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Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment she has made of the level of corruption in India. [147213]

Clare Short: Corruption is widespread in India at every level of public life, as in most developing countries, reflecting weak financial and administration systems. Rent seeking and other forms of corruption hit poor people particularly hard and have a significant impact on their economy.

The Union and State Governments of India are beginning to take anti-corruption measures beyond those that already exist in the form of statutory audit bodies and Vigilance Commissions. State Governments such as those of Andhra Pradesh and Medhya Pradesh, with both of whom DFID is working in partnership, are placing an increasing focus on good governance initiatives, including anti-corruption. Anti-corruption strategies are also being developed in a number of national public institutions.

DFID is supporting a number of strategic initiatives in all four of our partner states which will directly help reduce corruption. These initiatives include the introduction of VAT and revenue enhancement measures; increasing political accountability through decentralisation and local decision-making; the redesign of public expenditure management systems including procurement and audit functions; and improved service delivery including the introduction of electronic governance bringing services directly to the poor. Our support for public enterprise reform will help reduce corrupt practices in public utilities through the introduction of sound, commercial practices and the creation of an effective regulatory framework. At the national level, in supporting health and education programmes, DFID has helped give priority to the introduction and strengthening of transparent transaction processes. We are also discussing support for broader governance initiatives that will help reduce corruption.


Hinduja Brothers

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department which Ministers and officials in his Department have (a) been contacted by and (b) contacted (i) Mr. G. P. Hinduja and (ii) Mr. S. P. Hinduja since 2 May 1997; if he will list the occasions on which there was such contact; and if he will make a statement. [148196]

Jane Kennedy: It is not the normal practice of the Government to release details of meetings or discussions with private individuals or companies. All relevant papers will be made available to the inquiry being conducted by Sir Anthony Hammond QC.

Lay Magistrates

Mr. Sawford: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to encourage future recruitment and retention of lay magistrates. [147692]

5 Feb 2001 : Column: 410W

Jane Kennedy: Through his advisory committees, my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor already undertakes a range of initiatives to attract people from all sections of the community, including advertising in the local press, talks on local radio, and contacting local organisations.

Court open days also stimulate the public's interest in applying to be a magistrate. The Lord Chancellor and I encourage magistrates courts committees to consider holding these on a regular basis. My officials are also currently developing a national recruitment strategy with the Magistrates Association and others to optimise the effectiveness of future initiatives. Through these initiatives most advisory committees attract sufficient new magistrates to replace those who retire or resign.

Following an equality audit of the policies and procedures surrounding the appointment of magistrates the Lord Chancellor has instructed officials to introduce exit questionnaires which will allow us to find out in more detail the reasons why people resign, so that we can identify common concerns and take action. The aim is to have these in place by April 2001.


New Deal

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people obtained full employment as a result of the new deal scheme in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999 and (d) 2000. [145654]

Ms Jowell: I have been asked to reply.

Latest figures from the start of new deal for young people in 1998 to the end of October 2000 are summarised in the following table:

Number obtaining employment

We know that many young people leave the programme for employment without telling the Employment Service: these people are not included in the figures. Over 80 per cent of jobs obtained are unsubsidised.


Public Interest Immunity Certificates

Sir Nicholas Lyell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many public interest immunity certificates (a) he, (b) Ministers of State, (c) junior Ministers and (d) civil servants in his Department have signed in each calendar year from 30 May 1997. [147732]

Miss Melanie Johnson [holding answer 30 January 2001]: Treasury Ministers and officials have not signed any public interest immunity certificates since 30 May 1997.

5 Feb 2001 : Column: 411W


Mr. Clappison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what conclusions were arrived at during the ECOFIN of 19 January 2001 regarding political agreement on excise duties on mineral oil. [148542]

Mr. Timms: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Economic Secretary on 29 January 2001, Official Report, columns 42-43W.

National Debt

Miss Geraldine Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the national debt was on (a) 2 May 1997 and (b) 31 January. [148972]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Public sector net debt has fallen from 43.4 per cent. of GDP on 30 April 1997 to 32.9 per cent of GDP on 31 December 2000, the latest period for which figures are available.

