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Northern Ireland: Discretionary Social Fund

Baroness Amos: My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce that the Northern Ireland Discretionary Social Fund budget for 2004–05 will be

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£58.25 million: £12.64 million will be allocated to grants; £45.51 million to loans and £0.1 million will be held as a contingency reserve. The new allocations represent an increase of £l.65 million over the initial gross budget set at April 2004. This increase will be funded through higher loan recoveries, plus an increase in net Treasury funding of £0.94 million for this year. This £0.94 million is the second of three annual increases from a £8.2 million boost for the Discretionary Social Fund announced in the autumn 2002 Pre-Budget Report.

The Community Care Grant budget has been increased by £0.94 million to £12.64 million. This will provide more help to customers, in particular families with children and the disabled.

The loans budget has been increased to £45.51 million, an increase of £0.71 million on the initial 2003–04 loans budget. To improve the fairness of the scheme, budgets will be allocated in a way that will over time achieve greater consistency of outcome for customers wherever they live.

Details of the budget allocations, together with a note explaining the basis on which they have been made, have been placed in the House of Commons Library today.

Civil Servants: Guidance on Conduct of Government Business before Elections

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr Douglas Alexander) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have today issued guidance to civil servants on the principles which they should observe in relation to the conduct of government business in the period before the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, Greater London Authority and to local authorities in England and Wales.

The guidance stresses that civil servants should conduct themselves in accordance with the Civil Service Code and is based on the need to maintain the political impartiality of the Civil Service and the need to ensure that public resources are not used for party political purposes.

The guidance will come into force on Thursday 20 May 2004, ahead of the elections on Thursday 10 June 2004.

Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Library.

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