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Fair Employment

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many certificates have been issued under section 42 of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 in each year since its enactment. [61971]

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 9 December 1998]: This information is not recorded centrally but a check of our records shows that 43 certificates have been issued, in respect of 39 individuals, under section 42 of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976. The table gives a breakdown by year.


(5) Of the certificates issued in 1984 and 1994, 4 were reissues.

Benefit Fraud

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate she has made of the level of benefit fraud within the social security system; and what plans she has to tackle it. [63176]

Mr. McFall: Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Social Security Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. Chris Thompson, and I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Chris Thompson to Mr. Nigel Evans, dated 10 December 1998:

    The Social Security Agency is in the process of estimating the levels of fraud in the benefit system. The Agency is using a methodology, known as Benefit Review, which as been successfully used by the Benefits Agency to estimate the levels of fraud in Great Britain.

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    The Agency is undertaking a wide range of initiatives, which mirror similar work in the Benefits Agency, designed to provide an estimate of the level of fraud within benefit systems, to secure the gateway to benefit systems and to detect and prosecute those who seek to defraud the system. This programme of initiatives is being closely monitored and updated on a regular basis to take account of new developments which may emanate from the Benefits Agency or from new Ministerial objectives. I have recently set up a new Benefit Security Directorate to provide a greater focus and to co-ordinate the programme of work.

    I can assure you that the Agency will continue to seek new ways of ensuring that resources are targeted effectively at known areas of risk and that expenditure loss through fraud is kept to a minimum.

    I hope this explains the position for you but I would be happy to provide any further information you require.


Millennium (Emergency Cover)

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans his Department has to contract with the armed services to provide emergency cover over the millennium period; and what estimate he has made of the cost of that cover. [62574]

Mr. McLeish: The Scottish Office has no specific plans for involving the military over the millennium period. There are procedures in place, however, through the standing military aid arrangements, which would be invoked in the event of any requirement for assistance.

It is quite normal for military aid to be sought by local authorities, particularly over the winter, but as yet it is too early to identify any specific requirements which they or other bodies may have over the millennium period.


Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the cost of treatments for Aids-related conditions over the next financial year. [62529]

Mr. Galbraith: Health Boards in Scotland are expected to meet the cost of such treatments from within the general allocations of funds provided to them each year. In order to assist Boards in planning services for HIV/AIDS patients, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently set up an expert group to recommend treatment protocols and to estimate the numbers of HIV/AIDS patients likely to be eligible for treatment with the new anti-retroviral drugs in the next few years. The group's report should be available shortly.


Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he intends to prepare a strategy for forestry in Scotland. [63808]

Mr. Macdonald: Forestry is an important part of the rural scene in Scotland. Its importance will grow as timber production doubles over the next 15 years and Scotland's forests and woodlands become more valuable for recreation and wildlife. We believe that it is important to have a strategy for forestry in Scotland which will provide

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a context for forestry policies and programmes. This will ensure that forestry integrates well with other aspects of the rural economy and plays its full part in the future well-being of Scotland.

Clearly, the Scottish Executive will want to determine the form and content of a Scottish Forestry Strategy. Nevertheless, we consider that it would be helpful to prepare an issues paper which could form the basis for consultation on a strategy.

We have therefore asked the Forestry Commission to set this work in hand, in liaison with other relevant Government Departments and Agencies, with a view to publishing an issues paper early next year.


Ms Roseanna Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues regarding the transfer of funding for United Kingdom programmes operating in Scotland where sole or joint responsibility transfers to the Scottish Parliament or Executive; if he will list the projects he has identified as being within the sole or joint competence of the Scottish Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [63302]

Mr. McLeish: Under the Scotland Act 1998, Scottish Ministers will take over the delivery of public services that currently fall within the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland. In addition, devolution will bring extra responsibilities to Scotland in areas such as transport and environment. Officials are currently discussing the details, including the issue of additional transfers of funding. There may also be cases where it is agreed by all concerned that the best course is a shared programme, which continues to be funded on a UK or GB basis.

Regiments and Bands

Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has made to the Secretary of State for Defence concerning requests for regiments to participate in the ceremonies for the opening of the Scottish Parliament; and what steps he is taking to ensure prominence is given to Scottish regiments and bands based in Scotland. [63303]

Mr. Dewar: I have made no such representations to the Secretary of State for Defence. However, the Services are represented on The Scottish Parliament Opening Ceremony Working Group which is taking forward the detailed planning of the event. In its deliberations, the Group will be considering to what extent military personnel, including Scottish regiments and bands based in Scotland, should be involved.


Performance and Innovation Unit

Mr. Illsley: To ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made with the establishment of the Performance and Innovation Unit. [63769]

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The Prime Minister: The Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) is now firmly established as an integral part of the new structure for the Cabinet Office that I announced on 28 July 1998, Official Report, columns 132-34.

The Unit is beginning its work to improve the capacity of Government to identify and address strategic, cross- cutting issues and promote innovation in the development of policy and in the delivery of the Government's objectives. Its first five projects will focus on:

    How to achieve the Government's goal of making the UK the world's best environment for electronic commerce, ensuring that the UK benefits fully from the single fastest growing market place in the global economy;

    Active Aging

    How to improve the well-being and quality of life of older people by helping them to remain active. The study will identify ways of increasing the employment opportunities for older people, by examining the incentives for businesses to employ and retain older people and for individuals to remain in paid or voluntary work;

    Central Government's Role at Regional and Local Level

    Getting the right arrangements in place for joined-up delivery of central Government policies in regions and communities;

    Accountability and Incentives for Joined-Up Government

    Examining whether current accountability arrangements and incentive systems can be reformed to facilitate joined-up policy-making and delivery, for example by promoting the achievement of joint objectives which require co-operation between departments; and

    Objectives for rural economies

    Examining the differing needs of local rural economies, and the key factors affecting performance, so as to establish clear objectives for Government policies influencing the future development of rural economies.

The PIU's review teams will be drawn from both inside and outside Government, to ensure that we bring new thinking and a wide range of experience to bear on the issues. The aim is to complete most of these reviews by next summer. Decisions flowing from the PIU's work will be announced in the normal way.

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