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Cash and Running Costs Limits

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes he proposes to make in his Department's cash limits and running cost limits for 1997-98. [14286]

Mr. Fatchett: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimates the following changes will be made:

The cash limit for class II, vote 1 (Overseas Representation) will be increased by £9,050,000 from £619,826,000 to £628,876,000. The increase is required to cover the costs of major conferences, specifically the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the EU Presidency and the Asia Europe Meeting, which total £9,000,000. There is also a transfer in of £50,000 from the Home Office for a contribution towards the fight against international drug trafficking.

The gross running costs limit on class II, vote 1 will be increased by £9,050,000 from £525,763,000 to £534,813,000.

The cash limit for class II, vote 2 (Other External Relations) will be increased by £12,600,000 from £217,215,000 to £229,815,000. The increase is required to cover UK contributions to certain OSCE, United Nations and WEU Missions of £12,000,000 and also for a transfer of £600,000 from the Home Office towards certain Overseas Drugs Assistance Programmes.

In addition, the cash limit for class II, vote 3 (BBC World Service) will be reduced by £2,558,000 from £169,906,000 to £167,348,000. This reduction takes account of transfers to the Ministry of Defence of £3,444,000 and to the Cabinet Office of £327,000 to reflect the movement of the BBC World Service Monitoring Service to subscription-based funding. This is partially offset by the take-up of a capital end-year flexibility amount of £1,213,000 as announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 17 July, Official Report, columns 245-50.

The increases will be offset by transfers or charged to the Reserve, and will not, therefore, add to the planned total of public expenditure.

Human Rights

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations concerning abuses of human rights Her Majesty's Government have made to the Czech and Slovak Republics. [13491]

Mr. Doug Henderson [holding answer 3 November 1997]: We are aware of reports of incidents of discrimination against members of the Roma community in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. We have been in contact with the Governments of the two countries, and do not consider these to be institutionalised abuses of human rights.

5 Nov 1997 : Column: 202

Burma

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress towards democracy in Burma since 1 May. [14072]

Mr. Fatchett: The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) continue to repress pro-democracy and ethnic groups, and remain unwilling to enter into substantive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders. Ministers have made several statements since 1 May condemning the SLORC's policies, and have supported the introduction of tougher measures against the SLORC at both the national and EU level.

Australia

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with his Australian counterpart concerning the arrangements being made for testing parliamentary and public opinion in Australia on whether that country should become a republic; and if he will make a statement. [14395]

Mr. Fatchett: None.

Antarctic

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have been held with the Government of Japan concerning ratification of the Antarctic treaty. [14218]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: Officials have discussed the ratification of the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty with their Japanese counterparts several times in the past few months and have used these occasions to encourage Japan to ratify it at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have taken place with the signatory nations to the Antarctic Environmental protocol; and when he expects to be able to make an announcement on the siting of the secretariat. [14219]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: There have been no further discussions since the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) in New Zealand in May this year when the Consultative Parties were unable to reach consensus on the location of the Secretariat. The next ATCM will be in May 1998.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Girocheques (Reissues)

Mr. Robert McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the percentage increase in 1996 of reissues of girocheques (a) in total and (b) by social security office that involved losses to her Department; and if she will make a statement. [13021]

Mr. Worthington: Responsibility for the subject has been delegated to the Social Security Agency under its chief executive, Mr. Chris Thompson. I have asked him to arrange for a response to be given.

5 Nov 1997 : Column: 203

Letter from Chris Thompson to Mr. Robert McCartney, dated 31 October 1997:







Number of girocheques re-issued with losses

Issuing office1 April 1995 to 31 March 1996 Loss1 April 1996 to 31 March 1997 LossIncrease/ decreasePercentage
Antrim SSO2532+7+28
Armagh SSO2423-1-4
Ballymena SSO3460+26+76.4
Ballymoney SSO815+7+87.5
Ballynahinch SSO45+1+25
Banbridge SSO412+8+200
Bangor SSO3664+28+77.8
Carrickfergus SSO1967+48+252.6
Coleraine SSO4060+20+50
Cookstown SSO718+11+157.1
Downpatrick SSO4124-17-41.5
Dungannon SSO3034+4+13.3
Enniskillen SSO1936+17+89.5
Foyle SSO178213+35+19.7
Headquarters5857-1-1.7
Kilkeel SSO14+3+300
Larne SSO1216+4+33.3
Limavady SSO3635-1-2.8
Lisburn SSO3530-5-14.3
Lisnagelvin SSO2847+19+67.9
Lurgan SSO2223+1+4.5
Magherafelt SSO310+7+233.3
Newcastle SSO146-8-57.1
Newry SSO8273-9-11
Newtownards SSO4338-5-11.6
Omagh SSO2440+16+66.7
Portadown SSO3133+2+6.5
Strabane SSO3554+19+54.3
Andersonstown SSO138195+57+41.3
Corporation Street SSO241242+1+0.4
Falls Road SSO157144-13-8.3
Holywood Road SSO7958-21-26.6
Knockbreda SSO323200
Newtownabbey SSO3049+19+63.3
Shaftesbury Square SSO9569-26-27.4
Shankill Road SSO89132+43+48.3
Total1,7542,050+296+16.9

5 Nov 1997 : Column: 204

Southern Health and Social Services Council

Mr. John D. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland which members of the Southern health and social services council belong to (a) the SDLP, and (b) the Ulster Unionist party; how many of these appointments were recommended by representatives of the Irish Government; and if she will make a statement. [13012]

Mr. Worthington: Monitoring information on the political activity of appointees to the Health and Social Services Councils has only been collected since July 1996. Of the 10 places, out of a full membership of 24, reserved on the Southern Health and Social Services Council for District Council nominees, five are held by SDLP members and five are held by members of the Ulster Unionist Party. The monitoring information held by the Department indicates that no political activity has been undertaken by the other members in the last five years.

None of the members of the Southern Council were recommended for consideration for appointment by representatives of the Irish Government.


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