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Written Answers

Monday, 13th December 1999.

Development Council, 11 November

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Development Council held in Brussels on 11 November. [HL142]

Baroness Amos: Poul Nielson, the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, addressed the Council for the first time. He set out five priorities for future EC development co-operation: increased focus on the poorest countries; improved effectiveness of EC assistance; greater complementarity with the work of other donors and greater coherence with other EC policies; better linkages between emergency aid, rehabilitation and development; and building greater public support for EC assistance.

The Council then discussed forestry, climate change and the integration of environmental issues into EC development policies. The UK stressed the need to focus on the International Development Target for the environment and to engage developing countries in the environmental agenda. The UK stated that the poor, who were dependent on environmental resources, should be placed at the centre of the discussion, and that this would help to build developing country support. The Commission said it would provide more environmental training for its staff. The Council adopted a resolution on forestry, conclusions on climate change and a report on environmental integration. The conclusions include a call on the Commission to prepare a strategy to integrate the environment into development co-operation. The Helsinki European Council in December will make an overall assessment of progress in integrating the environment into EC policies, as requested by the Vienna European Council last year.

Next, the Council discussed progress in the ACP-EU negotiations on a successor to the current Lome Convention, which expires on 29 February 2000. Most member states, including the UK, favoured a compromise suggested by the Commission on how to raise the profile of good governance in the new convention. All member states except Spain supported agreement based on a Presidency non-paper on trade, which would ensure that ACP countries retained, at the very least, their current levels of access to EU markets. This is a key UK concern. The UK stressed the importance of ensuring that the agreement on trade would be granted a WTO waiver. Following a request from the UK, the Commission undertook to bring forward proposals to meet the commitment to improve duty free access for the least developed countries by the end of the next Trade Round. There was a discussion of the ninth European Development Fund (EDF9), which will fund the new convention. The UK pointed out that evaluations had shown the poor quality of past EDFs, and called for specific

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proposals for improvement to be brought forward next year. Discussions will continue at a meeting between ACP and EU Ministers on 7-8 December.

The Council adopted conclusions on East Timor which invited the Commission to respond in an appropriate and timely manner to the United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for the East Timor crisis; and to present, as soon as possible, a detailed programme of assistance to support the reconstruction of East Timor.

The Council then discussed the evaluation of EC development programmes. The Commission said that it would soon produce a detailed Action Plan for the implementation of the recommendations of the global evaluation of EC aid and the Council conclusions on evaluation of May 1999. The Commission outlined its plan for improving the effectiveness of EC aid, which included improving and simplifying procedures, and introducing a more rigorous monitoring system. An overall EC development policy statement would be presented to the Council and European Parliament in February 2000. The UK emphasised the importance of this statement, and that it must focus on the International Development Targets, have clear and measurable objectives, follow a wide process of consultation, and address coherence issues and aid untying. The Commission agreed to report in detail on the Action Plan and statement at the next Council in May 2000. Procedural conclusions committing the Council to follow up the evaluation of humanitarian aid were adopted without discussion.

The Council discussed operational co-ordination, complementarity and coherence. Most member states had agreed that co-ordination between their overseas offices and EC delegations had improved. Luxembourg called for the Commission to set up a system in co-operation with member states to deter NGOs from illegally seeking double funding. The Commission replied that it was for national authorities to deal with such cases of fraud; a further layer of bureaucracy was not the answer. The Development Council agreed that its decisions on policy coherence were not being implemented by other Councils. The Commission agreed to produce a list of policies which would benefit from greater coherence for other Council formations to consider.

Under Other Business, the Commission agreed to examine a French request to resume broader financial support for Burundi. The UK presented a case for more aid to strengthen statistical capacity in developing countries, and urged member states to send strong delegations to the OECD meeting in Paris on 18-19 November. At lunch, Belgium called for support to improve the capacity of developing countries to engage with the WTO. The UK, with support from several other member states, then spoke on the importance of improving the poverty focus of EC development assistance, which was worse than that of all other significant donors. The UK urged the Commission to produce a paper on how it would increase the proportion of spending on low income

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countries. The Commission said that poverty focus was difficult to achieve, but that it would produce a paper by next spring. Finally, the Commission called for suggestions for discussion at the EU-Africa summit in April.

Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999: Compensation Recovery

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many payments to the National Health Service trusts were made by the Compensation Recovery Unit of the Benefits Agency under the terms of the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 between 5 April and 30 November; what was the aggregate value of those payments; and what was the aggregate value of National Health Service charges billed to insurance companies by the Compensation Recovery Unit, but not yet paid by them, as at 30 November; and[HL212]

    What was the number of settled claims and their aggregate value, notified by insurance companies to the Compensation Recovery Unit of the Benefits Agency under the terms of the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 between 5 April and 30 November; and[HL213]

    What was the total number and aggregate value of charges billed to insurance companies by the Compensation Recovery Unit of the Benefits Agency under the terms of the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 between 5 April and 30 November; and[HL214]

    Whether all relevant data relating to road traffic accidents which occurred prior to 5 April and on which National Health Service charges are potentially recoverable, have been loaded on to the Compensation Recovery Unit's computer system; and whether such recoveries are now being actively pursued; and [HL216]

    How many claims made under the provisions of the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 were the subject of appeals by insurance companies as at 30 November; how long it is estimated that appeals will take to be heard; and what is the estimated cost of an appeal to the taxpayer.[HL217]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): In the period of 5 April 1999 to 30 November 1999, 1,172 end of month payments (which can relate to more than one underlying claim for compensation) have been made to 272 NHS trusts. The aggregate value of the payments made is £12,070,639.56. The amount owed by insurers and due for immediate repayment, but not collected, at 30 November 1999 is £6,031,456.44.

The total sum of £18,102,096 has been raised from 51,915 payments of compensation following road traffic accidents made between 5 April 1999 to 30 November 1999.

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Payment has been made in 84,342 cases where NHS charges are due when a payment for compensation is made. These had previously been entered onto the original computer system. Of these cases, 78,754 have now been transferred to the new system and recovery is being actively pursued. Plans are in hand to transfer the remainder. No appeals have been received. Consequently, estimates cannot be made as to the length of time or cost of an appeal.

Northern Ireland: Equality and Human Rights Commissions

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the operating budgets for the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland and the Human Rights Commission for Northern Ireland; and upon what basis, and by what procedure have those budgets been determined.[HL195]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: On 1 October 1999, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland took over the functions of the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland, the Commission for Racial Equality for Northern Ireland, the Fair Employment Commission and the Disability Council for Northern Ireland. In 1999-2000, the total operating budget for the Equality Commission (1 October 1999-31 March 2000) and for the bodies which it replaced (1 April 1999-30 September 1999) amounts to £5,274,000. This total consists of the combined operating budgets of the former equality bodies, agreed by the Department of Economic Development at the start of the financial year, together with an additional request by the Equality Commission for a further £425,000 which was agreed by the Department of Economic Development, with the approval of the Department of Finance and Personnel, through the in-year monitoring process.

Responsibility for future expenditure incurred by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly and is no longer a matter for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission replaced the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights as well as taking on new responsibilities. It is defined as a Non Departmental Public Body and is funded by means of a grant in aid. The commission receives its money from the Northern Ireland Office.

The commission's grant in aid for each of its first three years is £750,000. In setting this figure, the department took into account that the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights had a budget of £272,000 for the financial year 1998-99. The grant in aid therefore represents the Government's considered judgment as to the amount of funding that would be needed in order to allow the commission to discharge its functions effectively.

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