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Welfare Tax Credits: Cardiff

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether staff working for the tax credit office in the Cardiff contact centre have guidelines for the number of calls they should deal with from customers each day; and if he will make a statement; [133027]

(2) how long staff answering customer calls at the tax credit office in Cardiff are recommended to spend on each call; and if he will make a statement. [133028]

Mr. Timms: The Contact Centre at Cardiff does not currently handle tax credit calls.


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Loans: Students

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he plans to take to ensure that the best possible price is achieved from the planned sale of tranches of the student loan book. [133710]

Bill Rammell [holding answer 20 April 2007]: I have been asked to reply.

We are at the early stages of implementing the Budget announcement to sell income-contingent student loans. Further details about the sale will be announced in due course. We are confident that the Government will obtain good value for money, as they are obliged to do by rules of Government accounting.

Constitutional Affairs

Departments: Official Hospitality

David Simpson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much was spent on hospitality by her Department in the financial year 2006-07. [133251]

Vera Baird: The amount of hospitality expenditure incurred by the Department, which covers costs for Her Majesty’s Courts Service, Tribunals Service, Public Guardianship Office and DCA headquarters, for 2006-07 is provisionally £43,804. This amount is subject to audit and the final amount will be included in the Department’s annual resource accounts.

All hospitality expenditure incurred by the Department is made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety that is based on principles set out in Government Accounting and the Treasury handbook on Regularity and Propriety.

International Development

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Rain Forests

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will provide a breakdown by major heading of how the recently announced £50 million to help conserve the Congo basin rainforest will be spent, including details of all funding recipients. [133499]

Mr. Thomas: The UK is committing £50 million to support proposals that have been made by 10 central African countries, to help them protect the Congo basin's forests and people. This will establish a fund that will slow the rate of deforestation by developing the capacity of people and institutions in the Congo basin countries to manage their forests and help local communities find livelihoods that are consistent with the conservation of forests.

The details of the new fund are still being developed—including how the work will be implemented. The fund will have a clear governance framework designed to ensure that it has strong African ownership and supports
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the needs of the Congo basin's countries, protects the livelihoods and rights of forest people and is spent effectively, with good financial management.

Departments: Official Hospitality

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much was spent on hospitality by his Department in the financial year 2006-07. [133259]

Mr. Thomas: The total for entertainment within administration costs budgets for 2006-07 was £238,000.

This figure for entertainment includes working breakfasts and lunches, refreshments at meetings and official entertainment.

All entertainment is made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in Government Accounting.

Departments: Oral Questions

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many questions tabled by hon. and right hon. Members to his Department for oral answer have been transferred to other departments since May 2005. [133801]

Mr. Thomas: None.

Developing Countries: AIDS

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the progress made by developing countries in delivering universal access to treatment for AIDS sufferers by 2010; and what support his Department has given to this policy. [132990]

Mr. Thomas: The World Health Organisation, UNAIDS and UNICEF published a new report last week—“Towards Universal Access: scaling up priority HIV/AIDS interventions in the health sector”. The report shows that countries in every region of the world are making substantial progress in increasing access to HIV treatment. More than 1.3 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving treatment in December 2006, representing coverage of approximately 28 per cent. of those in need compared to just 2 per cent. in 2003. Coverage in other regions varied, from 6 per cent. in North Africa and the Middle East, to 15 per cent. in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and 72 per cent. in Latin America and the Caribbean. Overall, while encouraging trends continue, just 28 per cent. of the estimated 7.1 million people in need of treatment in all low and middle income countries were receiving it in December 2006.

