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UK/US Relations

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to strengthen ties between the United Kingdom and the United States. [67795]

Mr. MacShane: The United States is one of our closest allies. The closeness of the relationship was reinforced by the events of 11 September. There are regular UK ministerial meetings with State Department and other Administration officials in Washington. The Foreign Secretary talks regularly with the Secretary of State. Parliament has close links with Congress and our ambassador in Washington and his embassy have access to the US Administration across a wide range of issues. The UK probably has more high level daily contacts with the US than any other country allowing us to foresee problems and work hard to iron out our differences. HMG would welcome increased contact between legislators in the Commons and Congress.

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We will maintain and build on these ties to strengthen the relationship with the US, our largest bilateral trading partner and inward investor.

EU Budget

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he has made of the contribution of an average UK family to the EU budget in 2000. [67796]

Ruth Kelly: I have been asked to reply.

No such estimate has been made. However, based on data published by the European Commission and European Court of Auditors, the UK's net contribution to the EC budget in 2000 was £63.1 on a per capita basis. This figure includes the UK's payments to and receipts from the EC budget, but does not, however, capture other benefits which membership of the EU brings to the UK through closer economic ties with our neighbours. For example, over three quarters of a million UK companies now trade with the rest of the EU, which accounts for over 50 per cent. of the UK's total exports, and affects around 3 million UK jobs.


Queen's Counsel

Keith Vaz: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many complaints she has received from applicants for appointment as Queen's counsel about the way the system has operated in the last three years. [67932]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Prior to the creation of the Commission for Judicial Appointments in March 2001, there was no formal complaints procedure for unsuccessful applicants for Queen's counsel. It has not been possible to identify from departmental records whether any complaints were received, and if so, how many prior to the creation of the commission. Since the establishment of the Commission for Judicial Appointments, three complaints have been received.

Child Contact Centres

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department which members are undertaking work on the Child Contact Centre Working Group; and when it plans to set out standards for child contact centres. [67601]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Child Contact Working Group is facilitated by the Lord Chancellor's Department. It comprises 20 representatives from the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC), other child contact centre services, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and legal practitioners. The working group launched its consultation on definitions of contact centre services on 11 May 2002. The consultation ends in October 2002. The working group aims to reach conclusions in December 2002.

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Court Buildings, Somerset

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what damage has been sustained by court buildings in Somerset in the last two years. [67591]

Yvette Cooper: There have been two significant incidents of damage within the last two years. On 19 April 2002 at Taunton combined court there was flood damage caused by excessive water mains pressure. Works are due to be completed in July 2002 at a cost of £85,000. On 17 December 2001 at Yeovil county court, the coping stones in the car park wall were dislodged when hit by a car. Remedial work was completed in May 2002 at a cost of £1,410.

Justices of the Peace

Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans she has to require employers to give paid leave to Justices of the Peace in their employment; and if she will make a statement. [67666]

Yvette Cooper: The Lord Chancellor has no such plans. Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 requires employers to allow reasonable time off for undertaking magisterial and other duties. Many employers do allow time off with pay, but where they do not, a magistrate may claim financial loss allowance at a fixed rate.

The Lord Chancellor has taken initiatives in the past, including a handbook for employers, produced in collaboration with the Magistrates Association to encourage employers to play an active part in the local community by allowing time off for staff to undertake magisterial duties. He will consider further ways of encouraging the support of employers as part of a national recruitment strategy.

Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will revise the provisions under the guidance notes on justices' allowances, so as to base the daily allowance for loss of earnings on actual earnings; and if she will make a statement. [67665]

Yvette Cooper: The financial loss allowance is based on average earnings. I appreciate this may not fully compensate some justices for the loss they suffer, but using this method is considered the most equitable way of striking a balance to cover the differing trades and professions within the magistracy.

Crown Court, Buckinghamshire

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what criteria she is using to determine the best location for a new Crown court in Buckinghamshire. [68504]

Yvette Cooper: The Lord Chancellor's Department will consider a variety of factors including the following: population densities (current and projected), quality and range of existing transport links including public services, travel distances for court users, accessibility to court users including the disabled, availability of suitable accommodation, location of other justice agencies, security, cost, existing services and facilities.

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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what degree of importance he is giving to accessibility in deciding the location of a new Crown Court in Buckinghamshire. [68502]

Yvette Cooper: The Lord Chancellor's Department places a very high level of importance on the accessibility of any potential new courts. Consideration is given to a number of factors including public transport, road and rail links, parking and access for the disabled.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of the accessibility of a new Crown Court in (a) Milton Keynes and (b) Aylesbury to people living in Buckinghamshire. [68503]

Yvette Cooper: To date, no detailed assessment has been undertaken on the accessibility of a potential new Crown Court for Buckinghamshire. Plans are at the preliminary stage and the Court Service is still considering all of the various options available, taking into account the outcome from the current Spending Review.

Legal Services Ombudsman

Ms Munn: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the Legal Services Ombudsman intends to publish her Annual report for 2001–02. [69358]

Yvette Cooper: The Legal Services Ombudsman has today published her eleventh Annual Report, and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Civil Service Pension Scheme

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what assessment he has made of the proportion of the rise in Government liabilities resulting from unfunded parts of the civil service pension scheme in the last five years due to (a) wage inflation, (b) longevity, (c) extension of the rights of part-time workers and (d) other factors; and if he will make a statement. [67022]

Mr. Alexander: The principal civil service pension scheme (PCSPS)—the occupational pension arrangement for civil servants—is an underfunded pension scheme made under the Superannuation Act 1972. All payments of pension and related benefits to former members of the PCSPS or their dependants are made from the civil superannuation vote, for which the Cabinet Office is accountable.

The PCSPS is subject to regular actuarial review by the Government Actuary. Intermediate valuations are produced for resource accounting purposes which provide updated liability figures. The actuarial reviews include full allowance for the effects on the liabilities of the PCSPS of such factors as price inflation, salary growth, membership changes and pensioner mortality assumptions.

The liabilities of the PCSPS at the earliest review during the last five years were calculated to be £45.4 billion as at 30 September 1966. They were

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estimated at £58.6 billion as at 31 March 2000 in the latest resource accounts (HC 554). The increase over the period is in line with that expected by the actuary.

Information in the form requested is not readily available. However, allowance for the continuing improvement in pensioner longevity, price inflation and real wage growth are in order of importance the main factors behind the increase in liabilities. Extension of the pension rights of part-time workers is not a significant factor.

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