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Mr. Foulkes: This Government have taken major steps to tackle child poverty since 1997. Measures taken include record increases in universal child benefit, which for the first child has risen in real terms by 26 per cent. since 1997; the Children's Tax Credit, which could benefit up to 400,000 families in Scotland; the Working Families Tax Credit which benefits around 110,000 Scottish families; and the National Minimum Wage which benefits around 120,000 workers in Scotland. The Government have also just published a consultation on two new proposals, the Child Trust Fund and the Saving Gateway, which will take further steps to tackle child poverty.
Mrs. Liddell: I have regular contact with the First Minister to discuss a wide range of issues. The Government and the Scottish Executive have already committed additional support for Dumfries and Galloway and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Government and with the Scottish Executive to promote the message that "Scotland is open for business".
Mrs. Liddell: I have met with a wide range of people to discuss the Scottish textiles industry. While I am enthusiastic about the extremely high quality of much of Scotland's textiles industry, we have to understand that we cannot compete on costs alone, particularly against low-waged economies. I shall continue to support efforts to promote our excellent textiles industry and to develop new and existing markets which will help to ensure a prosperous and secure future for the industry.
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20. Mrs. Ray Michie: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the implementation of the European charter for regional or minority languages regarding the Gaelic language; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Foulkes: The Government have made our commitment to the promotion and development of the Gaelic language clear by ratifying the Charter; and we are working with the Scottish Executive to take forward its implementation.
Mrs. Liddell: I have regular contact with the Ministry of Defence on a range of issues. Scotland continues to benefit, directly and indirectly, from Ministry of Defence employment and spending. On the basis of the most recent figures available, defence expenditure in Scotland is estimated at approximately £1.8 billion and supports, directly and indirectly, approximately 60,000 jobs. Clearly defence expenditure is both substantial and important to the Scottish economy.
22. Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement about the responsibilities of her Department in relation to the handling of the foot and mouth outbreak in Scotland. 
Mrs. Liddell: The handling of the foot and mouth outbreak in Scotland is a matter for the Scottish Executive in conjunction with the State Veterinary Service and the armed forces. My Department stand ready to assist in any way including the representation of Scottish interests in Whitehall.
Mr. Foulkes: The Office for National Statistics' latest estimate of low pay (combining New Earning Survey and Labour Force Survey statistics) show 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 120,000 workers in Scotland.
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The Advocate-General for Scotland: From 3 April to 30 April, 31 devolution issue cases have been intimated to me. Twenty two of these related to delay in criminal proceedings. I have considered each one and judged that no intervention was appropriate.
The Advocate-General for Scotland: I examine every devolution issue intimated to me before determining whether or not to intervene. The criteria I apply are not rigid, and generally I intervene, at appeal or Privy Council level, where the case raises important issues of principle for the UK as a whole. Many cases involving devolution issues raise similar points and are dealt with satisfactorily by the lower courts and therefore I intervene less frequently at first instance.
45. Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council what recent discussions she has had with the chairman of the House of Lords Appointments Commission on giving rejected applicants for a people's peerage the reasons for their rejection if the applicant so requests. 
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council what the length of tenure of the Chairman of the House of Lords Appointments Commission is; and what plans she has to change the way his successor is selected. 
Mrs. Beckett: Three years. There are no plans to change the way a chairman of the present Appointments Commission might be selected in the future, since the procedure followed the requirements of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council if the House of Lords Appointments Commission intends to interview persons recommended for peerages by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. 
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Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council what criteria will be used by the House of Lords Appointments Commission in deciding whether to accept persons recommended for peerages by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. 
Mrs. Beckett: The Commission carries out the role hitherto exercised by the political Honours Scrutiny Committee. It will look at all persons put forward by the political parties to ensure that they meet the highest standards of propriety. I understand that the Commission has said that it will seek assurances that someone is not and never has been a threat to national security, that he or she has complied in a straightforward way with obligations in relation to taxation and the receipt of benefits and the Commission will take into account any serious criminal offences. Information will also be sought as to any donations made to the party concerned by the individual recommended. The commission has set its approach in a published information pack and on its website.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council on what dates in the current year the House of Lords Appointments Commission plans to undertake regional road shows to encourage potential people's peers to apply. 
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Council by what method the Chairman of the House of Lords Appointments Commission was selected; what qualities were sought from applicants; who was involved in the preliminary sift of applications and in the final selection; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. Beckett: The Chairman of the House of Lords Appointments Commission was selected by an open selection process conducted in accordance with the rules of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (the "Nolan principles"). The advertisement for the Chairman specified that the Government were looking for someone who:
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