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European Development Fund

Sir Alastair Goodlad: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development when she expects the £1.08 billion committed by her Department to the European Development Fund will be disbursed; and if she will make a statement. [36843]

Clare Short: Disbursements from the eighth European Development Fund (EDF) can begin only after the ratification of the Mid-Term Review of the Lome IV Convention by all EU Member States and at least two-thirds of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States. Two Member States have yet to complete ratification of the Mid-Term Review but it is estimated that EDF VIII will enter into force later this Summer.

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I am very concerned by the delay in the ratification of the Mid-Term Review, which I hope can be completed as soon as possible.

Least-developed Countries

Sir Alastair Goodlad: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list those countries which have acquired, or re-acquired LDC status as a result of currency parity changes in the last 12 months; and if she will indicate any resultant change in her Department's policy in respect of each country. [36842]

Clare Short: The UN, which is responsible, through its Committee on Development Planning, for maintaining and regularly reviewing the list of Least-developed Countries, takes a number of economic and other factors into account in determining whether countries warrant Least-developed Country status. The list of Least- developed Countries was last reviewed by the UN at the end of 1997. No countries were added to the list.

PRIME MINISTER

Cabinet Committees

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answers to the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Healey), 21 January 1998, Official Report, columns 568-71, and to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), 9 June 1997, Official Report, columns 302-10, when each of the Cabinet committees listed was formed. [33121]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 6 March 1998]: Most of the committees were established shortly after the Government came to power, in May and June last year.

Millennium Compliance

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Prime Minister if he will take steps to establish a global database of information relating to millennium compliance; and if he will make a statement. [34507]

The Prime Minister: I do not believe it would be practical to develop a database covering the whole world. However, Action 2000 is working with the UK IT supply sector to develop a database of relevant information on operating systems, software, fixing tools and support services available in the UK. Action 2000 plans to make its information available to UK businesses through their publications material and web site.

Mr. Donald Anderson: To ask the Prime Minister what action he has taken to strengthen the central co-ordination of the Government's programme to tackle the millennium date change problem. [37150]

The Prime Minister: I have established a central unit to co-ordinate the government's work on the Millennium date change problem. The unit will be located in the Cabinet Office and will report directly to the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

I have also broadened the terms of reference of the Ministerial Group on the Millennium Date Change (MISC4), chaired by the President of the Board of Trade,

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to drive action across the whole of the public and private sectors, while continuing to give priority to preparing the national infrastructure for the Millennium date change. In parallel, I have also broadened the terms of reference of its Sub-Group (MISC4(P), chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to cover the whole of the public sector as well as Government Departments. This will provide a single focus for central Government and the wider public sector. Taken together, the changes will ensure that nothing is allowed to fall between the cracks.

The membership of each group reflects their wider roles, and ensures action is effectively tied in with that of other countries.

The revised terms of reference and membership are as follows:



    Composition


    President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Chair)


    Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster


    Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions


    Paymaster General


    Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office


    Minister of State, Home Office


    Minister of State, Ministry of Defence


    Minister of State, Scottish Office


    Minister of State, Department of Health


    Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Employment


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Welsh Office


    Other Ministers are invited to attend for items in which they have a departmental interest.


    The Chairman of Action 2000 and the Prime Minister's Adviser on the Year 2000 problem are invited to attend.


    Terms of Reference


    The terms of reference are:


    "To drive action in the public and private sectors, including the national infrastructure, to prevent damage from the failure of electronic systems related to the Year 2000 date change".


    Ministerial Sub-Group on the Millennium Date Change (MISC4(P)


    Composition


    Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Chair)


    Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions


    Paymaster General


    Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office


    Minister of State, Home Office


    Minister of State, Ministry of Defence


    Minister of State, Scottish Office


    Minister of State, Department of Health


    Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

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    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Employment


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food


    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Welsh Office


    Other Ministers are invited to attend for items in which they have a departmental interest.


    The Prime Minister's Adviser on the Year 2000 problem is invited to attend.


    Terms of Reference


    The terms of reference are:


    "To drive action across central governmental Departments, Agencies and the wider public sector to prevent damage from the failure of electronic systems related to the Year 2000 date change".

Defamation Proceedings

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Prime Minister (1) if Ministers have to obtain agreement from him and from a law officer before issuing or threatening to issue proceedings for supposed defamatory allegations; [34865]

The Prime Minister: Ministers are required under the Ministerial Code to consult the Law Officers before initiating defamation proceedings. There is no requirement for Ministers to seek my agreement before bringing such action.

Mr. Peter Bottomley: To ask the Prime Minister when the Deputy Prime Minister consulted him and the law officers in advance of the letter dated 3 March by Davenport Lyons to the editor of Punch. [34864]

The Prime Minister: On 9 March, having received a reply to the letter of 3 March from the solicitors acting on behalf of Punch, my right honourable Friend the Deputy Prime Minister approached the Law Officers for advice before making any decision on whether or not to issue proceedings, as required by the Ministerial Code.

Ministerial Accommodation

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Prime Minister what is the official valuation of the accommodation and furnishings provided to each Minister at public expense. [34707]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 16 March 1998]: In line with the practice of successive Administrations, no separate valuation of individual offices or the residential areas of buildings or of the furnishings in either of them is held. It could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Bilderberg Group

Mr. Gill: To ask the Prime Minister which members of his Government have attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group. [34298]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 16 March 1998]: None.

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