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15 Nov 2004 : Column 1194W—continued

Consultants

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much has been spent by his Department on (a) advertising and (b) public relations consultants in (i) 1996–97 and (ii) the latest year for which figures are available. [185532]

Jane Kennedy: The Department for Work and Pensions was formed in June 2001 and does not employ advertising or public relations consultants.

I also refer my right hon. Friend to PQ152855 of 24 May 2004, Official Report, column 1464W, and PQ191736 of 3 November 2004, Official Report, column 341W.

Departmental IT

Brian White: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of the Department's (a) implemented and (b) planned computer systems use open source software; and what plans are in place to raise this level. [195662]

Jane Kennedy: The Department for Work and Pensions does not currently use open source software in any of its current computer systems.

However, we have taken part in the recent Office of Government Commerce 'Proof of Concept' trials of open source software. As a result we are working on an IT strategy and enterprise IT architecture which will take into account the reducing risk in the marketplace and allow us to take advantage of open source software in the future.

Our procurement of software solutions follows Government OSS policy, which does not require the raising of levels of OSS usage in Government, rather that Government considers OSS solutions alongside proprietary ones in IT procurements and that contracts should be awarded on a value for money, case by case basis. The policy can be viewed at www.govtalk.gov.uk.

Departmental Staff

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of the staff of the Department in (a) 2002 and (b) 2003 were people with disabilities. [196135]

Maria Eagle: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office, on 9 November 2004, Official Report, column 620w.

EU Commissions

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times during the Greek
 
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Presidency of the EU (a) the Technical Committee on information processing, (b) the Committee for implementation of the action programme to promote gender equality and (c) the Committee for implementation of the action programme to tackle discrimination met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (i) technical and (ii) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations each Committee produced during that period; what actions were (A) proposed and (B) taken by (1) the EU and (2) the UK Government as a result of the Committee's recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [194349]

Mr. Pond: There were two meetings of the Technical Commission on Data Processing during the Greek Presidency. The Technical Commission is created under Regulation (EEC) 574/72 Article 117c and is charged with modernising the exchange of data between social security institutions for the purposes of implementing Regulation (EEC) 1408/71. This Regulation, founded on Article 42 of the EC Treaty co-ordinates national social security schemes so as to protect the rights of migrant workers. Please note that "social security" in this context includes access to health care.

The two meetings were held in Brussels on 4 and 5 March and 3 and 4 June respectively. Officials from DWP attended both meetings and an official from the Department Health also attended the second meeting.

At the first meeting the agenda was dominated by issues concerning pension claims, in particular steps to accelerate awards where the pensioner had been insured in more than one EU state in the course of his or her working life via implementation of a long standing procedure (Administrative Commission Decision 118) providing for the early exchange of insurance records. This is in the process of migration from paper or magnetic tape format to electronic interchange. The UK has supported this change while at the same time minimising any consequences for national computer applications.

Other matters discussed included (1) the first draft of the Technical Commission's forthcoming work programme for 2004–08 (2) progress on the Co-webs project which aims to link national social security websites so as to provide a coherent and consistent information source for migrant workers, and (3) a report and discussion on pension clearance times reported by all member states. The UK has taken a particularly active part in this last mentioned as a means both of identifying bottle necks in the present processes and also so as to inform targets against which performance can be measured.

The second meeting covered progress on these issues but also certain technical matters concerning the (then) proposed introduction of the European Health Insurance Card (E-HIC). Specifically the meeting addressed the issue and maintenance of code lists for institutions which exchange data. The proposals adopted do not create any problems or issues for the UK.

Neither meeting addressed financial issues, any such question being outside its remit.
 
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Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times during the Greek Presidency of the EU the Administrative Commission on Social Security for Migrant Workers met; how many working parties exist of the Administrative Commission on Social Security for Migrant Workers; how many times each of those working parties met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (i) technical and (ii) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations the Committee produced during that period; what actions were (A) proposed and (B) taken by (1) the EU and (2) the UK Government as a result of the Committee's recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [196101]

Mr. Pond: The Administrative Commission on Social Security for Migrant Workers met twice during the Greek Presidency, on 26–27 March and 17–18 June 2003. Officials from the Department for Work and Pensions attended the meetings together with officials from the Department of Health and the Inland Revenue.

The Administrative Commission deals with all administrative questions and questions of interpretation arising from the provisions of Regulation (EC) 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes to employed and self-employed persons and to members of their families moving within the Community.

The Administrative Commission has one working party. It met on two occasions during the Greek Presidency, on 12 February when an official from the Inland Revenue attended, and on 9 April when an official from the Department of Health attended. The meetings of the Administrative Commission and its working party were all held in Brussels.

During the Greek Presidency the Administrative Commission agreed on decisions concerning: the introduction of the European Health Insurance Card; a uniform interpretation of the European Court of Justice judgment in the case of Elide Gottardo v. INPS; and on a revision of Administrative Commission Decision 118 of 20 April 1983 concerning the conditions for the early exchange of insurance records, following up work carried out by the Technical Commission on Data Processing. The Administrative Commission discussed several other matters, which required further deliberation at subsequent meetings.

UK officials raised issues relating to the need for a transitional period for the European Health Insurance Card during which the current E111 paper form and the new card would both be in circulation; requested clarification of the legal basis for the proposed Decision concerning the Gottardo case; informed the other delegations of the UK's new tax credit for children; and supported the European Commission proposal for better monitoring of the application of Community law. No specific financial issues were raised.

For general information on the Greek Presidency, I refer the hon. Member to 'Developments in the European Union, January to June 2003, the Greek Presidency' Cm6097, which was laid before Parliament in January 2004.
 
