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21 Feb 2008 : Column 1008W—continued

Female Genital Mutilation

Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent research has been commissioned by his Department on the subject of female genital mutilation; and what steps his Department has taken to (a) raise international awareness of this issue and (b) dispel culturally-entrenched myths surrounding the practice; and if he will make a statement. [186039]

Gillian Merron: The UK Government provided £5.5 million to the United Nations (UN) Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproductive Health (HRP) between 2005 and 2008. HRP supports research in the area of Female Genital Mutilation.

DFID strongly supports efforts to eliminate FGM and other harmful traditional practices as part of our sexual and reproductive health, maternal health and gender equality strategies. DFID has supported advocacy events globally and in Africa-for example funding events in 28 African countries and Geneva to mark International FGM Zero Tolerance Day on 6 February 2007; and supporting an Africa Regional workshop on child protection and FGM in Kenya in 2006 and an African Parliamentarians Conference on FGM in 2005. DFID is a member of the Donor Working Group on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) that brings together key actors at the international level, and which held a panel at the Women Deliver Conference in October 2007.


Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what mechanisms to engage civil society in the international health partnership have been established. [187435]

Gillian Merron: The UK is committed to ensuring that civil society organisations (CSO) are involved in the International Health Partnership (IMP). CSOs are not only a critical partner in delivering health services in many developing countries, but they can also play an important role in holding partners to account at the global and country level.

The UK has engaged with CSO partners both before and after the launch of the IMP. In October, DFID hosted a meeting in London with several CSOs. Since then the eight health agencies (H8) leading on the IHP have regularly consulted with CSOs and they are currently developing a strategy for ongoing CSO engagement. A key meeting called by the H8 to review progress in developing country compacts will be held in Lusaka later this month, and several CSOs will be attending.

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Kenya: Surveys

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the cost was of the survey commissioned by his Department on conditions for workers on Kenyan flower farms; and if he will publish the results of the survey. [187764]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: DFID funded the Natural Resources Institute to undertake a project assessing the social impact of the adoption of codes of practice. This looked at the impact on the welfare and livelihoods of workers, worker households and other local stakeholders of the introduction of codes of practice in the Kenyan cut flower industry and the wine industry in South Africa.

The total cost of the project was £247,999, of which £124,916 was for the Kenyan portion of the research. The final report on the Kenyan flower industry was published in February 2006.

The report can be accessed with the following link:

Mineral Waters

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much his Department has spent on mineral water in each of the last three years. [187671]

Mr. Thomas: DFID has recently changed its restaurant service provider, and detailed records are not available. However, we estimate that DFID has spent in the region of £10,500 per annum over the last three years. Bottled water was provided for some official meetings in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money. Since January 2008, however, we no longer purchase bottled mineral water, but instead use bottled filtered mains water that is prepared on site. This change was made on the grounds of economy and environmental benefits.

Natural Disasters

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what resources his Department has provided for disaster risk reduction strategies in countries prone to disasters. [187922]

Mr. Thomas: DFID's current financial management system does not record total resources spent on disaster risk reduction (DRR) centrally, because DRR programmes can be included under a range of types of assistance, from education (for example DRR education in schools) to infrastructure (for example earthquake-proof building).

However, DFID has a commitment to allocate approximately 10 per cent. of the funding it provides in response to each natural disaster to prepare for and mitigate the impact of future disasters, where this can be done effectively. Under this commitment, DFID has pledged £7.5 million following the Indian Ocean Tsunami; £5.5 million following the Pakistan earthquake and £500,000 following the Yogyakarta (Indonesia) earthquake. Other examples of support for DRR at country level include: £50 million for the Chars (river islands) Livelihoods
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Project in Bangladesh which aims to increase livelihood security for £6.5 million vulnerable people in flood-prone districts; £3.8 million to an insurance fund to provide Caribbean Governments with fast payouts after natural disasters; and £2.9 million for a consortium of NGOs in Niger to help communities prevent food security crises.

DFID also provides funds for multilateral and regional organisations working on DRR. We have provided: £3 million for the United Nations international strategy for disaster risk reduction; £4.38 million for the World Bank's global facility for disaster risk reduction; £2.5 million for the ProVention Consortium; £2.15 million for the International Federation of the Red Cross; £3.3 million for the Pan American Health Organisation for DRR programmes; as well as some resources through its £7 million annual contribution to the United Nations Development Programme's Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR).

