenditure figures from 1999-2000 to 2002-03 are on a Stage 1 Resource Budgeting basis. (3) Expenditure figures from 2003-04 to 2007-08 are on a Stage 2 Resource Budgeting basis. (4) The Resource Budgeting Stage 2 expenditure figures shown for 2004-05 to 2007-08 are consistent with table 3.4 of the 2006 Departmental Report. (5) Figures are not consistent over the period (1996-97 to 2007-08), therefore it is difficult to make comparisons across different periods. (6) Figures from 2003-04 include a technical adjustment for trust depreciation. (7) Includes a technical adjustment in 2004-05 for provisions of £1,497 million. Note: GDP deflator as at 27 September 2006.

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However, as noted in superscript 5 to the table, it is difficult to make comparisons across different periods due to:

Such changes occur on a regular basis so calculations based on absolutes can quickly become out of date. Also, comparison based on absolutes does not take into account inflation.

Therefore, generally, in NHS publications, real growth in expenditure is quoted rather than changes to absolute expenditure. This is calculated by comparing consecutive year expenditure adjusted into the same currency (to adjust for accounting changes and transfers of function) and deflated by GDP.

Across the whole Labour administration, from 1997-98 to 2007-08, the cumulative real terms increase in expenditure will be 95.7 per cent.

International Development


Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment was made of the methods used to reduce illicit opium poppy cultivation in other countries during the formulation of counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan. [96619]

Margaret Beckett: I have been asked to reply.

As partner nation for counter-narcotics, the UK has supported the Afghan Government in developing and updating their National Drug Control strategy, launched at the London Conference on Afghanistan in January 2006. In developing their strategy, the Afghan Government considered the counter-narcotics efforts of regional partners, including Pakistan, as well as countries in the Golden Triangle. With respect to the Golden Triangle, I refer the right hon. Member to the reply I gave him today (UIN 96353). The Afghan Government have also drawn from the experience of Pakistan which achieved drug free status through a balanced strategy focused on development and law enforcement, including eradication where legal livelihoods exist.

There have also been exchanges between the Governments of Afghanistan and Colombia in relation to Colombia's counter-narcotics experience, particularly in relation to coca production. This includes a recent visit from Colombian law enforcement officers to assist the Afghan Government develop their counter-narcotics law enforcement capacity.

The Afghan Government have also considered experiences of licit opium cultivation in India and Turkey. In doing so they have concluded that Afghanistan does not currently possess the necessary central government and law enforcement mechanisms to guard against the diversion of opium into illicit channels. They have therefore ruled out licit cultivation as a means of tackling the illicit trade.

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African Union

Mr. Vaizey: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support his Department will offer to the African Union for capacity building in Africa in the next 12 months. [98284]

Hilary Benn: The Department for International Development envisages capacity building support to the African Union (AU) in two main areas over the next 12 months: assistance to the African Union Commission (AUC) to build its own institutional capacity; and support for specific programmes with which the African Union is involved.

On the former, we are working closely with other donors and our support is likely to focus on helping to build the AUC’s capacity for effective financial management, procurement and management of human resources. DFID is already providing support on procurement, which has been recognised by the AUC and the European Commission (EC) as a pre-requisite for the disbursal of funds from the EC’s own Support Programme to the AUC. DFID is also considering support to help build the capacity of other African Union institutions, including the Pan-African Parliament.

On the latter, we are considering contributing to two major AU programmes to build African capacity in land policy, and in climate change adaptation. The Land Policy Initiative will be jointly managed by the AU, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN ECA). This initiative aims to build consensus for land reform among AU member states and Regional Economic Communities and to establish a framework for common actions, partnerships and peer learning. The Climate Information for Development Needs in Africa programme (ClimDev Africa) will be led by the AU and jointly implemented by AfDB and ECA. It aims to strengthen the capacity of AU member states to obtain and use information on climate variability and change for development, eg by identifying services to help reduce rural poverty in semi-arid zones.

DFID continues to provide support to the African Union on peace and security issues, working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence through the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool. As part of this, the UK Government have just signed an agreement with the AU to provide £300,000 to support the development of the Continental Early Warning System and the Panel of the Wise, to help prevent and mediate conflicts in Africa.

Hippopotami (Virunga National Park)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with (a) the African Union and (b) the Congolese Government to secure the protection of hippopotami in the Virunga National Park; and if he will make a statement. [97141]

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Dr. Howells: I have been asked to reply.

We have regular discussions with the African Union (AU) Commission on a range of environmental issues. Like many AU member states, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a signatory to international agreements on the protection of wildlife, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which lists the hippopotamus as a species requiring protection under Appendix II.

We have urged the DRC Government to do more to control the activities of militia groups who are reportedly killing these hippopotami. My hon. Friend the Minister for Schools, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, lobbied the Congolese Minister of the Environment on the need to protect vulnerable species when he visited Virunga National Park in September 2005. We will continue to raise with the DRC Government their duty to protect their wildlife.


Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what his estimate is of the total number of internal refugees in Iraq who are homeless, in temporary accommodation or in shelter significantly unsuitable to their needs; what steps his Department is taking to help these people in need; and if he will make a statement; [97481]

(2) what his most recent estimate is of the total number of internal refugees in Iraq. [97581]

Hilary Benn: The Government of Iraq, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners estimate there are now more than 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Iraq. Many of these people (between 700,000 and 1.1 million) left their homes under the previous regime. The UNHCR report that there are 424,000 newly displaced who have left their homes and communities since the bombing of the Samarra shrine in February 2006.

The majority of internally displaced persons in Iraq are either living with relatives, friends or extended family, or renting accommodation in other neighbourhoods. However, thousands of displaced without family links or money, are living in public buildings and schools, improvised shelters and Government camps run by the International Federation of the Red Crescent.

UN agencies are delivering food and emergency assistance in central and southern Iraq together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organisation of Migration (IOM). Since February, the ICRC has distributed food and emergency relief to 150,000 people. EC member states have recently agreed to give 10 million euros to the UN for the provision of additional shelter and other basic needs for IDPs.

The UNHCR also estimate that there are up to 1.6 million Iraqis living outside their country, most of them in Jordan (500,000) and Syria (450,000). Some have been outside for a decade or more, but many have
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moved since 2003. The UN Assistance Mission Iraq is currently conducting an assessment of these people's needs.

Since 2003, DFID has contributed over £100 million to humanitarian agencies working in Iraq, including £85 million for the UN Humanitarian Appeal and £32 million to the ICRC for emergency humanitarian assistance. This includes £4 million for their 2006 Appeal. In 2004, DFID also provided £70 million to the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI). IRFFI has already spent over $18 million on supporting the return and reintegration of IDPs in Iraq. We are in close touch with UN humanitarian agencies so that we are able to respond quickly where unmet needs are identified.

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