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What steps they are taking to ensure that the European Commission meets its commitment to provide 1.24 billion dollars for reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan; and whether they will question the European Commission as to why only 386 million dollars of that amount has been disbursed. [HL3463]
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): According to Afghan Government figures, the European Commission has pledged 1.28 billion dollars reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan for the period January 2002 to March 2007. Although disbursement of 386 million dollars so far may be slower than anticipated, we are not yet half way through the pledging period. We anticipate the rate of spend will increase rapidly.
DfID will use its regular contacts with the Commission, both in Brussels and in Kabul, to press for full and effective disbursement of the resources committed. DfID also funds a seconded national expert to work on the Commission's Afghanistan programme.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): Hip protectors may be provided as part of social services community care packages, or by a local falls prevention service, or to residents of care homes. In all cases the criteria for provision should relate to the needs of the assessed individual. Such equipment is free to the user if provided by the National Health Service and, since June 2003, has also been provided without charge by councils to users that meet their fair access to care services criteria. A resident of a care home may have a hip protector provided by the home or a statutory service, depending on the type of residents for which the care home caters, the circumstances of the case, and local agreements.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): Hip protectors are subject to VAT at the standard rate and do not fall into any of the wide-ranging zero rates that the UK maintains for equipment designed for the sole use of disabled people or for medical aids.
However, hip protectors are free when provided by the NHS and, since June 2003, without charge by councils to users that meet their fair access to care services (FACS) criteria. Protectors may similarly be provided as part of a social services community care package.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Inland Revenue currently has no requirement for any net additional office space in London. Later this year some staff from the department's head office will move into refurbished offices at 2, Parliament Street, but a corresponding amount of office space will be vacated in the existing London estate.
What strategy is in place to prevent the import of illegal meats at the point of departure; and whether any analysis has been conducted into the case for such a strategy in a broader effort to reduce illegal meat imports. [HL3444]
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As a key part of the Government's broader strategy on products of animal origin (POAO), Customs are working with third countries on focused publicity campaigns to press the message not to bring illegal products of animal origin to the UK.
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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Customs make use of x-ray technology to detect illegal meat and other prohibited and restricted goods. They have undertaken a number of informal trials using their own x-ray equipment as well as external trials involving developments in x-ray technology offered by other manufacturers. The effectiveness of available equipment is continually assessed, and Customs remain committed to working with other UK and overseas agencies, as well as manufacturers, to make the most of new technology where it can provide good value for money.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The Government have made available £10 million for the financial year 200405 to tackle illegal imports from outside the European Union of any meat, other animal products and plant products, of which £7 million went to Customs.
Customs will spend this £7 million funding in order to achieve its strategic objectives which include seizure and publicity to deter passengers from travelling to the UK with illegal products of animal origin. Funding for prosecutions will depend on the number of detections that meet the criteria for prosecutions.
Since the publication of the Annual Review of Controls on Imports of Animal Products 200203, what work the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has conducted with H M Customs and Excise to establish an effective strategy of prosecutions of illegal meat importers; and [HL3411]
Lord Whitty: Defra and H M Customs and Excise are in constant contact on all aspects concerning illegal imports in accordance with the service level agreement. Customs have to balance use of resources between detection, seizure and prosecution in order to maximise overall impact. The most effective way to
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tackle illegal imports of meat and products of animal origin is to enhance awareness of the rules and regulations, detect breaches of those rules, seize and disrupt, with investigation and prosecution confined to the most serious cases.
Officials from Defra, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and the Department for Constitutional Affairs are currently working to ensure magistrates are aware of the potential consequences of illegal meat imports. A joint meeting with the Magistrates' Association has been arranged in August.
What reporting system is in place to ensure that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is able to monitor and analyse all data on seizures of illegal meats by H M Customs and Excise. [HL3412]
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