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28 Jul 2000 : Column WA101

Written Answers

Friday, 28th July 2000.

Zimbabwe: Land Resettlement Grants

The Duke of Montrose asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement what was the undertaking of the United Kingdom Government in respect of financing the purchase of commercial farms in Zimbabwe for African settlement; how much of the undertaking was fulfilled and at what cost; if it was not completed what were the reasons; and, if so, what is the potential cost of fulfilling the remainder of the undertaking.[HL3533]

Baroness Amos: At the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference in 1979, the UK Government undertook to assist with land resettlement alongside other donors. No specific sum was pledged, but £44 million has been provided to date; £20 million was offered through the 1981 Land Resettlement Grant, which was closed in 1996 with £3 million unspent because Government did not offer plans to use it; £27 million was provided during the 1980s as budgetary support to help the Zimbabwe Government meet its share of resettlement costs.

DFID has recently offered another £5 million to continue help for resettlement working through civil society and private sector initiatives as part of a total of £38 million development assistance. Further support for Government-led resettlement is dependent on a return to the rule of law, and to the principles agreed by government and donors at the 1998 Land Conference.

Overseas Aid and Development Programme Support

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of Gross National Product has been spent on official overseas aid and development programmes in each of the past five years; what proportion it is now anticipated will be spent in each of the next five years; and when it is expected that the 0.7 per cent of gross national product target will be met.[HL3539]

Baroness Amos: Figures for official development assistance as reported to the DAC of the OECD are based on expenditure in calendar years, and as percentage of GNP for the past five calendar years were as follows:

    1995 0.29

    1996 0.27

    1997 0.26

    1998 0.27

    1999 0.23 (provisional)

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    The provisional oda/GNP ratio in 1999 shows a drop to 0.23 per cent. This is a statistical quirk due to the calendar year reporting required by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, while the timing of DFID commitments and expenditure is mostly based on financial years. The planned expenditure for the current financial year is the highest ever.

While all the elements that make up the figures are not under our control, we expect to record an oda/GNP ratio of 0.30 per cent in calendar year 2001, in line with the Government's commitment to reverse the decline in aid spending during this Parliament. Further, the Government has stated that it will ensure the ratio of oda to GNP will rise to 0.33 per cent by financial year 2003-04.

No assumptions on the oda/GNP ratio have been made beyond 2003-04.

Displaced and Refugee Eritreans: Aid

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to respond to the United Nations appeal for £87 million to assist the 1.1 million Eritreans displaced by the recent war and affected by drought.[HL3584]

Baroness Amos: The UK has committed humanitarian assistance worth £885,000 to help meet the needs of the internally displaced in Eritrea so far this year, with a further £250,000 for Eritrean refugees in Sudan. We continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to do more. We have also contributed 17 per cent of the cost of the 65,400 metric tons of cereals provided through the EC for delivery this year.

Debt Relief

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much of anticipated official overseas aid and development expenditure in each of the next five years will be earmarked for debt relief.[HL3540]

Baroness Amos: The UK Government are committed to writing off 100 per cent of the debts owed to them by Heavily Indebted Poor Countries--some £1.7 billion in all--as and when countries become eligible.

There is a high degree of uncertainty over the amount of debt relief which will be reportable to the OECD Development Assistance Committee as official development assistance over the next five years. On the assumption that the Public Service Agreement target published this week by DFID and HM Treasury is realised, and on current assumptions over which countries achieve HIPC eligibility and when they do so, the total benefit from the UK to debtor countries at the moment when debt relief is irrevocable--i.e. at completion point--will be approximately £140 million in 2001-02, £175 million 2002-03 and £300 million in

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2003-04. No assumption has yet been made for the following two years.

The amount of DFID's development expenditure on debt relief for 2001-04 was given in reply to Lord Hylton (Official Report 27 July, col. WA 69).

Kosovo: Aid Pledges

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What sums were promised in international aid for Kosovo and over what period; and what amount has so far been paid.[HL3468]

Baroness Amos: The total of pledges at the two donor conferences on Kosovo so far held is £2.1 billion. As at 31 Decemer 1999, £1.5 billion of this had been committed and £879 million disbursed.

The total bilateral commitment by the United Kingdom is £119 million, of which £113 million has been disbursed. In addition, our share of the European Community's programmes for Kosovo in 1999 and 2000 is about £90 million.

Peers' Expenses

Lord Marlesford asked the Leader of the House:

    Which of the existing travelling and other expense allowances for Peers can be varied by the House of Lords itself; and which have to be referred to the Senior Salaries Review Body[HL3459]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Such matters are not normally decided by the House itself but referred to the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB). There is no statutory requirement for parliamentary pay and allowances to be referred to the SSRB. The SSRB is an independent body set up by the Government to advise on, inter alia, Peers' allowances. The SSRB takes evidence as appropriate and makes recommendations based on this. The Government then decide whether to accept the recommendations and place a resolution before the House accordingly.

