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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 20 March 2007

Leader of the House

Members: Allowances

Mr. Doran: To ask the Leader of the House whether the Members Estimate Committee has drawn up a detailed proposal for a communications allowance for hon. Members to assist in the work of communicating with the public on parliamentary business in accordance with the Resolution of 1 November 2006. [128315]

Mr. Straw: The Members Estimate Committee’s report on the ‘Communications Allowance’ was published yesterday as House of Commons Paper number 319.

International Development

Afghanistan: Internally Displaced Persons

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his most recent estimate is of the number of internally-displaced people in Afghanistan; and what assessment he has made of recent trends in that number. [127067]

Hilary Benn: The Government of Afghanistan (GoA) and the UN monitor the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) across Afghanistan. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) most recent assessment, conducted in early 2007, the estimated figure for long-standing IDPs in Afghanistan is some 130,000. Around 85 per cent. of these are located in four settlements in the south of the country.

DFID is not directly involved in making such assessments, but monitors UN/GoA figures closely. We are most closely involved with IDPs in Helmand, where last year the UN estimated that around 2,800 families had been displaced. The UK Government responded to this by providing food aid and essential items like soap and blankets for 3,000 internally displaced families. This aid was distributed by the GoA.

Departments: Postal Services

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which postal companies handle mail dispatched by his Department and its agencies. [128256]

Mr. Thomas: DFID currently uses Royal Mail for the majority of its mail. In addition, there is also an overnight delivery service which transports various items including mail between DFID's two headquarters in London and East Kilbride, Scotland; this service is provided by TNT. Most items sent overseas go via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Bag Service. A small quantity of mail is sent by various commercial courier companies such as DDI, Churchill's, DHL and Initial City Link.


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Developing Countries: Air Pollution

Mr. Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make it his policy to raise the matter of the impact of indoor air pollution in the developing world at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York in April. [128141]

Mr. Thomas: The 15(th) Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 15) will take place in New York from 30 April to 11 May 2007. The four main themes this year are; Energy for Sustainable Development, Air Pollution/Atmosphere, Industrial Development and Climate Change.

The UK is working with the current EU presidency to agree EU priorities for CSD 15, led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) with the support of DFID. These include reducing indoor air pollution due to the use of basic biomass fuels by households in developing countries for cooking and heating. The use of basic biomass arises from the lack of access to reliable, affordable and clean energy supplies. We will continue efforts to ensure this concern is included in the formal EU position and raised at CSD 15.

Mr. Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to tackle deaths in the developing world caused by indoor air pollution. [128142]

Mr. Thomas: Indoor air pollution is a considerable health hazard for approximately 2.4 billion people around the world relying on poorly designed wood, dung and coal burning stoves for their cooking and heating. DFID has funded research into the problem, with a current £253,000 programme due to end in July 2007. This is being carried out by Practical Action, a UK based non-governmental organisation active in many developing countries.

While raising awareness of the health risks may change behaviour to reduce exposure to smoke, the best solution is to improve access to reliable, affordable and clean energy supplies. DFID is supporting international efforts and programmes to improve access, including the EU Energy Initiative for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development (EUEI), the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP) and the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP).

We are working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to ensure indoor pollution is raised at the forthcoming 15(th) Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 15) taking place in New York from 30 April to 11 May 2007.

Developing Countries: Water

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to encourage the use of reed-bed technology as a means of tackling water problems in the developing world. [127168]


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Hilary Benn: Water shortages exist in many countries, and there is a risk of water pollution from human activities. Technologies for sanitation and wastewater management for specific situations are recommended on the basis of individual merits, and with the agreement of partners, taking account of local technical, financial, economic, social, and other considerations.

The use of Gravel Bed Hydroponic (GBH) reed beds, conventional reed beds or constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment has been the subject of various DFID funded research projects over the last 20 years.

For instance, from 1991 to 1995, DFID funded research into the use of reed beds to treat domestic and industrial wastewater in Egypt. Teams of scientists and engineers in the UK (University of Portsmouth) and Egypt (Suez Canal University) built, monitored and evaluated the operational performance of constructed wetlands as an appropriate technology for semi-arid, developing countries. The research did not provide clear evidence that reed beds were the most appropriate wastewater treatment option, and showed that industrial wastes resulted in erratic performance efficiency.

The outputs of successful research and similar projects are promoted through dissemination channels such as our resource centre network and websites. These technologies have also been promoted in DFID programmes where appropriate. One in Bangladesh in collaboration with WaterAid has seen the use of reed bed technology in the urban environment evidenced.

