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NORTHERN IRELAND

Omagh Bombing (Police Investigation)

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many RUC detectives are engaged (a) full-time and (b) part-time on the Omagh Bomb. [114936]

Mr. Ingram: The number of officers actively engaged in this investigation has varied at different times to meet the needs of inquiries. All appropriate resources have been made available throughout the investigation. I am advised that there are currently 20 detective officers working full-time on the inquiry team, all on a full-time basis.

Social Fund

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the Northern Ireland social fund discretionary budget will be for 2000-01. [120910]

Mr. George Howarth: I am pleased to announce that the social fund gross discretionary budget for 2000-01 will be £45.95 million. £10.06 million will be allocated to grants; £35.79 million to loans and £0.1 million will be held as a contingency reserve. The new allocations represent an increase of £3.13 million over the initial gross budget set at April 1999.

The Community Care Grant (CCG) budget has been increased by £0.2 million to £10.06 million. This will provide more help to CCG applicants, in particular families with children and the disabled.

The loans budget has been increased to £35.79 million, an increase of £2.93 million on the initial 1999-2000 loans budget. To improve the fairness of the scheme budgets will be allocated in a way that will, over time, achieve greater consistency of outcome for applicants wherever they live.

Details of the individual District budget allocations, together with a note explaining the basis on which they have been made, have been placed in the Library today.

Patten Proposals

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, when he publishes his Implementation Plan for the Patten proposals, he will list those items on which the Chief Constable has already started out. [120648]

Mr. Ingram: The Implementation Plan will show the items where the Chief Constable has the lead responsibility for taking work forward and any progress which has already been made.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, when he publishes his Implementation Plan for the Patten proposals he will indicate those proposals which have human rights and equality implications that have been referred to the Human Rights and Equality Commissions and their replies in each case. [120649]

Mr. Ingram: The Implementation Plan will set out for each recommendation which has been accepted, the programme of work required and who has the lead responsibility for taking the work forward. It will be for

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those with the lead responsibility to consult and work with the Human Rights and Equality Commissions, as appropriate, in taking the work forward.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if on the date he publishes the proposed legislation to implement the Patten report and the implementation plan he will name the Oversight Commissioner and the Commissioner's assistants. [120644]

Mr. Ingram: The search for a suitable candidate for appointment as Oversight Commissioner is in hand. The Government will make an announcement in due course.

Police Services

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will promote a competition between the schools and colleges of Northern Ireland to design a politically neutral new badge and insignia for the Police Services of Northern Ireland. [120650]

Mr. Ingram: No.

Elections

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps have been taken to introduce a proportional representation system of voting for parliamentary elections in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [119564]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I have been asked to reply.

We have made it clear that any change to the voting system used for elections to the House of Commons would first require the endorsement of the people of the United Kingdom in a referendum.

PRIME MINISTER

Engagements

Mr. Martlew: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 3 May. [119396]

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 3 May. [120345]

The Prime Minister: This morning I met Nelson Mandela as well as having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I will have further such meetings later today.

Performance and Innovation Unit

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Prime Minister what the Government have done to implement the findings of the Performance and Innovation Unit in respect of (a) the rural economy, (b) e-commerce, (c) management of cross-cutting policies and (d) analysis and modelling in central Government. [119952]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 20 April 2000]: The Government take the implementation of the conclusions of Performance and Innovation Unit reports very seriously. Where appropriate, project reports contain implementation plans, including lead responsibilities and timetables for action.

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In respect of each of the reports the hon. Member refers to:


(a) Rural economies--the report, "Rural Economies", was published in December 1999 and invited comments on a number of issues for discussion. These are being considered as part of the work on the Rural White Paper;
(b) e-commerce--the report e-commerce@itsbest.uk was published in September 1999. The e-Minister and e-envoy are charged with taking forward the recommendations. A detailed implementation plan is published on the e-envoy's website (www.e-envoy.gov.uk) and updated monthly.
(c) cross-cutting policies--the report "Wiring it up: Whitehall's Management of Cross-cutting Policies and Services" was published in January 2000. My right hon. Friends the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Minister for the Cabinet Office have been asked to submit a progress report by early 2001;
(d) analysis and modelling--the report "Adding it up: Improving Analysis and Modelling in central Government" was published in January 2000. A group chaired by the Head of the Government Economic Service is overseeing progress with implementation.

Copies of these reports are available in the Libraries of the House.

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Prime Minister what subjects are currently being examined by the Performance and Innovation Unit. [119954]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 20 April 2000]: The Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) is currently undertaking the following projects: the Post Office network; Trade and Social, Health and Environmental Objectives on the Global Stage; the Pursuit and Seizure of Criminal Assets; Strategic Options for the Electronic Delivery of Government Services; and Effective Leadership in Delivering Public Services. The PIU is also providing support to the review of adoption. The completed project on Active Ageing was published on 27 April.

Social Exclusion Unit

Mr. Lansley: To ask the Prime Minister what work is currently being done by the Social Exclusion Unit. [119957]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 20 April 2000]: In December 1999 I announce the findings of the review of the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) and I set out the following priorities for their work programme: to complete the current programme work to develop the national strategy for neighbourhood renewal, including oversight of the 18 policy action teams; to be closely involved in establishing the arrangements for implementation of the strategy after it is announced in the summer of 2000, and to work closely with HM Treasury and other Government Departments to ensure that the 2000 Spending Review reflects the priority the Government give to tackling poverty and social exclusion.

At the same time I asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office to chair the Ministerial Network on Social Exclusion, which was given a new remit to chase progress across Government on implementation of past SEU reports, as well as acting as an informal sounding board for the unit's future work programme.

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On 12 April, the SEU published a framework version of the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, for consultation. The framework sets out proposals which aim to arrest the wholesale decline of the most deprived neighbourhoods; reverse it; and prevent it from recurring.

The SEU will be consulting on those proposals until the end of June. Then, following the publication of the results of the Government's Spending Review in July, the unit will set out the final strategy and give details of how it will be taken forward.

The SEU is working closely with the implementing Departments on ensuring that the action arising from the reports is carried out, to time. The SEU is regularly reviewing progress against action plans and works with the teams to unblock obstacles to progress both inside and outside of Whitehall.

The unit is also undertaking initial scoping of possible topics for a future work programme, which I will announce in the summer.


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