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9 Nov 2009 : Column 98W—continued


Telephone Services

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what her Department's policy is on call charges for hon. Members for use of a telephone hotline on behalf of their constituents; and if she will make a statement. [292830]

Jim Knight: In Jobcentre Plus (part of the DWP) district managers are in regular contact with their local MPs in order to offer the personal assistance they need. Any hon. Member with a query about any benefits should contact the Jobcentre Plus district manager who has overall responsibility for the service to local residents. This service is provided through the district manager's office using geographic numbers and will give hon. Members effective support for a range of different queries. Jobcentre Plus will offer a call back service should any MP express their concerns in respect of charges.

The Pension, Disability and Carers Service provide a dedicated telephone service for the express use of Members of Parliament who require information on pensioner or disability and carer-related matters. The helpline numbers are 0113 232 4279 (Pensions) and 01253 333233/333533 (Disability/Carers), both geographic numbers. PDCS will also offer a call back service should any MP express their concerns in respect of charges.

Unemployment Benefits

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many households were in receipt of both council tax benefit and housing benefit in each year since 1997. [297398]

Helen Goodman: Information is not available for 2005-07; the available information is in the following tables.

Recipients of both housing benefit and council tax benefit: Great Britain May 1997 to May 2004

Number

1997

3,990,000

1998

3,890,000

1999

3,790,000

2000

3,570,000

2001

3,460,000

2002

3,430,000

2003

3,450,000

2004

3,550,000

Notes:
1. The figures are based on a 1 per cent sample and are therefore subject to sampling variation.
2. Caseload data are rounded to the nearest ten thousand due to the estimation procedure used to produce the figures.
3. The data refer to benefit units, which may be a single person or a couple.
Source:
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Management Information System annual 1 per cent

Recipients of both housing benefit and council tax benefit: Great Britain November 2008 and May 2009

Number

2008

3,713,010

2009

3,904,620

Notes:
1. Figures are rounded to the nearest 10.
2. Figures are at November 2008 and May 2009.
3. Recipients are as at second Thursday of the month.
Source:
Single Housing Benefit Extract (SHBE)

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Welfare to Work: Standards

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what age-based criteria there are in contracts between her Department and private sector welfare-to-work providers. [296849]

Jim Knight [holding answer 2 November 2009]: Contracted employment provision may be targeted at specific benefit claimants and or specific customer groups. Age based criteria apply to some benefits and some provision, and this will necessarily be reflected in the contracts. Department for Work and Pensions contracts comply with all relevant legislation including that related to age.

Additional information can be found in the Library.

International Development

Afghanistan: Overseas Aid

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much has been spent on the alternative livelihoods programme in Afghanistan in each year since 2001. [297884]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Department for International Development (DFID) funds a range of programmes to support the promotion of alternative livelihoods in Afghanistan. These include funding for agriculture, rural and private sector development. DFID spend on these programmes since 2001 is as follows:

£

2002

354,000

2003

3,000,000

2004

4,500,000

2005

18,300,000

2006

30,500,000

2007

14,100,000

2008

25,700,000


Last year DFID helped provide alternative livelihoods to farmers in Helmand by distributing wheat seed to over 13,000 farmers in the province. In addition, the UK participated in a voucher scheme providing seed and fertiliser to a further 147,000 farmers in nine provinces in Afghanistan.

There have been real signs of progress in farmers moving away from poppy cultivation. In September, the UN confirmed a 22 per cent. fall in opium cultivation in Afghanistan from 2008-this includes a 33 per cent. fall in Helmand, the heart of poppy cultivation.

Departmental Air Travel

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many first-class flights were taken by Ministers of his Department in 2008-09; which Minister took each such flight; what the (a) origin and (b) destination was of each such flight; and what the cost to the public purse was in each case. [298366]


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Mr. Douglas Alexander: I refer the hon. Member to the Cabinet Office annual list of overseas travel in excess of £500 undertaken by Ministers. The 2008-09 list was published on 16 July 2009 and can be viewed at:

Travel by Ministers is undertaken in accordance with the Ministerial Code.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many first-class flights (a) he, (b) the Minister of State and (c) the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State took on official business between 1 January and 1 October 2009; and what the (i) destination, (ii) purpose and (iii) cost of each flight was. [298881]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I refer the hon. Member to the Cabinet Office annual list of overseas travel in excess of £500 undertaken by Ministers. The 2008-09 list was published on 16 July 2009 and can be viewed at:

The 2009-10 list will be published as soon as possible after the end of the financial year.

Travel by Ministers is undertaken in accordance with the Ministerial Code.

