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17 Jun 2008 : Column 863W—continued

Departmental Vetting

Chris Huhne: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether (a) UK citizens born in the UK, (b) UK citizens born abroad and (c) foreign nationals recruited into his Department and its agencies are subject to (i) UK and (ii) overseas criminal record checks; and if he will make a statement. [206475]

Angela Eagle: The Department and its agencies carry out verification of the UK unspent criminal record declarations for all new recruits, and, where national security vetting is required, a check of spent convictions.

The current position in respect of overseas checks was described in the answer that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), gave to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) on 4 February 2008 Official Report, column 825W.

Economic and Monetary Union

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date the euro changeover plan of (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies was last updated; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the most recent version of each plan. [210849]

Kitty Ussher: A high-level plan was produced in January 2005. This plan covers HM Treasury and its agencies, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and the Debt Management Office (DMO). The plan is publicly available on HM Treasury's website on the following link:

Fairtrade Initiative

Mr. Moore: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 1 February 2008, Official Report, column 733W, on the Fairtrade initiative, what Fairtrade products are (a) available for purchase in his Department's staff catering facilities and (b) offered at official departmental meetings and engagements; what
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value of Fairtrade produce was purchased in his Department's staff catering facilities in each of the last three financial years; and what percentage of total revenue this represented. [208712]

Angela Eagle: Fairtrade products available for purchase are tea, coffee, hot chocolate, various fruit items and chocolate.

All tea and coffee products offered at official meetings and engagements are certified Fairtrade.

Catering facilities in 1 Horse Guards road are provided by a sub-contractor to the PFI provider who is not willing to release detailed information on his expenditure as it is considered commercially sensitive; however, the sub-contractor has confirmed that Fairtrade purchases average 31 per cent. of total purchasing expenditure.

Government Departments: Procurement

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what procurement projects have been halted as a result of recommendations made by his Department’s major projects review group since January 2007. [210727]

Angela Eagle: An update on the major projects review group and a summary of its decisions will be published in HM Treasury’s annual report and accounts 2007-08.

Morning Star

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many copies of the Morning Star publication his Department and each of its agencies subscribes to each week; and at what cost. [210966]

Angela Eagle: The Treasury and its agencies do not subscribe to the Morning Star publication.

Public Expenditure

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what resources his Department has allocated to the preparation of its forthcoming factual paper on the Barnett Formula. [210724]

Yvette Cooper: The paper is being prepared by the Local Government, Regions and Devolved Countries team in the Treasury.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will seek information from other stakeholders on the operation of the Barnett Formula to inform his Department’s forthcoming factual paper on the formula. [210725]

Yvette Cooper: My Department’s forthcoming paper on the Barnett formula will be factual in nature, reflecting experience of the operation of the Barnett formula since the formula was introduced.

Tax Allowances: Pensions

Paul Rowen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the annual cost to the Exchequer of current pension contribution tax relief, broken down by marginal tax band. [211254]

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Kitty Ussher: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 10 June 2008, Official Report, column 179W.

Written Questions: Government Responses

Justine Greening: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he plans to answer question (a) 204170, (b) 204171, (c) 204172 and (d) 204173 on vehicle excise duty, tabled by the hon. Member for Putney on 1 March 2008. [211198]

Angela Eagle: Notice of the hon. Member's questions first appeared on 2 May. The questions concerned required detailed analysis. I hope to be in a position to reply substantively shortly.

International Development


Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many of his Department's staff are in each province of (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq; and what functions they are carrying out in each case. [210500]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: For security reasons, we do not disclose the number of staff we have working in Afghanistan and Iraq.

DFID's role in Afghanistan supports three of the Afghan Government's own objectives as set out in their national development strategy (ANDS): building effective state institutions, improving economic management and the effectiveness of aid, and improving the livelihoods of rural people. In Helmand, DFID oversees agriculture, infrastructure and microfinance projects, and gives advice on development to the provincial reconstruction team.

DFID's role in Iraq is to support the Government in unlocking their own human and financial resources. To this end, staff in Baghdad oversee three main programmes: economic reform, developing the machinery of government and donor co-ordination of humanitarian relief efforts. The DFID representative in Basra oversees DFID's power and water projects, and economic and governance work through the UK-led provincial reconstruction team.

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what private contractors provided protection services for his Department in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan in 2007; [210501]

(2) how much his Department spent on private contractors providing protection services for his Department in (a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan in 2007. [210502]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Department for International Development (DFID) engages private contractors to provide protection services for our staff in high-threat environments.

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In 2007-08, Control Risks Group (CRG) and Kroll provided mobile security for DFID staff, consultants and static guarding for our compounds in Iraq. Such contracts have been managed and administered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the total cost incurred by DFID was £5.9 million.

In 2007-08, the private contractor ArmorGroup provided protection services for DFID in Afghanistan. The contract is managed and administered by the FCO and the total cost incurred by DFID was £2.03 million.

Asia: Roads

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether UK aid is (a) directly and (b) indirectly involved in financing the construction of the Asia Highway. [209477]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The information is as follows:

Congo Basin Forest Fund

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how the Congo Basin Fund is being spent in support of forest conservation; whether he has had discussions with other donors on contributing to the fund; and what the relationship of the fund is to the Forest Carbon Partnership Fund managed by the World Bank. [210097]

Mr. Thomas: The Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF) will be launched on 17 June 2008. Governments, civil society and private sector organisations will be eligible to apply for funding once the fund has been launched. Proposals will be assessed against the following criteria: innovation, slowing deforestation, reducing poverty and conformance with the COMIFAC (Central African Forest Commission) Convergence Plan.

