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19 Sept 2002 : Column 433W—continued

EU Aid

Mr. Lyons: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what measures her Department is taking to increase EU aid to poor people in the poorest countries. [59642]

Clare Short: We published a revised strategy for improving the poor performance of the European Community development programme in August 2001, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. We welcome the positive steps that have recently been taken, including establishment for the first time of an EC Development Policy with poverty reduction as the central objective. The Commission are also delegating significant new responsibilities to their offices overseas in order to improve communication with developing country partners and cut delays. The Government is working with other member states, the Commission and the European Parliament to try to ensure that these measures begin to have an impact on the ground and allow the European Community to make a much more significant contribution to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. We are also working to try to reach agreement that a much greater share of EC aid should be allocated to low income countries where it will have the greatest impact on poverty reduction. In 2000, only 38 per cent. of EC aid was spent in low-income countries compared to 70 per cent. in 1990.

Our objective is to reverse this decline in order to secure radical improvement in the effectiveness of EC aid. Not all member states, Commissioners or MEPs support this objective.

19 Sept 2002 : Column 434W

The Government will continue to push for allocations based on developmental needs to countries committed to reducing poverty through all the channels available to us including the 2003 budget negotiations and the revision of the Asia and Latin America Regulation.

Correspondence

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many letters were received by each Minister in her Department in each month since June 1997. [59310]

Clare Short: The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the volume of Members' correspondence received by departments. The Report for 2001 was published on Friday 24 May. Copies of previous reports are available in the Library of the House.

Information on Correspondence received from members of the public is not held centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost

Bali Summit

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many staff from her Department will travel to Bali to participate in the mini-summit for discussion of environmental issues. [57652]

Clare Short: Three officials from my department will be attending the Fourth Preparatory Committee meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). In addition, two DFID officials who specialise in water and private sector issues will be accompanying the delegation in the first week to assist in specific meetings.

Sierra Leone

Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much aid the UK has allocated to Sierra Leone in each of the last five years. [59200]

Clare Short: The UK's total development assistance to Sierra Leone over the last five years, including non-DFID debt relief, was as follows:

£(m)
1996–9710.8
1997–983.3
1998–999.2
1999–200030.0
2000–0135.1

Finalised figures for 2001–02 are not yet available.


19 Sept 2002 : Column 435W

Press Releases

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many press releases have been issued by her Department in each month of 2002. [59478]

Clare Short: The information requested is given in the table:

2002
January5
February4
March1
Apr1
May2
Total13

19 Sept 2002 : Column 436W

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many press releases were issued by her Department (a) in each month between May and December 1997 and (b) in each year from 1998 to 2001 inclusive. [59477]

Clare Short: The information is shown in the table:

19971998199920002001
January7877
February7224
March15826
April91143
May7342
June6334
July53631
August3193
Septemer75731
October95421
November7111435
December35613
Total4774822938

Afghanistan

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on what date her Department received reports and representations from the International Committee of the Red Cross regarding the conditions of fighters held in Shibergan prison in Afghanistan; and what action her Department has taken. [58829]

Clare Short: My Department has not received reports or representations from the International Committee of the Red Cross regarding Shibergan prison in Afghanistan. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is pursuing this issue.

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent action the Government have taken to protect women in Afghanistan. [59081]

Clare Short: In Afghanistan women have begun to return to work and girls are going back to school. Two women hold office in the Afghan Interim Administration (AIA) and 11 per cent. of seats in the Loya Jirga are guaranteed for women. The UK is working closely with the AIA and the rest of the international community, to ensuring women's full and effective participation in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life throughout Afghanistan. To date this includes an allocation of $1 million to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) for a programme to support Afghan women's leadership through awareness raising, capacity building and gender mainstreaming; as well as local level, quick impact recovery projects supporting women. We are also providing support directly to the Ministry for Women.

Occupied Palestinian Territories

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment her Department has made of food shortages in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and what aid is being provided by the UK Government. [59352]

Clare Short: We have recently provided £500,000 to the World Food Programme, and our contributions to UNRWA's Emergency Appeals—£5 million this year—help meet the food needs of the refugee population. We are closely monitoring the situation and stand ready to do more.

Debt Sustainability

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the impact of changes in commodity prices on debt sustainability and the HIPC Initiative. [58631]

Clare Short: At the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Ottawa last November, we raised this concern and asked Bank and Fund staff to revisit the debt sustainability analyses of all commodity dependent low-income countries, including the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). The IMF and World Bank analysis, published last month, shows that, although the situation varies from country to country, the external debt indicators for most HIPC countries have deteriorated, and a result several HIPC countries now face unsustainable debt burdens. Following UK pressure, the World Bank and IMF Boards have agreed to provide additional relief countries in this situation. This was reconfirmed at the Spring Meetings last month.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the impact of HIV/AIDS on debt sustainability in developing countries. [58632]

Clare Short: When assessing developing countries' debt sustainability, in the context of the Heavily indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, the IMF and World

19 Sept 2002 : Column 437W

Bank work with governments in the countries themselves to produce detailed forecasts of export growth, GDP growth and new borrowing. These forecasts take account of all the various factors affecting the countries' economic situation, including the impact of HIV/AIDS, and the need for concessional borrowing to finance their poverty reduction strategies.

Kashmir

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions she has had with the Governments of (a) India and (b) Pakistan regarding developments in Kashmir. [59853]

Clare Short: I have not had any recent discussions with either the Government of India or Pakistan about development in Kashmir.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent advice her Department has issued to British NGOs working in Kashmir. [59854]

Clare Short: My Department does not routinely issue advice on conditions in countries where UK based NGOs are operating. Advice or guidance on such issues is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


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