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Papua New Guinea: Tidal Wave

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The Department for International Development is in close contact with the Papua New Guinea authorities through the British High Commission in Port Moresby. In response to the initial appeal for assistance, we have offered up to £250,000 to meet the immediate relief and recovery needs of those affected by the tidal wave. Of this contribution, £75,000 has been allocated to the International Federation of the Red Cross to provide family rehabilitation kits containing basic household items, and materials to rebuild houses. A further £44,944 has been channelled through the UK Foundation for the South Pacific, a non-governmental organisation, for the provision of medical supplies and temporary shelters. We have asked other humanitarian organisations active in the region urgently to submit proposals for the remaining funds.

With regard to the extent of the disaster, and of Commonwealth and other international aid given. I will place the latest UN situation reports in the Library of the House.

Belize: Debt Relief

Lord Bassam of Brighton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has agreed with the Government of Belize the cancellation of repayments of aid debt due from Belize to the UK between April and October 1998, amounting to £1.146 million.

We were able to make the offer under the Commonwealth Debt Initiative in recognition of the Belize Government's commitment to reduce poverty and promote accountable government, and to put in place sustainable economic policies.

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The funds which would otherwise have been used to repay aid debts will now be used for poverty focused projects in education and water supply, specifically: rural water schemes in several villages; classroom furniture, equipment and materials in schools in poorer areas; textbooks for primary schools in poorer areas, under the textbook loan scheme.

We will hold further talks with the Government of Belize early in 1999 to consider further debt relief.

Homeless Persons: Permanent Accommodation

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will investigate the possibility that "silting up" in direct access hostels for the homeless might be reduced if help with deposits were available through the Social Fund.[HL2998]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): It is important that people receive all the assistance possible to help the move out of short term hostels into permanent accommodation. Following the recent Social Exclusion Unit report we will be looking at ways of improving such help.

The Social Fund already helps such people through the provision of grants or loans for setting up home and rent in advance. Help with returnable deposits has been

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excluded because of concerns that landlords may be encouraged to either introduce or increase deposits.

The new simplified budgeting loan system to be introduced in April 1999 will allow claimants greater flexibility in borrowing to meet the costs of establishing a new home.

War Disablement Pensioners: Age Allowances

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they have given to the proposal by the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association for age additions to war pensions; and what action they propose to take.[HL3059]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Age allowances have existed in the War Pensions Scheme since 1957. The allowances for war disablement pensioners range currently from £7.40 a week for those aged 65 or over whose war pensioned disablement is assessed at 40 to 50 per cent., to £22.90 for those whose disablement is assessed at over 90 per cent.

I wrote to the General Secretary of the British Limbless Ex-Service Men's Association on 26 June about the proposal to increase the allowances at age 70, and then again at age 80, and I undertook to keep the proposal in mind.

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