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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his policy is on (a) reducing the level of poverty in Haiti and (b) cancelling Haiti's international debt; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Thomas: Recognising that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, DFID provides support through the wider international community's efforts to help lift Haiti out of poverty. Last year Haiti became a member of the Caribbean Development bank and in recognition of this DFID increased its contribution to the bank's low-interest poverty-focused funds to just over £23 million, £3 million of which was earmarked to projects in Haiti. DFID officials recently met with four senior officials from the Haitian Central bank and the Ministry of Finance to discuss the type of poverty-reducing support and projects they would like the bank to provide in the future.
Most recently we have placed a DFID staff member in the Canadian Development Agency based in Port-au-Prince. The objective of this post is to improve the effectiveness of the international community's development assistance to Haiti, to coordinate the UK response to any humanitarian disaster and to facilitate the integration of disaster risk reduction activities into development and humanitarian programmes. The latter is key to reducing poverty in the long term as Haiti is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, such as floods, which hit the poor the hardest.
We believe we will have greatest impact on the international development effort in Haiti by helping to
improve the effectiveness of the large amounts of foreign aid that are already available. Much of this comes from regional and international institutions such as the World Bank, European Commission, United Nations and Inter-American Development bank, of which the UK contributes sizeable shares to each. The weakness of Haiti's institutions, including the administration, and the country's history of turbulence means it is vital that all donors coordinate their activities and align their assistance behind the Government's own objectives for reducing poverty.
The UK supports debt cancellation for Haiti as soon as possible. Haiti began to receive interim debt relief under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative in November last year. Its debt service payments have therefore already been considerably reduced. Haiti is now making progress towards completion point of the HIPC initiative when it will receive $140 million worth of debt cancellation (in 2005 net present value terms). At HIPC completion point, Haiti will also qualify for 100 per cent. debt cancellation at the World Bank and IMF under the multilateral debt relief initiative (MDRI) worth a further $243 million (in 2005 net present value terms), as well as additional debt cancellation at the Inter-American Development bank (IADB).
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate he has made of the number of Iranians deported from Iran to Afghanistan in the latest period for which figures are available; and what assessment he has made of the humanitarian implications of these deportations. 
Hilary Benn: According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures, between 21 April and 9 May a total of 54,187 unregistered Afghan refugees have been deported through the crossing points of Islam Qala (Herat province)19,311and Zaranj (Nimroz province)34,876. An additional estimated total of 487 families have arrived in the Farah province.
The deportations are taking place as part of a concerted drive by the Iranian authorities to curb illegal migration from Afghanistan to Iran. As such it can be anticipated that they will continue for several more months. The current deportation exercise seems to be concentrating on Irans south-eastern provinces, notably Sistan Baluchistan. To date UNHCR has not identified any significant incidence of registered refugees being deported from Iran.
UNHCR reports that in general, the local authorities in Zaranj (Nimroz province) and Islam Qala (Herat province) are coping adequately with the influx. Sizeable deportations through these border crossings have been a regular occurrence for many years. The deportees are being accommodated in public buildings and tents. Water, sanitation facilities, and food are being provided.
The humanitarian situation in the Farah province is of more concern. A recent joint mission of UNHCR, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to Farah, established that families are being deported through an unofficial crossing point at Shaghali in the Farah province. They are currently being housed in
temporary construction sites. It has been agreed that UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) will provide initial assistance to the deportees of one months food rations, non-food items, and family kits. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) is also undertaking a mission to the border areas to collect information from the deportees on human rights and protection issues and to compile a report.
While DFID is not directly engaged in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees in the Herat, Nimroz and Farah provinces, we are in close contact with UN agencies, and continue to monitor the situation closely.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will reconsider his Departments decision and use his discretion not to slaughter the bull Shambo, part of the herd of sacred cattle at the Hindu temple of Skanda Vale; what his policy is on the enforcement of animal welfare legislation towards cattle in Hindu herds maintained at Hindu temples; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) instructions are issued to staff in his Department and (b) technical procedures are in place to shut down computers at night. 
(a) Instructions to staff have been provided in a number of ways. As part of our big switch energy efficiency campaign at the start of 2006, we combined online and poster messaging to inform and change staff behaviour to make sure all computers and other electrical equipment is switched off. Seasonal messages are broadcast on DEFRAs intranet to ensure staff turn off equipment over holiday periods. Information and instructions on energy saving measures appear on DEFRAs intranet and there are stickers on computer screens reminding staff to switch off their monitors.
(b) DEFRA is currently working on installing night watchman technology with IBM, which will provide an automatic shut down operation for computers at a set time every evening. Energy saving measures are in place on printers which switch to standby mode after a 20-minute period of inactivity.
Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the (a) destination and (b) purpose was of each overseas visit outside the European Union undertaken by staff in his Department in each of the last three months. 
|Country/purpose of visit||Number of trips|
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will publish the guidelines under which his Department sets a reduced time limit for initial responses to public consultations. 
Barry Gardiner: DEFRA adheres to the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Consultation. In line with that, except in exceptional circumstances, all written consultations last for a period of at least 12 weeks.
The Cabinet Office Code sets out the following reasons why a consultation may last for a period of less than 12 weeks: timetables are set out in statute; they are governed by EU or other international processes; they are tied to the Budget or other annual financial cycles; they are about measures where there is a health and safety or security dimension; or some other urgent requirement for the introduction of new measures. In addition, where re-consultation takes place on the basis of amendments made in the light of earlier consultation, a shorter period may also be appropriate. In DEFRA, proposals for a consultation period of less than 12 weeks are dealt with on a case by case basis and require approval by Ministers.
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