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19 Feb 2007 : Column 68W—continued

Westmorland General Hospital

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether there are plans to place a clinical assessment treatment and support services centre at the Westmorland General hospital in Kendal. [112222]

Andy Burnham: There are no plans to place a clinical assessment, treatment and support services centre at Westmorland General hospital in Kendal.

International Development


Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will clarify his answer to the hon. Member for North Devon to Question 98013 of 6 November 2006, Official Report, column 902W, on Afghanistan. [119793]

Hilary Benn: DFID had stated that it commissioned the King’s Fund to conduct a review of the UK’s involvement in provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan. This was wrong; the answer should have read “King’s College” rather than “King’s Fund”.

Afghanistan: Microfinance

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funding his Department has committed to microfinance in Afghanistan. [120237]

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Hilary Benn: Since March 2004, DFID has provided £15 million to microfinance in Afghanistan. DFID has committed a further £5 million for 2007-08. In addition, £8 million over three years has been specifically allocated for microfinance in the Helmand province.

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of microfinance projects in Afghanistan. [120338]

Hilary Benn: An interim review of the microfinance sector was carried out between June and August of 2006. The review was commissioned by the Government of Afghanistan, microfinance donors, and the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) management to assess the current status of the Afghan microfinance sector and MISFA’s role in developing it.

The review found that the Afghanistan Government’s MISFA has made significant progress in helping Afghans to invest in income generating activities. Rapidly increasing the number of people receiving loans over a short period has been successful in helping to build the microfinance sector. Nearly 75 per cent. of those receiving loans are women. So far, over £83 million worth of small loans have been given to 234,000 families, shopkeepers, tailors, farmers, builders and others to invest and increase their savings. The review suggested that with continued support and an enabling environment, there is potential for many microfinance institutions (MFIs) to become financially sustainable over the next three years. To date, the role of the MISFA to support the sector has been successful, and justifies a clear need for its continuation to channel funds to the MFIs to improve their capacity, outreach and sustainability. The MISFA’s design and implementation can serve as a good example for building microfinance sector in conflict affected countries.

A further review has been commissioned to look at the impact of microfinance on increasing legal livelihoods in opium poppy cultivating areas. The final report will be placed in the Library.

Africa: EC Aid

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact on poverty reduction and development of economic partnership agreements between the European Union and African states; and if he will make a statement. [121171]

Hilary Benn: The UK Government believe that the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) currently being negotiated between the European Commission and six regional groupings of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries can, if well-designed, promote long-term development, economic growth and poverty reduction in ACP countries, including in Africa. The Government's position paper of March 2005 set out our view of an EPA designed to deliver benefits to ACP countries. It should provide duty and quota-free access into EU markets and simpler and more liberal rules of origin to ensure effective market access. It should allow ACP countries maximum flexibility as regards their own market opening and an effective safeguard mechanism for countries to use in the face of
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subsidised EU products. ACP regional groups should also be able to decide on the scope of the EPA they negotiate, and whether it includes rules on investment, competition and Government procurement.


John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance his Department provides to Burmese refugees in (a) China, (b) Malaysia, (c) Bangladesh, (d) India and (e) Laos. [118627]

Mr. Thomas: DFID does not provide any direct assistance to Burmese refugees in China, Malaysia or Laos; assistance to Burmese refugees in these countries is provided by the European Commission (EC) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), to which the UK contributes. In India, although DFID does not provide assistance to Burmese refugees directly, DFID supports the Government of India to provide health and education services through a number of centrally-sponsored schemes. These programmes are designed to target some of the poorest and most marginalised groups in India, including in the north-eastern states. In Bangladesh, although DFID does not provide assistance to Burmese refugees, such support is provided by development partners including the EC, the UNHCR and the Dutch, as well as a number of small non-governmental organisations.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what public consultations his Department has held in Burma on implementation of the 3D fund. [118628]

Mr. Thomas: The donors supporting the 3D Fund have carried out wide-ranging consultations on the 3D Fund. This has included: discussions with the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other political groups; discussions with representatives of the ethnic-minorities; discussions with the Ministry of Health and other Government Ministries; discussions with the UN and international NGOs; and discussions with civil society.