In addition to the initial £50 million contribution to the CBFF, the UK has allocated up to £8 million to fund start-up activities, the nature of which are under consideration.

The fund has been welcomed by donors who are already active in the region. In addition, we have held discussions with the Norwegians, US, Japanese and French on contributing to the fund. We are also considering collaboration with other donors under start-up activities.

The Congo Basin Forest Fund and Forest Carbon Partnership are both resourced from the Strategic Climate Fund which will be housed at the World Bank. Officials are in constant dialogue to ensure synergies arise from the contributions that both are planning to support.

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EU Aid: Standards

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if his Department will take steps at EU level to ensure the publication of multiannual timetables showing how European Union member states are meeting their aid targets. [210340]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: European Union member states strongly reaffirmed their commitment to their aid targets at the recent General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC). The Council’s conclusions also strongly encourage member states to establish multi-annual timetables as soon as possible to illustrate how they will reach these targets. The Council also called on the European Commission to include information on the establishment and implementation of these timetables in its regular reporting on financing for development. The next report will be published in early 2009.

The UK worked hard to ensure that the conclusions on aid targets and timetables were agreed by member states at the GAERC, and continues to push for the establishment and implementation of timetables for all EU member states. We report progress against our own targets on a regular basis, including in the DFID Annual Report.

Gaza: Electricity

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations he has made to the (a) Palestinian authority and (b) Israeli authorities on the prolonged power cuts and surges as a result of the strikes by the Association of Gas Distribution in Gaza; and if he will make a statement. [211181]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: We have urged the Government of Israel to ensure that, in line with their own public commitments, their actions do not result in an humanitarian crisis in Gaza. For example the Foreign Secretary and I issued a statement on 8 February expressing our grave concern over the fuel situation. We also fully support the EU presidency statement in April urging “regular and unrestricted delivery of fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip in order not to aggravate further the humanitarian situation”. We are conscious that Palestinian militants have deliberately also aggravated the humanitarian situation, including through the attacks on the Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings. We condemn such actions, which can only lead to more misery for the people of Gaza. The violence needs to stop and basic humanitarian supplies, including fuel, should be allowed in and properly distributed to those who need them.

There is a shortage of all types of fuel in Gaza. At present, Gaza experiences about six to eight hours of daily power cuts. Power cuts paralyse daily life and stop essential services, including health care, being delivered effectively. Fuel supply to the Gaza power plant is sourced by the European Commission and delivered directly, and has not been affected by the association's strike. The Israeli authorities only allow delivery of about 2.2 million litres of the 3.5 million litres that the power plant needs to operate at full capacity. The UK has given £15 million to the EC's Temporary International Mechanism and £15.45 to its successor PEGASE for basic services to ordinary Palestinians, including delivery of fuel to the Gaza power plant.

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International Assistance: Standards

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) if he will make it his policy to give responsibility to the UN to monitor and evaluate the efforts of international organisations to tackle abuses by peacekeepers and aid workers; [210341]

(2) what steps his Department plans to take through the United Nations to improve reporting of and action taken in response to sexual exploitation and abuse of children by UN peacekeepers. [210342]

Meg Munn: I have been asked to reply.

We believe strongly that UN personnel must uphold the highest standards of behaviour. The vast majority of UN peacekeepers uphold those standards while doing important work in difficult and dangerous circumstances. They are working to build the conditions for sustainable peace.

The UK takes all allegations of misconduct by UN and other peacekeepers extremely seriously. The UN is responsible for tackling any individual allegations of misconduct with troop-contributing countries. We will continue to work closely with the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations and other partners to ensure that its ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards incidents of abuse is implemented in full. We have been instrumental in instigating some recent policy changes at the UN aimed at preventing and tackling sexual exploitation and abuse. These include: a more robust Model Memorandum of Understanding between the UN and Troop Contributing Countries; an upgraded Welfare and Recreation Strategy for peacekeeping and related personnel; a Victim's Assistance Strategy to provide assistance for survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by UN personnel; and a resolution on 'Criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission’.

We are also helping to support the UN's efforts to assess, prioritise and respond to the sexual exploitation and abuse of children by UN peacekeepers and aid workers. This has involved taking concrete measures to address both military and civilian branches of peacekeeping support operations. One such measure, the UN's Conduct and Discipline Units, is funded by the UK's Conflict Prevention Pool. These teams work to ensure that all peacekeeping personnel undergo training on UN standards of conduct relating to sexual exploitation and abuse, and that all allegations of wrongdoing are reported upon and followed up with appropriate action. In the UN Mission in Liberia, for example, the number of cases reported to the UN was reduced by half from 2006 to 2007.

The UK supports all efforts to protect the world's most vulnerable children from sexual abuse. To strengthen the UN's approach further, the UK supported the UN Secretary-General's recent recommendation to include, where appropriate, child protection advisers within the mandates of peacekeeping missions. As an active member of the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, we will continue to work to improve the effectiveness of existing UN monitoring, reporting and disciplinary mechanisms.

Through its Conflict Prevention programme, the UK also helps to train military personnel for peacekeeping
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operations. Good conduct and respect for human rights is an integral part of all training courses. The UK will continue to provide training on peace support operations for troops from other countries, which covers conduct and discipline, particularly the importance of protecting civilians (including women and children) in accordance with international law.

Save The Children (the non-governmental organisation) raises some important concerns in its report about abuse committed by not just UN personnel but aid workers employed by non-governmental organisations. We need to consider carefully with the UN and the non-governmental organisation community how best to ensure that children are not subject to abuse.

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