DFID Central Research Department is currently considering whether to develop a water and sanitation ‘Research into Use’ programme to promote the adoption of technologies generated through research. Such a programme might analyse the potential of outputs and fund uptake promotion of those technologies with greatest potential.

Mozambique: Floods

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what aid he is making available to the survivors of the recent flooding and cyclone in Mozambique. [128162]

Hilary Benn: DFID's total contribution to the relief effort in response to both the recent flooding and cyclone in Mozambique stands at £1.09 million. This is made up of donations to Save the Children, Oxfam, the Red Cross and CARE.

Zimbabwe: Overseas Aid

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what steps his Department is taking to assist those who have been affected by economic collapse in Zimbabwe; [127894]

(2) what recent representations his Department has received on the withholding of aid from Zimbabwe due to that country's political situation. [127895]

Hilary Benn: DFID has received no representations on the withholding of aid to Zimbabwe. The UK does not give direct funding to the Government of Zimbabwe. All DFID's funding is channelled through
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NGOs and UN agencies, much of it programmed jointly with other donors. We do not believe in cutting direct assistance to poor Zimbabweans and thus punishing them further for their unaccountable Government.

The UK is one of the largest bilateral donors of humanitarian support to Zimbabwe, supporting over 1.5 million of the poorest people. Over the last five years, DFID has spent approximately £143 million in Zimbabwe, including over £33 million in the last financial year. This funding prioritises HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and supporting orphans and vulnerable children. DFID also supports civil society organisations to promote better governance and human rights. Our current programmes will help ensure that an additional 30,000 people receive anti-retroviral treatment, will provide health care for around 350,000 children, promote food security in urban and rural areas and assist extremely vulnerable displaced people.

Defence

Armed Forces: Dental Health

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment was made of the oral health of recruits to each of the armed services in each year for which records are available. [126427]

Derek Twigg: The Defence Dental Services (DDS) conduct an oral health assessment of all recruits to the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force. This assessment is of the oral fitness status and initial treatment requirement for each individual and is recorded in the individual’s dental record. HQ DDS hold a record of individual fitness rates for recruits from 2004. The table shows the percentage of recruits from each service since records began who were:

Percentage
Royal Navy Army RAF
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3

2004

68.0

28.2

3.8

29.1

33.0

37.9

51.0

39.6

9.4

2005

43.0

44.3

12.7

30.8

36.5

32.6

50.3

40.0

9.7

2005

44.3

43.6

12.1

30.4

36.8

32.4

54.8

37.0

82


Armed Forces: Expenditure

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what expenditure was on each of the armed services in each of the last 15 years. [127572]

Mr. Ingram: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 14 March 2006, Official Report, column 2145W, to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn). Earlier accounts are contained within the MOD’s Appropriation Accounts, copies of which can be found in the Library of the House. Budgetary structure and accounting treatment has changed progressively across the period in question.


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Armed Forces: Voluntary Organisations

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what his Department's charging regime is for events organised by charities when the main beneficiary is a services charity; [125567]

(2) on which occasions his Department waived fees for charity events organised by services charities in the financial years 2004-05 and 2005-06; and what the total amount of fees waived was; [125568]

(3) what charges his Department made on events organised by services charities for the financial years 2004-05 and 2005-06. [125569]

Derek Twigg: The MOD is required to recover the full cost of the services or facilities it provides to external bodies. HM Treasury rules for all Departments state that there are no special arrangements for the treatment of charities whether services or other.

The information on charges made for events organised by services charities is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Army: Costs

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the running costs were of the housing provided by his Department to the (a) Adjutant General, (b) Chief of the General Staff and (c) members of the Army Board in the last 12 months; [118182]

(2) what estimate he has made of the market value of the housing provided by his Department to the (a) Chief of the General Staff, (b) Adjutant General and (c) members of the Army Board. [118184]

Derek Twigg: The Army Board consists of the Secretary of State for Defence, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, the Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the Chief of the General Staff, the Second Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Commander in Chief Land Command, Adjutant General, Assistant Chief of the General Staff, the Director General of Land Equipment, Master General of the Ordnance and General Officer Commanding (Northern Ireland).

Civilian members of the Army Board are not entitled to occupy defence accommodation.

The following table shows the latest available (financial year 2005-06) running costs for MOD provided housing.

£
Post
CGS AG GOC NI CinC Land

Rent

8,645

11,088

n/a

14,490

Utilities

5,657.15

5,158.02

4,739.30

6,629.43

Maintenance

453

13,284.44

4,702.52

7,475.57

Staff

130,103.13

61,259.59

110,161.19

155,082.01

Total

144,858.28

90,790.05

119,603

183,677.01

n/a = not applicable

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