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County Courts

40. Mr. Brady: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement on proposed closures of county courts. [146221]

Mr. Lock: The Court Service constantly reviews its estates in the light of workload trends, the state of the available facilities and the local court users' needs.

On 15 February I published a consultation paper, "Modernising the Civil Courts". I hope the hon. Gentleman has read it and will take the time to respond.

Robert Schuman Project

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department which UK bodies receive moneys under the Robert Schuman Project on improving the awareness of community law within the legal professions. [147515]

Mr. Lock: Information concerning UK beneficiaries in the years 1997 and 1998 was contained in my written answer of 3 March 2000, Official Report, column 420W. There were no UK beneficiaries in 1999.

In 2000, the following were selected for assistance: The General Council of the Bar of England and Wales, University College Northampton.

Hinduja Brothers

Mr. Chope: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department on what date the Lord Chancellor was guest of honour at a party at 80 Haymarket given by Mr. Srichand Hinduja and Mr. Gopichand Hinduja; and at whose instigation the party was arranged. [148002]

Mr. Lock: I refer the hon. Member to the written answer given to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on 29 January 2001, Official Report, column 71W.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he was first informed that Mr. Srichand Hinduja had submitted an application for citizenship to the Home Office. [148001]

Mr. Lock: Neither I nor the Lord Chancellor were informed at any time, or took any part in the application.

Employment Tribunals

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if Lucy Crone, part-time chairman of an employment tribunal, is a member of the Law Society of Scotland; and if he will make a statement on her credentials with respect to practising in Scottish law and holding the post of chairman of an employment tribunal. [147534]

Mr. Alan Johnson [holding answer 26 January 2001]: I have been asked to reply.

30 Jan 2001 : Column: 155W

Part-time chairmen of employment tribunals in Scotland are appointed by the Lord President of the Court of Session in accordance with Section 5a of the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 1993.

It would not be proper for me to comment on the credentials of a chairman with respect to practising Scottish law or holding office. However, I understand that Lucy Crone is a lawyer of many years standing who effectively carried out the role of a chairman in Scotland. She was not reappointed after 31 December 2000 and, although she is not a member of the Law Society of Scotland, I understand that she has practised in Scotland as a representative in front of employment tribunals for a period in excess of seven years.

SCOTLAND

Anti-drugs Strategy

4. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions she has had with the First Minister concerning the Government's anti-drugs strategy. [146183]

Mr. Foulkes: The Secretary of State and I have already met with the First Minister and discussed a range of topics and will meet with him regularly in the future, starting on Thursday.

Employment (West Dumbartonshire)

5. Mr. McFall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made on the Employment Service initiative 'Action for Jobs' in the West Dumbartonshire council area. [146184]

Mrs. Liddell: Early indications are that Action Teams are proving a success in helping unemployed people back to work. The Action Team in West Dumbartonshire has helped 60 long-term unemployed people find work since it started in October 2000.

Unemployment

6. Mr. Ernie Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement on the trend in the level of unemployment in Scotland since May 1997. [146185]

Mr. Foulkes: Unemployment in Scotland is at its lowest level since February 1976 and has fallen by 46,900 since spring 1997.

Working Families Tax Credit

7. Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people in Glasgow, Baillieston are in receipt of Working Families Tax Credit. [146186]

Mr. Foulkes: In August 2000, there were about 2,000 families receiving Working Families Tax Credit in Glasgow, Baillieston.

Minimum Wage

8. Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what impact the national minimum wage has had on wage rates in Scotland. [146187]

30 Jan 2001 : Column: 156W

Mrs. Liddell: The Office for National Statistics' latest estimate of low pay shows that the national minimum wage is having a direct and beneficial impact on the pay of the lowest paid workers in Scotland. The latest data also show that it has helped close the gap between the highest and lowest earners and helped reduce the differential between men's and women's pay. This has been achieved without any discernible adverse impact on the economy. The minimum wage has benefited at least 110,000 workers in Scotland.

