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House of Lords

Tuesday, 13 July 2004.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.

Lord McKenzie of Luton

William David McKenzie, Esquire, having been created Baron McKenzie of Luton, of Luton in the County of Bedfordshire, for life—Was, in his robes, introduced between the Baroness Gould of Potternewton and the Lord Faulkner of Worcester.

Baroness McDonagh

Margaret Josephine McDonagh, having been created Baroness McDonagh, of Mitcham and Morden in the London Borough of Merton, for life—Was, in her robes, introduced between the Lord Alli and the Lord Sawyer.

Sudan: Darfur

Baroness Rendell of Babergh asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, the UK Government are deeply concerned about the crisis in Darfur. As the second largest donor, we have already allocated £62.5 million for humanitarian assistance in response to the crisis. In addition, the Department for International Development has provisionally allocated £35 million for Sudan this financial year in anticipation of a comprehensive peace agreement for Sudan. The Chancellor yesterday announced £150 million for the following three years for emergency and other relief.

Baroness Rendell of Babergh: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her Answer. Is she aware that conditions in the villages of Darfur are so poor and the food shortage is so great that some already malnourished children are forced to eat wild plants that are known to be toxic? Is she also aware that people are taking refuge in these villages, escaping from war and destruction, and that the villagers have to share their meagre supplies with them?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble friend is right; the conditions in the villages merit a great deal of attention. Darfur has always been chronically poor. I am aware that host communities which are already poor are sharing resources with those internally displaced. That is why the humanitarian effort in
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Darfur is so critical. There have been hold-ups with aid distribution, but it is gradually improving. In June the World Food Programme reached 500,000 people, although we estimate that 1.2 million people are in need.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, further to the Minister's reply, what steps have Her Majesty's Government taken to help farmers return to their villages? Can they provide figures for those who have managed to get back in time to plant this season's crop? What money do the Government plan to provide to help to alleviate the specific food crisis? Perhaps Her Majesty's Government could emulate the programme of the charity Kids for Kids by donating to families one donkey and harness to carry water and fodder, which cost only £27 and has proved so successful.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Baroness may be aware that the rains have already started. That is one of the reasons that the aid programme in Darfur has been hampered. The focus is on getting food in to feed those in the villages and ensuring that the NGOs have proper access. We have worked very hard to persuade the Government of Sudan to ease some of the bureaucratic restrictions. I have met Kids for Kids; it does very good work in Sudan.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, is the Minister aware of UN reports that the Janjaweed militia, which has been supported by the Government of Sudan, continues to attack clearly marked humanitarian convoys, despite the escalation of the catastrophe, with possibly 300,000 more people dying in coming weeks? What steps are Her Majesty's Government taking to ensure that the Government of Sudan stop the militia's interference with the humanitarian effort and are themselves brought to account for complicity with the military offensives, which are the cause of the catastrophe?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, we regard the safety and security of humanitarian workers and the people in Darfur as paramount. I have been alerted to reports of continuing attacks. That remains a cause of serious concern. As the noble Baroness will be aware, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn, Colin Powell and Kofi Annan visited Sudan, as a result of which an agreement has been made with the Government of Sudan. We want to see that agreement implemented.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the rainy season has now started in Sudan—

Noble Lords: My Lords, she has said so.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, I am glad to hear that everyone is clearly paying attention.
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In that case, have the Government identified airstrips where food aid can be dropped? Is she aware also of trouble developing in other parts of Sudan, particularly Malakal? Are the Government concerned about that?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am aware that the rainy season has already started. We are investigating with the UN and the World Food Programme the best ways of distributing food in the light of that. I am aware of trouble in other parts of Sudan, including Malakal, and the need to get humanitarian assistance into those areas as well.

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, further to the question asked by my noble friend Lady Cox, is it not clear that the Government of Sudan are, at the very least, closing an eye to what is taking place in Darfur, or, at the very worst, condoning it? Surely this atrocity has now reached a scale where the United Nations ought to exert every effort to call the Government of Sudan to account.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that Kofi Annan was in Darfur recently. There has been a discussion on Darfur at the UN Security Council, to which Kofi Annan gave a video-link report on the situation in Sudan. The UN is taking the issue very seriously. The noble Lord will be aware that we were concerned at the lack of speed of the UN response in the early days, but that has improved.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, will my noble friend urge the Government to congratulate the African Union on sending to Darfur not only peace monitors but troops to protect them and the local population?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, of course I can. The African Union, at its recent summit, made a strong statement on the need for support in Sudan. We are supporting the ceasefire monitoring mission to the tune of some £2 million.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, given that the Machakos peace accord relies on reconstruction of many parts of Sudan, including southern Sudan, which I visited, will the Minister confirm that the Question on the Order Paper, calling for aid to be switched from other parts of Sudan to Darfur, is not the Government's policy and that the overall amount of aid that will be given to Sudan will not change? Can she also say something about the exodus of people from Darfur into Chad and the perilous conditions that they are now in?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I can confirm that we will not switch aid from other parts of Sudan to Darfur. We have given some £62.5 million for the humanitarian crisis in Darfur itself, with an additional £35 million allocated for the rest of Sudan. Yesterday the Chancellor announced another £150 million over three years.
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Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords. We published the White Paper Fairness for All: A New Commission for Equality and Human Rights on 12 May. In it we set out our proposals for distinctive governance arrangements for disability. These proposed arrangements include a statutory requirement for at least one disabled person (or a person who has had a disability) to be appointed to the board, and the establishment of a disability committee where disabled people (or those who have had a disability) represent at least half of its membership.

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