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21 July 2008 : Column 785W—continued

Smith Institute

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) on what date the Charity Commission began its current investigation into the Smith Institute; [217364]

(2) how many complaints the Charity Commission has received about the Smith Institute. [217365]

Phil Hope: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Charity Commission. I have asked the Commission to reply.

Letter from Andrew Hind, dated 17 July 2008:

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Trade Unions: Internet

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will amend the text on in the sections entitled Introduction to Trade Unions and Your Right to Join (or Not to Join) a Trade Union to include information on employees' rights to opt out of the trades union political levy. [210719]

Mr. McFadden: I have been asked to reply. is intended to provide outline guidance for citizens on a wide variety of topics. More detailed guidance on trade unions, including information on employee's rights to opt-out of the trade union political levy, is given on the BERR website. It is intended that material covering employment on the BERR website, including on trade unions, will be converged onto and by April 2009. The guidance on the trade union political levy will be considered as part of this process.

House of Commons Commission

Annual Leave

Lynne Jones: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the answer of 8 July 2008, Official Report, columns 1452-53W, on annual leave, on what basis the leave arrangements for staff appointed to the Senior Commons Service were set; and whether there is any independent oversight of such leave arrangements. [220004]

Nick Harvey: The leave arrangements for the Senior Commons Service have been in place for some years, and are intended to make the House of Commons jobs attractive to direct recruits at senior levels. There are, however, restrictions. For example, most SCS staff may take annual leave only when the House is not sitting, and cannot carry forward unused leave from one year to another. Oversight of the terms of employment of all staff (including SCS) rests with the Management Board and the House of Commons Commission.

Portcullis House: Energy

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what estimate he has made of the energy efficiency of Portcullis House in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [219541]

Nick Harvey: The annual energy consumptions obtained from energy supply invoices and the energy consumptions per square metre for Portcullis House for each of the last five years are given in the following table:

kWh kWh/m2
















Note: These figures are not weather corrected.

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Following an independent energy survey report in February 2008 a number of measures are under consideration which could lead to a significant reduction in consumption. These recommendations are under consideration for inclusion in the programme of works.

These figures differ slightly from those given in the answer to the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) on 27 April 2007 for two reasons. Firstly, for this answer we obtained the gas and electricity consumption figures from invoices; in the previous response we used the same method to determine the electricity consumption but calculated the gas consumptions from meter readings and standard conversion factors. The gas invoices, though, have the more accurate consumption figures. Secondly, we have used a recently received, more accurate floor area for this answer than we used for the 2007 response.

International Development

Africa: Energy

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what practical assistance his Department has provided to countries in Africa to mitigate the adverse effects of rising energy prices. [219132]

Gillian Merron: Our aid spending in Africa is set to more than double, from £1.3 billion in 2004 to over £3 billion in 2010. DFID, through country and regional programmes, supports African countries' efforts to accelerate growth to reduce poverty. This helps our partner countries to cope with the rise in external fuel prices and mitigate the impact of these rises on the poor.

The UK supports the key international financial institutions which are leading an international response to this global challenge. The International Monetary Fund is helping with balance-of-payments support, and has so far provided additional financial assistance to five African countries. The World Bank is active in providing policy advice on regulatory efficiency and renewable energy, financial support through investments in energy, and in research on the drivers of energy price rises.

Burma: Politics and Government

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what response his Department is making to the humanitarian situation in Chin State, western Burma. [220684]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Food security in the already vulnerable Chin State dramatically worsened at the end of 2007 and early 2008 due to a rat infestation. The worst affected areas are the remote villages in townships along the Indian border in central and southern Chin—Tahntlang, Matupi and Paletwa townships.

The Department for International Development (DFID) is providing £4 million over four years to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for its national Human Development Initiative, which includes work in all the townships of Chin State. A UNDP needs assessment team returned from Chin earlier this week. We will
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consider the case for further assistance to affected populations in Chin State through UNDP on the basis of their assessment.

In order to collect more information on needs and potential mechanisms for support, DFID officials have also met with local and international NGOS working in Chin State. DFID is also planning a mission to look at the work being done by Chin groups based in India to meet needs in Chin State.

