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Democratic Republic of Congo

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on (a) the progress of the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (b) her recent visit to the region and (c) the latest International Crisis Group report on the Inter-Congolese dialogue. [18635]

Clare Short: I had a useful visit to the region in August where I met with Presidents Kagame and Museveni, President Kabila and Mr. Bemba, Mr. Onusumba and representatives of MONUC among others to discuss the importance of moving the Lusaka Peace Process forward. These have been some promising signs in recent months with no major ceasefire violations, the start of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (due to reconvene in the new year), and more frank discussions about disarmament, demobilisation, and re-integration. But the situation remains fragile. The international community needs to give its full support to pushing all the elements of the Lusaka Peace Process forward, including the Inter- Congolese Dialogue.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will respond to the UN report of the Panel of Exports on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular section III part D. [18630]

Clare Short: We welcome the publication of the revised report last week. We believe it is an improvement on the previous highly flawed report. We shall raise any specific allegations with the Governments concerned and press them to take action to investigate substantiated allegations against groups and individuals. But we also believe that the way forward for the region—including better management of mineral resources—is the full implementation of the Lusaka peace accord.


Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the sanctions against terrorists in Angola since the publication of the third report of the Monitoring Mechanism on Sanctions against UNITA. [18632]

Clare Short: We welcome the Monitoring Mechanism's latest report in October. The report is currently under discussion by the Security Council and we look forward to a timely follow-up.

The Government fully support the sanctions imposed by UNCSRs 864, 1127, and 1173 as a means of bringing UNITA to the negotiating table. We are currently investigating two UK companies named in the latest report and hope to report back to the Sanctions Committee shortly.


Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what actions her Department is taking to promote good governance in Malawi; and what assessment she has made of the decision of major donors to suspend development aid to the country. [18631]

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Clare Short: Malawi is an extremely poor country with very weak capacity in all government systems. We are implementing a £34 million programme aimed at improved safety, security and access to justice for poor and vulnerable people, by strengthening the judiciary and reform of the police and prison services. We are assisting the Anti Corruption Bureau and Ombudsman's office, and we are helping to improve public expenditure management.

All donors are at present maintaining their programmes in Malawi.


Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what assessment she has made of the effect of the collapse of Taliban rule on the scale of population displacement in Afghanistan; [17173]

Clare Short: Where there have been improvements in the security situation, some international staff of humanitarian agencies have returned to Afghanistan, and access to these parts of the country has increased. However, while the changing situation has resulted in some people in the north of the country being able to return to their homes, continued fighting in the south has caused further displacement. Because of ongoing security concerns, access to vulnerable groups in this regions is extremely limited.

The UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator met with the leadership of the United Front-led Government of the Islamic State of Afghanistan on 20 November in Kabul. The UN has received assurances from the leadership that they will help to ensure the safety and security of UN national and international staff. Improved security is key to enhancing the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to those in need. We, and the rest of the international community, will continue to urge the authorities in Afghanistan to assist with the relief effort, and to help stabilise the environment in which the humanitarian community are trying to operate.

Efforts are under way to maximise the delivery of assistance into Afghanistan, especially in the worst affected areas of the North. The World Food Programme is working to maximise the delivery of food by road, including in areas of Afghanistan worst affected by winter. WFP has launched its first airbridge from Tajikistan to Faizabad in Northern Afghanistan. Four flights a day are planned to use this route over the next few weeks, despatching a total of

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2,000 tons of food. Airdrops are still being seriously considered as a fall-back measures. WFP, with assistance from my Department, are well advanced with contingency plans for air drops using identified drop zones. Again, this is heavily dependant on security considerations.

Fair Trade

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what is the value of fairly traded (a) tea and (b) coffee used in her Department in each of the last five years. [17554]

Clare Short: Fairtrade coffee was introduced in our East Kilbride office in September 1999 and in London in June 1998. In East Kilbride, no tea is sold, but the value for coffee is:

In London, in 1998 and 1999 coffee was served at hospitality functions only. Tea was introduced in 2000, and both tea and coffee were offered for general sale from January 2000. Figures are:

Ministerial Visits

Chris McCafferty: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list the developing countries visited by her Under-Secretary of State for International Development in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999, (d) 2000, (e) 2001 and countries expected to be visited in (f) 2002, (g) 2003 and (h) 2004. [16639]

Clare Short: The Under-Secretary of State for International Development visited:

The Under-Secretary of State plans to visit Ukraine in December 2001 and Bangladesh in the first quarter of 2002. No visits have been planned beyond this.

Scottish Devolution

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what her policy is regarding consultations prior to the publication of proposals involving the transfer of powers to the Scottish Executive by (a) primary legislation and (b) Order in Council. [13817]

Clare Short: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on 14 November 2001, Official Report, column 748W.

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Disability Access

Tim Loughton: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what measures he is taking to improve disability access to courts in England and Wales; and what financial resources are being made available for this purpose. [19289]

Mr. Wills: At the end of 1997 the Court Service commissioned the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR) to devise a methodology to enable it to conduct disability access audits of all its courts and offices. It involved Court Service personnel who had been trained in the process visiting every building on the estate to identify where they failed to meet the standards required and what remedial work would be required.

On this basis, a three year programme of works was devised (starting in 2001–02) to enable works to be completed well in advance on the 1 October 2004 Disability Discrimination Act 1995 deadline for physical improvements. £5 million has been set aside for this year and targeted on the principal court centres across the estate.

Under the Justices of the Peace Act 1997, the provision and improvement of magistrates courthouse accommodation is a matter for each Magistrates Courts Committee (MCC) to determine, in consultation with the local paying authority or authorities. Since 2000, the Department has provided £2.5 million to enable MCCs to improve facilities for the disabled in magistrates courts across England and Wales. Officials will shortly be assessing the 2002–03 bids received from MCCs for further improvement works.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what advice his Department has given to court staff on assisting disabled people attending court. [19287]

Mr. Wills: Every public office has a Customer Service Officer whose training includes considering the needs of disabled customers. To support that service, in October 1999 every member of Court Service staff was given a booklet containing guidance on assisting disabled customers. The booklet suggests ways of helping people with a range of disabilities. It also outlines arrangements for provision of assistance such as large print leaflets and communication support for deaf people. All relevant Court Service training events cover disability issues. A liaison officer is available at Court Service Headquarters to assist with disability issues.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what cover is provided to court employees by court service insurance policies when dealing with people with disabilities. [19290]

Mr. Wills: The Court Service does not provide any insurance cover for its employees.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, which court buildings in England and Wales have been assessed as disability- friendly. [19288]

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Mr. Wills: I am advised that there is no definition within the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 of 'disability-friendliness' against which to make such as assessment.

However, in so far as Part M of the Building Regulations 1991 require the design of new and refurbished buildings to enable disabled people to gain independent access into and within the building, all new court builds and major court refurbishments completed since 1992 could be said to be 'disabled-friendly'. It is not possible, in the time available, to provide specific details.

I would also refer the hon. Member to my earlier reply, which sets out the steps which my Department is taking to improve disabled facilities in courts by the 1 October 2001 deadline set by the DDA.

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