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Lord Luke: My Lords, before the Minister sits down and with the permission of the House, I should like to correct one thing. Although I am a very bad Christian, I am not an atheist.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I did not say that the noble Lord was.

Written Statements

Monday 25 October 2004


 
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Sudan: Darfur

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has made the following Statement.

The Government welcome the African Union (AU)'s decision of 20 October to expand its Ceasefire Monitoring Commission in Darfur from approximately 500 people to more than 3,000. As the Prime Minister said in Addis on 7 October, "the AU is playing an absolutely vital lead role in trying to resolve this crisis, both by bringing the Government and the rebels together, to try to resolve the conflict peacefully and, meanwhile, monitoring that they are observing their interim ceasefire agreement."

The UK has already given significant support to the AU mission. We contributed £2 million to help to jump-start the mission in May, and we provided airlift for the 150 Nigerian troops which joined the mission in August, as well as rations packs to feed these people. We have also provided technical planning expertise for the AU, and seconded a British monitor to the mission.

As the Prime Minister announced in Addis, we will of course play our part in supporting the expanded mission. We have set aside a further £12 million for this purpose, and are working hard to ensure that these people can be deployed quickly. We are discussing with the AU and other donors, including the European Commission, what more we can all do to support the mission.

Pensions Tax Simplification

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): My honourable friend the Financial Secretary (Mr Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The new simplified regime for taxation of pensions starts on 6 April 2006. To achieve the levels of efficiency and effectiveness that both we and the pension industry want from the new regime, I can today announce that registered pension schemes will be required to send online forms and make electronic payments to the Inland Revenue from the start of the new regime on 6 April 2006.
 
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The decision to move to a fully online service was taken after extensive discussions with the industry over the summer.

There are still a number of issues of detail on how precisely we can achieve an e-based regime and we will be asking the pensions industry, software suppliers and other interested parties to work closely with us on this.

The Inland Revenue will be publishing a short paper early next month outlining the key issues and areas it would like to work on together with those who will be involved in registered pension schemes.

Regional Development Agencies

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My honourable friend the Minister for Industry and the Regions (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I would like to inform Members of the House that, as part of a rolling programme of appointments, I have decided to appoint four new board members to the North-West Development Agency. The new appointees will take up their positions on the 14 December 2004 and their names are set out below.

The new board members will replace members whose terms of office end in December this year, and they will bring experiences from business and local authorities.

Decisions on the appointments have been made following open competition in accordance with the guidelines set down in the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice, and following consultation with key national and regional players.

NWDA (New Members)

David Brockbank

>John Moverly

Peter Hensman

John Merry

Parliamentary Commissioner Order 2004

Lord Bassam of Brighton: An order has been laid before Parliament today to extend the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration to include the role of the Government Actuary's Department in relation to the prudential regulation of insurers prior to this function being transferred to the Financial Services Authority in April 2001. This will enable the Parliamentary Ombudsman to conduct a full investigation into Equitable Life.


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