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Mr. Boswell: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what arrangements are planned under the new pension arrangements to maintain civil servants' pension rights (including qualifying dates) in the event of service being broken on account of (a) illness, (b) family responsibilities, (c) unpaid leave and (d) other causes. 
Mr. Hutton: The Government and trade unions agreed a common set of principles for public service pension reform at a special meeting of the Public Services Forum on 18 October 2005. Discussions on changes to the Civil Service Pension Scheme for existing and new employees will now take place between the Cabinet Office and the civil service unions in accordance with the common set of agreed principles. No decisions have therefore yet been made on the detail relating to any new pension arrangements.
Mr. Hutton: The consultation document Building a sustainable future" set out the Cabinet Office's proposals to reform the Civil Service Pension Scheme. The consultation finished on 4 March 2005. Cabinet Office has received over 6,200 responses to the consultation. This included some 6,000 responses from scheme members (139 of which were sent via their local Member of Parliament), 45 responses from civil service employers and pension administrators, and 138 responses from 11 unions and their sub-branches.
Since then the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has chaired three special meetings of the Public Services Forum (PSF) to discuss public sector pension reform. At the third and final meeting, which took place on the 18 October 2005, the Government and trade unions agreed a common set of principles for public service pension reform. Discussion on changes to the
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Civil Service Pension Scheme for existing and new employees will now take place between the Cabinet Office and the civil service unions in accordance with the common set of agreed principles.
Mr. Hutton: The Cabinet Office Performance Management System supports the further development of skills and competences and if basic skills needs for individuals become apparent these would be addressed through personal development plans.
The Cabinet Office, in response to an identified need for a significant group of employees, has run a series of communication skills events with a specific focus on clear business English and the effective use of language and punctuation.
Mr. Gibb: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what assessment he has made of the literacy and numeracy skills of new Civil Service staff recruited through the Fast Stream Accelerated Development programme. 
Mr. Hutton: Successful candidates for the Civil Service Fast Stream will have demonstrated a high level of literacy and numeracy skills during the selection process. They are required to pass challenging selection tests which measure both their numerical and verbal reasoning skills. At the subsequent Fast Stream Assessment Centre, candidates are assessed through written and oral exercises which require both excellent written communication skills and numerical ability.
Dr. Cable: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what estimate he has made of public sector spending on information and communications technology for e-Government in each year since 2001, broken down by Government department; and what estimate he has made of the effects of e-Government on cost efficiency of departments. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: The Cabinet Office does not collect information on individual departments' spending on e-Government. However recent research by Kable indicates that £14 billion per annum is spent on information technology (IT) across the public sector.
The Spending Review 2004 (SR04) reported that significant investment in information communication technology (ICT) in both central and local government is streamlining the delivery of services to the public, cutting transaction costs and reducing paperwork. Examples of efficiency gains can be found in the Spending Review, copies of which are available in the Library and at http://hm-Treasury.gov.uk/spending_review/spend__sr04/rep ort/spend_sr04_repindex.cfm
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Mr. Hutton: Since the civil service strategy was launched in 2001, all main government departments, as well as many small departments, agencies and non departmental public bodies (NDPBs), have developed action plans for implementation of the strategy. Departments have made significant progress against these action plans, including: embedding skills for life training in in-house courses; developing specific literacy and numeracy courses and working with unions, through union learning representatives, to support staff. The Ministry of Defence Civil Service in Northern Ireland has recently won a national training award for their skills for life activity.
The Cabinet Office, in its corporate work, has continued to work closely with Department for Education and Science (DfES) to support departments in implementation of the strategy. In addition, Cabinet Office as employer has addressed the strategy and taken action including providing information on an internal website; providing advice and support to staff; and the distribution of marketing materials and literature to raise awareness.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which (a) Ministers and (b) Departments are involved in discussions on the European Union's next financial perspective and the future of the UK's abatement; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The issue of the UK's position on the financial perspectives is a matter for the Government as a whole, and not for individual Ministers or Departments. A large number of Departments have an interest in the issues mentioned.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the negotiations concerning (a) the European Union's next financial perspective, (b) the future of the UK's abatement and (c) the reform of the common agricultural policy. 
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals the Government are putting forward to EU (a) partners and EU (b) institutions with regard to the European Union's next financial perspective; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander:
The Government have not put forward any Presidency proposals for the 200713 budget. We have held formal consultations with each of
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the 24 other member states, as well as the two accession states Romania and Bulgaria, in order to ensure that we understand their views and concerns on this issue. The UK Presidency believes agreement on the 200713 budget can and should be reached in December, and we will have to reflect, in the light of member states' views and the proposals published by the European Commission on 20 October, how best to do this. We plan to have a first ministerial discussion of the issue at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 7 November, followed by further discussions through November leading to the European Council on 1516 December. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will update Parliament on these negotiations in due course.
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