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Lord Whitty: The overseas development assistance/gross national product ratios are calculated and analysed annually by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Levels of assistance provided by individual countries reflect their policy priorities. This Government have increased the priority given to international development and in line with their manifesto have started to reverse the decline in aid spending. On 14 July, my right honourable friend the Chancellor announced as part of the comprehensive spending review an increase of £1.6 billion in the International Development Budget over the next three years. Based on these figures, we anticipate an increase in the UK's overseas development assistance/gross national product ratio from 0.26 per cent. in 1997 to 0.30 per cent. in 2001.
Lord Whitty: All income generation and microcredit projects have as a central objective the creation of employment opportunities. The Department for International Development (DFID) recognises that many women in South Asia and Africa share particular problems related to their unequal access to resources and services and limited participation in public life. As a consequence many such projects are targeted primarily, if not exclusively, at women, and the evidence indicates that such projects have a significant impact on
DFID has funded independent studies to look at the impact of microfinance and income generation projects on women and, overall, the results have been favourable. However, such projects should not be seen as a panacea to all the problems facing poor women and other types of support are likely to impact more directly on the choices surrounding family planning.
Lord Whitty: Sierra Rutile Limited (SRL) first approached the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) in January 1990 for project support. In April 1992, the IFC board, including the UK, considered a request for an investment loan in support of a US$71 million programme of rehabilitation of existing plant and infrastructure at SRL's mine in Sierra Leone and the development of new deposits. IFC's original loan commitment was US$15 million; other co-financiers are the Commonwealth Development Corporation, the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the German Investment and Development Corporation. The IFC board unanimously approved the investment; normal IFC loan conditions were applied.
The project was partially completed in 1995 when rebel action in Sierra Leone halted its development. Attempts were made to restart the project in 1996, but action was stopped in 1997 as a result of a further deterioration in the local security situation. In May 1998, the senior lenders including IFC and the project sponsors reached agreement on the settlement of SRL's debt repayment obligations. The project is on hold due to the current security situation in Sierra Leone.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): No invitations have been issued to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to join NATO, and NATO has made no estimate of the costs that might be entailed by their accession. Any country invited to join NATO would be expected to make a contribution to the full range of alliance missions and to NATO's common
Lord Gilbert: It is planned that the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland will fill posts in the new NATO command structure. The exact number, seniority and location of these has not yet been determined.
What follow-up action is taken by the Ministry of Defence when it receives a report of an unidentified flying object; and whether checks are routinely made to see whether such reports can be correlated by radar.[HL2609]
Lord Gilbert: The Ministry of Defence's interest in reports of unidentified flying objects is limited to establishing whether there is any evidence that the United Kingdom's airspace has been penetrated by hostile or unauthorised foreign military activity and whether reporting procedures are adequate for this purpose. Unless there is evidence of a potential threat, no attempt is made to identify the precise nature of each reported incident. Arrangements within the MoD have been in place for a number of years for disseminating reports; they were last reviewed in April 1997. Where necessary, reports of unidentified flying objects are examined with the assistance of relevant MoD experts, and this may include radar correlation.
1998: 88 (January-June)
Lord Gilbert: An answering machine enables members of the public to leave details about aerial activity or seek further information about our policy in respect of unidentified flying objects. The machine carries a message that sets out the MoD's limited interest in the subject and explains that, in the case of reported sightings, callers will be contacted only in the event that follow-up action is deemed appropriate.
Lord Gilbert: The Ministry of Defence is aware of a single report from two military personnel of an alleged sighting in the West Midlands on 31 March 1993. The facts reported were fully examined at the time. No firm conclusions were drawn then about the nature of what had been seen, but the events were not judged to be of defence significance. The MoD has no reason to doubt the judgments made at the time.
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