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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 21 April 2004


Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles

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 higher—Block IV—specification 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.

This decision shows our continued commitment to enabling precision attack at long range against selected targets.


Discretionary Social Fund

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Spellar): I am pleased to announce that the Northern Ireland discretionary social fund budget for 2004–05 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 community care grant budget has been increased by £0.94 million to £12.64 million. This will provide more help to customers, in particular families with children and the disabled.

The loans budget has been increased to £45.51 million, an increase of £0.71 million on the initial 2003–04 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.

Details of the budget allocations, together with a note explaining the basis on which they have been made, have been placed in the House of Commons Library today.
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Youth Justice Agency

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Spellar): I have placed copies of the Youth Justice Agency's Corporate Plan for 2004–07 and Business Plan for 2004–05 in the Libraries of both Houses.

Business Plan contains eight key performance targets I have set for the Service for 2004–05. These are:


Election Guidance

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 guidance will come into force on Thursday 20 May 2004, ahead of the elections on Thursday 10 June 2004.

Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Library.


Sustainable Development

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
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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 consultation will close on 31 July. We aim to publish the new UK strategic framework, and the UK Government's strategy, in spring 2005.

The consultation document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and is also available on the UK Government's sustainable development website.


Child Support

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
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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 15–20 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 Child2 Qualifying Children3 Qualifying Children
Average Weekly    Payment£34.25£48.84£53.91

Summary of Agency Performance to March 2004

Agency PerformanceQuarter 1Mar–Jun 2003Quarter 2Jul–Sep 2003Quarter 3Oct–Dec 2003Quarter 4Jan–Mar 2004Scheme toMar 2004
Applications received73,58278,98285,30683,652321,522
Applications cleared12,64838,58349,453(1)51,876(1)152,560
      of which:            Maintenance Calculations6,67123,85729,672(1)31,229(1)91,429
First payments made through the Agency4615,16411,47314,01731,115
First Child Maintenance Premium payments made773,3146,1737,48417,048

Agency Performance(March 2003 to June 2003)March 2003April 2003May 2003June 2003Total inQuarter
Applications Received3,44425,22819,95124,95973,582
Applications Cleared431,6163,4417,54812,648
      of which:            Maintenance Calculations107211,8104,1306,671
First payments made through the Agency136 for 1st 3 months(3)325461
First Child Maintenance Premium payments made17 for 1st 3 months(3)6077

Agency Performance(July 2003 to September 2003)July 2003August 2003September 2003Total inQuarterScheme toSeptember 2003
Applications Received28,89723,76126,32478,982152,564
Applications Cleared10,52611,92316,13438,58351,231
      of which:            Maintenance Calculations6,9227,1999,73623,85730,528
First Payment made through the Agency1,0321,7522,3805,1645,625
First Child Maintenance Premium payments made2671,5961,4513,3143,391

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Agency Performance(October 2003 to December 2003)October 2003November 2003December 2003Total inQuarterScheme toDecember 2003
Applications Received35,72428,84120,74185,306237,870
Applications Cleared19,83216,01113,61049,453100,684
      of which:            Maintenance Calculations11,8079,9757,89029,67260,200
First Payments made through the Agency3,9783,5033,99211,47317,098
First Child Maintenance Premium payments made2,1081,9152,1506,1739,564

Agency Performance(January 2004 to March 2004)January 2004February 2004March 2004Total inQuarterScheme toMarch 2004
Applications Received27,95024,68031,02283,652321,522
Applications Cleared16,41816,31618,318(1)51,876(1)152,560
      of which:            Maintenance Calculations9,8039,78010,931(1)31,229(1)91,429
First Payments made through the Agency4,1934,2845,54014,01731,115
First Child Maintenance Premium payments made2,2832,2202,9817,48417,048

(1)   Quarter 4 totals and Scheme to March 2004 figures include clerical cases (new scheme cases unable to be progressed on the new system) which are not included in the month-by-month figures. Figures for these are as follows:      Applications cleared                        824      Maintenance Calculations         715      Closures                                                      109
(2)   Closures: Applications close for a variety of reasons. The main reasons are that the parent with care withdraws the application, perhaps due to reconciliation, or having agreed private arrangements with the non-resident parent.
(3)   Figures marked with * are not available on a monthly basis for this period.

A proportion of cases that have a maintenance calculation in place may already be receiving payment directly, but will not be reflected in the figures shown above.

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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