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The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The United Kingdom and European Union are actively promoting the Euro-Mediterranean Area through a series of initiatives which are complementary to the tariff dismantling and related arrangements covered by the EU's agreements with the Mediterranean partners. In particular, this Government firmly support greater flexibility in rules of origin by extending the system of pan-European cumulation to the Mediterranean area for textile, clothing and other processed products; and co-operation and exchange of information on trade in service. The UK will continue to press for further agricultural liberalisation benefiting the Mediterranean partners through the current WTO round of multilateral trade negotiations. The UK and EU have also underlined to Mediterranean partners the importance of liberalising trade among themselves, as well as making further structural and legislative reforms, as key actions in deepening the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area. These activities are supported by the MEDA programme, to which the UK is a major contributor.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Community Development Venture Fund (the Bridges Fund) is targeted at viable businesses with growth potential which are located within the 25 per cent most deprived wards in England, as measured by the index of multiple deprivation. This includes wards in rural areas.
There are various local government initiatives to encourage solar water heating deployment, including schemes to provide grants and to publicise the benefits of solar water heating. These schemes are funded predominantly through the Energy Saving Trust's innovation programme. The Government are likely further to encourage the development of solar water heating through the forthcoming community and household capital grants scheme for renewable energy. The scheme will disburse grants to individual homeowners and community groups who wish to install renewable energy systems such as solar water heating. The scheme will run concurrent with an installer accreditation and training programme to expand the current installer base. The scheme is likely to be launched in the new year. In addition to this scheme, several electricity suppliers have been encouraged to offer grants as part of the energy efficiency commitment.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The End-of-Life Vehicles Directive was due to be brought into force by 21 April 2002. Along with all other member states, the UK missed that deadline. Our intention is to publish draft regulations for consultation early in 2003 and to transpose into law later in the year.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Last owners of end-of-life vehicles will pay the costs of treatment between the coming into force of the regulations to implement the Directive and 2007. Draft regulations relating to authorised treatment facilities will be published early in 2003 and are expected to come into effect later in the year. Depollution and dismantling costs will be variable and will depend on a number of factors, including the marque, model and condition of the vehicle being treated. Having consulted widely with industry, we estimate that the additional treatment costs required by the directive might average between £40 and £50 per vehicle.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Draft regulations introducing the certificate of destruction system required under the directive will be published for consultation early in 2003, and are expected to come into effect later in the year.
The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): On 22 August, the Zacchaeus Trust responded to our consultation on the draft Local Government Bill expressing its disappointment that the Bill does not contain provisions to abolish committal for non payment of local taxes.
The trust also responded to the Green Paper Towards Effective Enforcement and attended an open meeting of an Advisory Group on Enforcement Service Delivery in November 2001. The Lord Chancellor's Department has also received copies of the following reports: Debt, Poverty Traps, Eviction, Imprisonment & a ChasmThe Zacchaeus 2000 TrustMarch 2002; Enforcing DebtUnderstanding DistressChurch Action on PovertyMay 2002.
Committal is very much the last resort. Before seeking committal warrants, local authorities must first have tried other enforcement measures. Even where an application for committal to prison has been made, the courts cannot hand down prison sentences without a thorough examination in the presence of the debtor of the reasons for failure to pay. Magistrates can only order a sentence if they find that non-payment was due to wilful refusal or culpable neglect on the part of the debtor. Indeed, magistrates have the power to remit all or part of a debt if they consider this is justified, for example, on grounds of severe financial hardship.
Lord Rooker: The starter home initiative aims to help key workers into home ownership in both urban and rural areas where the high cost of housing is undermining recruitment and retention. Funding was allocated in September 2001 and May 2002 to schemes which estimate they may assist over 400 key workers into home ownership in rural areas in the south east, eastern and south west regions. Information will be collated on the number of key workers who are assisted through the initiative to purchase homes in local authority areas containing rural settlements.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Tackling child proverty is a complex and multi-dimensional issue. It is not just about income; it is also about extra investment in healthcare and education services and improvements in the system for children and teenagers who are vulnerable or disabled.
The Government increased the disabled child premium in income-related benefits by £7.40 more than the normal uprating in April 2001, and again in April 2002 by another £5 more than inflation, to £35.50 a week. This is benefiting the families of around 80,000 children with disabilities.