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16. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State if he will make a statement on the social exclusion unit's study into the role of transport in welfare-to-work policies. 
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The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, on 13 March 2002, Official Report, column 1068W.
17. Dr. Cable: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State what guidance he has given to Ministers on the public disclosure of business secondees to the civil service. 
Mr. Leslie: I have not issued any guidance to Ministers. However, Sir Richard Wilson, in agreement with permanent secretaries, decided that guidance should be issued to all Departments on the disclosure of business secondments to the civil service. As a result, the Cabinet Office Interchange Unit has issued guidance to all Departments stating that they should meet all requests for disclosure of information, except in circumstances where there is a "public interest" objection to the disclosure, or where it would not be in accordance with the terms of the Data Protection Act, particularly Schedule 2.
18. Mr. Todd: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State what steps he is taking to improve the performance of managers of public services. 
Mr. Leslie: New performance management systems are being introduced into the civil service which are competency based, focused on improving performance and rewarding achievement.
The Office of Public Services Reform is examining existing skills and incentives in the public sector and has projects under way focusing on improving skills such as project management.
19. Dr. Murrison: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State what plans he has to implement the Government's commitment to the regulation by Parliament of the number and role of special advisers. 
20. Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State pursuant to his answer of 13 March 2002, Official Report, column 879, on the civil service, what plans he has for a cap in the number of special advisers. 
The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: I refer the hon. Member and my hon. Friend to the answer provided earlier today by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael).
21. Adam Price: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State if he will make a statement on his involvement in the Government's review of regional economic policy. 
The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: The Government set out their approach to regional economic policy in the joint HMT/DTI document "Productivity in the UK 3The Regional Dimension",
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published in November 2001. In addition, the Government's economic policies are continually reviewed through pre-Budget reports, Budgets and spending reviews.
22. Mr. Lyons: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State what progress has been made on a new Civil Service Act. 
Mr. Leslie: The Government are committed to introducing civil service legislation and to maintaining an impartial civil service. Any legislative programme will be announced in the normal way.
23. Jim Knight: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State if he will make a statement on the Cabinet Office's recent forum on the economic cost of domestic violence. 
Mrs. Roche: We suspect that the economic cost of domestic violence to our public services and to our communities is vast. We want to understand the true scale of these costs nationally and recently I hosted a roundtable to begin research on this issue.
At this roundtable, I brought together a wide range of interested parties. This included experts from the field of domestic violence, representatives from across our public services including health, social services, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service as well as the TUC and the Director General of the CBI.
We are now in the process of commissioning this research. It is envisaged that we will undertake a comprehensive economic audit of the costs incurred as a result of domestic violence by public services, agencies and private business.
24. Julie Morgan: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State what plans there are to increase the budget of the Equal Opportunities Commission. 
Mrs. Roche: The EOC's budget of £7.005 million for 200203 was transferred from the DFES to the Cabinet Office.
Any increase will be subject to discussions with the Treasury in the context of the Spending Reviewthe outcome of which is not yet known.
25. Syd Rapson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State how he intends to ensure representation of all regions on the boards of national public bodies. 
Mr. Leslie: The key principle in making appointments to all public bodies remains appointment on merit. The opportunity to serve on a public body should be available to all, regardless of disability, age, ethnicity, gender, geographic or social background. And that is why the Government wants to make sure that, as part of our emphasis on increasing diversity, applicants for all appointments are encouraged from all parts of the United
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Kingdom. In line with this, the Cabinet Office is running a series of regional seminars for women interested in serving on a public body.
26. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State what recent meetings he has had in connection with the world summit on sustainable development. 
The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: Over the last two months I have met the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the King and Prime Minister of Bahrain, the Amir of Qatar, the President of Brazil, the Vice President of the United States of America, and the Deputy Prime Ministers of Singapore and Canada. I have also had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others to help prepare the UK's position for WSSD.
27. Mr. Hoban: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State if he will make a statement on the work of the better regulation Task Force. 
The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: The Task Force is carrying out reviews of employment law; local delivery of central policy; higher education; and science and technology. Its new Chairman, David Arculus, is consulting stakeholders about the Task Force's next work programme and will make an announcement in the summer.
28. Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State what progress has been made on the Cabinet Office consultation document, "Towards Equality and Diversity". 
Mrs. Roche: The consultation document "Towards Equality and Diversity" sets out the Government's proposals to implement the EC employment and race directives. The 15-week consultation period, which closed at the end of March, resulted in a high response rate from a range of stakeholders including small businesses, large employers, unions, interest groups and individuals.
Ministers are currently considering the responses. The results of the consultation, and fuller proposals, including draft legislation to outlaw discrimination at work on grounds of sexual orientation and religion, will be published in the autumn.
29. Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State what recent assessment he has made of the guidance given under the Ministerial Code of Conduct relating to the use of facilities provided by overseas Governments. 
The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: Ministers' visits overseas will continue to be handled in accordance with the requirements of the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers.
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Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the co-ordination of policy for rural communities. 
Alun Michael: I have been asked to reply.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is responsible for the co-ordination of policy for rural communities, assisted by myself and by the Department. My right hon. Friend chairs the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Rural Renewal, which addresses issues relevant to rural people that cut across departmental boundaries, and I am also a member of that Committee. The Countryside Agency is the Government's statutory adviser on rural and countryside issues, and in particular was asked to report publicly on the "rural-proofing" of the full range of Government policies; their first annual report was published on 11 April and a copy is available in the Library of the House. The Government's rural policies were set out in the White Paper "Our countryside: the future", published in November 2000; an update on progress was included in "England's Rural Future", which I published in December 2001.
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