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Mr. John D. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many services run by charities and paid for by North Down and Ards health and social services trust in 1995 were not funded in 1996; which charities were involved; and what other services were affected. [9975]

Mr. Worthington: The following charities received funding from North Down and Ards community health and social services trust in the 1995-96 financial year but not in 1996-97:

Decisions to cease purchasing specific services are taken for a number of reasons, including the availability of alternative services more appropriate to local needs, changes in local need and cost considerations. Where changes in service providers take place, issues of quality and appropriateness remain paramount.

Information on each of the services provided by charities funded by the trust is not collected centrally within the trust and to do so would incur disproportionate costs.

Rights of the Child Convention

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) if she will make a statement on the consultation process involved in the UK fulfilling the reporting requirement relating to the UN convention on the rights of the child; and if she will make a statement on the impact on UK policy of adopting the convention and the practical measures necessary to implement it; [9283]

Mr. Worthington [holding answer 23 July 1997]: The Government submitted their first report to the UN committee on the rights of the child in 1994. A further report is to be submitted in 1999. To assist in the production of this report, the Department of Health proposes to convene a conference early in 1998 to discuss its content and format. It is likely that this conference will involve a range of organisations with an interest in children's issues, including Government Departments, representatives from the voluntary sector, local authorities and the users of services. I can confirm that the Northern Ireland Office will participate fully in the UK-wide consultation process.

The Children (Northern Ireland) Order, which commenced in November 1996, is one example of legislation which clearly reflects the principles of the UN convention. The central principles of the legislation is that the welfare of the child must be the first consideration when decisions are being made about children's lives.

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The Department of Health has lead responsibility for promoting the convention and for ensuring that its principles are kept in mind when any legislation, policy or practice which will impact on children is being considered.

Plastic Baton Rounds

Mr. Sedgemore: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if the RUC guidelines for the use of plastic baton rounds are a classified document; and if she will place a copy in the Library. [8276]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 11 July 1997]: The RUC documents that include the guidelines on the use of plastic baton rounds are classified as confidential internal police instructions. However, with the agreement of the Chief Constable, I have placed a copy of parts of these documents in the Library. As indicated in answers to earlier questions tabled by my hon. Friend, the RUC is currently engaged with its Association of Chief Police Officers colleagues in Great Britain in reviewing those guidelines.

Sir David Fell

Mr. Robert McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what will be the total cost of the annual compensation payments made to Sir David Fell from his resignation on 1 October 1997 until his 60th birthday; and what are the grounds on which he is receiving compensation. [7720]

Mr. Paul Murphy [pursuant to his reply, 16 July 1997, c. 218]: I have written to the hon. and learned Gentleman further on this subject and a copy of the letter will be placed in the Library.


Bereavement Benefits

18. Mr. Walter: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment she has made of the issue of gender discrimination in respect of entitlement to bereavement benefits. [9045]

Mr. Denham: Modernising the social security system is a key priority of the Government. In our examination of the current social security structure, we will take account of the needs and responsibilities of widows and widowers in pursuit of our aim of reducing poverty and welfare dependency, promoting work incentives and providing better, simpler, more efficient services to clients.


19. Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people contracted out of the state earnings-related pension scheme in 1996-97. [9046]

Mr. Denham: Our long-term objective is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to build up adequate pension to guarantee security in retirement. We will encourage secure, flexible and value-for-money second pensions.

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At the end of April 1997, some 5.6 million people were contracted out of SERPS through an appropriate personal pension scheme.

In 1994-95, there were 8.2 million people contracted out of SERPS through occupational pension schemes. This is the latest year for which this information is available.

33. Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent representations she has received about the state pension. [9061]

Mr. Denham: We have now announced the terms of a wide-ranging review. It will involve extensive consultation with interested parties, including employers, employees, the pensions industry and today's pensioners.

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will restore the link between the basic pension and average earnings pending the outcome of the pensions review. [10113]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 24 July 1997]: The review of the central areas of insecurity for elderly people announced on 17 July by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will include all aspects of the basic state pension and its value and second pensions including the state earnings-related pension scheme. As part of our consultative approach, the National Pensioners Convention will take a specific role in the review to ensure that the views of today's pensioners are heard. The review will enable the Government to publish an initial framework for change in the first part of 1998. There will then be a period of further consultation before firm proposals are developed.

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much the equalisation of the state pension at age 65 years under the Pensions Act 1995 will save per annum by 2025; and how much it will have saved in total by 2025. [10842]

Mr. Denham: The savings in national insurance fund benefit expenditure arising from the equalisation of state pension age under the Pensions Act 1995 are estimated to be approximately £6 billion per annum by 2025.

The total saving in national insurance fund benefit expenditure between 2010 and 2025 arising from the equalisation of state pension age under the Pensions Act 1995 is estimated to be approximately £60 billion. Notes:

Child Support Agency

20. Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many cases handled by the Child Support Agency were the subject of inquiries from hon.

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Members in (a) the past 12 months and (b) each year since the Child Support Agency was established. [9047]

Mr. Keith Bradley: In the past 12 months, to the end of June 1997, the Child Support Agency received 17,590 letters from hon. Members concerning operational issues. We cannot relate this figure directly to the number of cases concerned.

Complete information is not available for each year since the agency's launch as in the early years only inquiries dealt with by the chief executive were recorded. In 1994-94, the chief executive received almost 5,000 letters. In the following two years, the figures were 11,000 and 10,530 respectively. In 1996-97, inquiries from hon. Members sent direct to centre managers were also recorded. In that year, 18,860 letters were received.

As I indicated when we debated child support last month, we intend to look closely at all aspects of the Child Support Agency to ensure that it provides an efficient and effective service. Our key objectives for the agency during the coming year are to sort out cases faster, tackle the backlog of cases and pursue fathers who avoid paying.

29. Mr. Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when she next expects to meet the chief executive of the Child Support Agency to discuss the work of the Child Support Agency. [9057]

Mr. Bradley: My noble Friend Baroness Hollis of Heigham, the Minister with day-to-day responsibilities for child support, has regular meetings with the chief executive of the Child Support Agency to discuss operational issues. We are determined to ensure that the agency delivers an improved level of service to all its clients.

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