On 9 June 2006 the donors held a public meeting in Rangoon to discuss the proposed 3D Fund. The meeting was attended by around 100 representatives from local civil society organisations and provided an opportunity for them to ask questions about the proposed fund and to make suggestions about Fund design. Following the establishment of the 3D Fund, the donors and fund manager have held further meetings with international and local NGOs to discuss fund implementation. Ensuring transparency of 3D Fund activities and ongoing discussions about these with implementing partners will continue to be a priority for the donors.

Departments: Advertising

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the Answer of 15 January 2007, Official Report, column 740W, on advertising, how much of that spending was spent on (a) sponsoring supplements and (b) advertorials; and what the topic of each (i) advertorial and (ii) supplement was. [119863]

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Mr. Thomas: Details of the spending on (a) supplements and (b) advertorials and the topics are as follows:

Topic Cost (£)

(a) Supplement

Eliminating World Poverty—a summary of the UK Government’s 2006 White Paper on International Development, setting out an action plan for the next five years.


(b) Advertorials

Reporting the progress made one year after the G8 summit, which in 2005 set out the key objectives of promoting development to end extreme poverty, with a special focus on Africa and responding to climate change.


Departments: Equal Opportunities

Lorely Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to implement the gender equality duty due to come into force on 6 April 2007. [120640]

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department (a) has taken and (b) plans to take to ensure that it and related bodies are in compliance with the gender equality duty in the Equality Act 2006 by the April 2007 deadline. [120985]

Mr. Thomas: Gender is an integral part of DFID’s core business to eliminate poverty overseas. The third Millennium Development Goal specifically promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment and evidence shows that gender equality is also key to the achievement of the other MDGs.

In line with the commitment in this Government’s recent White Paper (July 2006) to give greater priority to gender equality DFID carried out an evaluation of how effective the Department has been at achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. This led to the development of a three year Gender Equality Action Plan.

The Department are also taking the following steps to meet our specific legal responsibilities under the Gender Equality Duty.

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Departments: Freedom of Information

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on how many occasions special advisers have been consulted in replying to Freedom of Information requests to his Department; and what his Department’s policy is on the role of special advisers in the answering of Freedom of Information requests. [119843]

Hilary Benn: The Department for International Development does not keep such records. Special advisers carry out their duties in accordance with the requirements of the “Code of Conduct for Special Advisers”.

Departments: Furniture

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many items of furniture were (a) lost and (b) stolen from his Department in each year since 1997; and what the value was of those items in each year. [120713]

Mr. Thomas: No items of furniture have been reported as lost or stolen since 1997.

Developing Countries: Water

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to improve the capacity of public sector utilities in developing countries to deliver clean and safe water. [119938]

Hilary Benn: Since most water and sanitation services are provided by the public sector, public utilities are critical to achieving the water and sanitation MDG targets. DFID supports several international programmes that aim to strengthen public operators.

DFID supports the International Benchmarking Network for Water and Sanitation Utilities (IBNET), an international network managed by the World Bank, that increases the transparency of utility performance and monitors their efficiency. Since 2002 DFID has provided £1,055,000 in funding to IBNET. DFID has also funded Building Partnerships for Development (BPD), an informal network that demonstrates, through research, how public, private and civil society partnerships in the water sector can work effectively at the local level. The research is then used to promote further partnerships which help to increase the capacity of local level operators to increase service. DFID supported BPD with £400,000 from 2002-06.

Sustainable improvements in utilities often require political and institutional changes, not simply improved hardware or technical skills. Ensuring that everyone, including the poorest and most marginalised, is served requires Governments that are capable, responsive and accountable to poor people—ie good governance. In most, if not all, cases where we provide Poverty Reduction Budget Support (PRBS) it is accompanied by support for governance reforms, particularly improved public sector financial management. Where we support sector programmes
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(as in Ghana or Sierra Leone) support for utility reform is usually a significant component.

