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Disability Benefit Fraud

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what sources the Government has evaluated in estimating figures for disability benefit fraud. [25676]

Mr. Denham: One of our key aims is to tackle fraud in order to rebuild confidence in the Social Security system. The administration of benefits is a matter for Peter Mathison, Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Mark Oaten, dated 28 January 1998:

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the sources used to evaluate disability benefit fraud.




Staffing Costs

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many (a) special advisers, (b) task force members and (c) review body members her Department employs; what are the total salaries and benefits of (a) to (c); and what was the equivalent cost prior to 1 May 1997.[26176]

Mr. Field: On the question of Special Advisers, I refer the hon. Member to the written answers given on 13 November 1997, Official Report, columns 615-17, and on 25 November 1997, Official Report, columns 472-73.

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This Department does not employ any Task Force or Review Body members.

Lone Parents

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many lone parents were consulted before (a) regulations abolishing the lone parent benefit premium were laid and (b) the Social Security Bill was published.[26173]

Mr. Keith Bradley: As part of the formal consultation process, representations about the proposed changes to lone parent benefits were made by a wide variety of organisations, including those representing lone parents, to the Social Security Advisory Committee. Similar points have been raised in our regular discussions with lone parent organisations and through correspondence received from lone parents themselves.

These representations were reflected in the Social Security Advisory Committee's report, which was published on 30 July 1997 together with the Government's response as Command Paper 3713.

Council Tax Benefit

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many persons living in council tax bands F, G and H were consulted before regulations restricting council tax benefit to the amount applicable to a Band E property were laid. [26174]

Mr. Keith Bradley: These regulations were subject to consultation with the Social Security Advisory Committee under the provisions of section 172(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. The Social Security Advisory Committee agreed that the draft regulations

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should not be referred to them pursuant to 173(1)(b). We also consulted with the Local Authority Associations under the provisions of Section 176(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Non-career Civil Servants

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many non-career civil servants have been appointed to his Department since 1 May 1997. [25854]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: The number of people appointed on fixed term contracts or as casuals since May 1997 is 67.

Mr. Patel, Twickenham

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action the British Ambassador in Dar-es-Salaam has taken to pursue the claim of Mr. Patel, of Twickenham, in respect of the settlement of moneys owed under a British aid project.[25630]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: Mr. Patel is pursuing a private commercial claim against his former local representative in Dar-es-Salaam and the Government of Tanzania, following the supply of goods to a nationalised Tanzanian company. We have assisted attempts to expedite the claim since 1993. In October 1996 we were informed that a payment of 84 million Tanzanian Shillings, out of a total claim of 92 million Shillings, had been paid to Mr. Patel's local representative. Mr. Patel now appears to be in dispute with this representative. We have no jurisdiction to intervene in this dispute and have advised Mr. Patel to pursue his claim through the appropriate legal channels.

Presidential Palaces (Iraq)

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what evidence underlies (a) his oral answer on 13 January 1998, Official Report, column 126, that Saddam Hussein has 45 presidential palaces and (b) the oral statement by the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), on 21 January 1998, Official Report, column 991, that Saddam Hussein has 71 presidential palaces; and if he will make a statement. [25995]

Mr. Fatchett: The Iraqis have given UNSCOM various figures for the number of presidential palaces and sites to which UNSCOM can have little or no access.

Our concern is that Saddam Hussein is using Iraq's limited resources on himself thus ensuring that his people continue to suffer.

We also have reason to believe that WMD materials are stored at these sites.

Immigration

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) men and (b) women were waiting for interview at British High

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Commission offices in (i) India, (ii) Pakistan, (iii) Sri Lanka and (iv) Bangladesh, to join husbands or wives resident in the United Kingdom on 1 January. [25994]

Mr. Fatchett: In view of the amount of detail needed to answer this question, my noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Symons, will write to my hon. Friend shortly.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the average time a person waited for an interview in respect of an application to join (a) a husband and (b) a wife in the United Kingdom at the British High Commission offices in (i) India, (ii) Pakistan, (iii) Sri Lanka and (iv) Bangladesh in 1997. [25997]

Mr. Fatchett: In view of the amount of detail needed to answer this question, my noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Symons, will write to my hon. Friend shortly.

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many entry certificate officers were employed in British High Commission offices in (a) India, (b) Pakistan, (c) Sri Lanka and (d) Bangladesh, on 1 January. [25993]

Mr. Fatchett: The number of Entry Clearance Officers employed in British High Commission Office in (a) India (b) Pakistan, (c) Sri Lanka and (d) Bangladesh on 1 January are as follows:









Kashmir

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last discussed human rights in Indian administered Kashmir with the Indian Government; and if he will make a statement. [25991]

Mr. Fatchett: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed Kashmir issues with the Indian Prime Minister, and with the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir last October.

Millennium Compliance

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he notifies potential purchasers of obsolete information technology equipment sold by his Department that such equipment may not be millennium compliant. [25654]

Mr. Fatchett [holding answer 27 January 1998]: The disposal of obsolete Information Technology equipment is not sold as workable equipment and is sold after tender invitation against terms and conditions which include that they are sold "as seen".

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Trafficking (Children)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated regarding the trafficking of children in Asia. [25975]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: Our diplomatic posts in Asia report on human rights issues concerning children including, where appropriate, trafficking in human beings. We also value the reports of non-governmental organisations and the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to use the presidency of the EU to restrict the trafficking of children in Asia, with particular reference to Cambodia and Vietnam. [25969]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: We and our European Union partners will continue to participate actively in discussions on the Rights of the Child in International fora, including the Untied Nations Commission on Human Rights. The EU will co-sponsor a resolution on the Rights of the Child at the 54th session of the Commission. The resolution will include a section on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he plans to curtail the trafficking of children in Asia. [25968]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: We support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, whose mandate includes work to combat trafficking of children. We are working with Asian countries to fight child abuse. British police provided child protection training in the Philippines and Sri Lanka for delegates from several South and South East Asian countries in 1997. Similar training will be provided in Thailand in 1998.

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has received on the trafficking of children in Asia, with particular reference to Cambodia and Vietnam. [25974]

Mr. Tony Lloyd: We regularly receive representations from non-governmental organisations and others concerning child welfare in Asia. We have not, however, received recent representations on the trafficking of children in Cambodia and Vietnam.


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