Departmental Freedom of Information

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many staff in his Department were employed on the management of freedom of information requests submitted to his Department in each year since 2005; and how much his Department spent on the management of such requests in each such year. [299122]

Mr. Michael Foster: The requested information could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Since 2005 a number of staff have worked on freedom of information (FOI) management; however, they were also engaged in other duties and it is not possible to disaggregate time and expenditure on each activity.

Departmental Postal Services

Mr. Scott: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what percentage of postal services provided for his Department were provided by (a) Royal Mail and (b) other postal service providers (i) in 2007, (ii) in 2008, (iii) between 1 January and 1 July 2009 and (iv) since 1 July 2009. [298733]

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what percentage of postal services for his Department were provided by (a) Royal Mail and (b) other postal service providers (i) in 2007, (ii) in 2008, (iii) between 1 January and 1 July 2009 and (iv) after 1 July 2009. [298730]

Mr. Michael Foster: The Department for International Development uses the Royal Mail for the majority of its postal services, the remainder being a direct mail service between its two UK offices and a small volume of ad-hoc couriered post. The relevant proportion of post is as follows:


9 Nov 2009 : Column 101W
Percentage

Royal Mail Other

2007

82

18

2008

84

16

January to 1 July 2009

86

14

After 1 July 2009

84

16


Developing Countries: HIV Infection

Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to encourage pharmaceutical companies to participate in the UNITAID patent pool to make HIV medicines more affordable. [298905]

Mr. Michael Foster: The Department for International Development (DFID) has taken every opportunity-in speeches, statements to the press and in private meetings with company representatives-to encourage pharmaceutical companies to engage with UNITAID while it is in the process of developing an operational plan for a patent pool for HIV medicines. The UK Government, as a member of the board, looks forward to considering UNITAID's completed proposals for a patent pool in the UNITAID board meeting in December.

Developing Countries: Zinc

Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent steps he has taken to increase the supply of zinc tablets to developing countries. [298336]

Mr. Michael Foster: The Department for International Development's (DFID) new evidence paper, "The neglected crisis of undernutrition: Evidence for action", acknowledges the importance and cost effectiveness of zinc supplementation for maternal and child nutrition and health. This is available on-line:

The forthcoming Nutrition strategy will also include support to scaling-up direct nutritional interventions, including zinc.

DFID provides £21 million a year to UNICEF which leads efforts to increase zinc supply to developing countries. Although there is still a vast unmet need, the number of tablets distributed has increased from 20 million in 2006 to 91 million in 2008. At a national level, DFID has also provided support to increase supply. For example, we are currently providing £7.5 million over five years to the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh, which has carried out extensive trials on 'baby zinc'-a medicine for young children.

Overseas Aid

Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department takes to engage with civil society in developing countries when distributing aid. [298332]

Mr. Michael Foster: The Department for International Development (DFID) is a signatory to the Cabinet Office managed Compact. The Compact is an agreement
9 Nov 2009 : Column 102W
between Government and the voluntary and community sector which recognises shared values, principles and commitments and sets out guidelines for how both parties should work together.

The Compact includes guidelines on consultation which DFID strongly supports. For any new centrally managed DFID funding scheme, which potentially impacts on civil society, we ensure that we hold a full and open consultation process which specifically seeks the views of the sector.

Our direct spend through our country offices is governed by Country Plans. These plans set medium-term strategic priorities for our work at country level and determine key programming choices that will make best use of DFID resources in a particular country to meet identified development needs.

All DFID country offices producing a Country Plan must follow the 'Best Practice Guide'. This guide states that DFID country offices must include a 12 week consultation via the DFID website and that the target audience must include civil society and the voluntary sector.

Overseas Aid: Education

Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent steps his Department has taken towards achieving universal (a) basic education and (b) literacy in the developing world. [298333]

Mr. Michael Foster: The information is as follows:

(a) The Department for International Development (DFID) supports partner governments by providing long-term predictable funding to enable them to develop and implement their education sector plans. The UK is actively engaged in galvanising action through international bodies such as the G8. Recent successes include last September's Education Partnership meeting in New York where UK Government activity helped the delivery of international pledges and commitments to education totalling over $4.5 billion. This year DFID is supporting, in part by providing up to £1 million, the Global Campaign for Education's "1 GOAL" campaign, which aims to use the power of the 2010 football World Cup to raise the profile of education.

(b) DFID is committed in partnership with other donors, to the realisation of all six goals of the Education for All (EFA) agenda. Through our long-term commitment to provide £8.5 billion in support of education overseas to 2015, we are supporting poor countries to invest in quality basic education, including lower secondary, to ensure that children attain the fundamental skills they need to participate in social and economic life. In addition to mainstream school education, DFID has recently supported adult literacy programmes in Uganda, Kenya, India and Yemen, as well as through humanitarian aid programmes.


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