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Mr. Sainsbury : Since 1979 we have provided over £13 million of assistance to Cambodians living along the Thai border in camps administered by the non-Communist resistance groups. So far this year we have donated £350,000 through the United Nations border relief operation. We have commited a further £120,000 to the non-Communist resistance for English language training and humanitarian assistance.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when Mr. Fiassel Abdel Waheb Salem applied at Her Majesty's embassy in Cairo for a re-entry stamp in his passport to enable him to return to the United Kingdom ; and what has been the cause of the delay in issuing it.
Mr. Sainsbury : In accordance with the guidelines on the handling of representations by Members of Parliament in immigration cases, issued to Members on 14 December 1988, I have referred the question to the correspondence unit of the migration and visa department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The hon. Member will receive a reply from the unit in due course.
International Fund for Agricultural Development
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the outcome of the negotiations to replenish the International Fund for Agricultural Development ; and what will be the United Kingdom's contribution.
Mrs. Chalker : I am glad to say that for its third replenishment IFAD will receive $566.3 million to cover its operations up to 30 June 1992. This compares with only $487 million pledged for the full three years' second replenishment. There will be two main components, "core funding" and "supplementary funding". The first consists of OPEC (category 2) pledges totalling $124.4 million and matching pledges by OECD donors (category 1) in the ratio 60 : 40 totalling $186.8 million. The second is made up of pledges from non-oil exporting developing countries (category 3) totalling $63.8 million and OECD matching contributions in the ratio 3 : 1 totalling $191.5 million. This second element is seen by both category 3 and category 1 as wholly exceptional and confined to this replenishment. Britain's contribution to the replenishment will be £11.305 million ($19.8 million), comprising core funding of £5.098 million ($8.9 million), and a supplementary matching contribution of £6.217 million ($10.9 million). Parliamentary approval for this contribution will be sought in due course.
Unemployed People (Part-time Study)
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : It is the prime responsibility of unemployed people claiming benefit to make every effort to secure paid employment. So long as they remain available for and actively seeking employment, they are free to spend their spare time usefully by pursuing a course of part-time study. They must, though, organise their studies so that they can make adequate arrangements to seek work and must be prepared to break off their studies if a job opportunity arises.
Local Expenditure and Benefits
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish tables on spending power using the assumptions in the answer to the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) on 22 June 1988, Official Report, columns 571-76, but using expenditure and benefit figures appropriate for families in (a) Doncaster and (b) Wath-on-Dearne together with a column showing the extent of the differences resulting from the changes in April and October 1989.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : There were no prescribed procedures for uprating supplementary benefit, housing benefit or family income supplement --different elements of these schemes were uprated in different ways and by different indices at different times. It is impossible to say what the rates of these benefits would have been in April 1989 if the reform of social security had not been introduced in April 1988. A simple mechanistic uprating of the April 1987 system of benefits would be unrealistic. The tax benefit model tables for 1989 will be published shortly.
Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether the contents of the letter dated 7 June sent by Mrs. P. Henry of the class 4 group of the social security central office at Newcasle-upon- Tyne, relating to correspondence with people in Wales, represents his Department's policy on such matters.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The Department's policy is that local offices in Wales will reply in Welsh to any letters received in that language. However some social security matters are administered centrally from outside Wales. When correspondence from Wales, in Welsh, is received by any of these central offices it is normally answered in Welsh, provided the reply is one of substance and not, for example, a routine acknowledgment. Following the hon. Member's question, staff at Newcastle central office have been reminded to comply with this policy.
Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of letters from hon. Members to his Department received a reply (a) in under four weeks, (b) within four to six weeks, (c) within six to eight weeks and (d) over eight weeks, in each of the last three years.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : No information is available on the time taken to reply to correspondence before November 1988. Since then, 41 per cent. of letters from hon. and right hon. Members have received a reply within four weeks.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish in the Official Report (a) the numbers in receipt of housing benefit and (b) the average amount of benefit payment in constant terms for (i) Burnley and (ii) each region in England for the last 10 years for which figures are available.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The estimated number of housing benefit recipients in Burnley is given in the table. Similar estimates are not available on a regional basis. The average amount of housing benefit in payment is not available at local authority or regional level.
