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North Korea

Sir Alastair Goodlad: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps her Department is taking to help alleviate the famine in North Korea. [24228]

Clare Short: Details of our humanitarian assistance to North Korea were provided in my Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State's answer to the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) on 18 December 1997, Official Report, column 288. We are considering the latest reports on humanitarian needs in the current year and are discussing further assistance, including the latest World Food Programme appeal with the European Commission.

China

Sir Alastair Goodlad: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if her Department has received requests for assistance following the earthquake in Zhangbein, China; and if she will make a statement. [24227]

Clare Short: Following a request for international assistance from the Government of China, we have contributed £200,000 to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for the procurement and distribution of relief items, such as food, shelter, medicines and quilts to 110,000 needy earthquake victims in Hebei Province. The IFRC are working with the Chinese Red Cross to manage this relief programme.

Bananas

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she had with members of the European Commission on the presidency's policy on future markets for Associated African and Caribbean States of the European Community, concerning the marketing of bananas; and what estimates Her Majesty's Government have made of

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the likely loss of income to small farmers arising from recent negotiations conducted by the Commission with the World Trade Organisation. [24050]

Clare Short: I have discussed this issue with Commissioner Pinheiro during his recent visit to London at the start of the UK Presidency and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has also had discussions with the Commission.

Although it was disappointing that some parts of the regime have been found incompatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, the ruling did not exclude all preferences for the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) banana producers. Work undertaken by the Government shows that the impact of the WTO ruling on the ACP banana producing countries will vary according to the details of the new arrangements which are put in place to comply with the WTO ruling.

The Commission has recently put forward some proposals to modify the EU banana regime; these are now being considered by member states. It is therefore not yet possible to make an estimate of the impact of the WTO ruling. None the less it seems likely that the Caribbean banana industry will face rather increased competition. There are plans to improve the competitiveness of the banana industry in the Windward islands and to provide EU funding to assist this adjustment.

Bilateral Assistance

Sir Alastair Goodlad: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement concerning the proportion of the United Kingdom aid programme to be devoted to bilateral assistance. [24231]

Clare Short: In 1996-97, bilateral aid comprised 50 per cent. of external assistance programmes (excluding administration). The proportion in future years will be determined by decisions taken in our current Resource Allocation Round.

Great Lakes Region

Sir Alastair Goodlad: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans her Department has to promote democracy and good government in the Great Lakes region of Africa. [24235]

Clare Short: Efforts to build sound and accountable government which gives the poor a voice are at the heart of my Department's implementation of the White Paper in the Great Lakes. We are working bilaterally and will also use our Presidency of the EU to encourage greater cohesion in the area of governance. We will take forward the EU joint action in support of democratisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Head of the EU Electoral Unit, Professor Vasconcelos, will visit Kinshasa later this month to see how we might best help the democratisation process. The EU Special Envoy, Ajello, has produced some useful and constructive ideas on governance issues in the Great Lakes. We will pursue these during the Presidency.

IT Equipment

Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what is her Department's policy regarding the recycling of information technology

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equipment within her Department and relevant agencies and to other Government departments or agencies; and what arrangements have been made in this respect. [23245]

Clare Short: We have recently replaced virtually all our printers and desk-top computers throughout the Department for International Development following our change to the Windows 95 operating environment, and as a result of the introduction of resource accounting. We negotiated buy-back clauses for our old equipment with the suppliers of the new equipment. The suppliers are then responsible for selling the equipment on or recycling it.

For more ad hoc exercises where buy-back is not an option, we are in contact with RECOMMIT, the recycling organisation, which specialises in recycling Information Technology equipment in the public sector.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Child Maintenance

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when she intends to introduce a disregard of child maintenance payments when assessing a parent with carers income support entitlement. [23147]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The receipt of regular maintenance is a key part of this Government's strategy for helping lone mothers move off Income Support into work. We are looking closely at all aspects of the child support scheme to see where improvements can be made. We aim to bring forward proposals by the summer.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) when the child maintenance bonus was introduced; how many awards have been made to date; what publicity has been provided to ensure that staff and clients were aware of this scheme; and if she will make a statement; [23368]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The receipt of regular maintenance is a central part of the Government's strategy for helping lone parents move off income support into work. The Child Maintenance Bonus provides extra cash help towards the costs associated with starting work.

The Child Maintenance Bonus was introduced on 7 April 1997. At the end of December 1997, some 3,000 awards of the bonus has been made.

Everyone who joins the scheme receives a letter of welcome which explains how they can make a claim. Every six months the person with care of the child also receives a statement giving her an estimate of the amount the bonus would be if she returned to work at that time. Publicity for potential clients is provided through a general work incentives leaflet, the work incentives helpline and through leaflets and posters in Benefits Agency offices. All Benefits Agency offices received a supply of Child Maintenance Bonus leaflets before the scheme commenced in April 1997. Each office is responsible for ensuring that it maintains stocks of the leaflet.

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The bonus has been publicised to Benefit Agency Staff using a variety of methods, including bulletins, articles in internal publications and the inclusion of the bonus in various Benefits Agency general information guides. In addition, there have been seminars to raise staff awareness. A Question and Answer briefing will also be issued shortly to remind staff of the scheme.

Family Resources Survey

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate of the number of higher rate tax paying (a) mothers and (b) fathers is provided by her Department's Family Resources Survey. [23108]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The Family Resources Survey (FRS) does not provide direct information on the number of mothers and fathers who are higher rate taxpayers. An estimate for 1997-98 from the 1995-96 FRS-based Policy Simulation Model suggests there are around

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120,000 mothers and 850,000 fathers who are higher rate taxpayers. The estimates should be treated with some caution as they are based on survey data which use current weekly income which may not accurately represent current annual tax liabilities. Estimates may also be influenced by sampling error and response rates.

Working Mothers

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate she has made of the employment participation rate of (a) lone mothers and (b) mothers in two-parent families in each European Union country; and if she will estimate what percentage of working lone mothers and working two-parent household mothers are working part-time. [23666]

Mr. Keith Bradley: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the table.

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Lone Mother Labour Participation

CountryLone mothers Married cohabiting mothers
Employment Participation ratesPercentage of employed lone mothers working part-timeEmployment participation ratesPercentage of employed married/cohabiting mothers working part-time
Belgium (1992)68166122
Denmark69108420
Germany (1992)67--57--
Greece--------
Spain (1991) Activity rates68--38--
France (1992)82156820
Ireland (1993)23--32--
Italy (1993)69114112
Luxembourg (1992)73134513
Netherlands (1994)40245239
Austria (1993)58154618
Portugal (1991)507557
Finland (1993)654708
Sweden (1994)70298038
United Kingdom (1990-92)41246241

Notes:

1. For these figures part-time is up to 30 hours.

2. Figures used for Germany are updated figures and have not been published, therefore any interpretation of these figures should be treated with caution. The updated figures for the percentage of employed lone mothers and married/cohabiting mothers working part-time are not available.

3. The information for Greece is not available in the form requested. For 51 per cent. of women in the likely age group were economically active and 5 per cent. of working women worked part-time.

4. The figure for employment participation rates in Austria excludes 20 per cent. of lone mothers and 13 per cent. of married/cohabiting mothers who are on parental leave.

5. There are no data available on the percentage of working lone mothers and married/cohabiting mothers working part-time in Spain and Ireland.

Source:

The employment of loan parents : a comparison of policy in 20 countries' by J. Bradshaw, S. Kennedy, M. Kilkey, S. Hutton, A. Corden, T. Eardley, H. Holmes and J. Neale.


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