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The humanitarian situation in many parts of Somalia has significantly deteriorated due to a combination of negative factors such as conflict, drought, hyperinflation and a broad economic crisis. The ongoing conflict continues to disrupt livelihoods, provision of services and delivery of relief assistance in addition to
the directly caused deaths, injuries, and displacement. Since January 2008 the Department for International Development (DFID) has provided £17.9 million for humanitarian assistance to the worst affected areas. This includes £12 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) to address the rising food prices in support of their recent appeals.
Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make it his policy to support a moratorium on the further conversion of rainforests and peatlands for palm oil in Southeast Asia. 
Mr. Malik: I visited the region on the 23 and 24 June 2008. The Department for International Development (DFID) has not considered a moratorium on the further conversion of rainforests and peatlands for palm oil in Southeast Asia.
DFID funding to the Indonesia Forest Climate Alliance helped the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry gather information on land devoted to palm oil. It showed that the area of land devoted to oil palm in Indonesia may double by 2020.
DFID is discussing with the Government of Indonesia and other donors how to improve the sustainability of oil palm production. This includes reforms to spatial planning and to focus oil palm development on degraded mineral soils.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what lessons were learned from the 2007 Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS review; and what changes have been made as a result. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The 2007 UNAIDS AIDS Epidemiology Update reported that the percentage of the worlds adult population living with HIV has levelled off and some countries have achieved reductions. However, the proportion of people living with HIV (PLWH) globally is increasing, because of new infections, and the fact that people are surviving longer once they are infected. The report does not change the need for immediate action to scale-up towards Universal Access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.
The UK Governments updated AIDS strategy Achieving Universal Access - the UKs strategy for halting and reversing the spread of HIV in the developing world sets out action the UK will take to help achieve Universal Access. This is available in the Library of the House and on the DFID website at:
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much timber and how many timber products were procured by his Department in each of the last five years; and at what cost. 
Mr. Malik: The only significant timber or timber products that the Department for International Development (DFID) purchases are items of furniture. We are unable to provide the information requested as we do not separately identify either the quantity or value of such products from other items of furniture purchased.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much timber and timber products were procured by his Department originating from independently verified legal and sustainable sources or from a licensed FLEGT partner in each of the last five years; and at what cost. 
Mr. Malik: The Department for International Development (DFID) has an Environmental Procurement Policy which requires that all timber and timber products are procured from sustainable and legal resources, in accordance with Government guidelines.
The only significant timber or timber products we purchase are some items of furniture, but we are unable to provide this information as we do not separately identify either the quantity or value of such products from other items of furniture purchased.
Mr. Malik: The Department for International Development is ready to make a leading contribution to Zimbabwe's recovery. We have been working with the donor community, the International Financial Institutions, and the UN to ensure that a swift and well co-ordinated support package will be put in place as soon as the time is right.
Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what Afghan military formations are based in Helmand province; and what assessment he has made of their state of operational effectiveness. 
Des Browne: Currently, there are seven battalions, or kandaks, of the Afghan National Army (ANA) based in Helmand province. Five of these comprise the 3rd Brigade of the 205th Corps (3/205 Brigade) of the ANA. This includes three Combat Kandaks; one Combat Support Kandak; and one Combat Service Support Kandak. There is also a Counter-Narcotics Kandak active in the province, and an additional Combat Kandak seconded from the 4th Brigade of the 205th Corps (4/205 Brigade) to assist operations in Helmand province.
Afghan troops deployed in Helmand are continuing to increase in capability and have performed impressively on many occasions alongside our own, showing great courage; for example, the ANA led the highly successful operation to recapture the town of Musa Qaleh in
December 2007, and took the lead in recent operations to secure the city of Kandahar following the Taliban attack on the prison there. We will continue to work closely with them to build their capacity and bring security to the province.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 6 May 2008]: Theatre Equipment Reviews are undertaken on a six monthly basis. They take account of Defence concurrency needs, the theatre context and the specific military tasks required. They identify the relevant equipment and resource needs and make recommendations for the delivery of equipment, including urgent operational requirements. They are linked to Force Level Reviews, to ensure coherence between manpower levels and equipment.
The mechanism for reporting complaints about equipment or the spares system is the Equipment Failure Report. These are entered onto the equipment failure reporting system and forwarded to the appropriate Defence Equipment and Support Integrated Project Team for investigation and action.
Des Browne [holding answer 25 June 2008]: We keep the size and composition of the UK military commitment to Afghanistan under regular review and will make further adjustments where necessary, as we have in the past.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to page 45 of the National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom, Cm 7291, what the evidential basis is for the statement that the armed forces are entering a phase of overall reduced commitments; and what the trend in commitments has been since publication of the strategy. 
Des Browne: The hon. Member highlights a phrase in the National Security Strategy that describes our intent to further reduce the commitment of UK forces to combat operations, notably in Iraq. As I explained in my statement of 24 April 2008, Official Report, column 107WS, it remains our clear direction of travel and our plan to make further reductions in force levels in Iraq, as and when conditions allow.
Since the publication of the strategy in March 2008, the trend in overall commitments has remained broadly constant. As I explained in my statement of 16 June 2008, Official Report, column 678, the recent review of forces deployed to Afghanistan aims principally to rebalance capability and the planned uplift of 230 posts represents a modest adjustment to our existing commitment. The
deployment of the Operational Reserve Force to Kosovo from 31 May involves some 600 personnel for a planned period of only one month.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 12 May 2008, Official Report, column 1312W, to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) which showed which units have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Elements from other arms and services usually deploy as sub-units, on attachment to other units, or as individual augmentees. Information on sub-unit deployments is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate costs.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 19 June 2008, Official Report, column 1088W, on armed forces: deployment, how many armed forces personnel were placed on standby prior to planned firefighters strikes in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Service personnel are only used to provide cover during fire strikes as a last resort. There are accordingly no armed forces personnel on permanent standby or permanently trained to provide emergency fire cover. In the event of a strike, fire services are expected to explore all other available options drawing on professional fire fighters. This has been borne out during the last two years, as military assistance was not required during Fire Brigade Union industrial action in Hertfordshire and Merseyside in 2006. We do not put people on standby for planned strikes unless we have received a formal request from the defence communities and local government for assistance and it has been approved by the Defence Council. The following table details such operations:
|Location of strike||Number of personnel involved|
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost to his Department was of providing fire fighters from the armed forces during industrial action by civilian fire fighters in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: There were no costs borne by the Department from the provision of fire fighters from the armed forces during industrial action by fire fighters. In accordance with HM Treasury charging policy, the costs associated with the provision of emergency fire cover during periods of industrial action were recovered from the Government Department responsible for Fire and Rescue Services: the Department for Communities and Local Government and its predecessors. The costs recovered by the Department are as follows:
|Strike action||Cost (£ million)|
|(1) No personnel deployed.|
(2) No information available.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what training exercises have been conducted in assisting with civilian fire fighting duties by members of the armed forces in each year since 1997; and what the (a) date and (b) number of personnel trained was in each case. 
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Fire fighting is not a core task for service personnel. Accordingly they do not normally conduct training exercises with civilian fire fighters. Training for the personnel involved in the operations set out in the following table was conducted when it became clear that a strike was likely to occur and the Department for Communities and Local Government had formally requested defence support as other options had been exhausted.
|Location of strike||Number of personnel involved|
|(1) No personnel involved.|
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