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19 July 2006 : Column 485Wcontinued
The total estimated spending on state pensions and pension credit in 2005-06 is in the following table.
|£ million, nominal terms, estimated outturn|
| Notes: 1. Caseload figures are rounded to the nearest 10 and some additional disclosure control has been applied. 2. Expenditure figures are rounded to the nearest million pounds. 3. Totals may not sum due to rounding. 4. The number of individual beneficiaries includes both claimants and their partners. Source: DWP Expenditure tables|
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of total spending on the (a) basic state pension and (b) pension credit in each (i) country and (ii) region of the UK in (A) 2024, (B) 2034 and (C) 2044 (1) under the current arrangements and (2) under the Governments proposed pension reforms. 
James Purnell: The information is not available in the format requested. Tables 1 and 2 show the total expenditure on basic state pension and pension credit respectively for the UK.
Under our reforms, more people will be getting state pensions based on their national insurance records, and there will be a more generous basic state pension due to the restoration of the earnings link. This provides a solid foundation for private saving. Incentives are further enhanced by reducing the growth of the savings credit.
Increase in the basic state pension leads to higher incomes for pensioners and as a consequence reduces the spending on pension credit. The reduction in pension credit as a result of the overall reform package can be seen in table 2. Column 2 of the table shows the level of spending without the White Paper reforms while column 3 shows spending after reforms.
Table 1 shows total expenditure under current basic state pension policies, and under the proposed reforms.
|Table 1: Expenditure on basic state pension|
|£ billion, 2006-07 prices|
|Without reform||With reform|
Table 2 shows total expenditure under different pension credit policies, all of which assume the stated policy of uprating the standard guarantee with earnings until 2008: the current system projected forward with the standard guarantee uprated by prices after 2008; the same scenario but with the standard guarantee uprated with earnings after 2008; and the projected outcomes under the White Paper reforms.
|Table 2: Expenditure on pension credit|
|£ billion, 2006-07 prices|
|Without reform, standard guarantee price-linked from 2008||Without reform, standard guarantee earnings-linked from 2008||With reform|
| Notes: 1. Costs or savings presented in the table are based on long-term projections of United Kingdom benefit expenditure consistent with the Budget report 2006, and estimated expenditure effects of the proposed reforms. 2. Table 2 estimates of expenditure are dependent on projections of numbers receiving pension credit in the future. These projections are subject to a range of uncertainties and a number of factors including policies on uprating different benefits and assumptions on rates of take-up. The assumptions applied here are consistent with those that underpin published long-run expenditure projections. 3. Table 1 includes, in the With reform column, earnings uprating the basic state pension, improving coverage, and the effects of state pension age increases. 4. Table 2 includes, in the With reform column, continued earnings uprating of the standard guarantee; the savings credit maximum is uprated by earnings from 2008 and then by prices from 2015; earnings uprating of the basic state pension from 2012; measures to improve coverage of the basic state pension and reforms to the state second pension described in the White Paper. 5. Figures exclude the effect of personal accounts. 6. Figures include the effects on expenditure on the basic state pension and on pension credit arising from increases in the state pension age as set out in the White Paper.|
Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 20 June 2006, Official Report, column 1716W, on Afghanistan, how many (a) ministerial and (b) official-level meetings on Afghanistan have taken place between the three Departments since January. 
Margaret Beckett: There are regular ministerial and official meetings on Afghanistan. Since January, seven ministerial meetings and 16 senior official meetings specifically on Afghanistan have been held. At the official level there is daily contact between Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence personnel.
Mr. Roger Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she had with the Brazilian Government regarding (a) human and animal health, (b) human rights and (c) environmental issues relating to Brazilian beef imports during her recent official visit. 
Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did not discuss these issues in detail during her recent visit to Brazil. However, we regularly raise such matters with the Government of Brazil, bilaterally and with our European partners.
Recently, at the Human Rights Council, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs discussed with Paulo Vannuchi, Brazilian State Secretary for Human Rights, ways in which our countries could deepen co-operation. In April, on his visit to Brazil, my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, also raised human rights with Paulo Vannuchi and agreed that the protection of human rights defenders was one of the key areas in which Brazil and the UK could co-operate.
Animal health is an issue taken seriously by the UK and the EU. In August last year, the European Commissions Food and Veterinary Office sent an inspection mission to Brazil. The findings were discussed in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health in Brussels and the committee was satisfied that no additional restrictions on imports were justified at that stage.
The UK has initiated a high-level dialogue on sustainable development with the Brazilian Government to promote action on sustainable development challengesincluding deforestation, whether it is caused by soya production or cattle farming. The Government actively supports efforts in Brazil to promote agricultural practices that reduce environmental impact and levels of deforestation. For example, the UK, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices Global Opportunities Fund, is supporting an Amazon Deforestation Soya Certification Project which aims to combat deforestation by developing and implementing an independent certification scheme for forest-friendly soya.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of investment channels through British Overseas Territories to Burma. 
Mr. McCartney: We have made no such assessment, however, Overseas Territories are required to give effect to the EU Common Position on Burma sanctions.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the European Union on securing a United Nations resolution on the Government of Burma. 
The proposal for a UN Security Council Resolution on Burma was raised at the
General Affairs and External Relations Council on 12 June. All EU member states represented on the Security Council gave their support for a debate and resolution on Burma.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the Government of India regarding its trade and investment policy towards Burma. 
