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23 Jan 1996 : Column WA61

Written Answers

Tuesday, 23rd January 1996.

World Conference on Women, Beijing: Opposition to Abortion

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which countries entered reservations to the report of the International Conference on Women in Beijing because of their opposition to abortion.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The Fourth World Conference on Women adopted the Peking Declaration and Platform for Action on 15 September 1995. The following states expressed reservations or made interpretative statements relating to abortion:


    Dominican Republic


    Holy See








Chinese Orphanages: Allegations of Abuses

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to obtain information about the issues raised in the Channel 4 documentary "Return to the Dying Rooms" and whether they will place in the Library of the House any conclusions they may have reached.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are unable to verify these reports since we do not have unrestricted access to Chinese orphanages. However, we are in close touch with various British non-governmental organisations, as well as United Nations agencies such as UNICEF, who are active in these areas in China.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations to the Government of the People's Republic of China concerning the allegations in the Channel 4 documentary "Return to the Dying Rooms" that some girl babies are starved to death or left to die.

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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My right honourable and learned friend the Foreign Secretary expressed our profound concern over the recent allegations of abuses in Chinese orphanages, during his meetings with the Chinese President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, in Peking last week. We have urged the Chinese authorities to investigate the allegations fully, quickly and transparently. We raise with the Chinese authorities, at every suitable opportunity, our concerns about reports of human rights abuses in China.

Western Mediterranean Countries' Transport Ministers' Meetings: Outcome

Lord Merrivale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Viscount Goschen of 24 October 1995 (WA 113), what was the outcome of the western Mediterranean countries' Transport Ministers' two meetings and what has been the response of the Government of Gibraltar to this information.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The result of these meetings was the signing by the six Ministers concerned of a set of conclusions concerning future co-operation in the development of transport systems in the western Mediterranean.

The conclusions included a decision to adopt priority corridors extending the trans-European networks in the direction of the Mediterranean and connecting with the trans-Maghreb networks. They also resolved to facilitate trade and transport, in particular by improving the quality of service in ports and co-operation in air traffic control. The promotion of transport safety and measures to preserve the environment were also included; in particular the development of surveillance and navigational aids for maritime and air navigation, and waste recovery plant at ports. An ad hoc group made up of representatives of the six countries is to be set up to evaluate and promote projects designed to achieve the above objectives.

We are currently in the process of briefing the Government of Gibraltar on the outcome of the discussions and look forward to receiving their views.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England: Review

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the outcome of the Prior Options stage of the Financial Management and Policy Review of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME).

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): The overall conclusion of the Prior Options Report was that maintaining the central functions of the Royal Commission is a necessary national task, and that the RCHME is best placed to carry out this work. We have

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accepted this recommendation and confirm that the RCHME will continue to carry out its role as the national body of survey and record of the historic environment, as defined in its Royal Warrant. A copy of the Prior Options Report has been placed in the Library of the House.

The report also looked at the relationship between the RCHME and other heritage bodies working in the field and recommended that there was scope for greater co-operation between RCHME and English Heritage, and for a further clarification of their respective roles with regard to survey work. Discussions are taking place between the two bodies to give effect to these recommendations.

Asylum Seekers: Local Authority Costs

The Viscount of Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much money they have budgeted towards helping local authorities with the costs of asylum seekers.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Officials in the Departments of the Environment and of Health will be meeting representatives of the local authority associations in the near future to help us to identify these costs and to decide what financial assistance to make available to local authorities.

Schools in Scotland: Cold Weather Precautions

The Earl of Kintore asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What instructions they have given to local authorities in Scotland to prevent water damage in their schools during periods of very cold weather, and whether these instructions include a requirement to drain totally the internal water system while the schools are not in use.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): Arrangements for the maintenance and safeguarding of school buildings are the responsibility of the local authorities concerned. The professional staff in their property and other relevant departments are best placed to judge the precautionary measures which are appropriate in individual school buildings in the event of very cold weather.

Unemployment among 50-65 Year-Olds

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people aged over 50 but below retirement age have not been in paid employment during the past 10 years.

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The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Estimates from the Labour Force Survey are shown in the table following.

People aged over 50 but below retirement age(2) not in paid employment (Great Britain, not seasonally adjusted)

Number of people not in paid employment(1)
1992 2,506

(1) These figures include those who were either ILO unemployed or economically inactive, and unpaid family workers, who were classified as in employment by the Labour Force Survey since spring 1992.

(2) Men aged 51-64 and women aged 51-59.

Social Security Policy: Implications for VAT Revenue

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the answer given by Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish (H.L. Deb., 9 January, WA 14), whether the Department of Social Security attempted to quantify the loss to HM Customs and Excise in the form of VAT revenue as a result of their decision to freeze one-parent benefit and lone parent premium; and, if so, what was the amount of that loss.

Lord Mackay for Ardbrecknish: The Department of Social Security did not attempt to quantify the effect on VAT revenue. Projections of VAT revenues were generally informed by the public expenditure and tax changes announced in the Budget.

Housing Benefit and Young People

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Secretary of State for Social Security when he announced that the changes to housing benefit for those under 25 were intended to discourage young people from leaving home before they can afford to do so (HC Deb., 29 November 1995, col. 596), had estimated the number of young people likely to be so discouraged; and, if so, what was that estimate.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: There is no reliable estimate. The Government believe in the principle that housing benefit should not provide an incentive for young people to move into accommodation in anticipation of benefit meeting a higher rent than could generally be afforded if they were working.

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