Previous Section Index Home Page

3 July 2008 : Column 1134W—continued


3 July 2008 : Column 1135W

Mr. Thomas: The Department for International Development (DFID) is currently committed to spending £135 million on security and access to justice programmes in 13 countries around the world. These programmes seek to improve the quality of security and justice service delivery to the populations of developing countries. Our programmes build both effectiveness and accountability by strengthening the capacity of civilian institutions to provide effective management and oversight. For example, in Sierra Leone, DFID has supported the creation of the Office of National Security, a civilian-led organisation that co-ordinated the security sector’s role in Sierra Leone’s free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections held last year.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent steps the Government have taken to reduce levels of corruption in the security forces of poor countries. [216044]

Mr. Thomas: Reducing corruption and improving governance and accountability for budgets in security forces forms an important part of the Department for International Development’s (DFID) work to improve security and access to justice for the poor. DFID is currently committed to spending £135 million on security and justice programmes in 13 countries. Many of these programmes aim to strengthen overall management of security institutions, which helps drive out corruption. Some also include a specific component aimed directly at reducing corruption. For example, DFID is currently working with Ugandan officials to improve procurement systems and thereby reduce the potential for corruption in the defence ministry.

DFID also funds the non-governmental organisation Transparency International (UK), which works to reduce corruption by increasing openness and oversight of defence and security equipment procurement in developing countries around the world.

Drugs: Crime

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking with the Foreign Secretary to enhance co-ordination between the Foreign Office's Drugs and Crime programme and his Department's work to advance harm reduction. [215481]

Mr. Thomas: The UK Government published their policy position on harm reduction in 2005 to ensure a co-ordinated, collaborative UK approach. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Home Office are working together to improve the international environment for harm reduction. This will include advocating for a stronger emphasis on harm reduction at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Narcotic Drugs in 2009.

International Monetary Fund: Managers

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to encourage the International Monetary Fund to establish a ministerial council. [215602]


3 July 2008 : Column 1136W

Kitty Ussher: I have been asked to reply.

The Government have been formulating and building support for its agenda for the reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), following the successful conclusion of the Quota and Voice reform debate. The Chancellor set out the key principles of this agenda at the time of the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary and Financial Committee in April, with the aim of building momentum towards a reformed institution that is sufficiently flexible to adapt to the global issues of the 21st century, and one that has a strengthened political process at its heart to lock in the commitment of its membership to multilateral cooperation. The Government recognise that activation of the IMF Council would represent a significant step towards a genuinely strengthened political process, and will continue to engage the IMF and other Governments to secure this objective.

Languages

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many of his Department's employees, other than those engaged locally hold language qualifications in (a) Arabic, (b) Farsi, (c) Dari or Pashto, (d) Mandarin, (e) Swahili and (f) Japanese. [215295]

Gillian Merron: Details of specific language qualifications held by staff in the Department for International Development (DFID) are not readily available. Such details could be obtained only at a disproportionate cost to the organisation.

Quota and Voice Reform

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proposals are included in the Quota and Voice reform that was agreed to by the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund. [215599]

Kitty Ussher: I have been asked to reply.

The recently agreed International Monetary Fund (IMF) Quota and Voice reform package included proposals for a 5.4 per cent. shift in voting shares from over-represented to under-represented countries, and led to 135 countries receiving an increase in voting share, in part reflecting the tripling of basic votes to enhance the voice of low-income countries; and for the two African constituencies to each appoint an additional Executive Director. The Government supported this reform, as it makes significant progress towards a better reflection of countries relative weights on the world stage, enhances the voice of developing countries, and contributes towards a more legitimate and effective IMF.

Zimbabwe: Overseas Aid

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of distribution of humanitarian aid in Zimbabwe. [210090]


3 July 2008 : Column 1137W

Mr. Douglas Alexander: On 4 June, the Government of Zimbabwe suspended the activities of all NGOs and private and voluntary organisations (PVOs). The UN can still operate but many of its programmes including much of its food aid are delivered through NGOs so distribution of relief has been seriously affected.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that around 1.5 million people are being affected by the Government’s suspension of NGO activity in Zimbabwe. If the suspension extends into July and beyond, this number will rise. The longer the suspension goes on, the more serious the impact on relief efforts. The World Food Programme’s main feeding programme is due to scale up from August and should reach around 4 million people at the height of the hungry season in early 2009. Absence of large scale feeding programmes in the second half of the year could lead to high levels of malnutrition and increased mortality.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Post Office Network

10. Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what plans he has for the future of the post office network; and if he will make a statement. [215952]

Mr. McFadden: The Government have committed a funding package of £1.7 billion to 2011 to modernise and reshape the post office network and to put it on a more stable and sustainable footing, providing national coverage of around 11,500 post office outlets underpinned by the Government's access criteria.

13. Andrew Selous: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) if he will make a statement on the future of the post office network; [215956]

19. Mr. Mackay: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make a statement on the future of the post office network. [215964]

Mr. McFadden: The Government have committed a funding package of £1.7 billion to 2011 to modernise and reshape the post office network and to put it on a more stable and sustainable footing, providing national coverage of around 11,500 post office outlets underpinned by Government set access criteria.

Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will make a statement on the future of the post office network. [215957]

Mr. McFadden: The Government have committed a funding package of £1.7 billion to 2011 to modernise and reshape the Post Office network and to put it on a more stable and sustainable footing, providing national coverage of around 11,500 post office outlets underpinned by Government set access criteria.


3 July 2008 : Column 1138W

Post Office Closures

11. Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what plans he has for further consultations on the post office branch closure programme. [215953]

Mr. McFadden: Up to 1 July, Post Office Ltd has published and put out to local public consultation 34 area plans. A further seven area plans are still to start local public consultations. The programme is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent discussions he has had with Royal Mail on the application of the Government’s criteria for deciding post office closures. [215963]

Mr. McFadden: I have regular discussions with Post Office Ltd. (POL) about a range of post office network issues, including closures under the company’s network change programme and the application of the Government’s access criteria. To date, the company is exceeding all the national access criteria set by Government. On completion of its network change programme, POL will retain 689 post office branches in Greater London, ensuring that 99.9 per cent. of the population will either see no change to the post office they currently use or remain within one mile by road of an alternative branch.

Fuel Poverty

12. Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the likely effects on levels of fuel poverty of increases in gas and electricity prices forecast to occur before the end of 2008. [215955]

Malcolm Wicks: Any price increases will put upward pressure on the numbers of households in fuel poverty, the specific impact can not be estimated as the Department does not forecast retail energy prices.

The Government have a range of measures to help with fuel bills.

Severn Barrage

14. Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent representations he has received on the Severn barrage tidal power feasibility study. [215958]

Malcolm Wicks: I am in touch with a large range of stakeholders on the Severn Tidal Power feasibility study—which looks at all tidal range technologies, including barrages and lagoons. These stakeholders include potential developers, local government, local businesses and environmental organisations. I also chair a parliamentary forum for all interested MPs, Peers and Welsh Assembly Members.

Power Stations

15. Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent discussions he has had with Welsh Assembly
3 July 2008 : Column 1139W
Government Ministers on the transfer to them of responsibility for power stations of capacity greater than 50 MW. [215959]

Malcolm Wicks: The latest discussions on this issue concluded some time ago, and the Planning White Paper made it clear that the UK Government do not agree with the Welsh Assembly Government case for changing the devolution settlement in this respect. However, I look forward to working closely with Welsh Ministers on how the new planning regime, to be established by the Planning Bill, can deliver Britain's vital major energy infrastructure to meet the energy challenges of the 21st century.

World Trade Organisation

16. Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent discussions he has had on means to achieve progress in the World Trade Organisation's Doha development round. [215960]

Mr. Thomas: The Government continue to work with the EU Trade Commissioner, other EU member states and other WTO members to achieve an ambitious, pro-development outcome to the Doha round in 2008. Pascal Lamy, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation, recently announced a WTO ministerial in the week of 21 July. We will be working hard to ensure that this ministerial results in an agreement, which will make it possible to secure an overall Doha deal this year.

Energy Prices

17. Mr. Illsley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what recent assessment he has made of the effects of energy prices on UK competitiveness; and if he will make a statement. [215961]

Malcolm Wicks: Energy prices have risen globally, the UK cannot escape this, and my Department is keenly aware of the pressure on industry from rising input prices.

International price comparisons are complex, showing different pictures among different size categories of consumer. Overall, average industrial gas and electricity prices in the UK are broadly in line with average prices in the EU15.

Actual price differentials vary between sectors, but some energy intensive sectors are under particular pressure, and we are maintaining dialogue with them about this.

Vehicle Registration Plates

18. Angela Watkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport and manufacturers of vehicle registration plates on the integration into the design of plates of features which prevent theft. [215962]


3 July 2008 : Column 1140W

Malcolm Wicks: There have been no discussions between my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and Transport, and the manufacturers of vehicle registration plates, on the integration of anti-theft features into the design of registration plates.

In February 2006 the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency—in consultation with number plate manufacturers, the Home Office, the police and companies that test security products—adopted a voluntary standard for theft-resistant number plates. These are more difficult to detach, and cannot be fitted to another vehicle once detached. Theft-resistant number plates and products meeting the standard are currently available through around 300 retail outlets.

Oil Refining

Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what assessment he has made of the effect of levels of UK refining capacity on oil prices. [215944]

Mr. Hutton: There is currently a mismatch between the type of crude oil available and the refining capabilities at a global scale. This has contributed to the rise in crude and oil product prices.

The UK’s refining output in 2006 was approximately 2 per cent. of world output according to statistics from the International Energy Agency. Hence, any changes in UK refining capacity are unlikely to have a major effect on global oil prices.

Departmental Conferences

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the (a) scheduled date and (b) title was of each conference proposed to be hosted by his Department and its agencies which was cancelled before taking place in each of the last 10 years; and what costs were incurred in respect of each. [215170]

Mr. Thomas: The Department does not hold this information centrally and this could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.


Next Section Index Home Page