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Ministerial Travel

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times since 2001 he has taken flights within his departmental duties in the UK; how many of these were (a) charter flights, (b) first or club class and (c) by helicopter; and who accompanied him on each trip. [95384]

Mr. Straw: Between January and June 2001, the then Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Robin Cook), did not undertake any UK travel on departmental business. Since June 2001, I have travelled within the UK on departmental business on three occasions-once on an RAF aircraft; once by commercial flight in business class; and once by helicopter. The details requested are as follows.

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27 July 2002:

I travelled from London to Manchester in business class on a commercial flight to attend the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. I was accompanied by my daughter (whose ticket I paid for myself) and by a Special Branch Protection Officer.

27 August 2002:

I travelled to Edinburgh and Belfast on EU-related regional visit on an RAF HS125. I was accompanied on this aircraft by my Private Secretary; a special adviser; three officials and a Special Branch Protection Officer.

6 September 2002:

I travelled on an RAF helicopter from London to Birmingham to a speech. Travel had originally been scheduled by train. At less than 48 hours notice, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia despatched his Foreign Minister to deliver a message to the Prime Minister. At the Prime Minister's request, I hosted the meeting on the morning of Friday 6 September. The only way to get to Birmingham in time to deliver the long-planned speech was by helicopter which was provided by the RAF. I was accompanied by my Private Secretary and by a Special Branch Protection Officer.


Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Pakistan authorities on democracy in that country; and if he will make a statement. [95230]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: We welcomed the holding of multi-party elections in Pakistan on 10 October. In November my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote to President Musharraf and Prime Minister Jamali and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote to Foreign Minister Kasuri. They made clear our readiness to assist in promoting democracy in Pakistan and confirmed our commitment to remain engaged with Pakistan throughout this transition. We place great importance on the transfer of power to the National Assembly and continue to believe that sustained strengthening of the judiciary, the rule of law and respect for human rights is the best long-term guarantee of Pakistan's democracy.

Terrorist Organisations (Funding)

Gregory Barker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports his Department has received concerning the funding of terrorist organisations since 11 September 2001. [95323]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: The FCO discusses terrorist financing with a wide range of countries and in multilateral fora including the EU and UN. The FCO receives reports from the UN 1390 Monitoring Group on the implementation of sanctions against al-Qaeda.

West Africa

Mr. Colman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps his Department has taken to address problems of regional instability in the Mano River region of West Africa, with particular reference to (a) the presence and conduct of Liberian

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and Sierra Leonean mercenaries in Cote d'Ivoire and other neighbouring countries and (b) the progress on decommissioning of small arms and light weapons in Liberia and Sierra Leone. [93406]

Mr. Rammell: Stability in Sierra Leone is threatened by conflicts in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire. We are supporting international and regional initiatives to resolve the conflict in Liberia especially through our membership of the International Contact Group and in Cote d'Ivoire.

Liberia remains a centre of gravity for mercenaries and armed groups in the region. Liberia continues to ignore the demands of the UN Security Council by sponsoring armed groups in the region. We aim to continue to contain the activities of the Liberian regime by maintaining effective UN sanctions against Liberia. We remain concerned about reports of Liberian involvement in the rebellion in Cote d'Ivoire.

We have taken steps to limit the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the sub-region through UN arms embargoes in Liberia and Sierra Leone, a disarmament programme in Sierra Leone and support for the ECOWAS Small Arms monitoring Mechanism.


Congestion Charge

Mr. Gale: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment the Commission has made of the impact of the imposition of a congestion tax under the terms of the Transport Act 2000 upon shift-working staff employed by the House. [95577]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The implications of the congestion charge for staff of the House who have to work unsocial hours have been considered carefully. As I said in my reply to the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) on 20 November 2002, Official Report, column 151W, the Commission will continue to keep an eye on developments, but has no current plans to reimburse employees.


Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Heald : To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many claimants of disability living allowance there were in each year since its introduction, broken down by local authority area. [93998]

Maria Eagle: The information has been placed in the Library.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many deaf people had access to a qualified British Sign Language interpreter at their aural tribunal for disability living allowance; and on how many occasions the expenses of a British Sign Language interpreter have been met by the Appeal Board; [92808]

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Maria Eagle: This is a matter for Neil Ward, Chief Executive of the Appeals Service. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Neil Ward to Mr. Malcolm Bruce dated 27 January 2003:

Further Education Students

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether lump sum payments from school sixth form and college access funds used for living costs are treated as income or capital. [90914]

Malcolm Wicks: The treatment of access fund payments in the income-related benefits depends on whether the payment is made as a lump sum or in regular instalments and whether or not the payment is intended to meet general living costs.

Lump-sum payments not intended to form part of a series of payments are treated as capital. Where the payment is intended for items other than living costs it is disregarded provided it has been spent within 52 weeks, at which point the student will be contacted to verify their current savings.

Payments made on a regular basis are treated as income. Where the payments are intended to meet living costs the first £20 a week is ignored. Regular payments made for other purposes are disregarded in full.

National Insurance

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will ensure that employees are notified (a) of the amount received in respect of each employee annually for national insurance by his Department and (b) whether it is a qualifying year for pension purposes; and if he will make a statement. [95100]

John Healey: I have been asked to reply.

Employers are required to provide their employees with a notice showing the amount of contributions they have paid each year. A contributor can request a statement of their national insurance account from the Inland Revenue's National Insurance Contributions Office, and if a particular year is not a qualifying year then the contributor is advised how much to pay to make it a qualifying year.

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