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Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what oil revenues are available to Iraq for purchasing (a) food and (b) medical supplies under UN sanctions; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hain: Under the UN "oil for food" programme, Iraq can export unlimited amounts of oil to fund the purchase of food, medical supplies and other humanitarian relief. With Iraq now among the world's largest oil producers again, and given that its oil reserves are second only to those of Saudi Arabia, more than $10 billion a year should be available for the humanitarian programme. It is, however, for Iraq to decide how much of that money will be spent on essential food and medicines for the Iraqi people.
Mr. Hain: Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence to export de-mining equipment to Iraq for use by UN personnel in a humanitarian de-mining programme. The export of the equipment was approved by the UN Sanctions Committee under the Oil for Food programme.
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Mr. Hain: The UK requires legislation before we can ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This legislation will be published in draft form in the current Parliamentary session and introduced as soon as the Parliamentary timetable allows.
Mr. Hain: To date the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has been signed by 96 States and ratified by eight. The Court will be established once 60 States ratify. A Preparatory Commission is making good progress and is expected to complete the drafting of two important subsidiary documents to the Statute during its next session in June.
Mr. Vaz: I am pleased to inform the House that the Visa Correspondence Unit's backlog of correspondence with Members has been reduced so that there are now only 45 letters from Members which have not been answered within the 15 working day target, compared to 851 on 27 January. Forty-five is, of course, still too many and we will continue to work to improve our performance.
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking when residents in Gosport will receive their winter fuel payments (WFP).
Our records show that 10.2 million WFPs were issued in November 1999. Of these, around 5 million were issued directly to Post Offices, the remainder were issued to customers home address or direct to their bank accounts. For security reasons, Post Offices were advised to return any uncollected girocheques to the Benefits Agency by 21st December 1999. Approximately 85,000 were returned by the Post Office. My staff have been contacting customers whose payments were returned to ascertain the reason for non-collection and re-issue payments where possible. All payments were made before the end of March with the exception of those where the customer has still not responded to our enquiries.
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Following the ruling in the case of Taylor, the age at which Winter Fuel Payments can be made was to be equalised at 60, and the need to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit is removed. As before, these payments are intended for people who are ordinarily resident in Great Britain.
In order to meet the requirements of the European Court of Justice ruling it was necessary to identify the new beneficiaries from people aged 60 and over and build processes to ensure that this year's payments, and payments for past winters, could be made as soon as possible.
The Secretary of State for Social Security wrote to all MPs on 11 April setting out the planned delivery arrangements to make these payments. As he indicated, the current plan is to begin making payments for past winters from the end of June onwards and to make this coming winter's payments before Christmas.
I hope this is helpful.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what the guidelines are in respect of comments by the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency on decisions by Benefits Agency decision makers on claims for Disability Living Allowance. 
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking what guidelines there are in respect of comments by the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency (BA) on decisions by BA decision makers on claims for disability benefit living allowance.
Decision makers in the BA make decisions fairly and impartially on behalf of the Secretary of State. No one, including myself, can interfere with the decision making process.
This is a long-standing principle designed to ensure that all claims and questions put before decision makers are treated equitably.
I am responsible for monitoring the quality of decision making within the agency and am advised on the quality of decisions taken by an independently chaired Standards Committee.
There will be an annual published report on the quality of decision making in agencies.
I hope this is helpful.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people received Sure Start Maternity Grant in 1999-2000; and how many are expected to receive it in (a) 2000-01 and (b) 2001-02. 
Angela Eagle [holding answer 20 April 2000]: Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) was introduced from 27 March 2000 to replace the £100 Maternity Payment, and is payable for children expected, born or adopted on or after 11 June. Maternity payments will continue for
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children expected, born or adopted before 11 June. Since both Maternity payments and SSMG payments will be made during 2000-01, figures for the two benefits are in the following table for the relevant years.
|Sure Start Maternity Grant||Maternity Payment|
(4) Not yet available
(5) Projected figure
Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when his Department first announced plans to halve child poverty in 10 years and eradicate child poverty in 20 years; and when these targets are due to be met. 
Mr. Bayley: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced our aim to end child poverty in 20 years in the Beveridge Lecture on 18 March 1999. Following this, we published "Opportunity for all" (Cm 4445, September 1999) placing tackling poverty and social exclusion at the heart of this Government's agenda. Reinforcing our commitment to ending child poverty, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced our ambition to halve child poverty "by the end of the next decade" in his 1999 Pre-Budget Report.
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