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Electoral Commission Committee

Electoral Commission

Mr. Heald: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission what recent assessment the Speaker’s Committee has made of (a) whether the Electoral Commission is fit for purpose and (b) the Commission’s ability to manage a UK-wide referendum. [117910]

Peter Viggers: The Speaker’s Committee has a statutory obligation to satisfy itself in relation to both the Electoral Commission’s estimates and the accompanying five-year plans that, as laid before the House of Commons by the Committee, these are consistent with the economical, efficient and effective discharge by the Commission of its functions.

The Committee approved the Electoral Commission’s 2006-07 estimate and its five-year plan for 2006-07 to 2010-11 on 29 March 2006. It expects to consider proposals for the 2007-08 estimate and a five-year plan for 2007-08 to 2011-12 in the near future.

However, the statutory functions of the Speaker’s Committee do not require it to make the assessments referred to in the question, and it has therefore not done so.

House of Commons Commission

Joint Committee on Human Rights

Mr. Carswell: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, how much the Joint Committee on Human Rights spent on advisers in each of the past five years. [112526]

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Nick Harvey: Expenditure by the Joint Committee on Human Rights on specialist advisers' fees and expenses was met by the House of Commons until the start of financial year 2006-07, since when it has been shared between the two Houses. Figures for the expenditure, for each parliamentary Session and each financial year, are published in the House of Commons Sessional Returns.

The total expenditure on the Committee's part-time specialist advisers in each of the last five full financial years is:












The Committee also has a full-time legal adviser (SCS band 2 equivalent). He is a House of Lords employee, but the House of Commons reimburses the House of Lords 50 per cent. of his salary and related costs. The Committee has also employed a full-time committee specialist (Bl) since September 2002 and a second such post will be filled from February 2007.

Mr. Carswell: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, what the costs to the House were of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in each of the past five years. [112529]

Nick Harvey: The costs to the House of Commons of the Joint Committee on Human Rights are published in the Sessional Returns, which give figures for each parliamentary Session and each financial year.

For the last five full financial years the figures are as follows:












These figures include witnesses' expenses, advisers’ fees and expenses, visits (UK and overseas), work commissioned, transcription and entertainment.

These figures do not include printing (which is paid in this case by the House of Lords) and the costs of the permanent staff of the Committee or office costs and expenses, which are not attributed at the level of individual Committees. For most of this period the Committee staff from the House of Commons comprised a deputy principal clerk (SCS band 1), a committee specialist (band Bl), a committee assistant (band B2) and a committee secretary (band C).

The House of Commons also reimburses the House of Lords 50 per cent. of the salary and related costs of the Committee's legal adviser, who is a House of Lords employee (SCS band 2 equivalent).

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International Development


Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the level of (a) exports and (b) imports in Afghanistan in each year between 1995 and 2006. [112306]

Hilary Benn: Data on export and import levels is patchy in Afghanistan and only goes back to 2002.

Afghanistan’s exports amounted to $1.3 billion in 2002, $1.9 billion in 2003, and $1.6 billion in 2004 and 2005. In the past year it is expected to increase to $1.7 billion. Expanding the export base is one of Afghanistan’s trade policy aims and is a key part of a broader private sector development strategy.

According to best estimates, Afghanistan imported $2.5 billion worth of goods in 2002. This has been steadily increasing each year to $3.8 billion in 2003, $3.9 billion in 2004, $4.2 billion in 2005 and $4.7 billion in 2006.

Africa: Wood

Judy Mallaber: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had on measures to ensure effective governance of forestry use and control of the timber trade in the rain forests of Africa. [117830]

Mr. Thomas: Partnership agreements under the European Union (EU) Forest Law Enforcement and Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan aim to improve forest governance in timber-producing countries and to ensure that only legally-produced timber is traded with the EU. Discussions on agreements have been held with Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia and the Republic of Congo. Ghana has now entered into formal negotiations with the European Union. Other countries are expected to announce their wish to start negotiations in the coming months.

Climate Change

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what funding his Department has provided for research into identifying and adapting to the impact of climate change in each financial year since 2001-02; and to which organisations such funding was provided in each year; [112093]

(2) what funding his Department has allocated in each of the next three financial years for research into identifying and adapting to the impact of climate change; and to which organisations such funding has been allocated. [112094]

Mr. Thomas: DFID did not provide funding for climate change research prior to 2006-07.

DFID has entered into an arrangement with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to provide funding for research into how poverty-stricken people can best adapt to climate
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change. IDRC has overall management of the programme which is giving research grants to African organisations and their partners. The programme went live in May 2006.

DFID is providing £24 million to the programme over the five financial years 2006-07 to 2010-11. IDRC is providing C$15 million over the same period. DFID will provide £4 million in 2006-07 and £5 million in each of the four subsequent financial years.

