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Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which of the 82 people described as panel members in annexe 3 to the report "The Medical Assessment for Incapacity Benefit" were not among the 80 experts referred to in part 2 of the report; why their names were included in annexe 3; what part each of them played in the work of the panel; how many sub-groups of the panel were formed and for what purposes; how many members each sub-group had; how many member of each sub-group were not members of the panel; how many were employed by (a) the Benefits Agency medical service, (b) the Department of Social Security and (c) the Department of Health; and how many had medical qualifications.
Mr. Hague: Originally 80 people agreed to join the panel. Some dropped out and were replaced at a later date. The 82 people listed at annexe 3 of the report "The Medical Assessment for Incapacity Benefit" were all members of the expert panel at some time. The list includes all those invited on to the panel who agreed that their names should be made public.
Only one sub-group of the panel was formed, to consider special procedures for assessing the effects of mental health. There were five members, two of whom were employed by the Benefits Agency medical service. In addition, we consulted widely with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and others representing people with mental health problems.
Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he decided that the names of the members of the panel on incapacity should not be published without their agreement; and if he will seek the consent of numbers of the sub-group on mental health and incapacity, who agreed to publication of their names in the report "The Medical Assessment of Incapacity Benefit", to the disclosure of the membership of the sub-group.
Sir Andrew Bowden: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people have taken the habitual residence test; and if he will list (a) how many have failed it, (b) their nationality and (c) their age.
Mr. Roger Evans: All income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit claimants have been subject to the habitual residence test since its introduction on 1 August 1994. Provisional figures from the Benefits Agency for the period 1 August to 30 November 1994 indicate that 9,601 income support claimants failed to satisfy the test. Information in relation to housing benefit and council tax benefit claimants who fail the test will not be available until late 1996. Information about a claimant's nationality is not available. Information about a claimant's age is not recorded centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Bowden: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to explain the compensation package for VAT on fuel at 8 per cent. to pensioners who do not have an order book because they receive their pension directly to their bank account by bank automated credit transfer.
Mr. Khabra: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the cumulative effect on the national insurance fund of contracting out and incentive payments for appropriate personal pensions since 1986, giving also an annual cost for the most recent available full year.
Mr. Arbuthnot: The information is not available in the form requested. The most recent published, audited figure on the cost to the national insurance fund of rebates and incentives for appropriate personal pensions, and incentive payments to other types of newly contracted out pension schemes is £9.9 billion up to the end of 1992 93. This includes £2.7 billion for the 1992 93 tax year.
The Government Actuary's report on the contributions uprating order for 1994 95 estimated the costs for 1993 94 and 1994 95 as £2.8 billion and £1.9 billion respectively.
Column 58range of sickness and incapacity benefits, (b) the numbers of unemployed at the closest point of comparison to the figures in (a) and (c) the numbers of workers in employment at the closest point of comparison to the figures in (a) for each year since 1988.
Sick and Unemployed Benefit claimants and numbers in employment (Numbers in thousands, rounded to nearest thousand) Benefit |1988 |1989 |1990 |1991 |1992 |1993 |1994 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Invalidity Benefit<1> |1,047 |1,126 |1,209 |1,317 |1,455 |1,606 |1,705 Sickness Benefit<1> |228 |266 |309 |421 |473 |535 |578 Severe Disablement Allowance<1> |263 |275 |285 |274 |289 |298 |304 Disability Working Allowance<2> |3 |4 Totals |1,538 |1,667 |1,803 |2,012 |2,217 |2,442 |2,591 Unemployed claimants<3> |2,182 |1,682 |1,519 |2,201 |2,627 |2,812 |2,545 Work force in employment<3> |25,529 |26,317 |26,528 |25,613 |25,023 |24,605 |24,619 <1> From 1988 to 1990 information based on 1 per cent. sample of claimants on 2.4.88, 1.4.89 and 31.3.90 From 1991 to 1994 information based on 100 per cent. clerical count on the last day of June, and is subject to revision <2> Information from 100 per cent. count in May. <3> Information is for Great Britain on last day of June, seasonally adjusted. Unemployed claimants are those claiming income support, unemployment benefit and/or national insurance credits who say they satisfy the conditions for receipt of benefits as unemployed people. Work force in employment comprises employees in employment, self-employed HM forces and participants on work-related government training programmes.
