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The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, as the weapons provisions in the Bill extend to Scotland, can the Minister resolve now the issue of whether the regulations will apply to ceremonial knives such as the sgian dubh, which is worn correctly in the top of the right-hand stocking when wearing highland dress?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I will write to the noble Earl, not least because he is not speaking
 
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in the gap. I shall write to him because he has given me an interesting question. I could give an off-the-cuff answer but I am concerned that it might not be right.

I assure noble Lords that there will be guidance on the provisions for schools and that it will be provided to schools. All staff involved in searches should receive appropriate training.

The Criminal Justice Act legislation dealt with the introduction of a mandatory minimum sentence of five years—a matter to which the noble Lord referred—for unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm in the 12 months to September 2005. As I said earlier, there has been a 38 per cent reduction in fatal injuries caused by firearms and other air weapons. We therefore know that if we appropriately enforce provisions in a Bill such as this, we can influence behaviour. That is why we are opening up this issue, to see whether we cannot do the same in relation to knives.
 
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I am absolutely confident that when we look at the Bill in detail we will be able together to make what I hope will be significant and important improvements. There is clearly a willingness from all sides of the House to make a contribution to get this right. We all agree that the things we want to do within it are sound. I therefore hope that we will have a pleasurable and enjoyable Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading, that we will send the Bill to the other place in remarkably good shape, and that it will not be the cause of contention or lack of comity between us.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill

The Bill was returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

Written Statements

Wednesday 29 March 2006


 
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Democracy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): On 4 April 2005, my honourable friend, the then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibility for human rights, Mr Bill Rammell, announced in another place the beginning of a consultation exercise on the future of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). The consultation exercise followed a review of the WFD by River Path Associates, commissioned jointly by the FCO and the WFD, and conducted in accordance with government guidelines on reviewing non-departmental public bodies.

Noble Lords and honourable Members from all sides of both Houses, through their own commitment to work with and on behalf of the WFD, were already aware of the contribution that the foundation has made since 1992 to promoting democracy and human rights—essential themes in promoting the UK's national interest in a safe, just and prosperous world. I am pleased to report that the overwhelming majority of responses received during the consultation, from both parliamentarians and specialists in democracy promotion in the UK and from overseas, confirmed our view that the WFD continues to fulfil a uniquely valuable role in promoting democracy through party-to-party links and through its non-political work in supporting institutional and parliamentary capacity building. The arm's-length approach brings value-added benefit that could not be achieved by government.

In light of these responses, and our own analysis, I am pleased to announce that the Government have concluded that they should continue to support the WFD through a grant-in-aid by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to retain its current structures unchanged.

At the same time, in the light of some of the review's observations, the Government and WFD agreed last year to make some changes to the foundation's operating methods to enhance accountability and transparency. This has resulted in the introduction of stronger mechanisms for appraising, monitoring and evaluating projects, reflected in new, annual contractual arrangements between the foundation and the UK political parties.

The conclusion of agreement on these new measures brings to an end the process initiated by the review. Throughout this period, we have appreciated the constructive and co-operative approach of all the members of the board and the staff of the WFD, under the chairmanship first of my honourable friend the Member for Ilford South (Mr Mike Gapes), and now of my honourable friend the Member for the City of York (Mr Hugh Bayley). The Government welcome
 
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the conclusion of the review, and look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the WFD in our joint endeavour to promote democracy around the world.

Department of Health: Contingencies Fund in 2005–06

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Patricia Hewitt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The approval of the department's spring supplementary estimate via the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No. 2) Bill will not occur until the end of the month. Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £1,785,769,000 for services has been sought in the supplementary estimate for the Department of Health. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £1,700,000,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.

Disaster Risk Reduction Policy

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Department for International Development (DfID) will launch its Disaster Risk Reduction Policy on 30 March 2006. This policy provides a framework for DfID to integrate disaster risk reduction measures more effectively into its own work, as well as strengthening the international system's capacity to manage disaster risks, thus helping to reduce the threat that disasters pose to sustainable development and the millennium development goals (MDGs).

DfID made a public commitment to reducing disaster risk in its 1997 White Paper Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century and has a good track record of providing prompt and appropriate humanitarian assistance in developing countries. DfID has also supported a number of international organisations in tackling disaster risk reduction, including UN agencies and the International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent. However, in the wake of a series of large-scale disasters, including the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Niger humanitarian crisis and the Pakistan earthquake, it is clear that both DfID and the international community must do more.

In my speech on humanitarian reform in December 2004, I committed DfID to giving a higher priority to disaster risk reduction. DfID's new Disaster Risk Reduction Policy sets out how this commitment will be put into practice. The goal of the policy is to contribute to sustainable development by reducing the burden of disasters on the poor and most vulnerable. This is in line with DfID's efforts to meet the millennium development goals, all of which are affected by the impact of disasters. The policy will also support the
 
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international commitments agreed at the 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, as articulated in the Hyogo framework for action.

DfID's policy has three objectives. First, it aims to promote the more effective integration of disaster risk reduction into development and humanitarian policy and planning. This includes working with the governments of developing countries and the World Bank to consider how disaster risk reduction can be incorporated more effectively into national-level planning, including through integrating disaster risk reduction into a country's nationally owned poverty reduction strategy. DfID will also ensure that disaster risk concerns are incorporated into our own planning in disaster-prone countries.

Secondly, DfID will aim to strengthen institutions, at both national and regional level, aimed at reducing risk in developing countries. DfID will work to ensure that governments have the right systems in place to manage disaster risk reduction. At the international level, DfID will work with other donors, the EU and UN to improve the international system and ensure that international commitments are put into action. DfID will work with the international financial institutions and other donors to increase the quantity of financing for disaster risk reduction and will increase our own funding, through the international system and bilaterally.

Thirdly, DfID will help to reduce the vulnerability of the poor by building their resilience to disaster risk. This will include support to the community-level disaster reduction work of civil society organisations, such as the International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and non-governmental organisations, as well as supporting a better understanding of the private sector's role in risk reduction


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