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Micro-Credit

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): I was delighted that Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Prize. Professor Yunus has inspired the growth of microfinance worldwide.

Microfinance has been shown to be very useful in reducing poverty and reaching the millennium development goals. Poor households use microfinance to raise their income, build-up their assets and protect themselves against unexpected events and shocks. I use the term “microfinance” rather than micro-credit because in addition to small loans, poor households use a variety of other financial services such as savings and remittances.



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The White Paper on International Development published in 2006 commits to tackling barriers to access to financial services and to supporting microfinance initiatives in partnership with banks and regulators. DfID has supported microfinance and financial sector development projects in more than 25 countries and has contributed approximately £165 million in total to these projects. DfID also supports microfinance through global initiatives such as the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Financial Sector Reform and Strengthening (FIRST) Initiative.

Examples of DfID's support to microfinance include:

a £40 million seven-year “PROSPER” programme launched in 2006 in Bangladesh that will support legal and policy reform, private sector innovation, and capacity building of microfinance institutions; anda US $1.5 million grant for the Deutsche Bank Community Microfinance Facility that leveraged US$79 million in additional investment.

It is estimated that microfinance institutions serve 200 million people globally, eight out of 10 of whom are women. DfID supports the extension of microfinance to women, for example through:

committing £20 million to the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA). MISFA has provided funding and technical assistance to microfinance institutions that has led to more than 300,000 Afghans (70 per cent of whom are women) accessing small loans; andsupporting the Kashf Foundation in Pakistan, a not-for-profit microfinance institution serving poor women, to help it extend its outreach from 75,000 to 300,000 women in the next five years.

Microfinance of course is not the only answer though, and DfID will continue to spend large resources on education, health and other programmes of direct relevance to improving the lives of poor households.

Nepal: Foreign and Home Office Visit

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The note is a draft record of a meeting that took place in Kathmandu on 22 November. It ascribes certain statements and opinions to Nepalese Ministers who attended the meeting. It would be inappropriate to publish the document before receiving confirmation

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from them that their position is correctly recorded and that they are content for it to be made public. We intend to publish it subject to receipt of this confirmation.

People Trafficking

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The membership and qualifications of the independent advisory group to the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) is a matter solely for the UKHTC, which is an independent organisation.

Planning: Barker Review

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): In developing their proposals for legislative or policy change in the light of the Barker recommendations, the Government will carefully consider all the implications, including financial implications. We have set out our intention to produce a White Paper on planning later in the year which will be subject to consultation.

Post Office

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Truscott): Under the Post Office Network Urban Reinvention programme, up to £30 million was allocated for an investment grant scheme to improve sub post offices on a matched funding basis. There was an unspent balance of £10 million from this funding allocation at

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the start of the current financial year, which is being used in 2006-7 for further investment grant applications.

Royal Mail representation relates to the use of commercial financial and legal advisers who have been employed on work on the future financing of Royal Mail and Post Office Limited. The estimate requests additional money from central DTI funds that were unspent in 2005-6 to be used for this purpose.

Prisoners: Resettlement

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We welcome community chaplaincy schemes as an invaluable part of the Reducing Re-offending Faith and Voluntary and Community Sector Alliance. As stated in the Government's Five Year Strategy for Protecting the Public and Reducing Re-offending, we want to build on work such as the successful community chaplaincy projects which bring in faith groups to work with prisoners before and after their release. Such schemes are an excellent example of the contribution that faith communities and volunteers can make. NOMS Chaplaincy is supporting a two-year post to assist with the development of community chaplaincy, working with stakeholders including prisons, probation and regional offender managers.

Retirement Age

Lord Ouseley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Within Communities and Local Government there is no default age for retirement for staff below the Senior Civil Service grades, allowing an individual to continue work provided they receive satisfactory reports and have a good attendance and conduct record.

In the Senior Civil Service the retirement age is set by the Cabinet Office at 65.



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Rural Payments Agency

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Rural Payments Agency has an accounting system based on Oracle financials that meets all standards as set out by HM Treasury in the Financial Reporting Manual and has received unqualified audit opinions on its accounts for all financial years since its creation up to and including 2005-06.

Stakeholders are advised as appropriate of requirements.

Schools: PSHE

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): Department for Education and Skills guidance issued to schools on sex and relationship education asks schools to teach children about the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of society. Schools have a legal duty to have regard to this guidance.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is currently reviewing the secondary curriculum, including provision for personal, social and health education where issues to do with parenting, family life and relationships are usually taught. This review will be subject to a public consultation shortly.

Secure Children's Homes: Physical Restraint

Lord Carlile of Berriew asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): Incidents of restraint in secure children's homes

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(SCHs) have been reported centrally to the Youth Justice Board (YJB) since February 2006. At present, information is not collected about the use of restraint by gender and ethnicity but the YJB will also be collecting these additional data from February 2007. In this context, restraint refers to occasions when “force is used to overpower a young person”.

The numbers of incidents of restraints reported to the YJB in Redbank and Sutton Place SCHs are listed in the table.

2006FebMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAug.SeptOct.

Redbank

40

29

28

29

21

32

20

15

28

Sutton Place

9

8

7

14

38

25

18

6

11

Shipping: Irish Lights

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Consideration of the Irish Government's role in part-funding the Commissioners of Irish Lights’ operations needs to reflect the increased reliance in the past year on joint support services for the three general lighthouse authorities, such as the fleet of ships, now reduced in size. A bilateral, official-level meeting this month will assess the scope for progress in the light of that trend and take account of possible impacts on the institutional framework arising from the St Andrews agreement.

Shipping: Liners

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: In the past three years 101 cruise ships have operated from United Kingdom ports under the following flags:

39 x Bahamas, 8 x Italy, 7 x UK, 7 x Bermuda, 6 x Marshall Islands, 6 x Netherlands, 5 x Portugal, 5 x Malta, 4 x Panama, 2 x Liberia, 2 x St Vincent & Grenadines, 2 x Japan, 1 x Finland, 1 x Cyprus, 1 x Barbados, 1 x Germany, 1 x France, 1 x Ukraine, 1 x Russian Federation and 1 x Dutch Antilles.

Shipping: Roll-on Roll-off Ferries

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: Fifty-five roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferries operate from English Channel ports. Forty-nine are conventional ro-ro ferries and six are high speed craft.

Pensions: Occupational Schemes

Lord Varley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): It is not possible for a single pension scheme to be eligible for assistance from both the financial assistance scheme (FAS) and the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

The financial assistance scheme provides assistance to members of qualifying pension schemes that commenced winding up between 1 January 1997 and 5 April 2005.

To be eligible for the Pension Protection Fund, a scheme must not have commenced wind up before 6 April 2005. The PPF was established to pay compensation to members of eligible defined benefit pension schemes where there is a qualifying insolvency event in relation to the employer and where there are insufficient assets in the pension scheme to cover the PPF levels of compensation.


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