Mr. Arbuthnot: The Government announced their plans to replace the guaranteed minimum pension test with a new test of overall scheme quality in the White Paper "Security, Equality, Choice: the Future for Pensions" on 23 June 1994. Detailed proposals were set out in the Pensions Bill put before the House of Lords on Thursday 15 December 1994.
Mr Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment has been made as to the additional costs which will be incurred by his Department as a result of the changes in national telephone dialling codes next year; and how much this change will cost his Department in additional expenditure.
Mr. Hague: The Department and its agencies have so far identified estimated expenditure of approximately £1.8 million to cover all costs associated with the changes in national telephone dialling codes. These costs will be met within existing budgets.
Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security in how many cases funeral payments from the social fund have included additional expenses arising from the requirements of the religious faith of the deceased; and in how many of these cases the addition was of the maximum permitted amount in each year since 1988 89.
Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he is in a position to respond to the report by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux on disqualification from unemployment benefit; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Roger Evans: I met the chief executive of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and two of her colleagues on Tuesday 6 December to discuss the report "Benefit of the Doubt". The recommendations made in the report will be considered in the context of the jobseeker's allowance scheme.
Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the progress of the drafting of his Bill on discrimination against disabled people; and if he is yet in a position to undertake that the scope of the Bill and money resolution will be sufficiently wide to permit an amendment providing for a disability rights commission.
Mr. Hague: The Bill will be introduced shortly. I refer the right hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 12 December 1994, Official Report, column 539 . It is not our intention to draft the Bill in such a way as to rule out full discussion of this issue.
Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received concerning human rights in the Ivory Coast; and what representations have been made to the authorities there by Her Majesty's Government.
Mr. Baldry: We are aware of the July 1994 Amnesty International report on freedom of expression and association in Cote d'Ivoire. We note also the emergence of encouraging signs in the field of human rights in the country. We are pleased to witness, for example, the maturing of the relationship between the Government and Ivorian human rights organisations.
Our ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire has made clear to the Ivorian authorities the importance which the British Government attach to good government, including full respect for human rights.
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made towards a new COCOM structure of export controls; and what exports or export destinations the Government currently consider should form part of such controls.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: Multilateral negotiations to establish an export control regime to tackle new threats posed by excessive build-up of conventional weapons and related technology are continuing. Working groups have been established to agree and recommended on those goods to be controlled, the procedures for exports, the membership of the organisation and related administrative matters. The Government are committed to controls which are straight forward, responsible and transparent but which do not place an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on legitimate trade. They should be linked to identifiable threats and consistent with our international commitments.
At a high-level meeting in the Hague on 21 and 22 December, the 23 former COCOM and COCOM co-operating countries, reaffirmed their commitment to work towards the establishment of new arrangements as soon as possible. A further meeting is due to be held in February.
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a request for the use of aircraft fitted with electronic combat reconnaissance devices was made by the United Kingdom either directly or indirectly through NATO actions and UNPROFOR forces in Bosnia; when it was agreed; and to which country or countries such request was made.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 1 December, Official Report, column 817, concerning the legal basis for the protection by the United Nations of the civilian population of safe areas in Bosnia- Herzegovina, whether the United Nations Secretariat, the United Kingdom and other members of
Column 60the Security Council take account in creating those areas of the possibility of use for war purposes to mount offensives against the Serbs.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: Members of the United Nations Security Council, including the United Kingdom, and the United Nations Secretariat do take into account the possibility that safe areas might be used by one party to mount offensives against another. In his report on safe areas of 1 December, the UN Secretary-General highlighted the importance of definition and demilitarisation of safe areas by negotiation. NATO chiefs of defence staff meeting in The Hague on 19 and 20 December, noted the Secretary- General's report on safe areas and underscored the importance of achieving, by negotiations, agreement on complete demilitarisation of the safe areas acceptable to all parties and which could be effectively implemented and controlled by UNPROFOR.
Mr. Alton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans the European Union has to suggest to the Vietnamese Government that the delegation from the UN working group on arbitrary detention be allowed to return to the A20 re-education camp at Xuan Phoc, Phu Yen province, so that they may interview all prisoners who were unavailable on 28 October; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Alton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the co-operation received from the Vietnamese Government by the delegation from the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention when they visited the A20 re- education camp, at Xuan Phoc, Phu Yen province, Vietnam, on 28 October 1994.