Departmental Sick Leave

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many and what percentage of staff in his Department have had more than two periods of sickness of less than five days in each of the last three years. [218715]

Gillian Merron: The information for the last three calendars for home civil service staff is as follows:

Developing Countries: Food

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent estimate he has made of long-term trends in the price of food in developing countries; what assessment he has made of the contribution of (a) the price of fuel and (b) the effects of climate change to such trends; and if he will make a statement. [219131]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK Government have been working closely with the major international organisations (World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN agencies and International Food Policy Research Institute) in order to assess future price trends. Increased cereal production and the removal of export bans have brought about a recent calming of markets, and prices have fallen back from the very high levels seen earlier this year. But the consensus remains that the underlying demand for food remains strong, and according to the World Bank, this is likely to keep prices well above 2004 levels for most food crops until 2015.

The Government recently published a detailed analysis of the causes of recent price rises. High oil prices have put upward pressure on food prices by increasing production costs, through high fuel, fertiliser, transport, packaging, and processing costs. The World Bank estimates that a 10 per cent. rise in crude oil prices translates into a 1.6 per cent. increase in agricultural commodity prices. Weather has a direct impact on agricultural yields and food supplies. While recent food price rises cannot be linked directly with longer-term trends in climate change, there is no room for complacency. The UK Government will continue to push the international community for significantly higher investment in water management in developing countries, to ensure their agriculture is better prepared for the increasingly erratic weather patterns that are predicted.

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The British Government remain concerned about the impact of high food prices on the poorest people in developing countries. We are pleased with the outcome at the recent G8 summit, where members committed $10 billion to improving global food security. We will continue to take a leading role in pressing for a coordinated and effective international response.

Diplomatic Service: Manpower

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his Department's 10 highest-staffed missions abroad are; and how many (a) UK-based and (b) locally-engaged personnel are employed in each. [218648]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The 10 highest-staffed DFID offices are shown in the following table with breakdown of home civil servants (HCS), and staff appointed in country (SAIC—locally engaged staff), as at the end of June 2008.

Office HCS SAIC Total

DFID Bangladesh




DFID India




DFID Nigeria




DFID Pakistan




DFID Ethiopia




DFID Nepal




DFID Malawi




DFID Democratic Republic of Congo




DFID Kenya and Somalia




DFID Uganda




Home Information Packs

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many home information packs have been commissioned by (a) his Department and (b) its agencies to market a residential property; for which properties; at what cost; and whether a voluntary home condition report was purchased as part of the packs. [219014]

Mr. Malik: None. The requirement to prepare home information packs applies to the marketing for sale of residential properties. This Department has not been involved in any such transactions since 1 August 2007.


Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 1 July 2008, Official Report, column 762W, on languages, how many of his departmental staff have received language training in each of the last three financial years; and if he will make a statement. [218797]

Gillian Merron: Requirements for language training are assessed by each overseas office and based upon business priorities. As such the Department for International Development (DFID) does not hold central records on
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language training, but according to our main external language training provider 130 staff have received training in the last 18 months. This is equivalent to 35 per cent. of home civil service staff posted overseas at any given time.

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 15 July 2008, Official Report, column 318W, on languages, how many (a) Pashto and (b) Dari speakers there are in his Department; and how many took a language course in each of the last two years. [220542]

Gillian Merron: In the Department for International Development five staff speak Pashto and two speak Dari. Our main language training provider has trained two staff in Dari and four in Pashto during 2006-07 and two staff in Dari during 2007-08.

Pakistan: Overseas Aid

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development to what (a) regions and (b) projects the new UK development assistance to border areas in Pakistan will be allocated; and what mechanisms will be used to monitor the use of such aid. [218647]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK is already a major donor to North West Frontier Province (NWFP), one of two Pakistan provinces bordering Afghanistan. We will aim to do more there, as well as extend our work over the period of our new five-year country plan to the other border province, Balochistan, where problems of poverty, exclusion and insecurity are pronounced. We will also build on our work with the Secretariat responsible for co-ordinating the Government of Pakistan's development efforts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which are some of the most inaccessible and insecure parts of Pakistan.

We will build government systems to help ensure basic services are delivered more efficiently and effectively. We will put more money into education to get more children into school, improve teaching, and provide the skills young people need to get jobs. We are already one of the leading donors to the health sector in Pakistan, and are committed to continuing to support national programmes that benefit the border areas, for example on mother and child health and in combating the spread of TB and polio. We will help build a stronger civil society to promote rights and ensure poor people receive the services they need.

DFID has a rigorous set of procedures to safeguard funding. Overall progress on the country programme is measured by means of quantifiable, time bound targets, supported by a detailed business plan. Individual programmes and projects also include a performance measurement framework with clear targets. Progress against these targets is assessed by means of annual reviews. These reviews, which also include a comprehensive risk analysis, ensure that DFID funds are being used effectively and are achieving their intended results.

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