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Baroness Amos: In 1998, the latest year for which figures are available, official development assistance (ODA) rose by US$3.6 billion to almost US$52 billion, an increase on 1997 of 9.6 per cent in real terms. This resulted in the ODA/GNP ratio for all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Member countries rising from 0.22 to 0.24 per cent. Fifteen of the 21 DAC member countries reported a rise in net ODA disbursements in real terms. But we need to monitor year on year progress. DAC figures are based on calendar not financial years and this can produce distortions.
The Government have started to reverse the decline in the UK's development assistance budget and have made clear their commitment to the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP. They have called on all donors to reverse the trend in declining ODA and challenged the donor community to increase official development finance to US$60 billion by this year. We also continue to press for better focused and more efficient assistance by both bilateral and multilateral donors. It is only by the whole international system working collaboratively and backing the leadership of governments and people in developing countries against measurable improvements in poverty reduction year on year that the aim of poverty elimination will be achieved.
With regard to the figure for displaced persons in Serbia and Montenegro, we understand from the UNHCR that this now stands at a total of 700,000. Of these, there are around 500,000 refugees (largely from Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina) and 200,000 internally displaced from Kosovo.
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): I am pleased to announce that the report of the review of the organisation of public sector ombudsmen in England is published today. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House and are also available from the Vote Office.
The start of the review was announced by the then Minister for the Cabinet Office on 30 March 1999 and forms part of the Modernising Government agenda. The review, which was carried out by a team in the Cabinet Office, was wide-ranging: it covered the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Health Service Ombudsman for England and the Local Government Ombudsmen for England, and looked at the potential interaction between those ombudsmen and other independent complaints authorities such as the independent Housing Ombudsman and the Data Protection Commissioner. The review team consulted widely with those who have an interest in the ombudsmen system, including all Members, the ombudsmen themselves, central and local government, representative bodies (such as the Local Government Association and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives) and external interest groups.
The main recommendations in the report are that the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Health Service Ombudsman in England and the Local Government Ombudsmen in England should be merged into a collegiate structure (a new Commission); that the present requirement for complainants to put their complaints via a Member to the Parliamentary Ombudsman (the "MP filter") should be removed; and that their procedures be simplified and made more flexible.
The Government welcome the review's focus on providing a more customer-orientated ombudsman service. It recognises that the recommendations raise a number of significant issues about the status and constitution of the ombudsmen. Accordingly, we shall now be consulting widely before reaching our final conclusions on implementing the review's recommendations.
The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): No information is held centrally on the number of "Henry VIII" clauses in legislation. Collecting the information for the past decade would require a major exercise which could only be undertaken at disproportionate cost. I will write to the noble Lord with the advice on this given by the Cabinet Office and place that advice in the Library.
The Advisory Committee advises me on applications from the most senior Crown Servants to take up business appointments after leaving the Service, and it also gives advice directly to former Ministers on appointments they wish to accept after leaving office. The members of the Committee are unpaid, and I am grateful to them for the time they give to this role. I value their judgment.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Lord Justice Stuart-Smith has accepted an extension of his appointment as Security Service Commissioner until 31 March 2000 to enable him to complete his annual report for 1999. He recently completed that term. I thank Lord Justice Stuart-Smith for the contribution he made during the 10 years he spent as Security Service Commissioner.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Lord Justice Stuart-Smith has accepted an extension of his appointment as Intelligence Services Commissioner until 31 March 2000 to enable him to complete his annual report for 1999. At that time he will stand down. I thank Lord Justice Stuart-Smith for the contribution he made during his five years as Intelligence Services Commissioner.
Lord Justice Simon Brown, formerly President of the Intelligence Service Tribunal, has accepted an appointment as the Intelligence Services Commissioner for a period of three years from 1st April 2000.
The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government regard directors' remuneration as an important issue. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry expects to make an announcement shortly.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Stamp Programme is a matter for the Post Office. I understand that it does not publish a list of all subjects it considers. To do so would in many cases effectively disclose details of the people or organisations making the suggestions.
I am informed that the working titles of the themes selected for the 2001 Special Stamps Programme are: The Future, Family Pets, Submarines, Hats, Pondlife, Buses, Weather, Puppets and Christmas.
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