Finding better ways to strengthen public utilities is a high priority for DFID. We are looking both at how we can provide further support to programmes that are working successfully and at identifying new partnership that can make a difference.


Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of levels of unemployment in Iraq in each year from 1995 to 2006; and if he will make a statement. [118731]

Hilary Benn: Reliable data are difficult to obtain. Variations are due to differences in the definition of unemployment as well as the lack of a single, official data source.

An International Labour Organisation (ILO) mission to Iraq in April/May 2000, estimated the unemployment rate as 50-60 per cent. The ILO, which is mandated to provide international definitions of employment, only considers as unemployed, those individuals who are actively seeking work but have not been successful in finding one hour’s work in one week. The United Nations and World Bank social and economic needs assessments (carried out after the conflict in 2003) estimated that the unemployment rate before the 2003 war had been around 30 per cent.

The most recent reliable unemployment data available for Iraq comes from the Iraq Living Conditions Survey carried out in 2004 by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation/United Nations Development Programme. There is no other more recent comparable survey. The 2004 survey found that the core unemployment rate in Iraq was just over 10 per cent. (using the ILO definition).

In 2004, Iraq had a working age population of 16.4 million, but only 6.7 million (41 per cent.) were working or actively seeking work. Six million of these were employed, leaving 700,000 (around 10 per cent.) unemployed. The majority of the 9.7 million people considered “economically inactive” (ie above 15 years but neither working nor actively seeking work) were women, who are significantly less likely to engage in paid employment than men (this is common to the region). In addition, young men constitute 15 per cent. of the economically inactive. The majority of young economically inactive men (68 per cent.) say they are studying and thus not available to work. 20 per cent. claim to be “discouraged workers” (ie believe that there are no jobs available and have therefore given up looking for work).

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent progress has been made in meeting the millennium development goals in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. [119448]

Hilary Benn: Achievement of the millennium development goals (MDGs) in Iraq depends crucially on achieving an end to violence. Worsening violence not only hampers progress towards the goals but also makes them difficult to measure. Ending the violence—and rebuilding Iraq's economy and public services—is
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dependent on action from the Iraqi Government themselves. DFID is supporting these efforts by providing expert advice on reconciliation, economic reform and governance.

Progress against the MDGs

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger—Poverty in Iraq was not measured under the regime of Saddam Hussein, and World Bank data on income and expenditure will not be available until 2008. We do, however, know that global malnutrition is roughly at the same level as in the early 1990s (after rising to much higher levels in the late 1990s).

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education—Net enrolment in primary schools has not yet returned to the levels of 1991, after severe deterioration during the 1990s.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women—The gender ratio among primary and secondary students has not improved, and the proportion of women in parliament has decreased since the early 1990s.

Goals 4-6: Reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases—Because child mortality increased dramatically at the end of the 1990s, substantial improvements are now required if Iraqi is to meet this goal. Maternal mortality is believed to have increased in recent years. There are no data on HIV prevalence in Iraq, but levels are thought to be very low. Malaria is not a significant public health problem. TB rates are thought to be stable.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability—Access to safe drinking water did not improve between 1990 and 2004. There are no nationally representative data on trends in improved sanitation coverage. UNICEF is expected to provide updated estimates later this year.

Significant investment in delivery of basic services is required to improve Iraq's performance against the MDGs. Iraq has the resources to fund much of this work itself (with estimated revenues for 2007 of $37.6 billion), but DFID support will help the Government to plan and deliver investment in basic services, improve oil production levels, generate jobs and manage its own resources more effectively. DFID has already provided expert support to key Iraqi Government Ministries such as the Iraqi Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the World Bank and USAID, to mitigate the impact of economic reform on the poorest. DFID has also channelled £70 million of funds through the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI) which has supported back-to-school campaigns, constructed 134 new schools, supplied 79 million new textbooks, rehabilitated 209 primary health centres (PHCs), added seven new mental health units, supported country-wide immunisation programmes, and supplied emergency medical drugs and supplies.

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