Capital Gains Tax

Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the estimate of cost of capital gains tax exemption at death published in the Treasury's 'Tax Ready Reckoner' in November 2000 assumes all normal capital gains tax rules apply; and if he will make a statement. [148663]

Dawn Primarolo: The estimate reflects the main features of the capital gains tax regime which would apply assuming disposal of assets at date of death.

Public Bodies Reserves (Wales)

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what guidelines he has issued to the National Assembly for Wales on the appropriate level of reserves which may be held by public bodies. [148851]

Mr. Andrew Smith: The funding arrangements for the devolved Administrations are set out in the Statement of Funding Policy published in July 2000. It is for the National Assembly for Wales to decide how to allocate its budget, including any reserve it may decide to hold within its Departmental Expenditure Limit.

Working Families Tax Credit

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many families in Crosby are in receipt of the Working Families Tax Credit. [148334]

Dawn Primarolo: I refer my hon. Friend to my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) on 22 January 2001, Official Report, column 425W.

Children's Tax Credit

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps are being taken to maximize take-up of the Children's Tax Credit. [148120]

Dawn Primarolo: Most people who are eligible for the Children's Tax Credit have already claimed. However, the Inland Revenue has started a publicity campaign involving TV, Radio and the Press to remind people who pay tax through PAYE to send in a claim quickly if they have not done so already.

5 Feb 2001 : Column: 412W

Tax Credits (Payroll Software)

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received about problems with the information on the Working Families Tax Credit and the Disabled Person's Tax Credit provided to payroll software suppliers by the Inland Revenue. [148485]

Dawn Primarolo: I am not aware of any representations on this matter.

Museums and Galleries

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the potential cost to public funds of extending section 33 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 to cover national museums and galleries. [147431]

Dawn Primarolo [holding answer 26 January 2001]: Discussions are ongoing on what is a complex issue. No decisions or accurate estimates have been made.

Indebted Countries

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the countries for which debt has been written off by Britain, together with the amounts written off in each case. [148121]

Miss Melanie Johnson: The UK has written off, and is writing off, debt through multilateral initiatives such as the HIPC initiative, and through additional bilateral initiatives. Under the HIPC initiative the UK stands ready to write off all £1.9 billion still owed to the UK by the 41 countries potentially eligible. This is in addition to the £400 million of ECGD debt already written off under previous initiatives, and the £350 million of aid debt already written off for HIPCs. This aid debt is shown in the table.

£ million

Aid debt cancelled
Countries at Decision Point
Countries not yet at Decision Point
Cote D'Ivoire3.5
Sierra Leone10.4

The amount of the £1.9 billion written off at a given stage depends on progress through the HIPC initiative. When a country reaches the first stage, known as Decision Point, the UK provides 100 per cent. relief on all payments due. When a country then reaches Completion Point all debt is irrevocably written off.

5 Feb 2001 : Column: 413W

On 2 December the Chancellor announced in addition that for all countries not yet at Decision Point, any payments made will be held in trust and returned when they can show that the savings from debt relief will lead to poverty reduction.

An irrevocable commitment to 100 per cent. reduction has been made in respect of Uganda, who reached Completion Point under the HIPC initiative in 2000, and who previously owed the UK £5.5 million. Uganda has also had around £5 million of former-CDC debt cancelled.

The UK is providing 100 per cent. interim relief on payments in respect of £700 million of debt, owed by HIPC countries that have reached Decision Point under the HIPC initiative on the basis of a commitment to poverty reduction, but which are yet to reach Completion Point. The debt owed to ECGD by these countries is as follows:

£ million
Sao Tome et Principe0

Interim relief is also being given to these countries on around £60 million of debt formerly held by CDC plc.

In respect of Burkina Faso, which owes the UK £1.0 million, interim relief has been suspended in light of the continuing role of the Government of Burkina Faso in undermining the peace process in Sierra Leone. Payments from Burkina Faso will be held in trust.

Nineteen countries have not so far qualified for debt reduction, in most cases because of conflict. In respect of a further £1.3 billion of debt owed by these countries, the Government have announced that no further benefit will accrue to the UK. Payments will be held in trust and earmarked for spending in support of poverty reduction strategies once those countries have reached DP. The debt owed to ECGD by these countries is as follows:

£ million
Central African Republic0.5
DR Congo165.5
Cote D'Ivoire48.0
Laos PDR0
Sierra Leone3.6

5 Feb 2001 : Column: 414W

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