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23 Oct 2002 : Column 315W—continued

Housing Allowance

Mr. Soley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which local authorities he has invited to be pathfinders for the standard local housing allowance; and what factors he took into account in making the selection. [77201]

Andrew Smith: In order to ensure a robust evaluation of the standard local housing allowance scheme, we have drawn up a list of key factors against which pathfinders should be chosen. This includes a broad range of housing and labour market conditions in England, Wales and Scotland.

The pathfinder areas will represent variety in market and economic activity and will represent a range of high, medium and low house prices and rental values. They include a mixture of rural, urban, suburban and city areas. They will also provide a sufficient sample size, as those taking part must have a caseload of at least 2,500 claimants in the de-regulated Private Rented Sector, of whom at least 1,600 must have claimed under the rent rules introduced in 1996 and 1997.

Further conditions affecting the choice of pathfinder areas include the current state of Housing Benefit administration, the capacity of IT systems, and the need to avoid those local authorities already piloting other Government initiatives.

Based on these criteria, we have invited the following local authorities to take part: Brighton and Hove, Conwy, Coventry, Edinburgh, Leeds, London Borough of Lewisham, Middlesborough, North East Lincolnshire, Teignbridge and Tendring.

Unemployment (Young People)

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on progress made to date on the target to halve unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds by 2010 throughout the European Union set at the European Council's meeting at Lisbon. [75249]

Malcolm Wicks: The Lisbon European Council in 2000 set targets to increase employment rates rather than reduce youth unemployment rates. It agreed that, by 2010, the EU should aim to increase its total employment rate to 70 per cent. and to increase the employment rate for women to 60 per cent. The Commission and the Council will issue a Joint Employment Report in November 2002, which will

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provide the latest available data against these and other targets set at Lisbon, as well as summarise action being taken by Member States to achieve them.

Current Eurostat figures show that between August 2000 and August 2001, EU youth unemployment (15–24) fell from 15.3 per cent. to a low of 14.6 per cent., before rising again to 15.3 per cent. in June 2002. Latest figures for each Member State are given below. The European Employment Strategy, the main instrument for action to increase employment, will operate in a revised form from next year, and will focus more clearly on reaching the employment rate goals agreed at Lisbon.

Male and Female Unemployment: Under 25 years
(Eurostat August 2002)

EU 1515. 315. 3
B16. 518. 4
DK6. 98. 5
D8. 59. 9
EL29. 726. 1
E22. 022. 2
F19. 420. 9
IRL6. 48. 2
I30. 627. 3
L7. 29. 6
NL6. 25. 7
A5. 36. 9
P8. 910. 7
FIN21. 221. 0
S10. 811. 0
UK12. 112. 1

Unemployment Portsmouth, South

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people were estimated to be (a) employed and (b) unemployed in (i) Portsmouth, South and (ii) Hampshire in each of the last two years; and if he will make a statement. [73874]

Ruth Kelly: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Len Cook to Mr. Hancock, dated 23 October 2002:

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Food Supplements

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will assess the impact on employment in the (a) research and development, (b) manufacturing, (c) wholesale and (d) retail sectors of the European Food Supplement Directive and the proposed European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products; and if he will make a statement. [75812]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

The Food Supplements Directive is likely to have a positive impact upon employment in the research and development sector. The Directive demands that the safety of concentrated sources of vitamins and minerals used as ingredients in food supplements be approved by the European Union Scientific Committee on Food before use, and is therefore likely to encourage related research.

In the short-term the EU Food Supplements Directive is unlikely to have any effect upon employment in the manufacturing, wholesale or retail sectors. In the longer-term, the impact of the Directive will largely depend upon progress in adding vitamin and minerals and their sources to the lists of permitted nutrients in the Directive and upon developments in the setting of maximum limits for vitamins and minerals in food supplements. The Food Standards Agency is arguing the case for these maximum limits to be based on thorough scientific risk assessments so that there is no unnecessary restriction on the range of products that can be marketed.

The possible impact of the proposed Directive on traditional herbal medicinal products on employment in the research and development sector is difficult to predict. Under the current regime in the United Kingdom for unlicensed herbal remedies it will not normally be clear to the purchaser of a remedy whether that remedy is brought to the market on the basis of evidence of efficacy of the product, of traditional usage, or some other factor. The proposed Directive should, over time, bring greater clarity to the market on this issue, which may be beneficial to the prospects for research and development.

The proposed Directive potentially could have positive consequences for employment in the manufacturing, wholesale and retail sectors. The proposals would require traditional herbal remedies to meet standards as to quality, safety and product information, areas in which the current regime for unlicensed herbal remedies has significant weaknesses. More effective regulation, which would follow if there is a successful outcome to the negotiations, potentially could enhance the status and recognition of traditional herbal remedies. This in turn could help to maintain and increase public confidence and ultimately lead to an expansion in the sector. The Medicines Control Agency's aim in the continuing negotiations, and in the implementation of the Directive if it is agreed, will be to ensure that the regulation is proportionate.

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Parliamentary Questions

James Purnell: To ask the President of the Council when he plans to publish the Government's response to the Procedure Committee report on Parliamentary Questions HC622. [76748]

Robin Cook: I have today laid before the House a copy of the Government's response to the Procedure Committee Report on Parliamentary Questions

(Cm 5628). Copies of the response are available in the Vote Office, Libraries of the House and on my department's website

The House will debate the report of the Committee and the Government's response on Tuesday 29 October.


Developing Countries

Syd Rapson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what advice she will give to developing country Governments on how they can

Clare Short: Import liberalisation, properly managed, can contribute to sustainable and poverty-reducing economic growth. Cross-country evidence shows that trade liberalisation increases economic growth and that economic growth, in turn, tends to reduce poverty on average. Trade openness contributes to poverty reduction by stimulating productivity and reducing domestic consumer prices. However, the relationship differs substantially from country to country. Complementarity and sequencing of supporting policies within an overall long-term development strategy are essential to the success of trade liberalisation. A country will typically have to implement some or all of the following complementary policies:

Domestic reform, however, will often not be sufficient. Developing countries face high tariff and non-tariff barriers in sectors of importance, notably agriculture and textiles and clothing. As tariffs are lowered, new forms of protection become more prominent, such as anti-dumping and excessive product

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standards and technical regulations. Such issues need to be addressed in future trade negotiations to ensure that international trade rules are more developmental.

The Integrated Framework (IF) is a policy initiative by six international agencies, with participation by donors and developing countries. DFID is playing a prominent role in its implementation. It represents an attempt to respond to the need for trade reforms to be implemented carefully and with the appropriate mix of complementary policies. Under the Integrated Framework, existing trade-related policies in a country are assessed and further needs identified. The Integrated Framework tries to facilitate the formulation of a coherent trade policy that fosters sustainable and poverty-reducing economic growth.

DFID has been at the forefront of developing and promoting trade policies that address the risks associated with import liberalisation. All our trade-related work is geared towards making trade work for the poorest. DFID is trying to raise awareness of the need for sound trade policies at all levels: within DFID itself, in our country offices, within Whitehall and at the WTO.

DFID believes that the trade policy it has developed to address the challenges of trade liberalisation contains the kind of advice and experience that contribute to sustainable and poverty-reducing development ant that it can usefully recommend such policies to policy makers in developing countries. In general, developing countries have responded positively to DFID's trade policy, as is clear for example from the recent review of the Ghana Trade Policy Project.

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