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Departmental Costs

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the total cost to his Department was for the use of external consultants in each of the last two years. [200873]

Hilary Benn: The cost to DFID for the use of external consultants in the last two years was as follows:

These figures differ slightly from the amounts recently published in Statistics on International Development and used in previous replies to parliamentary questions.

DFID officials have reviewed expenditure entered on to the DFID database and identified payments, including grants to NGOs and international organisations, which had been wrongly classified as Personnel activities. This expenditure has now been recoded.

The following table shows the changes made to the expenditure data for consultancies for the past five years. These amendments will be made to the copy of Statistics on International Development available on the DFID website.

Spending on external consultants alone as a proportion of the total aid budget has fallen since 1997 from 10 per cent. to 5 per cent.
DFID Programme: Bilateral Technical Co-operation

ConsultanciesPrevious figures published in Table 12 of SID

Departmental Files

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many departmental files have been destroyed in each of the past five years. [203301]

Hilary Benn: The Department for International Development maintains a database of all files raised in our three offices in the United Kingdom. However, individual departments and overseas offices are
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responsible for disposing of their own records, and the number of files destroyed is not held centrally. To obtain this information from the manual finding aids in the devolved registries would incur disproportionate costs.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what changes have been promulgated in each of the past five years to the guidelines or other criteria for the retention or destruction of departmental files. [203302]

Hilary Benn: Since 1999, the Department for International Development has produced 73 schedules for the disposal of records which are specific to its administrative activities. It also disposes of its records in accordance with over 20 guidance notes produced by The National Archives (TNA) over the last five years, covering disposal schedules, managing records in the electronic environment, as well as overarching records management guidance. Further details of this guidance can be found on TNA's website at:


Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the average length of time was between the date of invoices issued to his Department from a supplier and payment by the Department of the invoice in the last 12 months for which figures are available; what percentage of these invoices were paid within 30 days of the date of issue of the invoice; what percentage of these invoices remained unpaid after 90 days; and if he will make a statement on the Department's policy on the payment of invoices issued to it. [200623]

Hilary Benn: In the financial year ending March 2004 DFID received 28,359 invoices from suppliers. 96.26 per cent. were paid within 30 days of DFID being in receipt of a valid invoice. The average length of time to settle an invoice and make payment is estimated at 13 calendar days (unaudited figure). Some 80 invoices (0.28 per cent.) remained unpaid after 90 days.

DFID has a clear and consistent policy on prompt payments which has been well publicised to staff. Procedures have been established for monitoring performance, identifying weaknesses and implementing remedial action as appropriate. DFID is a signatory to the Better Payment Practice Code, providing a clear signal that we take a responsible attitude to our relationship with suppliers.


Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what provision has been made for (a) housing, (b) feeding and (c) schooling for women and children who have left their homes in Fallujah as a result of coalition forces' action; and what arrangements will be made for these refugees to return to their homes. [205115]

Hilary Benn: The Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) is leading the humanitarian response to the situation in and around Fallujah. The IIG has established a Fallujah co-ordination team, to address the immediate needs of
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the displaced Fallujah population, and to plan for their safe return to the city. DFID is providing advice to the IIG Fallujah team on humanitarian, health, and coordination issues.

The IIG, and DFID advisers working with the Iraqi Government, report that most of the displaced population are staying with host families or in public buildings. The IIG and some humanitarian agencies are supplying food, water, and medical supplies to these people, and shelter also to those who are not under hard cover. Iraqi Government Ministries have delivered mattresses, blankets, tents, and heaters to displaced families.

The IIG is working with multi-national forces to ensure that Fallujah is safe from unexploded ordnance and insurgent activity, before the displaced population returns. The Iraqi Government have made provision for the rebuilding of family homes, and are also putting essential supplies in place for the returning families. The IIG is planning for the return of Fallujah's displaced people, which will be organised district-by-district, beginning at the end of December. The IIG, and United States agencies, are currently working on restoring essential services to the city of Fallujah, and have plans in place for long-term reconstruction work, including work on schools.

Ministerial Meetings

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will list his official engagements over the last six months; who was present at each meeting; what the (a) date and (b) location was of each meeting; what issues were discussed; and what plans he has to establish a public register of such information. [202394]

Hilary Benn: Ministers meet many individuals and organisations and attend many functions relating to Government business, and as part of the process of policy development. To provide the detailed information requested would incur disproportionate cost. The daily on-the-record briefing by the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman regularly provides details of Ministers' public engagements.

Sickness Absence

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many day's sick leave were taken by civil servants in the Department in each year since 1997; and what the sickness absence rate was in each year. [204507]

Hilary Benn: Information on sickness absence in DFID for the years 2001 to 2003 is contained in the following table. The information for 1997 to 2000 could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Average working days absence per staff yearNumber of staff

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DFID is fully committed to the effective management of sickness absence in common with other Government Departments. Earlier this year DFID introduced a new Maximising Attendance policy which is aimed at promoting good attendance management and provides processes that support staff on sick leave and encourage an early, and fit, return to work.


Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment his Department has made of reports of attacks on food aid convoys in Darfur; how many such attacks have been (a) reported and (b) confirmed in each month since April; what assessment his Department has made of the parties responsible for the attacks; and if he will make a statement. [204637]

Hilary Benn: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has reported approximately 25 incidents since April 2004. Of these, three were major incidents where staff were either kidnapped or killed.

The African Union monitoring mission in Darfur is responsible for investigating ceasefire violations, including attacks on humanitarian convoys, and has found violations by all sides to this conflict. DFID has made it very clear that all parties must stop all attacks immediately and abide by the ceasefire and the Security and Humanitarian Protocols, including by ensuring unimpeded access for humanitarian workers and taking all steps to prevent attacks against civilians.

Only through peaceful dialogue will a sustainable solution to the conflict in Darfur be found. So we are urging all sides to engage constructively at the peace talks in Abuja. A UK observer is present at these talks.

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