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John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact of the decision by the Government of Burma to close the offices of the Red Cross within Burma. 
The closure of the field offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Burma means that ICRC will be unable to carry out its vital assistance and protection work with civilians affected by conflict between the Burmese Army and the ethnic armed groups. We are extremely concerned that this will increase the vulnerability of these civilians. We are also very concerned that since December 2005, ICRC has had to halt its programme of prison visits
because it has been unable to carry them out according to its standard operating procedures. We believe that the ICRCs transparent, neutral and principled approach to aid delivery is the right one: respect for the humanitarian principles by donors, implementers and the authorities is crucial for the effective delivery of aid. The Burmese authorities treatment of ICRC is a cause for profound concern for all agencies supporting humanitarian assistance in Burma.
Mr. Thomas: I have made a public statement condemning the closure of the field offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Burma, pointing out that it is the poorest who will suffer, calling on the Burmese authorities to reconsider their decision, and emphasising the importance of donors, non-governmental organisations and the Burmese authorities in respecting the international humanitarian principles for the delivery of assistance. The British embassy in Rangoon has sent my statement to the Ministers of Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Health, Labour, and National Economic Planning and Development. British Officials will continue to take all opportunities to raise with the Burmese authorities the importance of ICRCs work and to call for the reopening of its offices, and will remain in close contact with ICRC on the developing situation.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many staff were employed on a consultancy basis in (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies in each of the last five years for which information is available; and what the (i) average and (ii) longest period was for which a consultant was employed in each year. 
Mr. Thomas: Personnel engaged on a consultancy basis are not employees of DFID, and their details are not recorded on our central staff database. Consultants are used to fill short term staffing gaps or to provide specialist skills that are not immediately available in house. There is no central record of the number of people employed on this basis, and the information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether people employed (a) through employment agencies and (b) on a consultancy basis are included in the calculations for the full-time equivalent staff mentioned in his Department's annual report. 
Mr. Thomas: Neither agency staff, nor those engaged on consultancy terms, are included in the full time equivalent staffing figures that appear in the Annual Report published by the Department for International Development (DFID). This approach is fully consistent with the Cabinet Office guidelines on the categories of staff that should be reported in departmental headcount figures.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many value for money exercises on the use of (a) management consultants and (b) professional advisers were conducted by his Department in each of the last five years for which information is available; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Thomas: DFID has not specifically undertaken formal value for money exercises regarding the use of management consultants and professional advisers. However, all DFID contracts are subject to rigorous procurement processes and procedures that are designed to ensure that value for money is obtained.
All contracts above the EU threshold are tendered through international competition using clear evaluation criteria. DFID contracts include explicit terms of reference that focus on the need to achieve value for money, and all contracts are subject to rigorous monitoring, reporting and review. Payments to consultants are only made once confirmation has been received that they have performed satisfactorily.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his Department's annual budget is for employing workers on a consultancy basis; and how much of this budget was used in each of the last five years for which records are available. 
Mr. Thomas: Personnel engaged on a consultancy basis are not employees of DFID. Consultants are used to fill short term staffing gaps or to provide specialist skills that are not immediately available in house. We do not maintain a central budget for employing temporary staff on consultancy terms. This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many and what
percentage of staff employed in his Department were registered disabled in each year since 2001. 
|As at April:||Staff with a declared disability||Percentage of UK-based staff with declared disability|
We do not collect disability data for our locally engaged, staff appointed in country, and they are not reflected in the statistics above.
Data on the disabled status of civil servants, for the years requested, are available on the civil service website. The latest available data are as at April 2005 and these, together with previous years data, can be found at the following website addresses:
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans he has to carry out gender impact assessments of his Department's major policy developments and new legislation. 
Mr. Thomas: DFID has already started to develop a generic equalities impact assessment approach, which includes gender, in its policy development. This approach is currently being used to assess the Department's human resources policies. Guidance on carrying out impact assessments will be available by the end of 2006 and included in the Blue Book, which is DFID's guidance on mandatory procedures.
The Department will meet its legal requirements by April 2007 in line with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities)(Statutory Duties) Order 2006 (No.2930); and shall refer to the Equal Opportunities Commission's Code of Practice on the Gender Equality Duty and specific guidance when it is made available.
To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effect of the eruption of Mount Nyamulagira in Congo on the inhabitants of (a)
Goma and (b) North Kivu province; what aid the UK is making available through (i) unilateral and (ii) multilateral (A) organisations and (B) programmes to those areas; and what assessment he has made of the effect of fighting in the area on the delivery of aid. 
Hilary Benn: The eruption of Mount Nyamulagira in North Kivu, DRC has been anticipated for some time. Fortunately for the population of this troubled region, this volcano is situated within the Virunga National Park, which is largely uninhabited. Lava flows are being monitored by the Goma Volcano Observatory, and while it is still possible that lava may reach the Sake-Goma road, the speed of the flows has reduced considerably. To date the impact on inhabitants of the area has been minimal, but the situation will continue to be assessed.
The volcano Nyiragongo, however, is only 18 km from Goma town and is also very active. DFID is providing support to the Goma Volcano Observatory to increase its technical capacity to monitor the status of these two volcanoes and to establish a risk management unit to carry out contingency planning and emergency response preparation. The Observatory is funded through the UN and works closely with local authorities in North Kivu and Rwanda, other UN agencies and NGOs. If it becomes necessary to evacuate people from the area, support will be provided through the rapid response mechanism (RRM)a contingency fund established in DRC to ensure emergency assistance is provided as quickly as possible, supported by the UK and other partners.
The recent fighting in Sake (25 km west of Goma) and surrounding areas between combatants loyal to renegade army commander General Nkunda and MONUC/FARDC forces has caused considerable disruption in the area, with approximately 15,000 people displaced. The area is now quiet again, but people are delaying their return home, fearing looting. A joint UN/NGO assessment mission has reviewed the situation and made a first distribution of food and other essential items to those in need, using RRM resources. The humanitarian agencies on the ground will continue to monitor and respond to the needs of the population until they can safely return home.
Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the Peruvian Governments new legislation restricting non-governmental organisation operations in Peru. 
Mr. Thomas: DFID has been following closely the debate around this legislation. We agree with the assessment and statement by the European Union which reiterates member states commitment to supporting transparency, accountability and efficiency in aid programmes in Peru. It also requests that specific articles of the Bill be clarified to ensure that they are not used to limit constitutional rights, or limit the work of non-governmental organisations in the area of human rights and the environment.
The Bill is currently being reviewed at the request of President Garcia and a number of amendments have been proposed. DFID will continue to monitor this process and work with the European Union to ensure that the legislation promotes transparency and co-ordination and does not adversely affect the work of non-governmental organisations in Peru.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much budgetary aid has been given to the Pitcairn Islands in each of the last five years; and for what reasons the aid was provided. 
|Budgetary aid||Development aid||Total (£)|
Budgetary aid has been provided since December 2004 when Pitcairns financial reserves were exhausted. Budgetary aid helps meet Pitcairns essential recurrent expenditure needs including health and education services. DFID also provides development assistance to help promote Pitcairns self sufficiency and provide an environment which encourages economic and social development.
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