Mr. Wilson: I have regular discussions with the Minister on a wide range of transport issues. I understand that the Scottish Executive also have frequent contact with the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions in order to discuss issues of common interest, including improvements to the A1.
Dr. Reid: Employers have made an important contribution to the success of the new deal in Scotland, which has helped 29,200 young people into work since April 1998. As at November 2000, 12,530 employers in Scotland had signed up to the new deal.
Mr. Wilson: The amount of the winter fuel payment has been increased to £200 for households that qualify--double the amount that was paid last winter. This is excellent news for the majority of people aged 60 and over in Scotland. Latest information shows that around 1 million people in Scotland will benefit from payments totalling almost £150 million, including over £2.2 million in Aberdeen, South constituency.
Mr. Wilson: Around 1 million people in Scotland aged 60 or more will benefit from the increased winter fuel payment this winter. Latest information shows that almost £150 million will be paid out in Scotland, including over £1.7 million in the Aberdeen, North constituency. This is part of our work to help Scottish pensioners. Other areas are the minimum income guarantee, free TV licences for pensioners aged 75 or over, and the increase in the state pension.
19 Dec 2000 : Column: 155W
majority of people in Scotland aged 60 or over. Latest information shows that payments totalling almost £150 million will be made to over 700,000 households in Scotland, including over £2.2 million in Dundee, West constituency. All automatic payments have already been issued and should be received before Christmas--as should payments in respect of claims determined before 9 November.
Mr. Wilson: This Government recognise that post offices form a vital part of the rural community, and are fully committed to maintaining the existing size and shape of the rural network. We have asked the Post Office to ensure that it prevents any avoidable closures of rural post offices. This obligation will be written into the social and environmental guidelines under the Postal Services Act 2000. Where necessary, there will be funds available to back it up.
The Government are committed to the sustainable development of the rural economy and rural communities. Overall development of the rural economy in Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Executive. However, recent announcements made by the Chancellor in the Pre-Budget Report to abolish Vehicle Excise Duty for tractors, extension of reduced VED for cars under l500 cc and hauliers, and proposed reductions in duty on low sulphur diesel and petrol will help to address the issue of high transport costs in rural areas. This Government also recognise that post offices form a vital part of the rural community, and are fully committed to maintaining the existing size and shape of the rural network.
23. Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from former McDermott employees at the Ardiersier oil fabrication yard on the winding up of their pension plan. 
19 Dec 2000 : Column: 156W
Mr. Page: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if she will list the members of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission and the names of the environment organisations to which they belong. 
Mr. Ian McCartney: A full list of the members of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission and a copy of the register of interests has been placed in the Library of the House. Members are appointed on a personal basis and not as representatives of environmental or other organisations.
Mr. Stringer: The prompt and efficient handling of Members' correspondence is an issue to which I and ministerial colleagues attach the greatest importance. I know that Departments are working hard to improve their response times, and I hope that the forthcoming annual report on Departments handling of Members correspondence (which is due to be presented to Parliament in the Spring) will show that real progress has been made.
Mr. Stringer: I refer the hon. Member to the answer provided on 1 November 1999, Official Report, column 51W. A list of official publications issued by the Cabinet Office since May 1997 was placed in the Library. This list will be updated in the new year with information for 2000-01. I will write to the hon. Member with this information when it has been provided.
19 Dec 2000 : Column: 157W
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what her policy is on authorising ministers and officials to reply to letters from (a) privy councillors, (b) hon. Members and (c) members of the House of Lords; what distinction she makes between members of the opposition and Government supporters; and which categories of correspondents the Prime Minister replies to himself. 
Mr. Stringer: There are long-established conventions governing the handling of correspondence from Privy Councillors and Members of both Houses. These are set out in various guidance documents issued by the Cabinet Office. The most recent guidance document, "Handing Correspondence from Members of Parliament: Guidance for Departments", was published in July 2000. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.