In line with the third White Paper commitments, we will be significantly increasing climate change research in addition to the aforementioned funding described. Consultation is being conducted at the moment as to further research programmes.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to encourage transparency over mining activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [112617]

Hilary Benn: DFID is encouraging transparency in mining activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) through the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Support to this way of improving revenue transparency is a major part DFID’s planned support in the minerals sector in DRC. The Government of DRC signed up to the EITI in March 2005. Since then important progress has been made in implementing EITI. A multi-stakeholder national EITI Committee was established by Presidential Decree in November 2005 charged with ensuring the DRC implementation process complies with EITI criteria. In February 2006, the DRC Government named members of the EITI Committee and allocated a budget for its operations from the Government’s finances. In addition, an EITI baseline study for the exploitation of copper, cobalt and diamonds is currently under way.

However, a lot more work will be needed before EITI is fully implemented in the DRC. Continued political commitment from the newly-elected DRC Government as well as capacity building and improved co-ordination within relevant DRC Government institutions will be crucial. Strong engagement from civil society, the private sector and wider international community stakeholders will also be required. When the new Government is in place, we will press them to take early action to improve transparency in natural resource management.

DFID is also developing plans for public-private partnerships with a select group of international mining companies to support local development priorities in mining areas and to encourage responsible business behaviour.

Middle East

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the operation of the Temporary International Mechanism to Deliver Assistance to the Palestinian People; and whether decisions have been made about enlarging the mechanism. [112533]

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Hilary Benn: The UK Government are extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory. We are committed to helping the Palestinian people through the EU-led Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) and other projects. The causes of the deteriorating humanitarian situation include the conflict with Israel and among Palestinians; an economic downturn due to movement and access restrictions and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) fiscal crisis, which has meant it has been unable to pay salaries.

The TIM has been delivering on the ground since July 2006. DFID has pledged up to £12 million through the TIM of which £9.7 million has been disbursed: £3 million for essential health supplies; £3 million for water, sanitation and electricity; and £3.7 million for people who have suffered a severe loss in income such as teachers, hospital workers and pensioners.

The TIM has been extended by the Quartet (EU, US, Russia, UN) twice, most recently in late December for three months. Following this decision, the EU has agreed to increase the number of recipients, while maintaining the rigorous auditing procedures that have been applied so far.

Culture, Media and Sport

Committees: Ministerial Attendance

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on what occasions (a) she and (b) departmental Ministers have been requested to appear before committees of (i) devolved institutions and (ii) the European Parliament since 2004; on what topic in each case; how many and what proportion of such requests were accepted; and if she will make a statement. [111576]

Mr. Lammy: All the information requested is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, a DCMS Minister was invited to appear before the European Parliamentary Committee on Culture and Education on 12 July 2005 to set out the UK Presidency agenda in the field of culture. I attended the meeting on 12 July 2006 as Minister for Culture.

Cultural Heritage: European Union

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what position the Government have taken on the (a) proposal to establish an European Union Cultural Heritage Agency and (b) selection of a host nation for the agency. [117949]

Mr. Lammy: I am not aware of any current proposals to establish a European Union Cultural Heritage Agency.


Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many properties (a) owned and (b) managed by English Heritage (i) the Secretary of State, (ii) the Minister for Sport, (iii) the Minister for Culture and (iv) the Minister for Media and Tourism have visited in an official capacity in the last five years. [112623]

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Mr. Lammy: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited Stonehenge in 2006.

As Minister for Culture, I have visited seven properties managed by English Heritage. My predecessor, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, visited five properties managed by English Heritage between 2005 and 2003. Between 2003 and 2001, Baroness Blackstone, Minister of State for the Arts, visited four properties managed by English Heritage. Of these one is also owned by English Heritage.

The Minister for Sport and the Minister for Creative Industries and Tourism have not visited any properties owned or managed by English Heritage in their official capacities.

Heritage Lottery Fund

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport which communities will receive awards from the £150 million Heritage Lottery Fund announced in 2006 for deprived communities and town centres, broken down by region. [112644]

Mr. Lammy: Between 1998 and 2006, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded over £156 million to 190 projects through its Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) programme. The programme targets local partnerships to repair and regenerate historic areas. In 2006 the HLF announced that £13 million of grants would be awarded to the following 13 THI schemes across the UK:

Recipient Region Pass (£)

Long Eaton, Derbyshire

East Midlands


Bedlington, Northumberland



Armley, Leeds



Chapeltown road, Leeds



Richhill, County Armagh

Northern Ireland


Dalkeith, Midlothian



Dysart, Fife



John Finnie street and Bank street, Kilmarnock



The Green, Aberdeen



Shepton Mallet, Somerset



Stokes Croft, Bristol



Oswestry town centre, Shropshire

West Midlands


Willenhall, west midlands

West Midlands


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