Mr. Alton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to persuade the Government of Iran to allow United Nations special rapporteurs to investigate the murders of the Rev. Haik Hovsepian Mehr, the Rev. Tatess Michaelion and the Rev. Mehdi Dibaj and the situation of the Christian community in Iran.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: We fully support the involvement of UN special rapporteurs in investigating the human rights situation in Iran including the situation of Christians and the deaths of Rev. Mehr, Rev. Michaelian and Rev. Dibaj. We and our European partners co-sponsored a resolution on human rights in Iran which was adopted at the UN General Assembly in December 1994. It called on Iran to co-operate with the UN special rapporteur, Mr. Galindo-Pohl, and to carry out a thorough and impartial investigation into the deaths of the three pastors.
Mr. Alton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consideration was given to Iran's human rights record when his Department agreed to co-sponsor the forthcoming conference on the political
Column 61economy of contemporary Iran, to be held at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: We and our European partners repeatedly underline to the Iranian Government the importance we attach to their human rights record. Our support for the forthcoming conference on Iran does not detract from our commitment to securing an improvement in Iranian behaviour. This conference is aimed at promoting an improved understanding of the Iranian economy and strengthening academic and economic contacts with Iranian professionals.
Mr. Alton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to persuade the Government of Iran to reopen the Iranian Bible Society and churches and to ensure that bibles are made freely available in that country.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: We and our European partners remain committed to maintaining pressure on the Iranian Government to honour fundamental freedoms including freedom of religion. Most recently in December 1994 the European Union sponsored a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly reiterating our support for the work of the UN special rapporteur, Mr. Galindo-Pohl. Mr. Pohl has referred to the Bible Society's predicament in his reports and we are discussing with our European partners what further action we can take.
Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 9 December, Official Report , column 424 , what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the relations between each of the dependent territories in the Caribbean and the regional secretariat in Barbados; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry: I am satisfied that the dependent territories regional secretariat is operating effectively. It has helped negotiate country policy plans with Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands; and it is working with the Governments concerned to ensure their implementation. It is involved in our continuing dialogue with all the Caribbean DTs and is managing the financial assistance being provided from ODA and diplomatic wing resources. This is in line with the programme set out in the FCO departmental report 1994, Cm 2502, page 23.
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library (a) a list of the items that he submits to the United Nations arms register and (b) the returns he has made to that register; and what proposals he has to extend the scope of the register.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: A copy of the United Kingdom return to the UN register of conventional arms is placed in the Library each year. Each return includes any items contained in the seven categories of equipment where such imports and exports have taken place. The categories are battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and missiles and missiles launchers. The UK return also includes background information on national holdings and procurement from national production of
Column 62equipment in the seven categories, and a statement of UK policy. An international group of governmental experts met last summer to discuss the operation of the register and ways in which it may be developed. There was no consensus for change then, but future groups of experts will look at this question again.
Mr. Shersby: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his policy for ensuring that the people of Gibraltar enjoy the full benefits of membership including the right to vote in Euro-elections and for aircraft using Gibraltar airport to use EU airspace; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: We expect Gibraltarians to enjoy those benefits to which they are entitled by virtue of Gibraltar's status within the European Union. We have made this clear whenever necessary. Annexe 2 of the 1976 EC Act on direct elections limits the franchise for European parliamentary elections to the United Kingdom.
There are no special restrictions affecting the ability of aircraft using Gibraltar airport to fly in the airspace of any EU member state.
Mr. Shersby: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the outcome of his meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Sen ~ or Javier Solana, concerning Gibraltar and related matters.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had very useful discussions with the Spanish Foreign Minister on 19 and 20 December 1994 on a wide range of issues, including Gibraltar. He welcomed the lifting of secondary checks at the frontier and stressed that they should not be reimposed. We agreed on the need for further practical co- operation on a trilateral basis to tackle drugs trafficking. He made clear that we would not deviate from our commitment to the people of Gibraltar in the 1969 constitution. There was no substantive discussion of sovereignty issues.
A joint statement was agreed and issued to the press on 20 December. A copy of this will shortly be placed in the House of Commons Library.
Mr. Cousins: To aks the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has for a European Union equivalent of the Nunn-Lugar co-operative threat reduction programme; and what projects or expenditure the United Kingdom has already committed towards objectives similar to the Nunn-Lugar programme.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: The European Union has contributed to a number of civil nuclear safety programmes. Individual member states are separately undertaking projects related to military installations. The United Kingdom has committed some £35 million to projects which include the supply of supercontainers and heavy-duty vehicles for the secure transportation of nuclear warheads for dismantlement; and the resettlement and retraining of former military officers.