Dounreay

9. Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will hold local consultations on the UK Atomic Energy Authority's site restoration plan for Dounreay which was published on 9 October 2000. [146188]

Mrs. Liddell: The UK Atomic Energy Authority has initiated a series of consultation meetings on its proposals with the local and community councils and with other local interests. The authority has also indicated its intention to consult on key elements of the plan as and when individual projects are being considered.

UKAEA's Site Restoration Plan for Dounreay will be subject to approval by the Nuclear Industries Inspectorate, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry over the coming months.

Gaelic Broadcasting

10. Mrs. Ray Michie: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations she has made to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the future of Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland. [146189]

Mr. Foulkes: Our predecessors made a number of representations to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the future of Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland. The Communications White Paper published on 12 December set out the Government's commitment to considering the recommendations of the Gaelic Broadcasting Taskforce Report and we will announce our response in due course.

Highlands and Islands Economy

11. Mrs. Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment she has made of the impact of the level of fuel prices on the economy of the highlands and islands. [146190]

Mr. Foulkes: The level of fuel prices is only one of a number of factors, which impact upon the highlands and islands economy, and needs to be seen in the context of overall UK fiscal policy.

The measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his pre-Budget report will bring significant benefits to the highland and islands economy. Notably, the extension of the lower rate of vehicle excise duty to include cars up to 1500cc will benefit over 40,000 motorists in the highlands and islands.

30 Jan 2001 : Column: 157W

Fuel duty will be frozen for two years and reduced for cleaner fuels. Hauliers will benefit from the proposed reform of vehicle excise duty and the freeze in duty on "red" diesel. The abolition of Vehicle Excise Duty on tractors and other agricultural vehicles will benefit around 9,000 agricultural producers in the highlands and islands.

Civil Service Transfers

12. Mr. Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what consultation she has had with the First Minister on arrangements made between the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive regarding Civil Service transfers. [146191]

Mrs. Liddell: My Department is a member of the Scottish Administration Employment Network, which brings together the various departments and agencies with common employment interests, and of the Scottish Interchange Network, which promotes staff loans among Government Departments in Scotland.

New Deal

13. Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement about the New Deal 50 plus in Scotland. [146192]

Mrs. Liddell: The introduction of New Deal 50 plus has proved an effective means of helping people over 50 return to work. 3,061 people aged 50 and over have entered work and benefited from the programme in the form of employment credits of up to £60 per week which guarantee a minimum full-time wage of £9,000 per annum.

14. Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people in Scotland have secured jobs in Scotland as a result of the New Deal; and if she will make a statement. [146193]

Mrs. Liddell: The New Deal has been a tremendous success in Scotland with nearly 45,000 people going into jobs as a result of their participation in the New Deal for Young People, New Deal 25 plus, New Deal for Lone Parents and New Deal 50 plus.

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what the total cost of the New Deal Scotland was in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999 and (d) 2000 and the budgeted cost for (i) 2000-01, (ii) 2001-02 and (iii) 2002-03. [145651]

Ms Jowell: I have been asked to reply.

Expenditure for all New Deals in Scotland is: 1997-98 £1.3 million; 1998-99 £21.0 million; 1999-2000 £48.0 million and anticipated expenditure for 2000-01 £53.5 million. The estimated budget allocation for 2001-02 is £63.6 million. It is not possible to provide an estimate of Scotland's New Deal budget for 2002-03 because this information about future years funding is available only at GB level.

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what the average cost has been of the New Deal scheme per number of jobs created in Scotland. [145652]

Ms Jowell: I have been asked to reply.

New Deal is not a job creation scheme. By the end of October 2000 the cost per person moving into work has been on average approximately £4,000.

30 Jan 2001 : Column: 158W

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what the average cost has been for an individual to complete the New Deal scheme. [145653]

Ms Jowell: I have been asked to reply.

To the end of October 2000 the New Deal for Young People (NDYP) has cost on average approximately £2,000 for each participant who has started the programme.


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