Lord Bethell: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is he aware though that this group has in recent years killed more than 20 people in Greece and that its targets have included not only Greek property and Greek individuals but also American, French, German and British nationals? Is the Minister worried by the thought that militant groups traditionally use and exploit the Olympic Games for spectacular attempts to gain publicity? That being the case, and as this is now an international matter, will he advise his right honourable friend to raise this question in the margins of the Cardiff Summit?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am aware of the targets of the "November 17th" group and certain other terrorist organisations within Greece. They have encompassed businessmen, diplomats and other foreign nationals. We are deeply concerned. We have specifically offered assistance to Greece already in establishing effective security arrangements for the 2004 Athens Olympics. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has offered the services of his department and police expertise in helping the Greeks in this area.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not immediately aware of a bid for the Olympics. I shall have to consult my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. We shall report to the House in due course.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, in the light of the decision to hold the Olympic Games in Athens, what offers of assistance--rather more specific than the Minister has already mentioned--and counter-terrorism assistance do the Government intend to make to the Greek Government? Furthermore, have the Government offered the Greek Government the assistance of the Directorate of Counter-Terrorist Expertise set up by the G7 countries under a British initiative of the previous government which enables expert help to be made available immediately to countries which need it?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the UK and Greece work closely together to combat terrorism. The UK has provided technical assistance and advice to the Greek police on a number of occasions, most recently in February this year. As I indicated, the Greek Minister of Public Order visited us at the end of last year. In the European Union and elsewhere--for example in Interpol--the UK and Greece have, in common with other countries, established good police liaison for sharing intelligence in order to fight crime and terrorism. In relation to the G7 initiative, clearly that is available to Greece, as it is to other countries faced with terrorist problems.
Lord Peston: My Lords, in the unavoidable absence of my noble friend Lady Castle of Blackburn owing to illness, at her request and with the permission of your Lordships, I ask the Question standing in her name on the Order Paper.
Little information is currently available about the costs of running occupational pension schemes. The Government Actuary's Department has carried out a study and will shortly publish a report of findings in this area. The Government do not collect information on the cost of administering personal pensions.
Lord Peston: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. As I understand the matter, there may be a policy move towards encouraging personal pension schemes in the private sector. Will the Government at least pay some attention to the costs of such schemes in comparing them with the possible alternative of extending public sector schemes?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, personal pensions are a private contract between the pension provider and individuals. As we know, some charges attached to personal pensions are too high and inflexible. Individuals must therefore consider very carefully the charges that attach to personal pensions before entering into such contracts. The purpose of the stakeholder pension is to attempt to reduce some of those costs for people who cannot afford them.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is absolutely scandalous that the previous administration, in promoting personal pension schemes, did not set up a mechanism to monitor the administrative costs associated with their provision, which would have been available to the Government now?
Lord Meston: My Lords, have the Government yet received any reliable estimates from the pensions industry or elsewhere as to the additional administrative costs which may be incurred when pensions come to be split on divorce?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, that will form part of a study that was announced last week by my right honourable friend into the whole matter of pensions splitting. Other matters enter into it. There may be single-sum payments, which would reduce administrative charges. The whole question of whether one or other spouse can afford their share of the split pension also has to be examined. It is quite an involved matter.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Castle of Blackburn, has put a remarkable series of questions over the past few days. Perhaps I may express a personal hope in that I trust she is well.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, no estimates have been made. The study is still continuing. The whole purpose of the stakeholder pension is to reduce the costs below those of personal pensions, which are considered to be rather high and unaffordable by the low-paid, those in intermittent employment and some of the self-employed.
Figures for missed procedures, which might be operations or other procedures booked on a day case and normal admission basis, are only collected in this form in England. The latest figures indicate that 156,100 people failed to turn up. That represented 4.6 per cent. of the total.
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