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Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will estimate the cost savings for (a) his Department as a whole and (b) embassies and high commissions, of the use of IT, including e-mail, in the past year. [130123]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 13 July 2000]: In the past year the benefit to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office resulting from prior investment in IT is estimated at (a) £20 million for whole Department, of which (b) over £11 million was overseas.

These figures include new cost savings last year of £0.5 million in the UK messenger service, resulting in part from the use of e-mail. They do not include savings which will accrue once our new Information and Communications Technology infrastructure is in place.

Overseas Prisoners (British Nationals)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British nationals were in prison overseas on 1 July; and if he will list the country and the offence committed in each case. [130526]

Mr. Hain: As of 1 July, we were aware of 2,750 British nationals in prison overseas. Around 40 per cent. of these prisoners were convicted of drugs related offences.

To list the countries and offences for which each prisoner was convicted would incur disproportionate costs.

17 Jul 2000 : Column: 23W

British Council

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to increase the Government grant to the British Council. [131058]

Mr. Hain: The British Council has a good case for increased funding. In the current Spending Review my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been pressing for a significant increase in funding for the Council, as for the BBC World Service and the FCO as a whole.

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much the Government grant-in-aid was to the British Council in Greece in (a) 1995-96 and (b) the latest year for which figures are available, together with the percentage change in the grant-in-aid to the British Council in Greece in real terms over the same period. [131055]

Mr. Hain: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides the British Council with grant-in-aid funding for its activities world-wide; the Council decides on its distribution, in consultation with this Department. In 1995-96 the Council allocated £1.9 million of the grant-in-aid to Greece; in 1999-2000 the figure is £1.4 million. This represents a decrease in real terms of 37 per cent. The total British Council budget in Greece in recent years has been boosted by substantial revenue- earning activity, chiefly in administering examinations and teaching English.

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the contribution made towards his Department's objectives by the British Council in Greece. [131056]

Mr. Hain: The primary focus of the British Council's work in Greece is on co-operation in education and promoting the United Kingdom as a dynamic, modern partner. This is fully in line with the FCO's objectives.

Diplomatic Cars

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list HM missions overseas that maintain a (a) Rolls-Royce, (b) Daimler and (c) Bentley motor car. [131057]

Mr. Battle: There are currently 11 Rolls-Royce cars and four Daimlers in use in Her Majesty's missions overseas.

They are detailed as listed:

DhakaDaimlerAt Post
GibraltarDaimlerAt Post
IslamabadDaimlerAt Post
Kuala LumpurDaimlerAt Post
BerlinRolls-RoyceAt Post
BrusselsRolls-RoyceAt Post
CairoRolls-RoyceAt Post
Hong KongRolls-RoyceAt Post
New DelhiRolls-RoyceAt Post
New YorkRolls-RoyceAt Post
PekingRolls-RoyceAt Post
RiyadhRolls-RoyceAt Post
SingaporeRolls-RoyceAt Post
TokyoRolls-RoyceAt Post
WashingtonRolls-RoyceAt Post

17 Jul 2000 : Column: 24W


National Insurance

Mr. Webb: To ask the President of the Council what has been the policy since 1989 on writing annually to those of her Department's staff who are paying reduced rates of National Insurance contributions, reminding them of the rules governing the payment of reduced rates, as recommended in the Inland Revenue guidance note on reduced rate National Insurance contributions for married women. [129481]

Mrs. Beckett: My Department currently has no members of staff paying reduced rates of National Insurance contributions, and has had no such staff since 1989. The policy would be to follow the Inland Revenue guidance note if such circumstances were to arise.

Appointments Commission

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council what definition of ethnicity the Appointments Commission will use in taking forward the proposals by the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords to make the House of Lords more representative of the United Kingdom population. [130630]

Mrs. Beckett: The present Appointments Commission was appointed in accordance with the Government's proposals in "Modernising Parliament: Reforming the House of Lords" (Cm 4183, January 1999) and is unconnected with the Royal Commission's proposals. It will publish the details of how it intends to fulfil its remit in due course.


Call Centres

Mr. Etherington: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he is taking to (a) monitor and (b) improve working conditions and health and safety standards for call centre industry employees. [130200]

Mr. Meacher: I have been asked to reply

The responsibility for monitoring and ensuring appropriate health and safety standards in the call centre industry rests with local authorities. Local authorities enforce the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and other relevant statutory provisions made under it, in call centre premises.

HSE has commissioned the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to conduct further detailed study of call centre working conditions. This will be reporting in spring 2001 and will result in further guidance to local authorities on the enforcement of health and safety law in these premises.

Internet Regulation

Mr. Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received from industry in the last three months concerning the regulation of the internet. [130939]

17 Jul 2000 : Column: 25W

Ms Hewitt: The Department of Trade and Industry receives regular representations on various aspects of internet regulation. In the last three months, the main topics have been domain names and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill.

The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport invited comments by 23 June from industry and others on the Communications White Paper, which will consider the issue of offensive and illegal content on the internet.

Import Tariffs

Mr. Gill: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the level is of each import tariff imposed on British exports to the United States of America. [130849]

Mr. Caborn: The information requested could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

However, some data are available on average tariffs applicable to imports of industrial products from all Most Favoured Nation trading partners following the Uruguay Round negotiations which took place during 1986-93. The simple average of all US industrial tariff rates (excluding petroleum products) after the Uruguay Round Agreement was 3.9 per cent.

In the case of agricultural products, tariffs are not the main means of protecting domestic producers from overseas competition, and any available tariff data are likely to give a misleading indication of the openness of the market in question.

Miners' Compensation Claims

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for what reasons Mr. Onllwyn Glyndwr Williams, a constituent, is not yet in receipt of his compensation from British Coal; and if he will make a statement. [130295]

Mrs. Liddell: Mr. Williams underwent spirometry testing, the first stage of the assessment process, at home on 1 December last year. In light of the results the Department made Mr. Williams an expedited offer, in full and final settlement of his claim, which he chose to reject and he has since elected to proceed through the medical testing, the second stage of the assessment process. IRISC, the Department's claim handling agents, subsequently forwarded the necessary forms to Mr. Williams' solicitor. The forms have been returned and once Mr. Williams' medical records have been collected an appointment will be made for a respiratory specialist to attend his home to carry out the assessment.

As with most claimants who choose to reject an expedited offer Mr. Williams received a further interim payment of compensation in addition to that which he had originally received in June 1998.

17 Jul 2000 : Column: 26W

To date the Department has received nearly 110,000 claims from former miners and their families. Of these some 22,516 claimants have received interim or full and final payments in settlement of general damages totalling over £64 million.

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much has been paid from 1970 to date to members of the legal and medical professions in connection with the miners' compensation claims against British Coal; and if he will make a statement. [130294]

Mrs. Liddell: Prior to 1996 British Coal Corporation did not make a provision in their annual reports for personal injury and health claims. In their last report before the Department assumed responsibility for the health liabilities the Corporation made a provision of £34 million, as they considered there was considerable uncertainty with regard to both the Corporation's liability and the potential damages.

Since assuming the liabilities in January 1998 some £12.5 million has been incurred by the Department in relation principally to Counsel, external solicitors, medical experts and medical assessments. In addition some £23.3 million has paid in legal fees and trial costs to solicitors acting on behalf of claimants.

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