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Asylum Law

Andrew Selous: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Wokingham of 15 December 2003, Official Report, column 1334, what the basis was for his statement that the United Kingdom is not giving up the power to set asylum law. [145323]

The Prime Minister: EU competence over asylum and immigration does not mean we lose national control. The UK's opt-in to Title IV of the Treaty on European Union, negotiated at Amsterdam, means that we will only participate where it is in British interests. We shall continue to work with European partners—both bilaterally and within the EU—where this is good for Britain.


Tom Brake: To ask the Prime Minister when he last raised the issue of human rights in Chechnya with President Putin. [145800]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) on 18 June 2003, Official Report, column 355.

EU Policy

Mr. Spring: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the role that Roger Liddle has with respect to EU policy. [145953]

The Prime Minister: Roger Liddle is a special adviser covering European issues.

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EU Reform

Keith Vaz: To ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made in respect of the joint letter he sent with Chancellor Schröder on the reform of the EU. [145410]

The Prime Minister: In June 2002, the European Council at Seville agreed a number of practical changes to improve the effectiveness and transparency of the Council, in line with proposals made in the Prime Minister's joint letter of 25 February 2002 with Chancellor Schröder.

Further reforms of the Council have been considered in the Convention on the Future of Europe and the subsequent Intergovernmental Conference. The Government will continue to pursue these issues as negotiations on a new EU Treaty progress.

Give as You Earn Scheme

John Barrett: To ask the Prime Minister how many and what percentage of staff in his office contribute to a charity through the Give as You Earn scheme; how much money is donated to charity per month by staff in his Department through the scheme; and what steps he is taking to encourage greater participation in the scheme by staff in his Department. [143898]

The Prime Minister: For these purposes, my office is part of the Cabinet Office. Currently 58 individuals, approximately 3 per cent. of staff in the Cabinet Office, contribute around £1,600 each month to charities through the Give as You Earn scheme.

The Cabinet Office regularly promotes the scheme through internal staff publications and on the Cabinet Office intranet.

Giving to charity is a personal matter. The Give as You Earn scheme is not the only method by which staff can donate to charity. For example, they may donate money through Gift Aid or volunteer their time and skills direct to charities.

Public Sector Investment

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to his answer to the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) of 17 December 2003, Official Report, column 1564, what his definition is of public sector investment; and where else in official publications his definition has been employed. [146107]

The Prime Minister: Public sector investment is defined as capital formation plus the net acquisition of land plus expenditure on capital grants. Capital formation is defined as expenditure, net of sales, on fixed assets (such as buildings, vehicles and machinery), and net stock building.

Public sector investment can be measured gross or net of depreciation. Public sector net investment and public sector gross investment are measured using data from the national accounts as defined and measured by the Office for National Statistics.

Several official publications use these definitions, including the Financial Statement and Budget report, pre-Budget report and Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses.

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Keith Vaz: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what plans he has to visit Romania; [145409]

The Prime Minister: I have no current plans to do so.

I met Prime Minister Nastase in March last year in London. I have also met him at multilateral meetings since then, including European Council.

The UK looks forward to welcoming Romania to NATO in 2004 and to the EU in 2007 and we continue to provide political and practical support to Romania in pursuit of these aims.

Saddam Hussein

Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister whether former President Saddam Hussein is being held in custody as a prisoner of war under the provisions of the Geneva Convention. [145183]

The Prime Minister: Saddam Hussein is being afforded the rights of a prisoner of war under the Third Geneva Convention until such time as his status is otherwise determined by a tribunal.


Keith Vaz: To ask the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the President of Yemen. [145412]

The Prime Minister: I have no current plans to do so.


Performing Arts

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assistance is available to children from low income families who wish to pursue careers in the performing arts; and what the most recent figures are for regional uptake. [144744]

Mr. Miliband: Through the Music and Dance Scheme, the Department is providing significant means-tested support for over 800 exceptionally talented children aged eight and over at eight independent specialist schools in England. Around one in five families using the scheme are entitled to full remission of fees because of the level of their incomes. Figures for the regional take-up of places are not collected centrally although we are aware of regional disparities in provision. To help address those disparities we are seeking to develop the scheme, over time, by introducing non-residential complementary models to serve as focal points in regions currently poorly served.

The Dance and Drama Awards are national scholarships for students aged 16 and above and are offered on the basis of talent demonstrated at open audition. Over 60 per cent. of students with these awards have an annual family income of less than £20k.

There is a range of other assistance available, notably through the national youth music organisations such as the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and through

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Arts Council England supported programmes such as the National Youth Theatre and through Creative Partnerships. Many Local Education Authority Music Services also provide assistance.

Aimhigher Programme

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans the Government has to expand the Aimhigher programme in Merseyside. [144324]

Alan Johnson: Aimhigher (formerly Excellence Challenge) operates in Excellence in Cities (EiC) areas, Education Action Zones (EAZ) and some Excellence Clusters. In April 2004 Aimhigher will merge with Partnerships for Progression, an initiative funded by HEFCE and the LSC. The new Aimhigher will be a coherent national outreach programme operating most intensively in disadvantaged areas and will cover all of Merseyside.

Child Referrals

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many referrals there have been of children up to the age of five years to social services departments in England and Wales in each year since 1997; and who initiated these referrals. [144136]

Margaret Hodge: Information on the number of referrals by age group is not collected centrally in England or Wales and nor are details of who initiated referrals. Information was collected for the first time in 2002 on the total number of referrals to social services departments of 0–17 year olds in England and the figure during the year ending 31 March 2002 was 569,400. Total figures for 2003 will be released in the publication "Referrals, Assessments and Children and Young People on Child Protection Registers, England—Year ending 31 March 2003" which is due to be published in January 2004.

Child Support

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what strategies are being developed for supporting the children of people with no recourse to public funds. [140464]

Margaret Hodge: Local authority social service departments have a range of powers and duties in relation to children and their families under the Children Act 1989.

A general duty is placed on local authorities by section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area who are in need by providing a range of services appropriate to those needs. The definition of a child in need is set out in section 17(10) of the Act, which applies to all children, regardless of whether or not their family has recourse to public funds. Services may be provided for members of the child's family under section 17 if those services help to promote the child's welfare.

There is also a duty under section 20 of the Children Act to provide accommodation for children in need.

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