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Departmental Spending

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the total amount of spending by her Department was in each nation and region of the UK, in the last year for which figures are available; what proportion of her Department's total spending this constitutes; and if she will make a statement. [6827]

Hilary Benn: The vast majority of DFID's expenditure is targeted at or in aid recipient countries, with very limited expenditure occurring in the UK, which we are unable to identify separately let alone split between regions and nations. However, the total cost of administering the UK's development assistance programme from DFID's HQs in London and Scotland was estimated at £80 million in 2000–01, the latest year for which such figures are available. This figure comprises salary costs and associated overheads and represents almost 3 per cent. of the Department's total spending in 2000–01. We estimate that this is split in a ratio of 3:1 between London and Scotland ie at 2 per cent. and 0.7 per cent. respectively.

Special Advisers and Press Officers

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many (a) special advisers and (b) press officers were employed (i) full-time, (ii) part-time and (iii) on a contract basis by her Department in each year since 1992. [6929]

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Hilary Benn: At any one time since 1997, two special advisers have been employed full-time. None were employed before that date, or on a part-time or contract basis since then.

Four full-time press officers have been employed since 1996. We do not have records which enable us to provide accurate information before that time.

Ministerial Travel

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) on how many occasions in each year since 1992 non-commercial flights were used by ministers in her Department for official overseas visits; what the (a) destination, (b) ministers involved, (c) cost and (d) reason for use of non-commercial flights were on each occasion; and if she will make a statement; [6932]

Hilary Benn: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Prime Minister on 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 823W.


Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what was, for each year since 1995, the average response time for providing a substantive answer to (a) hon. Members' correspondence, (b) correspondence from members of the public and (c) written parliamentary questions in the (i) Commons and (ii) Lords; [7031]

Hilary Benn: The effective handling of correspondence and PQs is an issue to which we attach great importance.

General information on the volumes of correspondence received across Whitehall and on overall performance is published by the Cabinet Office. Figures for 2000 were published on 6 April 2001, Official Report, columns 324–28W, and on 19 July 2001, Official Report, columns 454–56W.

We aim to answer all ordinary written parliamentary questions for the House of Commons within five working days, and named day written parliamentary questions on the day named. The office aims to answer written parliamentary questions for the House of Lords within 10 working days.

The Department for International Development has answered a total of 215 parliamentary questions in both Houses so far this Session.

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Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what money the European Union intends to make available for Afghan refugees who are (a) outside and (b) within Afghanistan; and when the funding will be made available. [7678]

Clare Short: The EC has disbursed C=45 million (UK share £8.5 million) of humanitarian and food aid during 2001 to Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons, most of this before 11 September. A further C=8 million (UK share £1.5 million) of food aid has been pledged to the World Food Programme but not yet delivered. A further C=25 million (UK share £4.7 million) has been pledged by the Commission and should be disbursed later this month. Most of this is channelled through UN agencies and the ICRC, the rest through NGOs.

C=22.5 million (UK share £4.4 million) of separate funds will shortly be available for longer term support for refugees in the region, which the Commission aims to disburse in January 2002. This will also be channelled through UN agencies and NGOs.

The Commission is reviewing its plans for 2002. My Department will stay in close touch with them as part of our effort to ensure that the international response to the crisis is Afghanistan is as closely co-ordinated and effective as possible.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate she has made of the amount of aid required to prevent starvation in Afghanistan; how much aid has been sent into that country; and if she will make a statement. [8198]

Hilary Benn: The World Food Programme (WFP) is responsible for overseeing food aid assistance on behalf of the international community. It estimates that some 52,000 metric tonnes of food are required each month for the 7.5 million most vulnerable Afghans. Since 11 September, WFP has made some progress, having distributed around 15,000 metric tonnes of food inside Afghanistan. However more needs to be done to provide for the Afghan people and lay down stores for the winter.

As I announced last week, we are setting aside £40 million for immediate assistance to the people of Afghanistan. As part of our strategy, we continue to support the WFP and its implementing partners in trying to overcome a number of operational constraints on delivering assistance to Afghans in need. This includes £3 million for the WFP to support its operations in the region.



Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Solicitor-General if she has provided advice on the legality of each target in Afghanistan which has been bombed since 7 October. [8208]

The Solicitor-General: As chief legal advisers to Her Majesty's Government, the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General are available to advise the Government on all questions of international and domestic law. In this capacity the Law Officers have been asked to advise, from

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time to time, on legal issues relating to the use of force. This has included the right of self-defence as recognised in Article 51 of the UN Charter and international humanitarian law. There is a long-standing convention that neither the substance of the Law Officers' advice, nor the fact that they have been consulted, is disclosed outside Government.

The Campaign Objectives on defeating international terrorism, placed in the Library of the House of Commons, make clear the Government's commitment to acting in conformity with international law, including the UK Charter and international humanitarian law.


Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Mrs. Roe: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what steps the Commission is taking in respect of the expiration of the current term of appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in February 2002. [9039]

Mr. Kirkwood: The appointment of the current Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Mrs. Elizabeth Filkin, ends in February 2002. The House of Commons Commission has considered how best to fill the post for the future. It has decided that there should be an open competition through advertisement in the national press as part of the overall selection process. As a result of the sifting and initial interview process, a shortlist will be drawn up for final interview. The Commission hopes to be able to make a recommendation to the House early in 2002. The competition will be organised to meet the appropriate standards for senior appointments, including equality of opportunity and selection on merit.

The competition will be open to existing members of staff, including Mrs. Filkin, as well as to external applicants. In the event of Mrs. Filkin wishing to enter the selection process, she would take part in the final short list stage when candidates were interviewed by the Commission.

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