Estimated recipients of Housing Benefit in Burnley Year |Number ---------------------- 1983-84 |13,206 1984-85 |11,356 1985-86 |11,274 1986-87 |11,346 1987-88 |10,924 1988-89 |8,436 Note: 1983-84 to 1987-88-estimates for caseload during the year. 1988-89-caseload count, 31 May 1988.
Mr. Ward : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he has any plans to amend existing legislation to ensure that non-custodial parents do more to meet their responsibilities to support their children ; and if he will make a statement.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : When income support is claimed by a lone parent, existing legislation places a duty on the non-custodial parent to meet their responsibilities wherever they can afford to do so. However, for over three quarters of lone parent families receiving income support the absent parent pays no maintenance at all. We are naturally concerned by this and will continue to look for ways to ensure that our efforts to obtain a contribution from non-custodial parents are even more effective.
Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what definition his Department uses of the terms (a) means testing and (b) targeting ; and what is his policy towards the use of each.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Income-related or means-tested benefits are paid to people whose resources are below levels laid down by Parliament and who meet other tests of eligibility. Means testing is, therefore, one of the mechanisms which can be used to establish entitlement. Targeting, which means the effective and responsive provision of extra financial help to groups of people needing particular priority, is an important objective of social security policy. Thus, my right hon. Friend's uprating statement for April 1990, Official Report, 25 October, columns 841-54, continues the policy of targeting worthwhile extra help to groups like the less-well-off among families with children, elderly and disabled pensioners and the long- term sick and disabled.
Mr. Cartwright : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many of his Department's local offices in Greater London he now plans to close ; and what steps he is taking to ensure that income support claimants in the affected areas will still be able to have personal access to officers dealing with their cases.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The Department announced on 16 January that in order to improve service to customers in London it was moving backroom work not requiring face-to-face contact with the public out of 21 London local offices. Such work will be processed in three social security centres (SSCs) in Glasgow, Belfast and
Ashton-in-Makerfield near Wigan.
I must stress that the Department has no plans to close any of its offices in London as a result of this relocation of work. A full network of branch offices will be retained in London to carry out that work which does need face-to-face contact with our customers. Indeed, we are planning to open wholly new branch offices in two localities--Wembley and Dulwich--where we do not have any provision at the moment.
Social security claimants in the areas affected by the relocation of work will be able to call at any branch office
Column 148in their district to conduct their business. Alternatively, by using a special telephone number, they will be able to talk directly to the person dealing with their claim in the social security centre. All calls to the SSC will be charged at the London local call rate.
Mr. McAllion : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish in the Official Report the numbers in receipt of housing benefit and the average level of housing benefit payments in (a) Dundee district and (b) Scotland in each of the past 10 years for which figures are available.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard [holding answer 19 October 1989] : The estimated numbers receiving rent rebates or rent allowance are given in the table. The average amount of housing benefit in payment is not available at local authority level.
Housing Benefit Estimated recipients of rent rebate/allowance |Dundee district council|Scotland ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1983-84 |25,046 |563,038 1984-85 |30,395 |563,692 1985-86 |26,480 |583,671 1986-87 |26,964 |591,694 1987-88 |26,953 |598,151 1988-89 |24,523 |572,181 Note: 1983-84 to 1987-88-estimates for caseload during the year. 1988-89-caseload count, 31 May 1988.
Average amount of Housing Benefit in payment: Scotland Claims where Claims where Housing Supplementary Benefit only in payment Benefit/Income Support also in payment |Rent rebate |Rent allowance|Rent rebate |Rent allowance |£ weekly |£ weekly |£ weekly |£ weekly ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1983 |9.50 |13.20 |n.a. |n.a. 1984 |9.90 |14.10 |n.a. |n.a. 1985 |11.00 |18.50 |n.a. |n.a. 1986 |12.70 |21.50 |n.a. |n.a. 1987 |14.20 |23.90 |n.a. |n.a. 1988 |15.73 |24.77 |11.22 |13.77 Notes: 1. Rate rebate information is not collected for Scottish District Councils. 2. 1983-87 based on sample information about recipients of Supplementary Benefit from local authorities in November or December. 3. 1988 based on sample of all HB recipients on 31 May 1988.
Mr. Vaz : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the Government has completed its consideration of the findings of the review committee of banking services law, published in February ; and if he will make a statement on how these considerations will affect the banking ombudsman system.
