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11 Jan 2005 : Column 389W—continued

Yellow School Buses

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made in encouraging the use of yellow school buses as a means to cut traffic congestion. [207731]

Charlotte Atkins: We know from our evaluation of various small-scale yellow and other dedicated school bus schemes that well-designed schemes have the potential to reduce car dependency for journeys to school and the traffic congestion that results from this. However, care needs to be taken to ensure that schemes do not reduce levels of walking or cycling or undermine the viability of important commercial bus services.

We therefore want to encourage individual local authorities to consider school bus schemes as part of broader local transport planning and to decide whether or not they would be appropriate to their area. We will give capital bids for such schemes careful consideration, taking account of value for money, regional priorities and affordability. We approved £18.7 million funding for a yellow bus scheme serving 100 schools in West Yorkshire as part of the local transport settlement for 2004–05. Funding for this project is to be released in three phases—the second and third phases of funding are to be released subject to the first phase meeting its objectives with respect to modal switch from car.

In addition, the School Transport Bill will enable a small number of local authorities to develop innovative proposals to reduce car dependency on the school run. We expect pilot authorities to use the new legislation to support arrangements that offer a range of good quality,
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cost effective arrangements to the family car on the home to school journey which may include yellow or other dedicated school bus schemes.



20. Miss Begg: To ask the Advocate-General what recent devolution issues have been raised with her in connection with the seizure of the assets of convicted drug dealers. [207426]

The Advocate-General: I received intimation of six cases involving the seizure of assets of convicted drugs dealers in 2004. Three were civil actions for the recovery of proceeds of crime under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and three were applications for confiscation orders in criminal proceedings, following conviction, under the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995.

21. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Advocate-General what devolution issues she has considered since 30 November 2004. [207427]

The Advocate-General: I would refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave to questions numbers 16 to 19.


Lyons Review

6. Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the impact of the Lyons Review in areas of Scotland not named in the King Sturge report; and what role his Department is playing in public sector job relocation to Scotland. [207433]

Mrs. McGuire: The King Sturge report was intended to be used as a guide to departments when considering relocation away from Whitehall and is not definitive. My right hon. Friend has made the advantages of Scotland as a location clear to other Departments and has encouraged them to consider Scotland when they assess relocation options. My hon. Friend will be aware that we are scheduled to meet to discuss this matter further.

Child Trust Fund

7. Jim Sheridan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the implementation in Scotland of the child trust fund. [207434]

Mrs. McGuire: My right hon. Friend discusses a wide range of issues with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In June last year my right hon. Friend launched the Child Trust roadshow in Scotland for potential financial providers.

Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the roll out of the child trust fund in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [207438]

Mrs. McGuire: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for West Renfrewshire (Jim Sheridan).
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Small Business (Regulation)

8. Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet representatives of Scottish small businesses to discuss central Government regulation. [207435]

Mrs. McGuire: The Scotland Office maintains contact will all key business organisations in Scotland at both ministerial and official levels. Furthermore, I am a member of the Small Business Consultative Group that is convened and chaired by the Scottish Executive. This group last met on 13 December 2004 and a specialist sub group looking in greater depth at regulation will meet on 12 January. Representatives from small businesses will be present as well as officials from the Scotland Office at this meeting.

Cross-border Health Issues

10. Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the First Minister to discuss cross-border health issues. [207437]

Mrs. McGuire: My right hon. Friend regularly meets with the First Minister to discuss a range of matters.

Economic Growth Differentials

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on economic growth differentials between Scotland and other parts of the UK. [207436]

Mr. Darling: I have regular discussions on a range of matters with my right, hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Growth in Scotland has closely matched that of the UK in recent years and was higher as recently as 2003, while future prospects are good.
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Energy Policy

12. Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the renewable energy industry in Scotland on energy issues. [207439]

Mr. Darling: I have discussed the prospects for renewable energy in the course of various meetings and visits over recent months and saw a range of developments during my visit to Islay in November.

Fuel Poverty

13. John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he is taking in conjunction with the Scottish Executive to help alleviate fuel poverty in Scotland. [207440]

Mrs. McGuire: Tackling fuel poverty is one of the Government's and Scottish Executive's key priorities within their wider policies on energy and social inclusion.

Ferry Subsidies

14. Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to discuss the level of ferry subsidies with the Scottish Executive. [207441]

Mr. Darling: Assistance for ferry services within Scotland and the level of subsidy provided is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament and Executive.

Industry/University Links

15. Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the First Minister on improving links between industry and universities. [207442]

Mr. Darling: I have frequent discussions with the First Minister on a range of topics. Enhancing links between industry and universities is recognised by both the Government and the Executive as means of helping to unlock competitive advantage.
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Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what role UK officials had in the IMF monitoring exercise in Angola; and what advice they have offered to the Government of Angola. [207694]

Hilary Benn: The Government of Angola and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been engaged in talks for over a year about a staff monitored programme (SMP). Under an SMP, Angola would reach broad agreement on its macroeconomic policy approach, but without any linked IMF lending programme. An SMP is normally used by countries to demonstrate their track record of sound macroeconomic management in order to assist in achieving an international financial and investment standing. A key issue for Angola will be to ensure that all its revenues are captured in their budgets.

It is not yet clear that the political will exists in Angola to come to terms with the IMF. In the recent past, two programmes failed shortly after they had been agreed. The IMF is keen to avoid this happening again. A further IMF mission to discuss the Angola SMP will probably take place in January.

UK officials have no direct involvement in the IMF missions although we are strongly encouraging the Government of Angola to do all it can to respond to the IMF's requests, and reach agreement on a programme. DFID has funded some work on oil revenue transparency in coordination with the World Bank which the IMF have found useful in their discussions on the fiscal position. Furthermore, DFID has advised the Government of Angola that DFID is willing to provide technical assistance to ensure the successful implementation of an IMF programme.

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