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20 Jan 2003 : Column 13W—continued

Small Business Service/Business Links

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry at what conferences and seminars in each year since 2000 (a) the Small Business Service and (b) Business Links were represented; what costs were incurred in each case; and if she will make a statement. [91657]

Nigel Griffiths: The conferences at which SBS and Business Link were represented as exhibitors during the period and costs incurred are listed below. There is no central record of conferences where SBS and Business Link were only represented by delegates or speakers.

Women Unlimited13/2/014,000
Chief Executives Conference8 to 9/3/01400
BCC National Conference27 to 28/3/0115,426
Cardiff European Forum11 to 12/10/0112,500
CBI Conference4 to 6/11/0136,075
OST Framework Conference22/1/02Free
NDC Jobs Convention28 to 29/1/02681
Trade Association Forum12/3/02500
BCC Conference22 to 23/4/028,010
IOD Annual Convention24/4/026,500
Women Moving On22/5/02550
LGA Conference2 to 5/7/023,422
Trading Standards Conference9 to 11/7/021,860
CBI Conference 200224 to 26/11/0215,000

Steel Industry

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she is taking (a) to support and promote the UK steel industry and (b) to help the UK steel industry fulfil its production capacity. [92032]

Alan Johnson: The information is as follows:

(a) The Department works closely with steel industry representatives to help the sector to improve its competitive position. We are providing support towards a number of initiatives designed to help steel companies to improve productivity and innovation.

(b) I refer my right hon. Friend to the reply to his questions tabled on 10 December 2002, Official Report, column 404W, and 12 December 2002, Official Report, column 403W.

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Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of pledged assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan has been received by the Afghan Government; and how much of the financial assistance so far received by the interim Government of Afghanistan has been spent on projects other than humanitarian aid. [90907]

Clare Short: At the conference in Tokyo in 2001 the international community pledged over US$4 billion to the reconstruction of Afghanistan over periods of 1–5 years. In the current financial year close to the $1.8 billion pledged at Tokyo for the current financial year has been disbursed to Afghanistan. This has been through a number of avenues, including the UN system, NGOs and the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The money directed through the ARTF is available for the Afghan Transitional Administration to utilise as it chooses. To date the ARTF has received over US$200 million from donors.

The international community is committed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan but at the same time it is important to continue to address the needs of the returning and returned refugees, the internally displaced people and those who continue to struggle to survive, particularly during the winter months. To this end many donors continue to provide both humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. The distinction between humanitarian and reconstruction projects is often undefined, with many humanitarian activities having longer-term reconstruction outcomes. In the current financial year DFID has provided £55 million to Afghanistan, £24 million of which has been for reconstruction purposes. The international community as a whole provided $1.067 billion of support to the UN Immediate and Transitional Assistance Programme.

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on her Department's activities in relation to Afghanistan planned for the coming year. [90737]

Clare Short: In 2003 DFID will be continuing to work towards the Government's strategic aim of helping to create a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan that is once again able to become part of the community of nations, and that enjoys mature relations with its neighbours. The development challenge is considerable, and will require a sustained effort by the international community

The balance of DFID's programme for Afghanistan will continue to move from short-term humanitarian support to a medium-term, more strategic approach in 2003. DFID is committed to working with the Afghan Transitional Authority and its international partners and is developing a strategy that will map DFID's engagement in Afghanistan over the next two years.

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the humanitarian situation in the Zabul province of Afghanistan; and what action is being taken to ensure the security of those distributing aid in the province. [91159]

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Clare Short: Zabul province is one of the poorest of Afghanistan's 32 provinces and is suffering from a prolonged drought. Several NGOs are delivering humanitarian relief in the province and have been doing so for some time. An extensive relief programme for the current winter is being provided in vulnerable parts of Afghanistan including Zabul. The UN reports that this is going well and is meeting humanitarian needs.

Following a reported hijacking of one of their aid vehicles last week Oxfam has temporarily suspended its activities in Zabul until the security situation is reviewed.

Security is a serious concern in all parts of Afghanistan. Addressing this remains a priority for the international community and the Transitional Authority.

All NGOs in the province are determined to continue their activities in Zabul, however, and Oxfam have indicated that their project will continue after the security review.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what her Department's latest assessment is of the number of refugees that have returned to Afghanistan. [91450]

Clare Short: In 2002 nearly 1.8 million Afghan refugees returned home under the UNHCR assistance programme. In addition more than 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) went home with assistance and another 200,000 Afghans returned on their own. The return rate has declined during the winter months, with weekly returns of about 2,000 during December. This compares to a peak of over 100,000 a week in May.

A further 1.2 million refugees and 300,000 IDPs are expected to return home in 2003. Despite the massive number of returns, some four million Afghans remain outside the country, including an estimated two million in Iran and 1.5 million in Pakistan.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what (a) progress is being made in and (b) aid is being given to educating women in Afghanistan. [90909]

Clare Short: DfID helped in the rehabilitation of several schools, and during the past year, three million children, both boys and girls, have returned to school throughout Afghanistan. Since September 2001, we have also provided UNIFEM with £1 million of support to work with the Ministry of Women's Affairs on a national gender strategy for Afghanistan.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what aid is being given to (a) democracy building, (b) women's advocacy organisations and (c) the Revolutionary Association for Women, in Afghanistan. [90910]

Clare Short: DfID has provided £0.5 million to support the emergency Loya Jirga, which elected the current Afghanistan Transitional Administration in July 2002. DfID has also offered to provide a further £1 million to the Constitutional Drafting Committee, in conjunction with other international donors. A number

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of donors have offered to support preparations for the election in 2004, although these plans are still at an early stage.

DfID does not at present fund any specific women's groups in Afghanistan, although in 2001–02, DfID contributed £1 million to UNIFEM to develop a gender strategy with the Ministry of Women's Affairs. The joint Global Conflict Prevention Pool has also contributed £1 million to the Human Rights Commission. Addressing women's rights is an integral part of DfID's strategy in Afghanistan. For example, the needs of widows and households headed by women are accorded urgent priority by the World Food Programme, who DfID part fund.

No funding has been directly allocated to the Revolutionary Association for Women.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what proportion of the pledged assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan has been received by the Afghan government; [91118]

Clare Short: I refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave her to question 90907, earlier today.

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