Column 149recommendations. The report was widely welcomed as presenting an extremely clear and comprehensive critique of the present law on banking services, but reservations were expressed about some of the recommendations. The Government are considering these comments very carefully in formulating their response.
Mr. Cohen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his practice to publish a report of major movements in the total and composition of the United Kingdom currency reserves ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ryder : The change in the level of the United Kingdom official reserves is published each month. I see no reason to change the practice of successive Governments regarding disclosure of details of the composition of the reserves.
This increase reflects the take-up of entitlement to carry forward underspending in 1988-89 under the end of year flexibility arrangements, as I announced on 20 July 1989 at columns 258-62. The full entitlement of £661,000 on capital expenditure is taken up together with £223,000 of the £302,000 entitlement on running costs. Additionally, it reflects an increase in expenditure of £35,000 by the History of Parliament Trust to meet the costs of additional research staff. These increases will be charged to the Reserve and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure. There is also an increase in provision of £85,000 to meet the setting-up costs at Chessington computer centre prior to the take-on of new payroll work, which will be offset by corresponding decreases in running costs limits of other Departments, as well as an increase to meet the increased costs of services provided by the Government Actuary's Department, which will be offset by a corresponding payment from the Government Actuary's Department vote (class XIX, vote 4). As a result, the running costs limit of Her Majesty's Treasury will be increased by £308,000 from £74,944,000 to £75,252,000.
Mr. Lilley : Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class XIX vote 7 will be increased from £1,209,573,000 to £1,234,973,000 and the running cost limit from £1,174,692,000 to £1,202,092,000. The changes in running costs reflect the amount agreed for the Department under the running costs end-year flexibility scheme, and to enable the Department to meet its forecast work loads including
Column 150setting up independent taxation. The increase will be charged to the Reserve and will not therefore add to the planning total of public expenditure.
Mr. Evennett : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will publish a list of the pay agreements in the Civil Service and in the public services sector which make reference to inter-quartile settlement levels in the private sector ; if he will state the annual period of time used as the base period for such inter-quartile settlement figures and the gap of time before the effective date of pay increases under each agreement ; and if he will state the approximate number of employees and the total annual pay bill under each agreement ;
(2) what is the longest period of time in any Civil Service or public services sector pay agreement between the relevant period of data collection, such as inter-quartile settlement levels in the private sector and the effective date of pay increases under the agreement ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ryder : There are now six long-term flexible pay agreements covering separate groups of staff in the Civil Service which take the inter -quartile range of settlements in the private sector as a negotiating constraint. There are no similar arrangements in the rest of the public services sector. The relevant inter-quartile range of pay settlements is available to the parties to the pay agreements approximately one month before the settlement date and takes account of pay settlements in the private sector over the previous 12 months.
The six pay agreements in the Civil Service together with the number of employees on the basic pay bill covered by each is as follows :
Ò Main grades covered Number of employees 1989-90 paybill |£ million<1> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1. |Scientific and technical grades |55,000 |755 2. |Departmental grades in the Inland Revenue|60,000 |570 3. |Grades 5 to 7 |23,000 |585 4. |Executive and office support grades |130,000 |1,625 5. |Clerical, typing and secretarial grades |195,000 |1,350 6. |Industrial grades |68,000 |590 <1>Estimate.
Mr. Meacher : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what have been the total sums in debt and financial liabilities written off in each case of privatisation since 1979, both at current prices and at 1989 prices ; and in each case how capital reconstruction altered the balance sheet in relation with the profit or loss position beforehand ;
(2) how much in write-offs was granted to each company and industry privatised since 1979 ; and how much is planned over the next three years.
Mr. Peter Lilley [holding answers 18 and 19 October 1989] : The normal practice on privatisation--of a nationalised industry or company wholly or majority owned by Government--is to repay, rather than write off debt. This repayment may be financed from the company's existing resources, the injection of new equity, or new debt
Column 151finance. In some cases, the Government provide the finance to repay debts, for example, by an equity injection. Such finance is shown in the relevant departmental programme of the public expenditure White Paper. Subsequent sales of the Government's interests in a company are recorded in the privatisation programme in the PEWP.
National loan fund debt has been formally written off only in the following privatisation cases :