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Written Answers

Thursday, 23rd April 1998.

OECD: International Development Strategy

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What agreement was reached at the international high level March seminar on how to put the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's 21st century strategy for international development into practice; and on how to fulfil the OECD's international development targets.[HL1279]

Lord Whitty: EU member states have endorsed the international development strategy (IDS) in the OECD. Following discussion at the EU seminar, we expect the EU Development Council on 18 May to agree a resolution covering the IDS and poverty eradication.

Participants at the seminar noted the need to implement the IDS through:

    promoting partnership and local ownership of the strategy;

    seeking coherence between all policies which affect developing countries;

    better co-ordination;

    contributing to international work to measure progress against the strategy and targets, and contributing to a review of overall progress.

House of Lords Divisions: Display on House of Commons Annunciators

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What representations have been made to the House of Commons about placing House of Lords annunciator screens in their committee rooms.[HL 1470]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): A number of discussions have taken place between the House of Lords and the House of Commons with a view to improving the displaying of House of Lords divisions on House of Commons annunciators.

I will undertake to investigate the scope for further improvements.

Tuition Fees

Lord Chesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, in the light of the Answers by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 7 April (H.L. Deb., cols. 614-617), they consider it appropriate to charge tertiary students fees for tuition and for lodging, but not prisoners.[HL1496]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Most prisoners come into prison with few personal assets, earn only pocket money while there and do not have the means to pay for lodging. Most education provided in prisons consists of teaching and basic skills needed by educational under-achievers to obtain work and stay away from crime. It would not be feasible to charge such people for the education they receive in prison while they are there or, given the low wages they are likely to be able to earn, after release.

St. Dunstan's

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what financial support is provided directly from public funds for St. Dunstan's, the charity that cares for ex-services personnel blinded in the service of their country; and (b) following the rejection of an application for National Lottery funding, whether they have any proposals to provide financial support in the future.[HL1414]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): In keeping with the long-standing practice that central government does not provide funding in support of charities' core activities, St. Dunstan's does not receive any direct financial support from public funds and is responsible for raising its own funding. Nevertheless, in common with all other independent charitable organisations, St. Dunstan's continues to benefit from various tax reliefs. Rejection of an application for National Lottery funding does not imply that a cause is unworthy. St. Dunstan's remains eligible, therefore, to make further applications to the National Lottery Charities Board.

Driving Standards Agency: Key Targets

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What targets have been set for the Driving Standards Agency.[HL1597]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The key targets for the Driving Standards Agency are set out in its Business Plan, which includes management objectives, performance indicators and key tasks. Copies of the Business Plan have been placed in the Library. The key targets are as follows:

    achieve an average annual return on capital employed (ROCE) on statutory activities of 6 per cent. of net assets over the period 1 April 1997 to 31 March 2002;

    increase the weighted average of fees by no more than RPI in each of the three years during the period 1 April 1997 to 1 April 2000 and by no more than RPI minus 1 per cent. in each of the following two years;

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    achieve a national average waiting time for car practical tests not exceeding six weeks and make appointments available within 10 weeks at 99 per cent. of permanent test centres;

    aim to keep 99.5 per cent. of all practical test appointments which are in place two days prior to the appointment date;

    answer practical test booking office telephones so that:

    Four out of five calls will be answered on their first dialling attempt;

    90 per cent. of calls will be answered by a human voice within 30 seconds after completion of handling by the automatic answering system; and

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    an average of no more than 4 per cent. of calls in the queue will be abandoned before being answered;

    ensure that 95 per cent. of theory test candidates obtain a test booking at their preferred test centre and test session within two weeks of their preferred date; and

    ensure that theory test booking office telephones are answered so that:

    incoming lines will not be engaged for more than 30 minutes in any week; and

    95 per cent. of calls received will be answered by a human voice within 10 seconds after completion of handling by the automatic answering system.

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