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8 Jan 2003 : Column 260W—continued

Violent Crime (Havering)

John Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many calls to police within the London borough of Havering were logged in the period 1 October 2001 to 30 September 2002 relating to incidents of (a) noise nuisance, (b) disturbance in a public place, (c) drunkenness, (d) criminal damage, (e) community problems and (f) other unlisted disturbances; and which localities are defined as hotspots for this type of offence. [85075]

Mr. Denham: The requested information is not collected centrally.


Asylum Support

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what responsibility his Department has for investigating fraud and error in the asylum support budget; and if he will make a statement. [88475]

Beverley Hughes: I have been asked to reply.

The Home Office is responsible for providing support to asylum seekers who are destitute. The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) is responsible for administering the support provided to asylum seekers. NASS has established a mechanism for investigating fraud and error in its asylum support system.

Green Ministers

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which Minister in his Department is nominated Green Minister; how often he has attended meetings of the Green Ministers; and which official has responsibility for the DEFRA rural proofing check-list in his Department. [88464]

Maria Eagle: Our Green Minister is my noble Friend the Baroness Hollis of Heigham.

It is established practice under Exemption 2 of Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information not to disclose information relating to the proceedings of the Cabinet and its Committees—such as ministerial attendance at Committees.

A list of names of departmental rural contacts, who meet regularly, is not, published as personnel and machinery of Government changes mean that any published list would be out of date fairly quickly.

Pay Offer Information Pack

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place a copy of the Department 2002 pay offer information pack in the Library. [88206]

Mr. McCartney: The information has been placed in the Library.


John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking to help the poorest pensioners. [89049]

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Mr. McCartney: The Government want all pensioners to have a decent and secure income in retirement and to share fairly in the rising prosperity of the country. The Government's first priority has been to help the poorest pensioners.

From April 2002, the Government are spending an extra #6 billion a year in real terms on pensioners as a result of policies introduced since 1997. This includes #2½ billion more on the poorest third of pensioners. This is three times more than a link between the basic state pension and average earnings since 1998 would have given them.

We have introduced a range of initiatives designed to encourage pensioners to take up their entitlements. For the minimum income guarantee (MIG) we have undertaken a national advertising campaign, which resulted in almost 140,000 successful claims, with an average gain of #20 per week. We have also reduced the MIG claim form from 40 to 10 pages, introduced a MIG specific leaflet, and we are identifying potential beneficiaries through key events, such as claiming state pension.

A key priority, for both Government and the Pension Service is the successful take up of the new pension credit, which will enhance and replace the MIG. It has been specifically designed to be easy for pensioners to claim and to be less intrusive. The weekly means test will be abolished for the over 65s and be replaced by a statement of their circumstances every five years. Capital rules will be relaxed and the upper capital limit abolished.

Our take-up plan for pension credit is extensive and makes use of a range of channels. We will transfer existing MIG recipients to pension credit, ready for payments to be made from October 2003; write to all pensioners not already receiving MIG by June 2004 to alert them to possible pension credit entitlement, supported by a national publicity campaign; work with local partners to help support the communications to pensioners, and tailor marketing and communications activity accordingly.

The Government have introduced other initiatives to help pensioners. These include winter fuel payments (WFPs), which will continue to be paid to qualifying households at #200 a year throughout this Parliament. In addition, we have introduced free TV licences for the over 75s, worth #104 a year. The WFPs and TV licences are non income-related and are tax free.

All of the above demonstrate the importance that we attach to encouraging pensioners to take-up their entitlements, which in turn helps the poorest pensioners.


Access to Children (Germany)

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what follow-up action will be taken to contact British parents who have reported prevention of access to their children in Germany to

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British Consulates, in order to identify the common problems they are experiencing and give them assistance in the future. [89025]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Responsibility for cases concerning parental access to children in Germany lies with the Lord Chancellor's Department, Germany being a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction. The FCO will continue to provide such consular advice and support as it properly can, in conjunction with the Lord Chancellor's Department, to British nationals who request it.

Charles Knowles

Mr. Alan Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department sent category D compensation claim number 3002250 on behalf of Mr. Charles Knowles to the United Nations Compensation Commission; and whether his Department received confirmation of receipt. [88604]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Mr. Charles Knowles' category D compensation claim, reference number 3002250, was sent to the United Nations Compensation Commission on 15 July 1993. The Department received written confirmation of receipt on 7 August 2002.

Convention on the Future of Europe

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take action in the Convention on the Future of Europe to ensure that the proposed duty to further the aims of the EU does not include joining the euro. [88929]

Mr. MacShane: The UK would not agree to a Constitutional Treaty that would compel us to join the Euro.

Cote d'Ivoire

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on developments in Côte d'Ivoire; what the Government's policy is on (a) security and (b) international intervention in Côte d'Ivoire; and if he will make a statement. [88735]

Mr. Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, remains deeply concerned about the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, and its implications both for the people of Cote d'Ivoire and for the wider region.

Recent fighting, particularly in the west of the country between the MPIGO/MJP rebel groups and Government forces, means that the security situation in Cote d'Ivoire remains extremely fragile. Since 9 December 2002, we have advised all UK nationals present in Cote d'Ivoire to use commercial means to leave the country.

We have consistently made clear that the UK opposes any attempt to overthrow the elected government by force. We continue to provide support to the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders to promote a political settlement which addresses the causes of the crisis, and to restore peace and security. UK support includes up to

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#2 million to assist the deployment of the Ghanaian contingent of the ECOWAS peace-monitoring force. We are working closely with France, and other partners, to ensure effective international support for these regional efforts. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has also agreed to provide up to #1 million in humanitarian assistance for Cote d'Ivoire.

We remain gravely concerned at reports of mass killings and serious violations of human rights in Cote d'Ivoire. We welcome the UN Secretary-General's decision to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to seek further information about these violations.

We have also been concerned at all breaches of the 17 October 2002 ceasefire agreement. We are pleased that President Gbagbo has agreed to submit a crisis resolution plan to all Ivorian players and to ECOWAS leaders, and to consult them on it. We also welcome the fresh commitments made by him and by the leaders of the MPCI rebel group, during the 3–4 January visit of the French Foreign Minister, to respect the ceasefire. France has now offered to host a conference from 15 January involving all Ivorian political forces. We urge all parties to engage seriously in the search for an inclusive political solution to the crisis.

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