4 Feb 2003 : Column 131W

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 4 February 2003


Employment Policy

5. Mr. Davidson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when she last met the Scottish Trade Union Congress to discuss implementation of Government policy on employment. [94189]

Mrs. McGuire: My right hon. Friend last met with representatives of the STUC on 2 December to discuss a wide range of issues.


6. Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when she intends to respond to the Second Report of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, on devolution, HL 28, Session 2002–03, as it relates to Scotland. [94190]

Mrs. Liddell: The Select Committee's report was published on 15 January. The Government expect to respond to it in due course.


7. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans she has to ensure that rural areas of Scotland have access to broadband services on equal terms. [94191]

Mrs. McGuire: The Government aim to stimulate broadband connectivity and take-up across the UK.

Access to broadband services in rural communities and the remote areas of Scotland is a strategic priority for the Scottish Executive. The Executive represents Scottish interests on the UK Broadband Taskforce and has already announced a £24 million economic development initiative to accelerate and extend the reach of broadband services.


8. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations she has received on the recent fisheries reforms; and if she will make a statement. [94193]

Mrs. Liddell: I took part in a meeting on 28 January at which fishing industry representatives presented their views to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and other Ministers.

Rural Communities

9. Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement on UK Government help for rural communities. [94194]

4 Feb 2003 : Column 132W

Mrs. McGuire: The Government are committed to ensuring the rural dimension is taken into account when developing policy and sets specific targets to measure progress on rural issues. Policy on rural development in Scotland is a devolved responsibility.

Scotland Act

10. Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when she plans to establish a commission to consider the consequences of amending the Scotland Act 1998; and if she will make a statement. [94195]

Mrs. Liddell: As announced in my statement to Parliament on 18 December 2002, I expect that the new commission to consider issues caused by different boundaries for Westminster and Holyrood constituencies will be established after the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections.


11. Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what action she is taking to improve the standard of living of pensioners. [94196]

Mrs. McGuire: This Government is spending around £6 billion extra in real terms on pensioners in 2002/03 as a result of policies introduced since 1997. We have introduced the Minimum Income Guarantee for poorer pensioners; Winter Fuel Payments for people aged 60 and over; free TV licences for the over 75s; and are introducing the new Pension Credit later this year, rewarding pensioners who save.

Members of Parliament (Scotland)

12. Mr. John Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what her policy is on how many Scottish honourable Members should be returned at the next general election. [94197]

Mrs. Liddell: Future representation for parliamentary constituencies in Scotland is dealt with in the Scotland Act 1998, which repealed the guarantee of 71 Scottish seats at Westminster and requires the Boundary Commission for Scotland to determine the level of Scottish representation by applying the same electoral quota as in England. The Commission is required to submit its report to me before December 2006. It is a matter for the Commission when, within that time scale, it does so.

Winter Fuel Payments

13. Mrs. Irene Adams: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many pensioners in Scotland are benefiting from the £200 winter fuel payments. [94198]

Mrs. McGuire: For winter 2001–02, around 996,000 people in Scotland received Winter Fuel Payments, producing a total payout of £152 million.

Citizens Advice Scotland

14. Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement about her recent discussions with Citizens Advice Scotland about its work. [94199]

4 Feb 2003 : Column 133W

Mrs. McGuire: I met Citizens Advice Scotland yesterday. The Government greatly values the work they and individual Citizens Advice Bureaux carry out in major areas such as debt, welfare rights and employment.

Rural Post Offices (Scotland)

Mr. MacDougall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what support is being made available to protect the rural post office network in Scotland. [94192]

Mrs. McGuire: The Government has emphasised its commitment to the UK rural post office network by making 450 million available to Post Office Ltd over the next three years. The funding will directly support rural post offices and give the company freedom to pilot new and innovative ways of providing rural services. Post Office Ltd will administer the fund within guidelines and parameters set by the Government and, as such, no specific figures in relation to Scotland are available at this time.



18. Miss Anne McIntosh: To ask the Advocate General what devolution issues she has advised on since 7 January 2003. [94184]

The Advocate-General for Scotland: I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) on 4 February 2003, Official Report, column 135.


House Timetable

35. Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the President of the Council what further changes to the standard timetable of the House he plans in 2003. [95360]

Mr. Robin Cook: I have no plans for further changes. I shall, of course, give careful consideration to any recommendations which the Procedure Committee may make following its current wide-ranging inquiry.

The House will not need to review the changes before the end of the Parliament. The resolution lapses at the end of this Parliament, but it would surely be right to leave the decision on the hours of the next Parliament to its Members.

Sitting Hours

36. Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the President of the Council what assessment he has made of the impact of the House's new hours on scrutiny of Government business. [95361]

Mr. Bradshaw: My right hon. Friend's assessment is that the House's new sitting hours, taken with other modernisation changes (opportunities for debate and cross-cutting questions in Westminster Hall, for

4 Feb 2003 : Column 134W

example, and more topical questions in the main Chamber) have had a positive impact on the scrutiny of Government business.

Pre-legislative Scrutiny

37. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the President of the Council what representations he has made to ministerial colleagues on pre-legislative scrutiny during the present session. [95362]

Mr. Bradshaw: In the course of discussions on the legislative programme, my right hon. Friend has encouraged ministerial colleagues to proceed on the presumption that Bills will be published in draft for pre-legislative scrutiny unless there is good reason otherwise.


Parliamentary Visitors Centre

34. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what progress has been made with proposals for a parliamentary visitors' centre. [95359]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: As the House will be aware, following the Modernisation Committee's recommendation, the Commission asked for a feasibility study from specialist consultants. We are well aware of the sensitivities about the option off Westminster Hall which they recommended, and have asked that sites outside the precincts should be examined as well. We are consulting widely, and hope to consider the matter again in April in the light of the views expressed. The way forward will need to be agreed with the authorities of the House of Lords.

Line of Route

38. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on access for schoolchildren to the line of route. [95363]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: Special provision for schoolchildren to visit Parliament for educational programmes, including a tour, can be made through the Parliamentary Education Unit which represents both Houses of Parliament. Last year the unit sponsored about 10,000 students taking part in three different visits programmes and a number of special events. However, the majority of schoolchildren visit Westminster as constituents on tours sponsored by Members.

Next Section Index Home Page