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Special Envoy

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will set out the targets for the Government's special envoy for the national health service. [63815]

Mr. Hutton [holding answer 24 June 2002]: The remit of the Government's special envoy for the national health service is to:

Stem Cell Research

Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish the Government's response to the House of Lords Select Committee report of Session 2001–02 on Stem Cell Research. [67646]

Ms Blears: The Government's response to the House of Lords Select Committee report on Stem Cell Research is published today as CM 5561, and copies have been placed in Library.


Departmental Consultation

Keith Vaz: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how many matters his Department has consulted outside lawyers; and what the total cost is of the fees charged in the last 12 months. [65379]

Ruth Kelly: This information is not held centrally, and could be collated only at disproportionate cost.

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BBC World Service

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received as part of the spending review with regard to funding for the BBC World Service. [65752]

Mr. Boateng: I have received a number of representations in connection with the funding of the BBC World Service in the 2002 spending review.

Buildings Insurance

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the cost of buildings insurance to his Department was (a) before and (b) after 11 September 2001. [66930]

Ruth Kelly: In the case of Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise, the Departments have never insured their own properties. Following the transfer of departmental properties under STEPS, the PFI contractor (Mapeley) is required to insure them as part of PFI risk transfer. The cost of insurance is subsumed within the overall facility price payable under the STEPS contract.

In the case of the Treasury, the issue of buildings insurance only arises in the case of Allington Towers, for which HMT pay insurance under the terms of their lease. The cost covering the period November 2000 to October 2001 was £14,980; for November 2001 to October 2002 it is £17,342.

Public Service

Mr. Laws: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how the Government are meeting their commitment to report regularly on the progress made in delivering the targets for public service improvement as set out in Cm 4011; and if he will make a statement; [66281]

Mr. Boateng: Departments publish performance against their public service agreement targets in their departmental reports and, from this year, in autumn performance reports. Annex A2 on page 67 of HM Treasury's departmental report included an overall analysis of performance against the 1998 targets.

National Insurance Contributions

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what responsibilities (a) his Department, (b) the Contributions Agency and (c) the Department for Work and Pensions have for ensuring collection and prompt payment by employers of national insurance contributions, including those with contracted in pension schemes; and if he will make a statement on efforts being made to ensure compliance by employers. [65798]

Dawn Primarolo: The functions of the Contributions Agency were transferred to the Inland Revenue from 6 April 1999. The Contributions Agency ceased to exist at that point and the Department for Work and Pensions no longer have any responsibility in relation to the collection of national insurance contributions.

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Employers pay over national insurance contributions either monthly or quarterly to the Inland Revenue. The Board of Inland Revenue's Annual Report shows that, in the tax year 2000–01, on average 89.7 per cent. of employers paid within a week of the due date.

The Inland Revenue encourage all employers to make payment electronically via the BACS system which reduces the time taken to clear funds through the banking system.

Where payment is delayed the Inland Revenue take a series of steps to collect that payment. This will begin with a simple phone call and, if the employer still fails to pay, may result in recovery action being taken either by means of distraint or by action in the courts.

The Inland Revenue also act to ensure that all employers comply with their obligations. Employers are subject to regular inspections of their records by Inland Revenue officers. During the year 2001–02 the Inland Revenue carried out over 43,000 of these Employer Compliance Reviews and identified over £257 million of unpaid tax and national insurance contributions.

Financing for Development Conference

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people attended the Financing for Development conference in Monterrey in March from (a) his Department and (b) other UK Government Departments; and what the total cost of the visit was. [66222]

Clare Short: I have been asked to reply.

The Monterrey Conference was attended by eight people—including myself—from DFID and 21 people from other UK Government Departments. Not all invoices have yet been received, but the total cost of the visit will be in the region of £150,000.


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the conceptual difference is in the science and maths questions asked in the OECD (a) TIMSS and (b) PISA surveys; [65132]

Mr. Miliband: I have been asked to reply.

The OECD report, "Knowledge and Skills for Life", published in December 2001, made the distinction as follows. The assessment materials in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which was conducted in 1995 by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) among students in international grades 3–4, 7–8 and the final year of secondary school, and repeated in 1999 among students in the eighth grade only, were constructed on the basis of an analysis of the intended curriculum in each participating country, so as to cover the core material common to the curriculum in the majority of participating countries. The assessment materials in PISA 2000 covered the range of skills and competencies that were, in the respective assessment domains, considered to be crucial to an individual's capacity to fully participate in, and contribute meaningfully to, a successful modern society.

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We understand from OECD that the web version of the PISA technical report is likely to be available in July and the published version in August.

Heavily Indebted Poor Countries

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the progress of the HIPC initiative; and what steps he is taking to enhance the debt management capacity of HIPC in order to meet the UN development goals. [66874]

John Healey: The UK continues to press to ensure that the HIPC (heavily indebted poor countries) initiative provides a sustainable exit from debt. Of the 42 HIPCs, 26 countries have already qualified for debt relief amounting to US$62 billion in total. We therefore welcome the recent announcement of an extra US$1 billion for this aim at the G8 summit in Kananaskis and the statement by G7 leaders on specific measures to deliver on the promise of the enhanced HIPC initiative. The leaders agreed to take action to secure the participation of all creditors, to complete the financing of the initiative and to address the issue of debt sustainability at completion point.

To enable HIPC countries to develop their expertise on debt and debt management, the Department for International Development provided £2.5 million and has committed a further £1.5 million to co-fund the HIPC Capacity Building Programme, which provides technical assistance to these countries.


Committee Mandates

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Product Health and Safety is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. [61714]

Mr. Morley: The mandate of the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Product Health and Safety is set out in Commission Decision 98/235/EC. The UK is not formally represented on the committee; members are directly appointed by the Commission, drawn from across the EU, on the basis of their socioeconomic interests.

The Commission, together with member states, is currently conducting a review to bring existing legislation on the conduct of comitology committees into line with Council Decision 1999/468/EC, to 'simplify the requirements for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission'. As an obligation to this Decision, the Commission undertook to publish an annual report on the working of committees. The first report was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses on 26 February (Com (2001) 783 Final). As part of the review process, the UK Government have encouraged the Commission to produce and maintain an electronic database of every comitology committee, its agendas and recent actions, to be available through its website.

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