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16 May 2003 : Column WA49

Written Answers

Friday, 16th May 2003.

Iraq: Humanitarian Relief

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have detected any shortcomings in the quantity and effectiveness of humanitarian relief to Iraq; what action they are taking to put right any such shortcomings; and what they are doing to ensure that the occupying powers are fulfilling their humanitarian obligations.[HL2750]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Amos): Our humanitarian strategy seeks to provide support where there is greatest need. We prepared for a range of contingencies before the conflict. UN agencies have been preparing for months and pre-positioned stocks in the region. We judge that the UN is better prepared for this crisis than it has been for any other in the recent past. We look to the UN to co-ordinate the international humanitarian response. DfID has been monitoring the humanitarian situation very closely and responding flexibly as events unfold.

Broadly, the humanitarian crisis feared has not emerged. There has not been any substantial movement of people, food and medical supplies have broadly held up, though there is a need to ensure new supplies are available over the coming months. The key concerns have been law and order, and restoring essential public services. Progress has been made on law and order in the south, and progress is now beginning to be made in areas under US control. Water and power services have been restored across large parts of the country. There is still much to be done.

The coalition military has been providing immediate humanitarian support, in line with obligations under the Geneva Convention and the Hague regulations. Our forces have provided such support with great professionalism. DfID has seconded two humanitarian specialists to work with UK forces and to advise on relief activities—we will be seconding further advisers in the coming days.

The Office for Reconstruction Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA) is now engaging with the UN, NGOs and local authorities to address humanitarian and immediate rehabilitation needs. For example, it is working with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Iraqi Ministry of Trade to get a food distribution system up and running similar to the Oil for Food programme operation which 16 million Iraqis depended on prior to the conflict. DfID is looking to build up ORHA's capability in key humanitarian areas and to facilitate its work with the UN and other international agencies.

The UN agencies and ICRC have played a key role. The UN role is growing as international staffs arrive and begin to work in Iraq again. The UK has earmarked £115 million to support the UN, Red

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Cross/Red Crescent movement and NGOs. DfID has also seconded five specialists to support the UN effort.

Regular updates on the humanitarian situation—including periodic reviews by sector—are available from our website www.dfid.gov.uk

Poverty: World Bank Data

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the methodology employed by the World Bank to calculate how many of the world's people are living below the poverty line; what independent studies they have made of the advantages and disadvantages of (a) the rich and (b) the poor in developing countries where neo-liberal policies including privatisation, deregulation and reductions in social spending are being given priority; and what was the conclusion of any such studies.[HL2754]

Baroness Amos: DfID uses and quotes the World Bank international absolute poverty figures as its main source of internationally comparable poverty data.

These estimates are widely recognised and used and form the agreed basis for monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people in the world living on less than 1 dollar per day. We consider them to be the best available, regularly updated, estimates at the current time and believe them to be reasonably accurate given the many constraints in estimating international poverty. However, it is recognised, as with all such estimates, that there are weaknesses in the data, primarily a result of the poor quality and availability of raw data in many developing countries.

DfID is aware of the importance of improving the data, not least to monitor more effectively progress towards reducing absolute poverty. We are currently supporting the bank's new International Comparisons Programme which will provide a better basis for price comparisons between countries and we expect this to result in large improvements to poverty line data by around 2005.

DfID works with partner governments to undertake studies of the distributional and poverty impacts of policy choices, with a particular focus on the poor and vulnerable; and to ensure that the findings of these studies are fed into policy processes. The aim of such studies, in particular, poverty and social impact analysis undertaken in advance of policy changes, are to improve the poverty focus of macro-economic and structural policy, and to support country ownership of reforms by informing national debate on reform design and make more explicit the trade-offs between policy choices. Findings from poverty and social impact analysis can be used to assess the appropriateness, timing and sequencing of reforms, and to design complementary and compensatory measures for implementation where appropriate.

We have commissioned a five-year Development Research Centre on Competition and Regulation, led

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by the University of Manchester, with research institutions in developing countries. It is investigating the policies needed, in a globalising world, to regulate firms and encourage competition in the interests of the poor. Details of the centre are available at www.idpm.man.ac.uk/crc

EU Aid Budget

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What amount of European Union aid funds is at present not allocated; over what period it will be used; and what is the likely split between continents and between sectors, such as health, education and debt relief.[HL2733]

Baroness Amos: .The EC allocates its aid budget on an annual basis through two channels. The regular budget provides funds for its external actions chapter. The European Development Fund, an extra budgetary instrument, provides assistance to the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

In the first instance the amounts unallocated for 2003 and in the preliminary draft budget (PDB) for 2004 are shown below. These represent the difference between the amounts earmarked for projects and programmes and the ceiling that applies to each budget line.

Amounts unallocated by budget line (£ millions)

2003 Budget2004 PDB
External actions107167

It is reasonable to expect that the margin of unallocated funds from the 2003 budget will be committed this year in full. The duration of spend will depend on the length of the project or programme and its start date. Commitments will be made through standard budgetary procedures.

Negotiations over the 2004 budget, which start in May and end in December, will determine the extent of the unallocated margin next year.

In the case of the EDF, the equivalent of £950 million originally allocated for projects in the following African countries has been withheld for political, security or programming reasons: Comoros, Liberia, Eritrea, Sudan, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Togo, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Angola, Madagascar.

It is not possible to determine what regions or sectors would have been supported by the unallocated budget or EDF funds as they are allocated according to need on a case-by-case basis.


London Congestion Charge: Payment Arrangements in Palace of Westminster

Lord Trefgarne asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether there are any facilities available within the Palace of Westminster for cash payment of the congestion charge.[HL2918]

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The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): There is a self-service machine for payment of the congestion charge in the Palace of Westminster, located near the House of Commons' cash machines. A similar machine can be found in the Abingdon Street underground carpark. Both machines allow payment by debit or credit card, but there are no facilities for cash payment within the Palace. Other methods of payment include: online at www.cclondon.com; by telephone on 0845 900 1234; by mobile phone text message, having registered online or by telephone; at a range of petrol stations and retail outlets.

ODPM: Annual Report 2003

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to publish the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's annual report.[HL2891]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): On behalf of my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I am pleased to present the first annual report of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for 2003 to Parliament. It sets out our achievements since the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was set up on 29 May 2002.

The aim of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is to achieve thriving, inclusive and sustainable communities. The aim and associated objectives and delivery targets were developed during the spending review 2002. The issues that we deal with affect the lives of everyone and are crucial to building the healthy, prosperous and safe communities we seek.

During our first year, we have made good progress. A key achievement has been the publication of Sustainable Communities: building for the future—a long-term programme of action, backed by substantial resources of £22 billion, to improve housing and communities across the country. Progress has been made in all our other areas of responsibility: housing, planning, local and regional government, regional policy devolution, neighbourhood renewal and social inclusion. We are also stengthening our capacity to deliver and establish effective working relationships with all our partners.

We also recognise that many of the problems we seek to tackle are deep rooted and much more remains to be done in the years ahead. We remain focused on delivering thriving, inclusive and sustainable communities in all regions.


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