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Far East Prisoners of War

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many widows of former Japanese prisoners of war have claimed their compensation entitlement. [150627]

Mr. Bayley: I have been asked to reply.

The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available as at 19 February shows that 8,272 claims under the ex-gratia payments scheme had been received from widows and widowers of deceased ex-far east prisoners of war.



Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans she has to reassess her aid programme to Tanzania following recent unrest in Zanzibar. [151588]

Clare Short: The Government of Tanzania, as part of their qualification for HIPC debt relief, are pursuing a broad-based national poverty reduction strategy and are in receipt of UK development assistance. We do not believe that the poor of Tanzania should suffer because of the abuse of human rights in Zambia. However, Her Majesty's Government have made clear to the Government of Tanzania UK concerns following the recent unrest in

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Zanzibar. Sir John Vereker recently visited Dar es Salaam and discussed these concerns directly with President Mkapa.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she has had with her EU counterparts regarding EU funding for aid programmes in Tanzania since the Zanzibar elections in 2000. [151587]

Clare Short: There have been no high-level discussions related to EU development assistance to Tanzania since the national elections last November although I have discussed the situation with my Utstein group colleagues.

EU development assistance to Tanzania is under review following the conclusion of the Cotonou agreement last year.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list the projects her Department supports in Tanzania. [151586]

Clare Short: Our development assistance to Tanzania last year was £65 million. This included £40 million to support pro-poor sectors of the national budget and reward the maintenance of continued macro economic stability. We are also funding projects in health, education, improved public sector management and public sector reform. In addition, we are undertaking initiatives to strengthen civil society and encourage pro-poor growth and private sector development.


Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. [151585]

Clare Short: Afghanistan is suffering its worst drought in 30 years, which has combined with continuing conflict to lead to a dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation. At least 12 million people are affected, 3-4 million of them seriously, and the number of displaced Afghans seeking relief from drought and conflict is now over 500,000. Winter weather conditions are reported to be severe, and a shortage of food, shelter and clothing has led to an increase in mortality rates.

We remain extremely concerned about the situation in Afghanistan. This financial year, DFID has provided over £7.5 million of humanitarian assistance to Afghans through UN agencies, the Red Cross and NGOs. As well as drought relief assistance, this includes a regular programme of longer-term humanitarian assistance to the Afghan population--both in Afghanistan and to Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries.

In addition, due to the severity of conditions in Afghanistan, DFID has recently agreed a further £3 million for the provision of drought relief and emergency relief goods to displaced people. This will be channelled through UN agencies and the Red Cross.

Sub-Saharan Africa (School Fees)

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the extent of fees being charged to pupils attending schools in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. [151665]

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Clare Short: We believe that primary education should be free and that no child should be denied access to a basic education because the costs, direct or indirect, cannot be met by the household. School fees are an example of a direct cost, but there may be indirect charges for books, uniforms and exams which can make education unaffordable to many.

The equitable financing of education is a key issue for achieving universal primary education by 2015. Accordingly, assessments are made by DFID at country level of the extent to which fees or indirect costs are charged to primary school pupils. Support for the planned transition to free primary education is a priority for us. We have seen some progress. In Zambia, the Government have recently announced the abolition of fees for primary school children, including those for examination entry. Tanzania has committed to abolishing primary school fees by 2001, but there are still significant challenges. In Malawi, for example, primary schooling is nominally free but there are still hidden costs which need to be addressed. In Kenya parents do not pay primary school fees, but instead must pay for books, school levy, uniforms and examination fees.


Departmental Policies (Tooting)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will set out with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Tooting parliamentary constituency, the effect of his Department's policies and actions since 1 May 1997. [149867]

Mr. Caborn: The parliamentary constituency of Tooting, Wandsworth has benefited from a range of initiatives since 1 May 1997. Direct business advice and support to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) has been provided by the DTI through core programmes and the Business Links. While my Department does not collect detailed statistical information on a constituency basis, over 5,800 requests for advice, information and support from SMEs in Tooting, Wandsworth have been handled by the Business Links since May 1997. During the same period, grants totalling over £300,000 have been awarded to SMEs for innovation and technology development under the Smart scheme.

United Kingdom Accreditation Service

Mr. Alan Keen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent consideration he has given to the accreditation and the status of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service; and if he will make a statement. [151629]

Mr. Alan Johnson [holding answer 28 February 2001]: During the course of 2000, my noble Friend the Minister for Science reviewed the Department's existing policy on accreditation. He decided to re-confirm the existing policy of recognition for the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) as the sole national body for the accreditation, against the recognised international standards, of testing and calibration laboratories and certification and inspection bodies. He confirmed the terms of the memorandum of understanding which my Department, on behalf of the Government as a whole, has

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with UKAS and which sets out the activities for which UKAS is recognised along with a number of rights and obligations on both parties.

While my noble Friend concluded that no major structural changes to the UK accreditation system were desirable, he did agree that there would be benefit in a well-targeted, UKAS-driven publicity campaign to raise the profile of UKAS accredited conformity assessment to ensure that the benefits of using UKAS accredited conformity assessment services are properly understood.

Accreditation by UKAS ensures that conformity assessment bodies have been independently assessed to agreed international standards of competence and impartiality by a body which is itself subject to regular assessment and to oversight by Government. For these reasons, while there is no legal requirement for the providers of conformity assessment services to be accredited, the Government recommend the use of UKAS accredited conformity assessment wherever this is an option. The Government also advise purchasers to look for the National Accreditation Marks, which UKAS and UKAS accredited organisations are able to use under a licensing agreement with my Department, as a sign of Government recognition.

My Department and a number of other Government Departments are therefore supporting the UKAS Accreditation Awareness Campaign which was launched by my noble Friend on 27 November 2000. The campaign is expected to run for the next 18 months and is aimed at increasing the understanding of accreditation within Government itself and, through a series of briefings aimed at business support agencies, within the business community in general and SMEs in particular.

Steel Industry

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received concerning the decision by Corus to cut jobs and close plants in the UK; what estimate his Department has made of the effect on local employment that the closures will have; and what measures he is taking to support the steel industry in the UK. [151673]

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Mr. Alan Johnson: I have received representations from a variety of sources, including from many Members of Parliament, trade unions and members of the public about the implications of Corus's announcement on 1 February.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has urged Corus to reconsider its decision and pressed the company to engage in a constructive dialogue to identify a better way forward. I am pleased to say that Corus is now talking to the trade unions about their plans.

If Corus proceed with the job cuts announced on 1 February then the Government and the National Assembly for Wales will not walk away from the innocent victims. We are assessing the possible consequences on a contingency basis and will provide help to any individual affected and to the communities in which they live. This will include new job opportunities, retraining and economic regeneration.

The steel industry is a vital part of UK manufacturing and the Government will continue to work closely with all parts of the industry to help ensure its future competitiveness. We and the National Assembly for Wales stand ready to work alongside Corus, other steel companies and the trade unions to identify a way forward that builds on the strengths of the industry and secures its long-term future in the UK.

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