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General Pinochet

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Prime Minister what recent representations he has received from other heads of Government concerning the proposed extradition of General Pinochet. [106020]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 20 January 2000]: The President of Chile has made representations to me on a number of occasions over the last 15 months.

Minister for Youth

Mr. Tony Clarke: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to appoint a Minister for Young People. [106452]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Mr. Wood) on 6 December 1999, Official Report, column 353W.


Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Prime Minister (1) pursuant to his oral statement on 19 January 2000, Official Report, column 841, if he will list the limits which will apply to each political party in relation to their spending on a referendum on the single European currency; [106790]

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The Prime Minister: We do not think it is practicable to regulate spending by political parties in such a way as to ensure that exactly equal amounts are spent by those on either side of a referendum argument. We do, however, think it is desirable to place a limit on what each party individually can spend.

Accordingly, schedule 13 to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill provides that in any referendum held throughout the United Kingdom the expenditure limits for a registered political party should be based on the percentage of the vote secured by the party at the previous general election, namely:

£ million

Percentage of votePermitted limit
More than 305
Less than 50.5

Arms Sales (Zimbabwe)

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Prime Minister (1) how many defence manufacturers have made representations to (a) him, (b) his advisers and (c) officials about arms sales to Zimbabwe over the last 17 months; and if he will list the individuals and companies concerned, indicating the dates on which representations were made; [106937]

The Prime Minister: Neither I nor my Office has received any representations from defence manufacturers or their representatives about the sale of arms to Zimbabwe.

Communications (Interception)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister under what circumstances interception by the United States of communications initiated by UK citizens is permitted from UK territory. [106654]

The Prime Minister: It is long-standing policy not to comment on such matters.


Future Carrier-borne Aircraft

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the Future Carrier-borne Aircraft programme; and if he will make a statement. [106311]

Mr. Kilfoyle: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 7 December 1999, Official Report, column 453W, sub-para 14 to the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key).

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Departmental Consultation

Dr. Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the public consultation exercises on policy matters carried out by his Department and its agencies in each of the last five years; who was consulted and by what means; how responses were analysed; how and in what form the results were transmitted to those responsible for the consultation; how the results of the consultation were published; and what analysis has been carried out of the extent and nature of policy changes resulting from the consultation. [106303]

Mr. Kilfoyle: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Our largest public consultation exercise on policy matters in the last five years was that conducted to inform the strategic defence review which was launched on 28 May 1997. The then Secretary of State invited everyone who wished to contribute to the review to put forward their ideas and over 570 submissions were received. Each submission was analysed to record the subjects of concern, and circulated to the appropriate Working Groups for consideration. 486 authors consented to having their submissions made public. These were placed in the Libraries of the House and provided on microfiche to 12 public libraries across the United Kingdom.

In addition, in July and November 1997, the then Secretary of State and the Foreign Secretary jointly hosted three seminars to contribute to the strategic defence review to which a wide range of academics, journalists, Opposition Members and members of non-Governmental organisations were invited. Summaries of each seminar were placed in the Libraries of the House and published on the Ministry of Defence website.

The assessment of the submissions and the seminars formed part of the strategic defence review, the recommendations of which were published as the Strategic Defence Review White Paper (Cm3999) and the Strategic Defence Review Supporting Essays. Both documents were also published on the Ministry of Defence website.

Army Technical Support Agency

Mr. Ernie Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Army Technical Support Agency. [107038]

Mr. Spellar: The strategic defence review (SDR) announced that the Army Equipment Support Organisation was being re-structured and that ATSA would be absorbed into the new organisation. Director General Equipment Support (Land) DG ES (Land) is being formed on 1 April 2000 as part of the Defence Logistics Organisation, incorporating the staff and functions of ATSA. ATSA is therefore to be disestablished formally as an agency with effect from 1 April 2000. The agency's final set of accounts will be laid before the House in the normal way.

British Garrisons (Germany)

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he or his officials have held with the German Government about the deployment of additional troops from (a) Northern Ireland and (b) Great Britain to British garrisons in Germany. [105647]

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Mr. Hoon [holding answer 19 January 2000]: There have been no such discussions.


Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what discussions he had with (a) the Prime Minister and (b) the Foreign Secretary about the remit of the visit of the Chief of the Defence Staff to Pakistan; [106171]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 24 January 2000]: The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and I agreed that the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, should visit Pakistan to deliver tough messages to General Musharraf, as one military man to another, on the imperative for a transition to democracy and regional security.


Access Funds and Hardship Loans

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the outcome of his review of Access Funds and Hardship Loans. [105977]

Mr. Blunkett: I have today announced a package of extra measures for 2000-01 and 2001-02 to widen access to higher education and tackle student hardship in England and Wales. The full year cost of the package has been estimated at £68 million. This honours the commitment I gave to Parliament on 13 July 1998 to monitor the new student support arrangements introduced after the Dearing Report. It also builds on the findings of the Review of Access Funds and Hardship Loans carried out last autumn.

The system of student support is working well: full-time entrants to higher education have increased by nearly 5,000 this year and more money is now going into universities and colleges. The system is fair and equitable to students, families, and the taxpayer. But our Review highlighted the specific financial concerns of older students, notably the costs of child care, especially for lone parents, school meals, and travel. The Review also found that mature students, in particular, need guarantees of financial support if they are to undertake and complete courses of higher education. These new measures target extra help at full-time mature students, disadvantaged young people and parents on low incomes with children in higher education.

In 2000-01, £17 million will be set aside for non-repayable Access Funds Bursaries for mature students of up to £1,000 per student, according to need, available at the start of the academic year. Further support, depending on circumstances, will also be available from a Hardship Fund of £57 million, for students who run into financial difficulties during the course. Hardship Loans will remain available to mature students but they will no longer have to take out a Hardship Loan before receiving support from the Hardship Fund. We will additionally provide an

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income-assessed grant to meet the cost of school meals for students with dependant children aged 4 to 16. We have also decided to ease substantially the income assessment for mature students who will now be able to have £7,500 of their income disregarded without losing entitlement to student support, instead of a minimum of £820.

In 2001-02, three further measures will be introduced to widen access and tackle hardship. We will raise the parental contribution threshold from £17,370 (at 1999-2000 rates) to £20,000, which will mean around 50,000 more families on modest incomes will no longer have to contribute towards their children's higher education. I shall also review the other contribution thresholds. Up to £10 million will be available for non- repayable Bursaries through Access Funds of up to £1,000 for young students from disadvantaged backgrounds, building on schemes already developing at a number of universities. Both these measures will help students from families on low incomes with no history of entry to higher education. We will provide further help for mature students by introducing a means-tested child care grant, based on the actual costs of child care of up to £100 a week per child, for those with dependant children, which will be fully disregarded by the Department of Social Security for benefits purposes.

Where necessary, we will make amendments to the Education (Student Support) Regulations 1999 and the Education (Mandatory Awards) Regulations 1999 to give effect to these changes for 2000-01. Amendments to Regulations to give effect to the changes for 2001-02 will also be made in due course. Changes to the guidance on the use of the Access and Hardship Funds will be given to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and individual Higher Education Institutions, shortly.

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