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Mr. Paul Murphy: The Wales Office is committed to treating the Welsh and English languages on a basis of equality. Office publications, such as the Departmental Report and Service Delivery Agreement, are already made available in both languages. The office will always reply in Welsh to anyone who writes in Welsh and telephone calls in Welsh are always transferred to a Welsh speaker where available. If no Welsh speaker is available at the time of the call, the call can be returned later by a Welsh speaker.
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The Wales Office is committed to doing more to provide a fully bilingual service to the people of Wales, and to that end, the office plans to publish a draft Welsh Language Scheme for consultation during 2001.
The schemes to benefit from this extension will be: New Deal 25+--this will make all over-25s who have been on Jobseekers Allowance for at least 18 months eligible for the New Deal; New Deal for Lone Parents--the extension will potentially help around 50,000 lone parents in Wales; New Deal for Disabled People--which will be extended to all those claiming invalidity benefit.
23. Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with pensioners' organisations in Wales about pension levels and take-up of the Minimum Income Guarantee. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: I met the National Association of Pensioners in Wales on 7 June last year to discuss pensions, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State met members of the Age Concern focus groups recently to discuss a range of issues affecting older people in Wales.
The Minimum Income Guarantee, putting a floor under pensioners incomes, is rising to £92 for a single pensioner and £140.55 for couples. This will increase again in April 2003, and will help tackle pensioner poverty in 105,000 pensioner households in Wales. 10,000 more pensioners in Wales will be eligible, and benefits for the 95,000 pensioners currently eligible will be increased.
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The Chancellor's Budget announced on 7 March 2001 a package of measures such as help to manage SMEs entry into the VAT system, reduce burdens and improve their cash flow, which will benefit many of the 140,000 SMEs in Wales.
19. Mr. Rowlands: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he intends to meet the chief executive of the Wales European Funding Office to discuss the implementation of Objective 1 programmes. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: I last met with John Clark, the Chief Executive of the Wales European Funding Office, on 29 January 2001. I was pleased to learn that WEFO are making good progress in implementing Objective 1 in Wales and that utilisation of the programme has been achieved faster in Wales than anywhere else in the UK. Importantly, this has been achieved in Wales through a partnership between private, public and voluntary sectors.
21. Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly about direct payments to head teachers in Wales, as announced in the Budget. 
My hon. Friend and I are very pleased that Wales will receive an additional £100 million over the next three years as a result of the Budget's additional spending on key public services. It will of course be for the Assembly to allocate the funds according to its own priorities.
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The Prime Minister confirmed on 14 March that areas that have been affected by large scale redundancies will be helped by a job transition service (JTS). This JTS will focus on matching skills of those made jobless to the jobs offered in the changing economy.
In addition, areas affected by steel and other significant job losses currently have access to an on-site jobshop to offer help with all aspects of job search, training and benefits advice, staffed by the Employment Service Rapid Response Unit.
28. Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what advice and assistance his Department gives to EU applicant countries within whose boundaries there are linguistic minorities, about his programmes to protect and promote Welsh; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Paul Murphy: The UK Government are always ready to consider sympathetically requests for assistance from applicant countries. So far, my Department has not received any requests for advice in respect of the position of minority languages. Should we do so, I would be very happy to share our experience of Welsh language policy.
Sir Brian Mawhinney: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the Ministers in his Department who visited any of the constituencies which are in the Peterborough unitary authority area between 1 January 2000 and 14 February 2001, indicating in each case (a) the date of the visit, (b) the constituencies included in the visit and (c) if the local hon. Member met the Minister. 
Mr. Timms [holding answer 26 February 2001]: I visited Peterborough on 22 January 2001. During the course of my visit I met the hon. Member for Peterborough, (Mrs. Brinton). There were no other visits to the area during this period by Treasury Ministers on Government business.
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Important reports from the panel over the last 12 months include research into putting consumers at the heart of public services, attitudes to public services in deprived areas, public services and ethnic minorities and extended opening hours.
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