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Mr. Thomas: Gender is an integral part of DFIDs core business to eliminate poverty overseas. The third millennium development goal (MDG) 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 the 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 has launched a consultation with staff and policy heads, to review UK based functions and activities to develop and publish our Gender Equality Scheme by 30 April 2007. This will conform to the approach set out in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities) (Statutory Duties) Order 2006 (No. 2930) when it comes into force on 6 April 2007.
DFID's Human Resources Division is updating gender monitoring data on our employment functions and will use this evidence to promote equality as necessary. We are now identifying other activities for which we will collect more data on gender outcomes, such as the uptake of DFID's proposed volunteering scheme and the use of the development awareness fund.
A network of gender champions has been established across the Department, consisting of senior civil servants, who are responsible for promoting equality and ensuring the Department's action plans are implemented.
Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the cost to his Department of monitoring the time spent processing requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the purposes of the proposed fees regulations. 
Mr. Thomas: I refer my hon. Friend to the response given by my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Vera Baird) on 22 February 2007, Official Report, column 866W.
Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Education Fast Track Initiative; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Thomas: DFID is one partner among others on the multi-donor Education for All (EFA)Fast Track Initiative (FTI). In its capacity as the host to the EFA-FTI, the World Bank recently carried out a study on the effectiveness of FTI on behalf of all FTI Partners. The Progress Report, with which DFID broadly agreed, states that the FTI has made significant impact on the ground; led to increases in enrolment in some FTI endorsed countries and substantial progress has been made on donor harmonisation and coordination.
Since its inception in 2002, 29 countries have been endorsed and FTI has helped in building in-country processes; targeting countries with limited external assistance and is developing a potential strategy for harnessing and mobilising long-term predictable financing. FTI has acted as a catalyst in resource mobilisation alongside increased bilateral allocations to basic education in FTI endorsed countries. Additionally, a recent World Bank funded study on the effectiveness of Global Funds/Partnerships at country level to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (DAC-OECD), found FTI to be a good model for aid effectiveness based on the Paris Principles.
Mr. Thomas: Poverty and social exclusion make people vulnerable to human trafficking. DFID's purpose is to support long-term development programmes to help eliminate the underlying causes of poverty. Our programmes help improve the education of children and the livelihood opportunities and security of poor people so that they are less susceptible to traffickers.
The UK spent £5.9 billion in 2006, on reducing poverty in developing countries, working with governments, civil society and the private sector. The UK also works with multilateral organisations, including the International Labour Organisation, the leading international body supporting programmes to tackle trafficking and other forms of forced labour.
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 31 January 2007, Official Report, column 310W, on Iraq, whether the Government have taken part in discussions on the possibility of support to the Governments of Syria and Jordan for the assistance of displaced refugees from Iraq. 
Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the comparative performance of his Departments Andean Unit and its offices elsewhere in the world. 
Mr. Thomas: DFIDs Andean Unit was recently evaluated as part of a broader independent evaluation, undertaken by the Overseas Development Institute, of DFIDs Regional Assistance Programme for Latin America. The evaluation found that DFID Andes had adapted well to the new demands of a regional rather than a national bilateral programme, and had been successful in forging strong partnerships and implementing high quality programmes.
The evaluation stated that DFID Andes was perceived by its partners to be playing its role as catalyst of change effectively. It went on to note that DFID Andes, and its counterpart offices in other parts of Latin America, are having a positive impact on its main partners, the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Both institutions have cited that DFID Andes influence has enabled them to improve
their consultation processes on strategies and programmes, and to better disseminate their analysis to broader society.
It is hard to compare performance with DFID offices elsewhere, because the Latin American offices have a different taskto work with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, rather than to administer a DFID country programme. DFIDs Evaluation Department routinely undertakes evaluations of DFID offices and programmes around the world. Recent evaluations include DFID programmes in Bangladesh and the Caribbean. These evaluation reports are all publicly available on DFIDs website, as is the Latin America Programme independent evaluation.
Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the short-term threat to the livestock of those refugees from Darfur who have crossed the border into Chad; and what plans the refugee agencies have for providing veterinary and other care to that livestock. 
Hilary Benn: The major influx of Darfuri refugees with livestock into Chad took place in 2004 and 2005. During this time, livestock suffered greatly with the long distances travelled, the sudden increase in stress on pastures and the lack of available water. Since this influx, UNHCR, with its implementing partners, have stabilised the livestock situation in and around the 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad. UNHCR estimate that there are approximately 60,000 animals owned by refugees in these areas and provides the owners with training sessions on animal breeding techniques as well as vaccination and treatment services and complementary livestock feeding in the dry season.
UNHCR has two main priority areas for livestock for 2007; vaccination and veterinarian care in and outside the camps, in cooperation with the Chadian Government's livestock delegation; and promoting the breeding of smaller animals (sheep and poultry) better suited to vulnerable refugees living in camps.
Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will facilitate those agencies with expertise in dealing with livestock in emergency situations to intervene in Darfur in order to protect these assets. 