Substantial challenges remain, which is why DFID continues to work with Governments and the international community to help deliver a comprehensive response. DFID is committed to spending at least £1.5 billion on tackling the HIV and AIDS epidemics. In 2005-06 DFID spent £385 million tackling HIV and AIDS, an increase of nearly 30 per cent. on the 2004-05 figure of £298 million. The UK has committed £300 million to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria from
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2002-08 including, £100 million for 2006 and the same for 2007 subject to performance. To date, Global Fund-financed programmes have provided treatment to over 600,000 people with AIDS. DFID is also committed to improving access to medicines and announced support of €20 million for UNITAID, the new drugs purchase facility established in September 2006, as part of a 20 year commitment, increasing to €60 million per year by 2010 subject to performance. Following its first two board meetings in October and November 2006 UNITAID has already approved several significant items of expenditure, including $61.7 million for paediatric anti-retroviral therapy (ART), $70 million for second line ART and $52.5 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Developing Countries: Cleft Palate

Mr. Vara: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much his Department has spent providing support to organisations that treat children in developing countries with cleft lip and palate in each of the last five years. [133508]

Mr. Thomas: The level of detail available on our central systems does not allow us to systematically capture the amount of expenditure channelled through organisations which treat cleft lip and palate. DFID provides direct funding to support general health services in many countries, and those health services provide a range of surgical interventions.

Developing Countries: Debts

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what targets his Department has to reduce debt in developing countries over the next two years. [132864]

Mr. Thomas: DFID's 2005-08 public service agreement (PSA) includes a target shared with Her Majesty's (HM) Treasury, that 90 per cent. of heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) that have reached Decision Point by end 2005 should receive irrevocable debt relief by end 2008. By the end of 2005, 28 HIPCs had reached HIPC Decision Point (thereby demonstrating their commitment to poverty reduction and qualifying for interim debt relief). Of these 28 countries, 22 have now completed the HIPC initiative and received irrevocable debt cancellation. The PSA target requires that four more countries complete HIPC before the end of 2008. Current indications are that this target will be met.

The public service agreement framework will change for the period 2008 to 2011. New departmental strategic objectives are under discussion.

In addition to our existing PSA target, DFID and HM Treasury work closely to deliver the UK Government's commitments on debt relief. We remain committed to the full implementation and financing of the HIPCs and multilateral debt relief initiatives (MDRI). We exceed our commitments under HIPC, cancelling 100 per cent. of bilateral debts for qualifying countries. We are also the second largest bilateral donor to the HIPC Trust Fund which helps multilateral organisations deliver HIPC debt relief in a timely manner. We continue to pay our share of the costs of the MDRI at the World Bank,
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IMF and African Development Bank. We also support debt reduction facility operations managed by the World Bank which allow poor countries to buy back their commercial debts at a considerable discount (generally over 90 per cent.).

The UK remains committed to 100 per cent. bilateral and multilateral debt relief for poor countries that will use the savings for poverty reduction. We have cancelled bilateral aid debts from low income countries (except Zimbabwe and Burma, neither of which are making payments) and qualifying lower middle income countries. We also pay our share (10 per cent.) of debt service to the World Bank and African Development Fund for eight low income countries that are not eligible for assistance under HIPC. We hope that other countries will soon also reach the standards of public financial management and commitment to poverty reduction necessary to receive this support.

Avoiding the re-accumulation of unsustainable debts is crucial. The UK supports debt management capacity building for countries. We are also working with the international community (including the international financial institutions, export credit agencies and emerging lenders) to ensure responsible new lending to poor countries. We support the World Bank and IMF's debt sustainability framework (DSF), and promote its use wherever possible. The DSF identifies countries that might struggle to repay loans, and these are offered grants, or a mixture of grants and loans, by the World Bank and African Development Bank.

Developing Countries: Forestry

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment his Department has made of the extent of economic, social and environmental benefits of the traditional concession-based industrial logging model in developing countries. [133500]

Mr. Thomas: DFID has recently completed a study on 20 years of UK support to Ghana's forest sector. This study documents the lessons gained from experience in a single sector and how they can be applied more generally. It also assesses the social and economic aspects of Ghana's industrial forest development, and identifies rights-based approaches to making forestry work for poor people.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DFID is funding the Roundtable Review, a study looking at alternative forest uses and innovative finance mechanisms for conservation and sustainable forest management (DRC). This study will look at the current benefits of logging in the DRC and seek alternative models that are more responsive to the needs of local people and the global environment.