Mr. McCartney: We have not made any specific representations to the Government of India regarding trade and investment in Burma. We do, however, have dialogue with the Indian Government about their policy towards Burma and have highlighted international concern about human rights and democracy in that country.
In my discussions with the Indian Deputy Foreign Minister in the margins of the Human Rights Council on 20 June, I asked the Government of India to use its influence to encourage the Burmese Government to respect human rights and bring about political change.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of proposals for demobilisation of paramilitaries and guerrillas in Colombia. 
Mr. Hoon: The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council Conclusions of October 2005 made it clear that we and other EU member states consider that the effective and transparent implementation of the Law on Justice and Peace will have a positive impact on peace-building in Colombia.
On 18 April, the Government announced the completion under this law of the formal process of paramilitary demobilisation which saw over 30,000 paramilitaries demobilise. The challenge now for the Government of Colombia is to reintegrate the ex-combatants successfully into society, while addressing the rights of the victims of the internal armed conflict to truth, justice and reparation.
The Colombian Government is also actively involved in talks with the National Liberation Army, a left-wing guerrilla group. The latest round of talks took place in Cuba in April. The Colombian Governments recent efforts to begin preliminary talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the countrys biggest illegal guerrilla group, have been consistently rejected by the guerrillas. We continue to monitor the situation.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the Government of Colombia on the impact on political stability of reductions in the international drugs trade. 
We have regular discussions with the Colombian Government at official level over our counter-narcotics co-operation. This co-operation is
ongoing and is part of our commitment, together with international partners, to help the Government of Colombia tackle the scourge of drug production and drug trafficking which have such a devastating impact on many thousands of innocent Colombians. Clearly, we also have a strong interest in helping Colombia fight the illegal drugs trade, not least because an estimated 80 per cent. of the cocaine coming into Britain originates from Colombia. All the three major illegal armed groups in Colombia have been proven to be actively involved in the illegal drugs trade which fuels the internal armed conflict in the country, undermines political stability and contributes to human rights abuses. Furthermore, the vast international income from cocaine leads to extensive money laundering. Corruption and intimidation backed up by violence is rife in Colombia.
With international assistance, Colombia is taking great steps towards tackling the international trade in drugs and other associated crimes. The counter-narcotics strategy adopted by the current Government seeks to reinforce existing judicial measures to hit drug traffickers and confiscate assets, and tackles the interconnected problems of violence, social and economic inequality, and abuse of human rights.
Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the United Nations about child conscription into state armies in developing countries. 
Margaret Beckett: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has identified child rights as one of its top three human rights priorities. One important focus for this work is addressing the issue of children affected by armed conflict, including the recruitment of children into armed forces and armed groups. The UK has supported the establishment of a UN monitoring and reporting mechanism on this issue and is actively involved in the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to ensure that action is taken to follow up reports from this mechanism. The UK welcomes the efforts of the UN Secretary-Generals Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict to advocate the rights of children affected by armed conflict. The UK also promotes ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict through its network of diplomatic posts.
Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of children conscripted into armies for military action in (a) Asia, (b) Africa and (c) Latin America. 
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made no estimate of the number of children recruited by armed forces and armed groups in these countries. A number of studies exist in this area, including some by non-governmental organisations, as well as statistics on the numbers of children involved in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes. The picture
of the numbers affected is complicated by the many ways in which children can be affected by conflict, for example as porters, messengers, spies or cooks, as well as active combatants. The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict said in a report to the General Assembly in September 2005 that over 250,000 children continue to be exploited as child soldiers. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers estimated in its 2004 Global Report that up to 100,000 children in Africa remained involved in hostilities and also provided estimates for situations in specific countries in Asia and Latin America. This report is accessible most easily at the following website:
Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent estimate she has made of the number of children conscripted into armies in (a) Sierra Leone, (b) the Philippines, (c) Colombia, (d) Burundi, (e) Democratic Republic of Congo, (f) Liberia, (g) Somalia, (h) Afghanistan, (i) Burma and (j) Uganda; what recent representations she has made on the conscription of children into the army of each country; and if she will make a statement. 
Margaret Beckett: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made no estimate of the number of children recruited by armed forces and armed groups in these countries. A number of studies exist in this area, including some by non-governmental organisations, as well as statistics on the numbers of children involved in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes. The picture of the numbers affected is complicated by the many ways in which children can be affected by conflict, for example as porters, messengers, spies or cooks, as well as active combatants. One helpful source in this area is the Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, produced by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers which provides estimates for the countries listed. This document is accessible most easily at the following website:
Ministers and officials have made representations on this issue. For example, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade has raised our concerns on a number of issues in Burma including the recruitment of child soldiers with the Burmese ambassador in London, and in writing to the Burmese Foreign Minister. During 2005, officials were active in a series of EU démarches in countries where the use of child soldiers is a particular problem. Démarches were conducted in Burundi, Colombia, Côte dlvoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Nepal, Sudan and Uganda. The UK has also sought to ensure that disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes are sustainable and make appropriate provision for the particular needs of children. This has included specific assistance in a number of the countries listed, for example the Ministry of Defences assistance in reforming recruiting practices in the Sierra Leone army.
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