Natural Disasters: Children

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to ensure that development strategies in countries prone to disasters include measures for managing and mitigating the impacts of disasters on children. [187923]

Mr. Thomas: DFID is committed to supporting international and national efforts to prevent and mitigate the effects of natural disasters in poorer disaster-prone countries. DFID is providing £3 million over three years (2006 to 2009) to the United Nations international strategy for disaster reduction (ISDR), which launched the global campaign "Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School" in 2006. The campaign promotes the 'disaster-proofing' of school buildings, inclusion of disaster risk reduction (DRR) in school curricula and the active role children can play in promoting DRR in their communities. Examples of activities include: a consultative meeting in Kenya on DRR for Education Ministry officials from 19 African countries. This inspired the Mozambican Ministry of Education and Culture, with the support of the Mozambique Red Cross Society, to implement DRR training in 76 schools, reaching 4,400 children.

DFID also supports Action Aid's "Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) through Schools" project and Plan UK's "Children and Young People at the Centre of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management" project, for which DFID is providing £2.8 million and £2.9 million respectively over five years. In Bangladesh, Action Aid have funded an interactive learning kit for children on DRR, aimed at helping children learn about disaster risk and take action to reduce risk. In Sierra Leone, Plan UK is providing DRR training for 30 children’s groups and 28 schools.

Somalia: Asylum

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many Somali refugees he estimates are now in each neighbouring country; and what assistance his Department is providing to those refugees in each country. [186279]

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Gillian Merron: UNHCR is the UN agency with principal responsibility for protecting and assisting refugees. The latest estimates from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for the number of Somali refugees resident in countries neighbouring Somalia are as follows:








The UK provides its primary support to refugees through the UNHCR. In 2007 the UK was the sixth largest donor to UNHCR for its global operations with contributions amounting to $56.2 million. The European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) is the second largest contributor to UNHCR. The UK provides 17.39 per cent. of ECHO'S funding. The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), also provides assistance to UNHCR for refugee assistance in these countries. DFID has provided 14.8 per cent. of funding available in the CERF in 2008 to date.

Work and Pensions

Child Support

Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the number of parents with care whose entitlement to child support has been altered as a result of the 6 April 2006 changes allowing increased pension contributions to be deducted from income assessed for child support; and if he will make a statement. [188071]

Mr. Plaskitt: No such estimate has been made. However, maintenance arrangements in force before 6 April 2006 will have changed only if the Child Support Agency has been notified of a relevant change of circumstances by either parent.

None of the organisations representing parents has raised these concerns with the agency, and the matter has not been the subject of any complaint the agency has received. Therefore very little evidence exists to suggest that non-resident parents are exploiting the current rules on pension contributions in a way which unreasonably reduces their child support liability. If such a case were to arise, the Child Support Agency is able to adjust liabilities in specified exceptional circumstances where the usual rules may not operate fairly. For example, in either child support scheme, it is possible to adjust the child support liability where the net income of the non-resident parent used in the calculation is inconsistent with their lifestyle. In such cases, this action will be considered by the agency following an application by the parent with care.

Child Support Agency: Private Sector

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the results of outsourcing of Child Support Agency work, with particular regard to (a) response times and (b) quality of work delivered. [183913]

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Mr. Plaskitt: The administration of the Child Support Agency is the matter for the Chief Executive. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated 21 February 2008:

Departmental Computer Software

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the source code copies of core application software used by his Department and its agencies and supplied by third parties are held in escrow. [186908]

Mr. Timms: The Department assesses the need to put any of its core application software source code into escrow on a case by case basis. Where appropriate, the Department will then enter into an escrow agreement for the relevant code to be placed with the escrow agent.

Departmental Cost Effectiveness

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 21 January 2008, Official Report, column 1547W, on departmental cost effectiveness, what the administrative cost to his
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Department was of paying benefits into bank accounts in each of the last 10 years; and how many and what proportion of benefits claims were paid directly into bank accounts in each of the last 10 years. [185593]

Mr. Plaskitt: Information is not available in the format requested.

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The following table shows (a) the number of benefit accounts paid into a bank or building society account and (b) the proportion of benefit accounts paid into a bank or building society account in each of the last five years.

Phasing out order books and paying the vast majority of customers by direct payment will save the taxpayer around £1 billion between 2005 and 2010.

2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08

Administrative cost of paying into a bank account (£ million)






Number of benefits accounts paid into a bank account(2 )(million)






Proportion of benefit accounts paid into a bank account(2 )(percentage)






(1) Includes forecast for final quarter of financial year. (2) Figures have been provided by DWP Information Directorate and are based on snap shot as at October of that year.

Figures refer to the number of benefit accounts live and in payment on the specified date, and not the number of benefit claims, customers, or POCA accounts. People in receipt of more than one benefit/pension are counted for each separate benefit/pension in payment. People who have their benefit/pension combined and paid at the same time are only counted through the paying benefit

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