Hilary Benn: The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is the primary agency dealing with livestock in Darfur. In 2006, FAO vaccinated and treated over 470,000 head of livestock, as well as training 350 community animal health workers, across Darfur.
DFID channels the majority of its humanitarian funding through multi-donor common humanitarian fund (CHF) which enables the UN Humanitarian Coordinator to target resources at the areas of greatest need. In 2006, the CHF allocated $6 million to the food security and livelihoods sector in Darfur from which the FAO received $3.96 million. In 2007, food security and livelihoods in Darfur has so far received $7 million, $3.4 million going to FAO. DFIDs proportion of CHF contributions stood at around two thirds in 2006 and will probably be similar in 2007.
DFID also funds two NGO programmes with a livestock component in the rural areas of Darfur. These programmes have focused on animal vaccination, treatment and the expansion of local veterinary services.
The aggregates levy was introduced in 2002 to ensure that the external costs associated with the exploitation of aggregates are reflected in the price of aggregate, and to encourage the use of recycled aggregate. The revenue raised by the levy is shown in the following table and is published on the UK Trade Info website at
|Financial year||Aggregates levy receipts (£ million)|
Revenue is recycled back to business, primarily through a 0.1 percentage point reduction in employers' national insurance contributions, introduced at the same time as the levy, and the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, which has been set at a UK level of £35 million since the introduction of the levy.
Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the time period was between the first contact with his Department of the veterinary surgeon who discovered the avian influenza outbreak at the Bernard Matthews plant at Holton and his Departments first subsequent visit to the plant. 
The State Veterinary Service (SVS) were first notified by the private veterinary surgeon by telephone at approximately 4.45 pm on 1 February. Restrictions were immediately put in place on the turkey rearing farm, and work started shortly thereafter on gathering the essential initial
epidemiological information. Detailed discussions on the situation between the private veterinary surgeon and the SVS continued into that evening, including an agreement that a full veterinary clinical and epidemiological investigation would commence at the turkey rearing site at 8.45 am on 2 February.
Mr. Bradshaw: Although there has been some research into avian influenza virus survivability, most of this relates to the survival of virus in the environment. Therefore, we cannot give a definite answer as to how long the virus can remain in bird carcasses. Much depends upon the strain of virus, the host and environmental factors.
However, there is evidence to support the fact that avian influenza virus can survive longer than six hours in live birds. The incubation period for this disease (infection to the onset of illness) is typically three to five days and the virus can be isolated during the clinical phase of the disease. In some instances it may be longer.
Some species of birds (for example, waterfowl) can become infected but not show clinical signs of the disease, even when infected with the highly pathogenic strains. Many species of bird can become infected with the low pathogenic strains and show little evidence of being ill but are still infectious to other birds for some time.
Mr. Bradshaw: A system already exists to fine businesses for using excess packaging. The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2003 (as amended) require that all packaging placed on the market in the UK should be manufactured so that volume and weight are limited to the minimum adequate amount to maintain necessary levels of safety, hygiene and consumer acceptance for the packed product.
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 also encourage businesses to reduce the amount of packaging they use. In addition, the Government are encouraging supermarkets to take greater responsibility for the waste they place on the market and for producers to reduce their waste. The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is currently working with retailers through the Courtauld Commitment, a voluntary agreement which aims to halt packaging growth by 2008 and make absolute reductions in packaging waste by 2010. 13
major retailers, representing 92 per cent. of the UK grocery sector, have already signed the agreement as well as three major brands.
In addition, DEFRA, working with WRAP and the devolved Administrations, has recently secured the agreement of UK retailers to reduce the overall environmental impact of their carrier bags by 25 per cent. by the end of 2008.
Consumers also have a part to play in encouraging producers to reduce unnecessary waste by choosing goods that are not heavily packaged, buying loose rather than pre-packaged food and re-using their own bags.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whether local authorities which have entered a joint waste authority (JWA) will be able to leave the JWA without the consent of its other members; 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Government tabled their proposals for the creation of joint waste authorities (JWAs) through amendments to the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill on 1 March this year.
Under the proposals, the decision to create a JWA will be a voluntary one to be taken by two or more local waste authorities. The Secretary of State will only be able to dissolve a JWA in two situations: (i) if he/she receives a request to do so from all the appropriate local authorities; (ii) if he/she considers it necessary. Other models of partnership working are available for those authorities that do not wish their partnership to be placed on a statutory footing.
Where a JWA takes on the waste collection or waste disposal functions of its constituent authorities, it will also be responsible for any targets associated with those functions. It is up to groups of authorities to decide which functions a JWA should take on. If a JWA is responsible for waste collection, the recycling targets of the constituent authorities will in effect be pooled. However, if the JWA is responsible only for waste disposal, the local authorities will remain responsible for recycling targets.
It will be for the relevant local authorities to consider and propose arrangements concerned with governance, internal voting, remuneration and administration. The Government are proposing that the Secretary of State will have powers to make regulations on the content of proposals and the information that should accompany them. A requirement for local authorities to consult on their draft proposals is also being proposed.
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