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24 Apr 2012 : Column WS167

24 Apr 2012 : Column WS167

Written Statements

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Benefits: Social Fund


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Pensions (Steve Webb) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 6 December 2010 I announced that in the forthcoming Welfare Reform Bill, we intended to introduce legislation to make Social Fund budgeting loans available to help families to buy maternity items or items for a new baby or to help them towards meeting some of the costs of a relative's funeral.

I am pleased to report that these changes to budgeting loans will be implemented from 8 May 2012 and will apply to all applications made from this date. This help will be available in addition to the Sure Start maternity grant and the social fund funeral payment.

I will place a copy of the new direction covering these changes to Social Fund budgeting loans in the House Library later today.



The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi died of a cardiac arrest on

24 Apr 2012 : Column WS168

5 April. Vice President Joyce Banda was declared president on 7 April, following due constitutional process. President Banda has declared a period of 30 days of mourning for the late president. In her inauguration speech President Banda emphasised the need to focus immediately on mourning President Mutharika, and for healing and reconciliation and encouraged the people of Malawi to work together to address the many challenges that face the country. The president has continued this theme, and made clear that her top priorities include getting back on track with the IMF and normalising relations with the UK.

In my Statements to the House of 28 April (Official Report, col. 13WS) and 14 July 2011 (Official Report, col. 46WS), I set out the Government's response to the Government of Malawi's unwarranted decision to expel the British high commissioner. In both of those Statements, I told the House that, while the UK would maintain formal diplomatic relations with Malawi, I would not appoint a new high commissioner at that time.

I have now decided that the time is right to appoint a new high commissioner to Malawi. The Prime Minister has written to the president to convey this decision to her and a copy of this letter will be placed in the Library of the House. I will instruct the new high commissioner, once appointed, to monitor developments in Malawi closely.

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