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27 Nov 2002 : Column 319Wcontinued
Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the implications of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ken Willis-application No. 36042/97; and if he will make a statement. 
Malcolm Wicks: In June 2002 the European Court of Human Rights found that the UK Government had violated the Convention in respect of Mr. Ken Willis by not paying him the Widowed Mother's Allowance and Widow's Payment that he would have been entitled to had he been a woman in the same circumstances. The Court ordered a payment equivalent to the benefit that
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he would have received had he been a woman and an amount in respect of interest. The Government is not contesting that judgement.
Litigation remains before the domestic and Strasbourg Courts. The Court of Appeal heard arguments in the domestic cases during week commencing 7 October and judgment was reserved. The European Court of Human Rights has postponed further hearings of applications by widowers until the completion of the domestic litigation.
John Mann : To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the literacy levels of long-term unemployed people in coalfield areas were in each year since 1997; and how this compared with the national average. 
Mr. Nicholas Brown: Information on the literacy levels among long-term unemployed people in coalfield areas is not available. It is estimated that around one third of unemployed people have literacy levels below Level 1 (the level expected of an 11 year old) in England 1 .
We are committed to helping unemployed people improve their literacy and numeracy skills so they can find and stay in work. Jobcentre Plus has comprehensive arrangements in place to identify clients who need help with their basic skills, and refer them to high quality learning opportunities. Around 15,000 clients are screened for literacy and numeracy needs by Jobcentre Plus every week.
We are currently introducing a number of measures to enhance our basic skills provision even further. For example, each Jobcentre Plus district now has a basic skills champion to drive forward work and support front line staff in this important area, and in October we introduced a more intensive and work-focused basic skills training programme. Between September 2001 and March 2002 we piloted different ways of encouraging people to take up literacy and numeracy help. One of these pilots was in my hon. Friend's constituency. Evaluation of the pilots will help us determine the future strategy for helping unemployed people improve their basic skills. The final evaluation report will be available next summer.
Mr. Nicholas Brown : Since the national extension of the New Deal for Disabled People programme began, it has helped over 6,000 people into jobs and almost 28,000 have registered with Job Brokers to actively pursue employment.
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Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average age of retirement is for (a) his Department's employees and (b) people who work in each of the executive agencies within his Department. 
|Average age (years)|
|The Pension Service||61.2|
|Child Support Agency||61.9|
Mr. McCartney: Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) show that up to the end of September 2002, 1,151,371 stakeholder pensions had been sold. A detailed breakdown of sales will not be available until next year. Sales of over a million in their first 18 months on the market represents a very encouraging start.
In addition, the ABI figures show that 335,717 employers had designated a scheme for their work force. This means more people have the chance to save for a decent income in retirement through the work place.
Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many UK citizens have cases before the European Court of Human Rights and the domestic courts challenging the UK Government for failing to pay men widow's benefits prior to the introduction of the new bereavement benefits in April 2001. 
Malcolm Wicks: At present the European Court of Human Rights has notified the UK Government of 73 applications from widowers in Great Britain relating to challenges for failing to pay men widow's benefit before April 2001. Further consideration of these cases has been postponed by the Court pending the outcome of the domestic litigation. Any Northern Ireland cases are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
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Cultural Property Unit of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to his Department in connection with the proposed partnering agreement between the Government and Marine Odyssey Exploration Inc. to salvage antiquities from a wreck believed to be that of the 17th century warship, Sussex. 
Dr. Moonie: Advice was sought from the Department for National Heritage, now part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), from an early stage on the implications of the agreement with Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc, and DCMS has been represented on an inter departmental Project Board which has given consideration to all aspects of the project.
Mr. Allan : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether a UK Government archaeological observer will be on board vessels deployed by Marine Odyssey Exploration Inc. to monitor their operation in relation to salvaging from the wreck believed to be that of the 17th century warship, Sussex. 
Mr. Allan : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what provision has been made to terminate the contract with Marine Odyssey Exploration Inc. if the salvage operation on the wreck believed to be that of the 17th century warship fails to meet established standards of archaeological research. 
Dr. Moonie: The licence agreement requires that Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc produce a detailed project plan, covering all aspects of the project, which must be approved by the Government Departments involved before any excavation can take place. The project plan will be subject to scrutiny by an independent archaeological review group, to be chaired by English Heritage, to ensure that it complies with appropriate standards of archaeological research. If, following further discussion with the company, these standards cannot be guaranteed at the review stage, the Ministry of Defence has the option to terminate the agreement. The licence agreement also includes provision for termination in the event of any serious breach by Odyssey of any of its obligations that has not been remedied as soon as reasonably practicable upon receipt of written notification of such a breach.
Mr. Allan : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library the contract between the Government and Marine Odyssey Exploration Inc. for salvage operations on the wreck believed to be that of the 17th century warship Sussex. 
Dr. Moonie: I am unable to place a copy of the Licence Agreement in the Library in accordance with Exemption 13 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information which relates to a Third Party's commercial confidences. I will, however, place in the Library of the House a copy of The Partnering Agreement Memorandum and a synopsis of the archaeological requirements of the agreement.
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17th century warship Sussex to establish (a) their archaeological significance and (b) the most appropriate means of retention or disposal under the terms of the partnering agreement between Marine Odyssey Exploration Inc. and the UK Government. 
Dr. Moonie: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and English Heritage will be consulted prior to any final decision on retention and disposal of items recovered from the wreck. We are committed to ensuring that every effort is made to consult public museums with relevant collecting interests.
Mr. Allan : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when his Department first entered into discussion with Marine Odyssey Exploration Inc. in relation to proposals to salvage antiquities from the historic wreck believed to be that of the 17th century warship Sussex. 
Dr. Moonie: The company first expressed an interest in locating the wreck and salvaging its cargo in 1995. The company requested permission to search for the wreck in 1998, and was informed that the Ministry of Defence had no objection to this. The MOD's position throughout has been that no agreement of any sort could be considered unless and until the wreck had been located and identified. Detailed discussions began, following the location of the wreck, in September 2002.
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