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Civil Servants (Contact with the Opposition)

Mr. Morgan: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the guidelines and timings for meetings of permanent secretaries with Opposition Front Bench Members, and for the undertaking of contingency work by civil servants in preparation for a change of Government; and if he will make a statement. [3268]

Mr. Heseltine: The convention has been that, by authority of the Prime Minister, towards the end of a Parliament or when a general election has been called, Opposition parties may arrange, with the authority of their party leaders and through the head of the civil service, contacts with senior civil servants. These arrangements are designed to allow briefing on factual questions on departmental organisational changes which Opposition parties have in mind or which may result from Opposition party policies. Any exchanges would be confidential. Following the last general election, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the leader of the Opposition that he would be content to authorise confidential exchanges between senior civil servants and Opposition spokesmen from January 1996.



Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what has been the involvement of the Crown Agents in the export of military, security or police equipment to Nigeria since June 1993; and if he will make a statement. [2074]

Mr. Hanley: Crown Agents has had no involvement in procurement of military equipment for Nigeria. Under contractual arrangements entered into before 1993, a Crown Agents subsidiary company acted as shipping agent for one company exporting military equipment under licences granted before EU measures were imposed in December 1993. This involvement ceased in January 1995.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the police training for Nigerian police officers in the United Kingdom and Nigeria since 1990 has involved (a) instruction in crowd control techniques and (b) the use of firearms. [2479]

Mr. Hanley: Training has not included instruction in either crowd techniques or the use of firearms.

Mr. Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which towns or cities in Nigeria United Kingdom personnel have visited to provide training to Nigerian police forces in each year since 1990. [2480]

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Mr. Hanley: United Kingdom personnel provided training in Jos between 1991 and 1993, and in Enugu between 1993 and 1995.


Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will obtain reports from Her Majesty's ambassadors stationed in countries currently or recently suffering from war and armed conflict on the degree to which children have been pressed into direct military action; and what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on aid or expedient support for Governments permitting children to be trained for military service. [2734]

Mr. Hanley: We receive regular reports from our representatives overseas. As part of our good governance policy, we always take account of a Government's level and use of military expenditure when deciding our allocations of bilateral aid.

We take every opportunity to urge those countries which have ratified the UN convention on the rights of the child to comply fully with the relevant sections of article 38 of the convention, which deals with children in armed conflict.

Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what programmes or projects are currently supported by the overseas aid budget to establish post-conflict trauma aftercare for children in developing countries which have suffered from civil war or other armed conflict. [2736]

Mr. Hanley: The most effective interventions to assist children who have been affected by conflict are those which seek to provide a normal, stable environment for child development. We adopt a holistic approach to post-conflict situations through normal economic and social rehabilitation activities, supplemented by more targeted programmes, such as child tracing or family reunification. For this purpose, we have supported Save the Children programmes in Gaza and the west bank, Liberia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zaire, Serbia and Montenegro, Red Cross services in Angola and UNICEF programmes in Burundi and the former Yugoslavia.

Sri Lanka

Miss Lestor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has received about the delivery of humanitarian aid to Tamil refugees in Sri Lanka; and if he will make a statement. [2515]

Mr. Hanley: Food and non-food relief is reaching the displaced people in the north, including the Jaffna peninsula. The main requirement is for shelter materials, household goods and the provision of safe drinking water. We continue to channel our relief and rehabilitation support through the non-governmental organisation CARE, Oxfam and Save the Children, and through the International Committee of the Red Cross. All these organisations operate in co-ordination with the Government of Sri Lanka.

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Investors in People

Mr. Buyers: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps his Department is taking to achieve investor in people status; when it started the process; when it expects to achieve investor in people status; and if he will make a statement. [2986]

Mrs. Angela Knight: The Treasury made a formal commitment to work towards achieving the investor in people standard in April 1994, when it agreed a departmental action plan with the Central London training and enterprise council. A mid-term assessment of the Department's progress is planned for early 1996, the outcome of which will determine the target date for accreditation.

Public Interest Immunity Certificates

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list all those in his Department who have authority to issue public interest immunity certificates; how many such certificates have been issued in each of the last five years; and what were the main reasons for them. [1427]

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: A claim to public interest immunity relating to departmental records or information is normally made by the appropriate Minister, or in the case of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise by the chairman. No PII certificates have been signed by Treasury Ministers during the last five years.

In order to protect in proceedings confidential information provided by taxpayers about their personal affairs or the identity of informers, the chairman of the Inland Revenue may swear affidavits, rather than sign PII certificates, claiming on public interest grounds that disclosure of documents should not be made. As far as can be ascertained, one such affidavit has been signed in the last five years--in 1991--and was for use in civil proceedings.

The chairman of Customs and Excise also claims PII by affidavit and not by certificate. There have been three affidavits in the last five years--one each in 1992, 1994 and 1995. Each was used in civil proceedings in order to protect informant and intelligence information.

Value Added Tax (Blood Products)

Mr. Heppell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what consultations his Department held with the Department of Health in respect of the imposition of value added tax on the recombinant factor VIII product Kogenate; [3130]

Mr. Heatcoat-Amory: Customs and Excise advised Bayer in September 1994 that Kogenate could be relieved from VAT as it appeared to fall within the exemption for human blood or products derived from human blood. Customs subsequently discovered that other supplies were treating recombinant products as outside this exemption and to ensure equity reviewed the position. On the basis of

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scientific advice from the Department of Health, Customs ruled that since these products were not derived from human blood, they were taxable at the standard rate of VAT. Bayer was advised of the new ruling on 25 September 1995.

This ruling brings the VAT liability of these products into line both with that applied in other member states under the EC sixth VAT directive and with that of other drugs and therapeutic products. Plasma-derived human factor VIII remains exempt from VAT.

Departmental Targets

Ms Armstrong: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the published recommended response times within which his Department is expected to reply to letters from the public. [3002]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: The recommended response time within which the Department is expected to reply to letters from the public is between 10 to 15 working days.

Low-risk Ports of Entry

Mr. Cann: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list those ports of entry into the United Kingdom which are regarded as low risk by the Customs and Excise. [3186]

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: All ports of entry into the United Kingdom are subject to Customs controls. It would not be in the public interest to disclose the Customs assessments of risk arising at individual ports.

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