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House-Sitters: Minimum Wage Provisions

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Officials from the DTI, which is responsible for minimum wage policy, will be meeting representatives of house-sitting agencies to discuss the way that the minimum wage rules apply to house-sitters employed by them. A case involving house-sitters is due to be heard by an employment tribunal later this month. It would not be appropriate, therefore, for me to comment further.

Probation Officers: Benefit Penalty

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): As set out in Home Office National Standards, probation officers are required to determine, in the first instance, whether an offender has failed to comply with the terms of a community sentence without reasonable cause. The national Probation Service expects probation officers to discharge their responsibilities in a professional manner and in accordance with the law.

If a probation officer resigns rather than implement these measures and then makes a claim to Jobseeker's Allowance, he will be subject to the same rules as everyone else making a claim. Jobseeker's Allowance is intended for people who are out of work for reasons

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beyond their own control. Entitlement is not automatic. It has always been a principle of unemployment insurance that people who leave their jobs without just cause, or who are dismissed for misconduct or who refuse to take up an offer of employment without good cause, suffer a benefit penalty. There is no intention to alter these provisions to exclude probation officers.

Pensioners Living in EU: Pensions Uprating

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many United Kingdom retirement pensioners drawing National Insurance pensions are currently living in the countries of the European Union; and what will be the cost of uprating those retirement pensions in the current financial year. [HL1833]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: There are around 227,000 people with a United Kingdom State Retirement Pension living abroad in the European Union countries. The estimated cost of uprating these retirement pensions in 2001-02 is £30 million.


    Notes:


    1. Source 5 per cent sample from Pension Strategy Computer System at 30 September 2000.


    2. The number of pensioners is rounded to the nearest thousand.


    3. The cost is rounded to the nearest £10 million.


    4. The estimated costs cover all components of retirement pension.

Pensioners Living Abroad: Pensions Uprating

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 9 April (WA 152-153), what is the estimated cost of uprating National Insurance retirement pensions to United Kingdom pensioners now living in Commonwealth countries other than Cyprus, Jamaica, Malta and Mauritius; and what would be the increase in National Insurance contributions paid by United Kingdom citizens in employment in the United Kingdom if the sum necessary to uprate all retirement pensions in the Commonwealth was financed from the National Insurance Fund. [HL1832]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The estimated cost of fully uprating the UK State Retirement pensions of those pensioners currently living in Commonwealth countries, other than those stated, would be about £310 million annually: an estimated increase of 0.1 per cent in 2001-02 if the uprating were to be financed from increased National Insurance contributions.


    Notes:


    1. Cost of uprating based on 5 per cent sample from Pensions Strategy Computer System at 30 September 2000.


    2. Costs are rounded to the nearest £10 million.


    3. Impact on National Insurance Contribution was estimated by the Government Actuary's Department.

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Treasury Solicitor's Department Review

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in the review of the work of the Treasury Solicitor's Department.[HL2031]

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I refer to the review of the Treasury Solicitor's Department that I announced to this House on 8 March, col. WA36.

I am pleased to announce the publication of the report on the first stage of the review. The report concludes that the Treasury Solicitor's Department has generally provided a high quality service to the Government and should continue to be an agency. Stage 2 of the review will examine how the agency's performance can be enhanced and improved to meet the increasing demands upon its services.

Diabetic Drivers

Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the recent changes in the procedures for vetting Class C1 diabetic drivers, whether they intend to introduce any further reform or to undertake any research into the reform of the regulatory system governing diabetic drivers who use motor vehicles for either leisure or business purposes.[HL1953]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Further hard evidence on the risks of hypoglycaemia (reduced blood sugar level) to driving is needed before any more changes to the current arrangements can be recommended. To this end, I have initiated a research programme which will help increase our knowledge about diabetes and driving. The results of this extensive exercise will be available in two to three years. The Honorary Medical Advisory Panel on Driving and Diabetes will then review the situation and consider whether any changes can be recommended for large vehicles other than those in category C1.

Rural Consultations: TGWU Participation

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they are making to ensure that farm workers and the agricultural section of the Transport and General Workers' Union are involved in the consultations on future policy for the countryside.[HL1982]

Lord Whitty: The National Secretary, Rural Agricultural and Allied Workers of the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) was a member of the Rural White Paper Sounding Board, an informal advisory forum chaired by Ministers which discussed key themes for the Rural White Paper.

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The White Paper committed the Government to establishing a National Rural Sounding Board to provide rural people and organisations with an opportunity to put concerns direct to Ministers and keep Ministers fully informed about the state of the countryside. The Government have consulted a cross-section of rural organisations, people and interests, including the TGWU, about proposals for the board, which we expect to set up in the summer.

London East-West Rail Links

Lord Sheppard of Didgemere asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the report by the Strategic Rail Authority on east-west rail links across London; and[HL2014]

    Whether they will set up a joint project team, with the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London, to take CrossRail forward to seek statutory approval.[HL2015]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Following additional appraisal work within the High-Level Group (the Minister for Transport, the Mayor and the Chairman, Strategic Rail Authority), which was set up to develop a co-ordinated approach to London rail projects, we have agreed next steps on taking forward the SRA's report. Work will start immediately on project definition and design development of a central, cross-London, rail link, the tunnel section of which could follow the alignment of the CrossRail scheme. The work will look at alternative service patterns and access to Heathrow. This will lead to a recommendation on the option to be taken forward. At the same time, work will start on a feasibility study of a south-west to north-east London rail link, the tunnel section of which could follow the alignment of the Chelsea-Hackney scheme.

This work will be taken forward jointly by the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London, under the guidance of the High-Level Group.

I am arranging for copies of the Strategic Rail Authority's report to be placed in the Library and published on the SRA website.

CrossRail Project

Lord Sheppard of Didgemere asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect construction of CrossRail to begin.[HL2016]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The work on project definition and design development will take about 14 months. This will lead to a recommendation on the option to be taken forward. This is a major project, and it is difficult to predict the time that will be taken to obtain powers. At this early stage it is expected to be at least five years before construction could begin.

3 May 2001 : Column WA133


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