To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what changes he made to the train service requirements from (a) Ashwell and Morden, (b)
Baldock and (c) Letchworth in the specification for the current Thameslink/First Capital Connect franchise compared to the service under the previous franchise. 
Mr. Tom Harris: There have been no changes in the specified service requirements from Ashwell and Morden, Baldock and Letchworth as a result of the implementation of the First Capital Connect Service Level Commitment in place of the Great Northern Franchise Passenger Service Requirement.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to facilitate the creation of regional transport boards in addition to the South East and Yorkshire and Humber boards. 
Gillian Merron: It is open to every region to decide whether they wish to establish bodies to focus their involvement in regionally based transport exercises, such as the regional funding allocations process or development of the regional transport strategy. Whether to do so, and what the structure and tasks to be assigned to such bodies should be, is for individual regions to decide. I understand that several regions have chosen to establish such bodies.
Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 24 January 2007, Official Report, column 1779W, on Afghanistan, if he will break down how the 70 per cent. of aid given direct to the Afghanistan Government has been spent; and what steps he is taking (a) to audit the spending and (b) to ensure it has been well spent. 
Mr. Thomas [holding answer 5 February 2007]: In 2006-07 DFID expects to provide 70 per cent. of its support to Afghanistan to the Government budget. £10 million was channelled through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), a multi-donor pooled fund which supports the Government's operating costs and priority development activities but earmarked for specific programmes. These included £5 million each for the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), and the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA). NSP has so far created 16,000 community development councils across all 34 provinces of Afghanistan with over £147 million spent on over 22,000 projects in the areas of agriculture, education, health, irrigation, power, public buildings, transport and water supply. MISFA has so far provided small loans to 234,000 clients. Nearly 75 per cent. of those receiving loans are women.
A further £10 million has been committed as our first contribution to the Helmand Agriculture and Rural Development Programme (HARDP), a programme to facilitate the roll-out of the government of Afghanistan's national programmes specifically in Helmand province. To date 150 wells are being
constructed, with a further 150 wells and 49km of road construction commencing this week.
£50 million of this was channelled as unearmarked support to the ARTF. Three-quarters of all ARTF funds are spent on civil servants in key service delivery sectors. For example, 40 per cent. goes towards salaries for 100,000 teachers each month. We have in place robust safeguards to ensure DFID money is being well spent. The World Bank, as administrator of the ARTF, ensures rigorous checks against all payments made from that fund, which are only reimbursed if they are considered eligible. Annual ARTF audits are undertaken by an independent accounting firm. These reports have been favourable and show improving financial management trends. By law, the Government has to submit the national budget audit to Parliament. This was done for the first time in 2006. Also DFID has been leading the group of donors to the ARTF, in setting up a monitoring mechanism to better assess the development impact from ARTF funding.
In the case of HARDP, we provide the funding direct to an account at the Ministry of Finance. All procurement procedures use the recently adopted government law based on World Bank procurement best practice. Given that HARDP is supporting existing programmes, the existing monitoring and audit systems are used, managed by the World Bank. In addition the Ministry of Finance are required to provide DFID with annual audited statements by the government of Afghanistan Auditor General.
John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much of his Department's budget for Burma was spent on consultants in each of the past five years; and what the average daily rate is for consultants hired to provide advice on issues relating to Burma. 
|Burma budget (£ million)
|Percentage of Burma budget spent on consultants
The average daily fee rate is £400 per day. We use consultants to provide expertise on projects such as HIV/AIDS national response, strategic development analysis , national malaria control and research into drug trafficking.
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what requests for additional equipment for UK forces in Afghanistan were made by UK commanders (a) in Afghanistan and (b) in the UK in each month since
January 2006; what the Government's response has been to each such request; and if he will make a statement. 
Des Browne [holding answer 30 January 2007]: The Ministry of Defence regularly receives and actions requests for a wide range of equipment. Some of these are addressed through existing resources; other emerging requirements are met through the Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) process. The UOR process is an effective means of providing new capabilities for use in theatre, and we receive a large number of requests through this process. Since early 2006, when the decision to deploy into southern Afghanistan was announced 261 UORs have been approved, of which 108 have already been delivered; the others are in progress. These UORs were identified by UK commanders either in Afghanistan or in the UK.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much of its personnel budget for 2005-06 the UK Hydrographic Office spent in Scotland in (a) monetary terms and (b) as a percentage of the total personnel budget; how much was spent for each category in 2004-05; and if he will make a statement. 
Derek Twigg: In the financial year 2005-06 the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office spent £76,000 on personnel employed in Scotland, compared with £74,000 in 2004-05. In both years this approximates to 0.2 per cent. of total UKHO personnel costs.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how much his Department has spent in each of the last three years on charter flights to transport UK personnel to and from (a) Iraq and (b) other theatres of operation; 
Mr. Ingram: Aircraft chartered to fly to and from operational theatres usually carry a mixture of passengers and freight, and it is therefore not possible to identify separately the cost of moving UK personnel.
Personnel travel to Iraq using a combination of commercial charter and military aircraft. Conventional civilian air passenger aircraft fly to Al Udeid, the middle eastern hub, where personnel are transferred onto RAF aircraft for movement to final destination. There have been no charter flights to Ali Al Salem over the last three years.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Banbury of 15 November 2006 in relation to 23 Pioneer Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, based in Bicester. 
Derek Twigg: The Department routinely acknowledges ministerial correspondence on receipt. However, in this instance, we have no record of receiving the hon. Member's letter. If the hon. Member would like to forward a copy of his letter, I will ensure he receives a reply.
Derek Twigg: The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is currently involved in a Land Command review to re-balance MDP resources throughout its estate to ensure a level of effective and efficient policing is maintained. Land Command has submitted the results of its review to the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency (MDPGA). The next step is for the MDPGA to conduct complementing reviews of the sites in question. A programme for these reviews is currently being produced.
Since then, I have given a detailed speech at Kings College, London, we have staged a full debate in the House of Lords and I have given wide-ranging evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee. We have also responded to many inquiries from members of the public. The costs of these activities cannot be separately identified.
Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland further to the answer of 24 January 2007, Official Report, column 1823W, on the Assets Recovery Agency, what he expects the (a) total cost and (b) full complement of staff of the Northern Ireland section of the Serious Organised Crime Agency to be in the first full year of its work. 
It is not possible to provide precise estimates at this early stage. There will be no reduction in the level of effort on asset recovery in Northern Ireland. The Serious Organised Crime Agency will continue to dedicate at least the same level of resource to asset recovery in Northern Ireland as is currently committed by the Assets Recovery Agency.
Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which public affairs firms have been given contracts by (a) his Department and (b) public bodies sponsored by his Department in the last five years; and what the purpose was of each contract. 
Mr. Hain: In Northern Ireland Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity and regard to the desirability of promoting good relations. These duties ensure that equality issues, including gender, are integral to the whole range of public policy decision making. Public authorities, such as the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), are required to submit Equality Schemes to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and to carry out Impact Assessments of their policies in certain circumstances.
The NIO is fully committed to the fulfilment of the section 75 obligations on the promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations. The NIO Equality Scheme, approved by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission in November 2001, sets out how the Department proposed to fulfil those duties with regard to all of its policies and functions. A copy of the NIO Equality Scheme may be found on the Northern Ireland Office website www.nio.gov.uk.
In January 2007 the Department of the Office of First and Deputy First Minister published the Gender Equality Strategy for Northern Ireland for 2006 to 2016. This is available to view or download on the OFMDFM website at:
|Number of press statements