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EU Committees

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times during the Greek presidency of the EU (a) the Advisory Committee on the implementation of the Community action programme to combat social exclusion, (b) the Advisory Committee on the free movement of workers and (c) the Technical Committee for the implementation of regulations concerning the free movement and employment of workers met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (i) technical and (ii) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations each Committee produced during that period; what actions were (A) proposed and (B) taken by (1) the EU and (2) the UK Government as a result of each Committee's recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [196677]

Mr. Pond: There were two meetings of the Advisory Committee on the implementation of the Community action programme to combat social exclusion during the Greek Presidency—on 5 February and 3 April 2003. Both took place in Brussels: the first was attended by a DWP official, the second by two DWP officials. At both meetings the main points raised by UK Government experts were on the Commission's proposals for an international peer review process. The UK sought to make the process more flexible in order to maximise the ability of this programme to meet its objectives—mutual learning on social inclusion matters. Points raised were largely technical but also impacted on the way that funds were to be spent.

Other matters on which UK representatives intervened included proposals for the development of new indicators of social exclusion; a suggested series of seminars on the future of social inclusion after enlargement; and the tendering process for the second round of transnational exchange programmes. Interventions on these matters covered both technical and financial issues.

During the Greek Presidency, the EU provided financial support to a range of projects and studies as a result of the deliberations of the Advisory Committee on the implementation of the Community action programme to combat social exclusion. During this period, the UK Government took no direct action as a result of the Committee's recommendations but it did begin preparations for a peer review supported by the action programme.

There was one meeting of the Advisory Committee on Freedom of Movement for Workers—on 9 January in Brussels. The Committee consists of representatives of Governments, employers and trade unions of each EU Member State. An official of the Department for Work and Pensions attended. The following matters were discussed on that occasion:


 
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The UK representative did not raise specific technical or financial issues at the meeting.

The Committee did not agree recommendations during the period of the Greek Presidency. The European Commission took into account the comments of individual members of the Advisory Committee on the matters discussed above.

There was one meeting of the Technical Committee on Freedom of Movement for Workers—on 8 January 2003 in Brussels. An official of the Department for Work and Pensions attended.

The same matters were discussed as at the Advisory Committee on 9 January, with the exception of European Commission proposals concerning the rights of third-country nationals, and with the addition of a proposed Directive on the rights of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the EU.

The UK representative did not raise specific technical or financial issues at the meeting.

The Committee did not agree recommendations during the period of the Greek Presidency. The European Commission took into account the comments of individual members of the Technical Committee on the matters discussed at the meeting and, at the suggestion of the UK Government representative, sought further written comments on the EURES Charter because a number of other Member States were not represented at the meeting.

For general information on the Greek Presidency I refer the hon. Member to 'Developments in the European Union, January to June 2003, the Greek Presidency' Cm6097 which was laid before Parliament in January 2004.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times during the Greek presidency of the EU the Advisory Committee on incentives in the field of employment met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (a) technical and (b) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations the Committee produced during that period; what actions were (i) proposed and (ii) taken by (A) the EU and (B) the UK Government as a result of the Committee's recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [194878]

Mr. Pond: There was one meeting of the Committee on Community incentive measures in the field of employment during the Greek Presidency, on 12 June 2003 in Brussels. An official from the Department for Work and Pensions represented the UK. The standard approach of the United Kingdom Government to the work of this Committee is to seek assurances that all the action being supported are in line with the agreed aims
 
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of the programme set out at Decision No 1145/2002/EC of 10 June 2002 and to contribute to the Lisbon reform agenda.

During the Greek Presidency the Committee provided an opinion on the implementation of activities under the 2003 work programme on incentive measures in the field of employment and on revision of the general guidelines for the implementation of the activities and the work programme for 2003. The European Commission carried forwards the implementation of the detailed measures within the work programme. Whilst the UK Government did not take any specific, significant action in response to the matters considered by the Committee, the work of the programme supports understanding of the effectiveness of a variety of measures that may support strategies to promote employment and employability.

For general information on the Greek Presidency I refer the hon. Member to 'Developments in the European Union, January to June 2003, the Greek Presidency' Cm6097 which was laid before Parliament in January 2004.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times during the Greek Presidency of the EU the Committee of the European Social Fund met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (a) technical and (b) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations the Committee produced during that period; what actions were (i) proposed and (ii) taken by (A) the EU and (B) the UK Government as a result of the Committee's recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [194879]

Mr. Pond: The European Social Fund Advisory Committee met twice during the Greek Presidency. The meetings were held in Brussels on 21 March 2003 and 18 June 2003. At both meetings the UK Government representative raised a number of technical issues related to improving the effectiveness of European Social Fund programme management. No financial issues were raised. The Committee did not produce any recommendations.

For general information on the Greek Presidency I refer the hon. Member to 'Developments in the European Union, January to June 2003, the Greek Presidency' Cm6097, which was laid before Parliament in January 2004.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many times during the Greek presidency of the EU the Technical Adaptation Committee on (a) the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, (b) the minimum safety and health requirements for improved medical treatment on board vessels and (c) the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to chemical, physical and biological agents at work met; when and where these meetings took place; which UK Government expert was present at each meeting; what (i) technical and (ii) financial issues were raised by the UK Government expert at each meeting; what recommendations the Committee produced during that period; what actions were (A) proposed and
 
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(B) taken by (x) the EU and (y) the UK Government as a result of the Committee's recommendations; and if he will make a statement. [195571]

Mr. Pond: None of the bodies listed met during the currency of the Greek presidency of the EU.


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