The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am pleased to be able to announce that we will be buying 64 Tomahawk land attack missiles from the United States under the terms of a foreign military sales case. These are conventionally armed land attack missiles. These new missiles will be to higherBlock IVspecification than our existing Block III missiles. As such, they will provide the ability to retarget or abort a mission in flight and will also provide battle damage indication. They will be capable of being fired from our current Trafalgar Class submarines as well as from our new Astute Class submarines when they enter service.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Spellar): I am pleased to announce that the Northern Ireland discretionary social fund budget for 200405 will be £58.25 million; £12.64 million will be allocated to grants, £45.51 million to loans and £0.1 million will be held as a contingency reserve. The new allocations represent an increase of £1.65 million over the initial gross budget set at April 2004. This increase will be funded through higher loan recoveries, plus an increase in net treasury funding of £0.94 million for this year. This £0.94 million is the second of three annual increases from a £8.2 million boost for the discretionary social fund announced in the autumn 2002 pre-Budget report.
The loans budget has been increased to £45.51 million, an increase of £0.71 million on the initial 200304 loans budget. To improve the fairness of the scheme, budgets will be allocated in a way that will over time achieve greater consistency of outcome for customers wherever they live.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Spellar): I have placed copies of the Youth Justice Agency's Corporate Plan for 200407 and Business Plan for 200405 in the Libraries of both Houses.
Contribute towards the development and publication of an NIO Public Service Agreement target to reduce the reconviction rate for all offenders (compared to a predicted rate for Northern Ireland).
During term-time, 95 per cent. of children in the Juvenile Justice Centre will receive 20 hours a week of education and training.
No escapes from the Juvenile Justice Centre.
Over the year no more than 3 per cent. of the total new admissions to the Juvenile Justice Centre should be non-accidentally injured.
Over the year no more than 2 per cent. of the total members of staff should be non-accidentally injured while engaged in the work of the Agency.
No members of the public should be non-accidentally injured on Agency premises.
Deliver at least 70 per cent. of the planned training days specified in the Corporate Training Priorities Plan for 200405.
Expenditure is within budget allocated.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Alexander): The Government have today issued guidance to civil servants on the principles which they should observe in relation to the conduct of Government business in the period before the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, Greater London Authority and to local authorities in England and Wales.
The guidance stresses that civil servants should conduct themselves in accordance with the civil service code and is based on the need to maintain the political impartiality of the civil service and the need to ensure that public resources are not used for party political purposes.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): I am delighted to announce that the consultation "Taking it on: Developing UK Sustainable Development Strategy" was launched today.
The UK Government, together with the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government and Northern Ireland are consulting to develop new
21 Apr 2004 : Column 19WS
sustainable strategy for the UK. The consultation will include local and regional events and an online consultation facility, and will provide a strong basis for renewed action to deliver sustainable development.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith):
The new arrangements for child support came into operation for new cases and some linked old scheme cases from 3 March 2003. Progress has been slower than anticipated, chiefly due to problems with the new computer and telephony systems. However, over the course of the first year of operation of the new scheme, progress in performance has grown steadily. For example, more than a third of all maintenance
21 Apr 2004 : Column 20WS
calculations and over 45 per cent. of all first payments were made in the latest quarter. Further improvement is expected.
The number of cases cleared in the final quarter rose above 50,000 taking the total number of clearances (calculations and closures) to over 150,000. The ratio of cases reaching calculation compared to those that closed continued to be 6:4 to the year's end, comparing favourably with the ratio of 4:6 under the old scheme.
Technical issues continue to preclude reliable figures on compliance and throughput for the latest quarter. The Department continues to retain around 1520 per cent. of each monthly payment due to EDS, the service provider, due to the continuing problems with the computer and telephony systems. A special exercise is being undertaken to test accuracy to the year-end.
Average weekly child support maintenance payments to parents with care are shown below. Figures are for March 2004 only and are calculated as the total amount received and allocated divided by the number of cases.
|1 Qualifying Child||2 Qualifying Children||3 Qualifying Children|
|Average Weekly Payment||£34.25||£48.84||£53.91|
|Agency Performance||Quarter 1MarJun 2003||Quarter 2JulSep 2003||Quarter 3OctDec 2003||Quarter 4JanMar 2004||Scheme toMar 2004|
|of which: Maintenance Calculations||6,671||23,857||29,672||(1)31,229||(1)91,429|
|First payments made through the Agency||461||5,164||11,473||14,017||31,115|
|First Child Maintenance Premium payments made||77||3,314||6,173||7,484||17,048|
|Agency Performance(March 2003 to June 2003)||March 2003||April 2003||May 2003||June 2003||Total inQuarter|
|of which: Maintenance Calculations||10||721||1,810||4,130||6,671|
|First payments made through the Agency||136 for 1st 3 months(3)||325||461|
|First Child Maintenance Premium payments made||17 for 1st 3 months(3)||60||77|
|Agency Performance(July 2003 to September 2003)||July 2003||August 2003||September 2003||Total inQuarter||Scheme toSeptember 2003|
|of which: Maintenance Calculations||6,922||7,199||9,736||23,857||30,528|
|First Payment made through the Agency||1,032||1,752||2,380||5,164||5,625|
|First Child Maintenance Premium payments made||267||1,596||1,451||3,314||3,391|
|Agency Performance(October 2003 to December 2003)||October 2003||November 2003||December 2003||Total inQuarter||Scheme toDecember 2003|
|of which: Maintenance Calculations||11,807||9,975||7,890||29,672||60,200|
|First Payments made through the Agency||3,978||3,503||3,992||11,473||17,098|
|First Child Maintenance Premium payments made||2,108||1,915||2,150||6,173||9,564|
|Agency Performance(January 2004 to March 2004)||January 2004||February 2004||March 2004||Total inQuarter||Scheme toMarch 2004|
|of which: Maintenance Calculations||9,803||9,780||10,931||(1)31,229||(1)91,429|
|First Payments made through the Agency||4,193||4,284||5,540||14,017||31,115|
|First Child Maintenance Premium payments made||2,283||2,220||2,981||7,484||17,048|
Figures for child maintenance premium payments include an estimate of the number of parents who receive the premium by way of a disregard to their income support/income-based jobseekers allowance. The disregard has been added from August as data were not available prior to this, and has also been included in the scheme to date figure.
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