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FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Ministerial Transport, London

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times in the last year he used (a) the London Underground and (b) London Transport buses while on official business. [372]

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Mr. Hanley: My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary uses public transport from time to time.

Hydronuclear Experimental Tests

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is Her Majesty's Government's policy in respect of whether hydronuclear experimental tests may be conducted within the terms of the proposed comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. [1587]

Mr. David Davis: We are working to achieve a comprehensive test ban treaty which would prohibit all nuclear weapon tests explosions involving any release of nuclear energy.

Iraq

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has on the number of prisoners from other nations currently being detained in Iraq and their countries of origin. [1588]

Mr. Hanley: We have no reliable figures on the total number of foreigners held in Iraqi gaols.

Precise numbers of foreign prisoners are not given out by the Iraqi regime.

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what communication he has had with Hussein Kamil in respect of Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions involving disclosure of information on prisoners of war. [1590]

Mr. Hanley: It would not be appropriate to comment on this matter. We continue to press the Iraqi authorities through every available means to disclose the fate of the detainees.

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Iraqi Government concerning Kuwaiti prisoners of war still being held captive; and if he will make a statement. [1589]

Mr. Hanley: We take every opportunity at the UN and through the tripartite commission to press Iraq to co-operate. The November review of sanctions stressed that Iraq must comply with all its UN obligations including that on Kuwaiti detainees.

Exports

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if it is the practice of his Department to make an assessment of the loss of earnings by British exporters, excluding military equipment, which may be caused as a result of war or internal conflict. [1571]

Mr. David Davis: This Department, together with the Department of Trade and Industry, alerts British exporters to potential difficulties in repatriation of export earnings that may occur as a result of war or internal conflicts abroad. Further action is then a matter for the individual companies. We have no central figures for the total amount involved in loss of earnings as the result of such actions.

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Caroline Beale

Mr. Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations his Department has made to the relevant United States authorities to ensure that the legal proceedings concerning Caroline Beale, or any decision on her future, are not unduly delayed; and if he will make a statement. [1150]

Mr. Hanley: Her Majesty's consul has pressed both the New York district attorney's office and the defence counsel for a decision in this case on many occasions, most recently on 13 November.

Land Mines

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will set out the criteria which will be used to determine non-detectable anti-personnel land mines. [1570]

Mr. David Davis: We are working to incorporate stringent specifications on the detectability of anti-personnel land mines into the 1981 United Nations weaponry convention. Specifically, we support a proposal from the International Committee of the Red Cross to the effect that:


Invoices

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many orders and firms are represented by the 13 per cent. of invoices not paid by his Department within 30 days or in accordance with contractual agreements in 1994-95; and how many of those related to firms with fewer than 500 employees. [1116]

Mr. Hanley: The 13 per cent. of payments not made by the Overseas Development Administration in 1994-95 within 30 days of receipt of a valid invoice or in accordance with contractual arrangements amounted to 3,328 payments out of a total number of 25,234. Separate figures for small firms are not available.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how his Department publicises payment practices other than as percentages of invoices paid late. [957]

Mr. Hanley: The FCO, Diplomatic Wing and Overseas Development Administration, publishes payment performance, as a percentage of invoices paid on time, in the annual departmental report. The FCO, DW and ODA, is committed to the CBI prompt payment code, which includes a clause to the effect that properly supported invoices will be paid within 30 days of receipt. The ODA is introducing a payment advice slip which informs the payee of the ODA's commitment to the CBI prompt payment code and invites them to take up an query with the head of ODA's accounts department.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the average length of time it takes for his Department to pay invoices. [931]

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Mr. Hanley: The FCO Diplomatic Wing has, since 1994, measured its payment performance using a random sample of invoices submitted throughout the year. An analysis of this sample shows that the average time taken to pay invoices is 20 days. The Overseas Development Administration takes an average of 10 days, the Wilton Park executive agency an average of 25 days and the Natural Resources Institute an average of 10 days.

Ethiopia

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the United Kingdom Government are offering the Government of Ethiopia towards (a) the preparation of cases and (b) the setting up of courts and procedures to hear cases of human rights abuses under the former Derg regime. [530]

Mr. Hanley: Along with other members of the international community, we have given certain office equipment to the special prosecutor's office for the preparation of human rights trials involving members of the Derg regime.

Nigeria

Mr. Tony Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the meeting between the Prime Minister and Chief Shonekan, a representative of the Nigerian military regime, on 21 September. [1209]

Mr. Hanley [holding answer 21 November 1995]: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister saw Chief Shonekan on 21 September to receive a message from General Abacha. My right hon. Friend pressed first the case for clemency for General Obasanjo and the alleged coup plotters who were at that time under sentence of death; and second for rapid progress towards civilian democratic rule in Nigeria. As a prominent businessman, Chief Shonekan was not affected by EU visa restrictions on Nigeria, which applied at that time only to military personnel and their families.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Students

Mr. Bryan Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his Department's estimate of the public expenditure savings which will result from the decision not to allow students who have temporarily suspended their studies to claim social security benefit. [982]

Mr. Roger Evans: The information is not available. In general, it is the educational maintenance system which is designed to provide support for students, not the social security system. Amendment regulations were laid before the House on 10 July to restore the original policy intention regarding students who temporarily suspend their studies, following a Court of Appeal decision. The regulations were not amended in isolation. The Department for Education and Employment has recently issued revised and expanded guidance to all local education authorities about their discretionary powers to continue to pay mandatory awards to students during periods of temporary absence.

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Incapacity Benefit

Mr. McMaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people have failed the test of incapacity but have scored (a) between one and five points, (b) between six and nine points and (c) 10 points and over. [572]

Mr. Burt: The information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. McMaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many claimants of incapacity benefit are currently exempt from all the work test of incapacity; how many of these (a) were previously entitled to invalidity benefit and (b) are claimants of the new incapacity benefit claimants; and if he will make a statement. [1102]

Mr. Burt: The information is not available in the format requested. Of those considered for the all-work test in the period April to October 1995, a total of 159,804 people 1 have been found to be exempt. This is made up of 138,828 suffering from a severe medical condition and 20,976 in receipt of the higher rate care component of disability living allowance. Notes: 1 This figure excludes Incapacity Benefit claimants who are also in receipt of Widow's Benefit as this information is not currently available.


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