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Written Answers

Monday, 1st December 2003.


Baroness Rendell of Babergh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What their response is to the recent UNAIDS report on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. [HL123]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): The Government are publishing today, World AIDS Day, the UK's call for action on HIV/AIDS. A copy is being placed in the Library of the House.

The call for action is the first step in increasing the UK Government's effort to tackle HIV/AIDS and global poverty eradication. It signals our intention to work for a deeper, more sustained and better co-ordinated international response involving high-level political leadership, pressing for more resources to be made available, and working together more effectively with other donors. We will make HIV/AIDS—with Africa—a centrepiece for our presidencies of the G8 in 2005 and of the EU in the second half of 2005.

We are calling on the international community to work better together to achieve real progress towards the international targets for HIV/AIDS, in particular: 25 per cent fewer young people to be infected with HIV/AIDS by 2005; 3 million people—2 million in Africa—to be receiving treatment by the end of 2005; and one national strategy, one national AIDS commission and one way to monitor and report progress in every country affected by HIV (the "three ones").

This is a challenge we must all rise to, both here and internationally; governments, parliaments, NGOs, the private sector and the public. We are inviting comments from interested bodies and individuals on the call for action and these can be sent to:

Southern Africa: Humanitarian Crisis

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What their latest information is on the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa. [HL124]

Baroness Amos: The humanitarian crisis that has affected six countries in southern Africa (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe) since September 2001 has eased in recent months. Emergency operations have largely ended in Malawi and Zambia, and are working on a reduced scale in Swaziland. The position in Zimbabwe remains very serious and, while there are also significant needs in Lesotho and Mozambique, these too are now on a much smaller scale.

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Efforts to support recovery operations are either under way or being planned in all six countries and DfID is examining, with partners, what further actions they can take to reduce hunger and vulnerability in the region in the long term. These efforts will need to take careful account of the widespread impact of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa.

Humanitarian needs are greatest in Zimbabwe, largely caused by the Zimbabwe Government's disastrous policies. Foreign exchange shortages have meant that the Government of Zimbabwe have been unable to import significant volumes of food and seeds for planting, and the Government continue to prevent the private sector importing or marketing grain. Rampant inflation and increasing unemployment have meant that few people are able to purchase the limited food available in the market. Though the needs of displaced former commercial farm workers and their families have yet to be assessed accurately, it is estimated that up to half a million of them are in need of assistance. The economic collapse means that urban areas are also badly affected and vulnerability levels in the major centres have been rising steadily. A further assessment of needs in urban areas will be published shortly. In total, half the population of Zimbabwe—around five and a half million people—are likely to need food aid over the coming months.

There has long been concern about possible interference by the Zimbabwe Government with international food aid programmes. It is the agreed policy of the World Food Programme and other donor agencies working in Zimbabwe that relevant operations will be suspended in the event of such political interference. There have, however, been no significant incidents of this kind in recent months and no suspensions have therefore been needed. Minor incidents have occurred periodically but all of these have been investigated and resolved with local authorities using agreed procedures. By contrast, food distribution controlled by the Zimbabwe Government through the state Grain Marketing Board is not subject to the same monitoring procedures and there is evidence that it is distorted for political reasons.

In Mozambique, while harvests in the north remained good, there has been near total crop failure in many southern and central districts as a result of poor rainfall last year. This has affected about 650,000 people who are in need of food and other assistance.

In Lesotho, crop failure has also affected a significant part of the population with up to 700,000 people estimated to be affected following the failure of the winter harvest. There are considerable problems of access to many of the most vulnerable populations, many of whom comprise growing numbers of orphans and child-headed households.

To address these needs DfID will be spending over £40 million this year on immediate humanitarian assistance in the southern African region. This builds on the £125 million that the Government have already spent since September 2001. The vast majority of the new funds this year (£35 million) will be for humanitarian assistance operations in Zimbabwe.

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They have also provided £3.5 million to fund emergency operations in Mozambique and Lesotho and are continuing to monitor the position in those countries closely. Resources are being channelled through the main UN agencies, notably the World Food Programme, as well as through a range of NGOs to support emergency feeding and nutrition programmes. They have also provided £500,000 for enhanced monitoring of food aid deliveries and beneficiary selection procedures in Zimbabwe. In Mozambique, DfID will also be supporting efforts led by the Ministry of Agriculture to better target humanitarian assistance in addition to providing immediate food aid and nutritional support. They are also providing £1.5 million to the UN's Regional Co-ordination and Support Office in Johannesburg to help the UN's regional planning and improve its country programmes in affected countries. The World Food Programme has responded to the concerns of DfID and other donors, as well as partner governments, by stepping up efforts to increase the amount of food that it purchases in local markets. They and others are working to address remaining barriers, including import restrictions between countries in the region.

Pockets of vulnerability remain in Malawi and Zambia, but we have seen important improvements in the food security situation in both countries over the past few months. Strategic grain reserves have recovered and these will need to be carefully managed. In Malawi, DfID support for subsidised inputs programmes continues to provide affordable seeds and fertilisers for poorer households, enhancing household food security and allowing them to grow maize that can offer an alternative to imported commodities. In Zambia, maize is both available and accessible.

Food security will continue to be a concern throughout the region for the foreseeable future, especially given indications that vulnerability is increasing, partly due to the high rates of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa. DfID is developing a regional hunger and vulnerability strategy for working with national governments and regional institutions to promote food security in the future in ways that both protect and promote livelihoods for the most vulnerable communities.

Department for Constitutional Affairs: Autumn Performance Report 2003

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Department for Constitutional Affairs will publish its autumn performance report for 2003. [HL125]

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The department published its autumn performance report for 2003 today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Crown Prosecution Service: Autumn Performance Report 2003

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Crown Prosecution Service autumn performance report 2003 will be published. [HL126]

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) autumn performance report has today been published and laid before Parliament. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Spring Supplementary Estimate

Lord Christopher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give details of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's spring supplementary estimate. [HL63]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Subject to parliamentary approval of any necessary supplementary estimate, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office departmental expenditure limit (DEL) will be decreased by £19,000 from £1,651,679,000 to £1,651,660,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources is as set out in the following table:


(1) Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The change in the resource element of the DEL arises from:

(i) A Public Expenditure Survey (PES) transfer to the Department for Transport of £100,000 in respect of the setting up of a Register of Shipping by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for certain Caribbean Overseas Territories.

(ii) A PES transfer to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of £67,000 in respect of payments due to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

(iii) A PES transfer from the Department for International Development of £14,000 in respect of costs incurred by a British Geological Survey visit to Afghanistan.

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