Mr. Baldry: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has work under way to allow the exchange of documents by electronic mail within the Department. Such a service is already available within the Overseas Development Administration.
The Department is investigating the use of the Internet to allow more extensive public access. It is likely an FCO presence will be established on the Internet via the CCTA computer later this year. It will allow the dissemination of FCO-ODA material in the first instance. Public electronic mail access to the Department will be considered after experience has been gained with the initial trials.
Sir Keith Speed: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what actions he proposes to take in response to recommendation 1250--1994--of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe relating to the enlargement of the Council of Europe and budgetary prospects; and if he will make statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: The Committee of Ministers' Deputies and the secretariat of the Council of Europe are currently looking at the resource implications of the enlargement of the Council of Europe. We shall take decisions once the results of their work are known. The parliamentary assembly's recommendation will be fully taken into account.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will arrange to publish after each Council of Ministers and each European summit a concordat version comparing the claims made by each Government to their own electorate about the nature of the decisions taken and the gains and losses for that country.
Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the Government of Turkey concerning the imprisonment of some of their Members of Parliament; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: As stated in the written answer by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of 15 December to the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), Official Report , column 761 , we joined our EU partners in a statement of protest to the Turkish Government at the harsh prison sentences imposed on elected members of the Turkish Parliament. He subsequently raised the subject directly with the Turkish Foreign Minister when they met in Brussels on 19 December. The deputies concerned have exercised their right to appeal. We await news of a further hearing.
Mr. David Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the plans of his Department to make information available on Internet and the documents which he intends to be made available on Internet over the next year which will be accessible via the world wide web server "open.gov.UK" or any specific departmental server.
Mr. Baldry: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 29 November 1994, Official Report , column 58 . The FCO has active plans for making some data available on the Internet during 1995 and an announcement will be made when it is ready to come on stream.
Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to ensure that China's most- favoured nation status is only reviewed after an improvement in its record on human rights.
Mr. Baldry: We regularly urge the Chinese authorities to improve their human rights record. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs raised the issue during his visit to China last July and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did so with the Chinese Foreign Minister in September. But we have consistently held the view that trade and politics should be treated as separate. Trading and economic relationships are helping to open up the Chinese system and promote the country's development, to the benefit of the Chinese people.
Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether entry clearance officers have been given a quota system for refusing foreign nationals entry to the United Kingdom.
Mr. Douglas Hogg: When we recognised Croatia on 15 January 1992 as an independent sovereign state, we made it clear that we expected the Government of Croatia to take steps to protect the rights of minorities. We continue to support the efforts of the international conference on former Yugoslavia to bring about a peaceful settlement between the Croatian Government and the Croatian Serb minority. We welcome the recent signing of the economic agreement by both sides which has resulted int he reopening of part of the Zagreb to Belgrade highway. We hope that further elements of the agreement will also be implemented shortly.
Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what statutory basis the Governor of St. Helena requires the output of the local radio and television stations to receive his approval prior to transmission.
A television station is to be operated under licence by Cable and Wireless. The company is subject to statutory control in so far as the terms of that licence require them to notify the Governor of details of the services to be offered and in each case the channel and frequency of the service on which they will be provided.
Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer to the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) on 9 December, Official Report, column 377, if he will give (a) the total exposure in respect of defence contracts by the Export Credits Guarantee Department in 1993 94, (b) the amount of that exposure which was in default or had been rescheduled and (c) the cost to the Exchequer of such defaults on rescheduling in 1993 94.
This information is not currently available and cannot be provided except at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment has been made as to the additional costs which will be incurred by his Department as a result of the changes in national telephone dialling codes next year; and how much this change will cost his Department in additional telephone expenditure.
Mr. Baldry: British Telecom has provided this service free of charge to its customers. There will be no additional costs to pay. Minor changes to stationery have been incorporated in standard reprinting procedures.
Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will prohibit the export of tanks and military aircraft to Indonesia until self-determination has been granted to the people of East Timor.
Mr. Baldry: There is no international embargo on arms sales to Indonesia. The export to any destination of arms and other goods listed in the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994 is prohibited without a licence by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. All applications for export licences for defence equipment are considered carefully on a case-by-case basis in the light of established criteria. We believe that the best way to achieve a satisfactory settlement of the East Timor issue is to encourage the Portuguese and Indonesians to continue a constructive dialogue under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General.