Joint Committee on Human Rights

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Jay of Paddington on 11 July (WA 26), whether the consultations on the proposed Joint Committee on Human Rights are likely to be concluded in sufficient time to enable the Joint Committee to be set up before the coming into force of the Human Rights Act 1998 on 2 October 2000; and, if not, why not.[HL3602]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government have made every effort to take forward negotiations on the Joint Committee on Human Rights through the usual channels in both Houses with a view to establishing the

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Committee before the summer. Discussions are still taking place and unfortunately it is now, therefore, very unlikely that consultations on the Joint Committee will be concluded before the summer adjournment.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they first announced their support for the creation of a Joint Committee on Human Rights; and what has been the progress of this proposal since it was first announced.[HL3603]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: We explained our views on a Joint Committee on Human Rights in the Human Rights Bill White Paper. Draft terms of references were drawn up earlier this year, and consultations through the usual channels began in the spring, as indicated in my answer of 25 May. This House has now agreed to the proposed terms of reference; we await the concurrence of the other place.

Prisons: Target Performance Improvement

Baroness Wilkins asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What recommendations were made by Lord Laming's working group on Target Performance Improvement.[HL 3726]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced the establishment of Lord Laming's working group on 31 January 2000 (Official Report, Commons, col. 425W). My noble friend Lord Laming has completed his report, and copies have been placed in the Library and printed paper office.

I am very grateful to the noble friend Lord Laming and his colleagues on the working group, for their analysis and recommendations. Many of these recommendations build on the extensive change of the prison service programme being managed by the Director General. We accept all the recommendations made in the report, save where my noble friend Lord Laming or the Director General has advised us that further work is required in order to assess how best to take the recommendation forward.

We have, therefore, today, announced that the right honourable Member for Fareham, and Chairman of the Newbridge Trust, Sir Peter Lloyd, has agreed to chair a review of the role of prisons' boards of visitors (Recommendation 16). Mr Patrick Carter, a non-executive Director of the Prison and Probation Services, has agreed to lead a review of the Prison Service's programme of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) prisons and market-testing (Recommendation 8).

The Director General has been asked to report back to my right honourable friend the Minister of State

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for the Home Office, Mr Boateng, at the latest by October 2000, with a more detailed action plan in response to Recommendations 4, 5, 9, 13 and 14. I have also asked the Director General and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons to take forward Recommendation 12.

We welcome the report's focus on updating personnel policies, and the importance placed on succession planning, and the effective management of sickness absence and poor performers. These underscore the importance of major programmes of work already under way within the Prison Service. My noble friend Lord Laming has noted the leadership being given by the Director General and the Deputy Director General, and the report's recommendations regarding managerial accountability and the pivotal role of the area manager in improving performance built on recent reforms relating to regionalisation.

The Prison Service is in the process of modernising its information technology systems, and will be introducing service level agreements into all public sector prisons by April 2001. Work is also in hand to develop a more sophisticated means of linking performance with the allocation of resources. The Quinquennial Review of the Prison Service, conducted in 1999, reaffirmed its status as an Executive Agency.

My noble friend Lord Laming's recommendations are:

    1. The Prison Service must give the highest priority to developing succession management in order to avoid frequent changes of governors. They must ensure that governor posts are filled as quickly and appropriately as possible.

    2. The personnel policies and practices of the Prison Service should be brought up to date. Sickness absence should be robustly challenged. Mechanisms to deal with poor performance should be improved.

    3. Staff training should be improved and be linked to quality standards and performance targets.

    4. A critical examination of information routinely circulated and gathered should be undertaken. In future, information should not be gathered or sent unless its use has been defined and justified.

    5. It is recommended that all instructions to governors, and requests for information, should be directed through the management line and should be prioritised.

    6. The Prison Service should be clearly defined as an executive Agency and be required to perform as such.

    7. The allocation of increased resources should be linked to defined objectives and outcome measures-systems must be in place so that every prison governor can demonstrate that resources are being used flexibly and to good purpose.

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    8. The programme of PFI prisons and market testing should be reviewed to advise Ministers on how best to use the financial and management resources of the private sector to provide both greater choice and additional capacity to the Prison Service.

    9. We believe that service level agreements should be developed for every establishment in the public sector. In each of these establishments, a contract compliance officer should be appointed to monitor day-by-day application. In many prisons, the extra cost would be covered by the better use of resources.

    10. The Prison Service should operate to agreed national standards which are put into practice in each establishment. It is not a "federal" service and these core standards should be the basis for all evaluation of performance.

    11. The highest priority should be given to modernising the management information systems of the Prison Service and ensuring the successful implementation of the new contract with Electronic Data Systems.

    12. The Prison Service and the Chief Inspector should work to produce an agreed set of standards, to be approved by Ministers, against which the performance of prisons will be evaluated. The methodology for the inspection of prisons will be developed in relation to these standards. It should facilitate both objective assessment and comparison covering both value for money and quality of service delivered.

    13. The principle of managerial accountability must permeate the service and inform all practice and decision making.

    14. The principle of managerial responsibilities of area managers should be clearly defined and they should be held personally accountable for the performance of each prison in their area. Specialist staff should be relocated from headquarters to the areas to enable area managers to fulfil their new and demanding duties.

    15. Links between prisons and community based agencies should be strengthened and coordinated more effectively. Prison and community based agency staff should be provided with training to enable them to work together more effectively. Community based agency staff should be able to convey any concerns they have about the prison to the governor or area manager.

    16. There should be a review of the role, resources and responsibilities of boards of visitors.

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