DFID is funding the Rights and Resources Initiative along with other donors, research institutes and conservation organisations. This initiative focuses on pro-poor forest policy and tenure reform, including ways of increasing local ownership and access to forest resources. The Rights and Resources Initiative has produced a number of studies that assess the social and economic benefits of concession-based forest industry. More information about this initiative can be found at:


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Developing Countries: HIV Infection

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress is being made by the G8 in delivering universal access to HIV prevention treatment and care by 2010. [132872]

Mr. Thomas: The UK made AIDS a centrepiece of the 2005 G8 and EU presidencies. We pressed for and secured international commitments to universal access to HIV treatment. We subsequently worked hard to ensure that this commitment was endorsed and expanded by the international community in the Political Declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS (2 June 2006). This Declaration committed to achieve comprehensive HIV prevention programmes, treatment, care and support by 2010. It also agreed that countries would develop ambitious targets, including interim targets for 2008, to measure progress towards universal access. Crucially, it also set out a process by which countries will develop national AIDS plans to scale up towards universal access by 2010; and made the commitment that no credible, costed, national AIDS plan should go unfunded.

By early 2007, 90 countries had developed targets for achieving universal access, and at least 23 countries had proceeded with costing their strategic plans. The UK is pressing UNAIDS to define what constitutes a credible national AIDS plan. We are also pressing for a multi-stakeholder process in country to review universal access plans as they are developed, to agree their credibility and ensure they are fully funded.

We will push hard to ensure an ongoing focus by the G8 on achieving its commitment to universal access. We see our work with UNAIDS as central to unlocking the G8 and international community’s commitment to funding credible, costed national AIDS plans. We will ensure that this work is discussed as we prepare for the G8 Heiligendamm summit in June.

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress was made at the G8 meeting of Development Ministers on 26 and 27 March in Berlin on establishing a funding plan for the delivery of universal access to HIV prevention treatment and care; and if he will make a statement. [132873]

Mr. Thomas: At the Berlin meeting G8 Development Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to get as close as possible to universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care by 2010. They acknowledged that the price of some drugs remains prohibitive for many countries, and more needs to be done to help lower their cost including the use of TRIPS flexibilities to the fullest extent.

By early 2007, 90 countries had developed targets for achieving universal access, and at least 23 countries had proceeded with costing their strategic plans. The UK is pressing UNAIDS to define what constitutes a credible national AIDS plan. We are also pressing for a multi-stakeholder process in country to review universal access plans as they are developed, to agree their credibility and ensure they are fully funded.


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We will push hard to ensure an ongoing focus by the G8 on achieving its commitment to universal access. We see our work with UNAIDS as central to unlocking the G8 and international community’s commitment to funding credible, costed national AIDS plans. We will ensure that this work is discussed as we prepare for the G8 Heiligendamm summit in June.

Environmental Transformation Fund

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) if he will publish a detailed breakdown of the expenditure of the Environmental Transformation Fund; [133496]

(2) what measures his Department has in place to assess the effectiveness of the Environmental Transformation Fund; [133497]

(3) what measures his Department has in place to ensure the transparency and accountability of the Environmental Transformation Fund; and if he will make a statement. [133498]

Mr. Thomas: Expenditure from the Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF) will cover the three years of the comprehensive spending review period from April 2008. Apart from £50 million earmarked for the Congo basin, which was announced in the Budget, detailed breakdown of allocations have not yet been decided. It is expected that the allocation will be used to fund multilateral activities, such as the World Bank and Regional Development Banks' clean energy investment framework and other initiatives, as well as bilateral projects with countries. It will also be used for purposes such as adaptation, promotion of clean energy and tackling unsustainable deforestation.

Officials from DFID and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are in discussions over appropriate governance arrangements for the ETF. These arrangements will include measures to assess effectiveness and ensure transparency and accountability.

Latin America: Overseas Aid

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Global Conflict Prevention Pool in Latin America. [132433]

Mr. Thomas: The Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP) Latin America Strategy was established in late 2004 and a detailed evaluation will be undertaken later this year or early next year. A GCPP steering team consisting of officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Ministry of Defence (MOD) and DFID hold regular meetings to monitor progress of the Strategy and decide changes with input from a Regional Conflict Adviser (RCA) who is based in Venezuela. Country analyses are regularly provided to the GCPP steering team by the RCA.


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