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Gaelic Athletic Association

Mr. John D. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the total amount of public funding for the Gaelic Athletic Association in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement. [82550]

Mr. McFall: The total amount of public funding for the Gaelic Athletic Association, and its associated clubs, is as follows:






Mental Health

Mr. John D. Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if the South Eastern Education and Library Board will be represented on the Regional Task Force on Mental Health Promotion; and if she will make a statement. [82743]

Mr. McFall: Representation on the Regional Task Force on Mental Health is not on a Board basis. The education sector is represented by the Department of Education. Representatives from each of the Education and Library Boards were invited to consultation days organised during the months of February and April to consider a mental health promotion strategy for Northern Ireland.

7 May 1999 : Column: 470

SOCIAL SECURITY

War Pensions Scheme

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to review the administration of the appeals process within the War Pensions Scheme as it applies to former (a) officers and (b) other ranks. [82715]

Angela Eagle: We are committed to reducing the time taken to process all types of War Pension appeals. At the December 1998 meeting of the Central Advisory Committee on War Pensions we announced the commissioning of an independent review into the whole decision-making and appeals process. The findings of the consultants who conducted the review were reported to the Department last month and will be announced shortly.

Incapacity Benefit

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make it his policy to provide national insurance credits that count towards the new national insurance contribution condition for incapacity benefit proposed in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill to working members of households in receipt of working families or disabled persons tax credits whose earnings are below the lower earnings limit; and if he will make a statement. [82705]

Mr. Bayley: There are two contribution conditions for Incapacity Benefit. The first condition requires a minimum number of paid contributions and cannot be satisfied by credits. The provisions in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill will change this condition so that the minimum number of contributions will need to have been paid in one of the two tax years before the claim for benefit rather than, as now, in any year.

The second contribution condition can be satisfied by credits. People on Disability Working Allowance (and, in future, Disabled Persons Tax Credit) who have earnings below the Lower Earnings Limit are given credits which count towards the second contribution condition. Family Credit (and, in future, Working Families Tax Credit) do not provide credits of this kind. The second contribution condition is unaffected by the provisions in the Bill.

Benefit Arrears

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the constituent whose name has been supplied to him will be paid the benefits awarded to him by a tribunal in August 1998, backdated to 1974. [82880]

Mr. Bayley: An initial payment of arrears was issued on 4 May 1999. Arrears from the beginning of the award will now be calculated and issued without undue delay.

PRIME MINISTER

Bilderberg Group

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Prime Minister which (a) Ministers and (b) officials will attend the Bilderberg Group meeting in Portugal in June; and if he will make a statement. [81790]

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The Prime Minister: I am told that the Bilderberg Group usually invites a number of people from government, politics, industry, finance and education from a wide range of countries to its annual Conference. There is no formal representation by the UK Government.

Class Sizes

Mr. John M. Taylor: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral answer to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) of 28 April 1999, Official Report, column 336, if he will make a statement on the changes there have been in average school class sizes for children over the age of seven years since 1 May 1997. [83095]

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral answer to the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) of 28 April 1999, Official Report, column 336, concerning class sizes, what has been the change in the average size of school classes in the past two years. [83233]

The Prime Minister: The Government's manifesto pledge is to reduce the size of infant classes to 30 or below. The evidence of Ofsted and others is that class size matters most in the early years when children are learning the basics. As a result of an investment of £67 million there were some 130,000 fewer infants in classes of over 30 in January this year than in January 1998. And we have announced that from September this year we expect a further reduction of 150,000 meaning that the number of infants in classes over thirty will be 200,000 compared to 485,000 in January 1998. Between January 1998 and January 1999:



    the average size of Key Stage 2 classes remained steady (28.3 in 1998, 28.4 in 1999) as did the average size of secondary classes (21.9 in 1998, 22.0 in 1999);


    average size of classes in all maintained primary and secondary schools fell for the first time in 5 years from 24.9 in January 1998 to 24.8 in January 1999.

European Commission

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his meeting with Mr. Romani Prodi on 14 April; what subjects were discussed; what decisions were reached; and if he will place the plans for European Commission reform submitted by Mr. Prodi to that meeting in the Library. [83541]

The Prime Minister: Heads of State and Government met Mr. Prodi on 14 April to discuss Commission reform. As the meeting was informal, no formal papers were submitted to it and there were no formal conclusions. However, Heads did agree to discuss the reform process with Mr. Prodi again at the Cologne European Council in June. I will, of course, make a statement to the House after that Council, and the conclusions and other relevant documents will be placed in the Library.

Mr. Prodi's formal statements on reform have consistently shown that he supports a Commission which is more efficient, transparent and accountable. The UK fully supports these objectives.

7 May 1999 : Column: 472

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister when he plans to announce his nominations for the two United Kingdom EU Commissioners ; and when he intends to discuss potential candidates with the President-nominate. [83475]

The Prime Minister: In accordance with the Amsterdam Treaty, now that Mr. Prodi's nomination as Commission President has been approved by the European Parliament, member states will begin to consult with him on nomination of the other Commissioners. The two nominees from the United Kingdom will be announced as soon as this consultation has been completed.

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Amateur Swimming

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what action the Government have taken to promote amateur swimming. [82899]

Mr. Banks: This Government place great importance on amateur swimming, both as an elite sport and as a form of exercise which should be available to all. That is why swimming is a statutory element of the primary National Curriculum, giving all young people the opportunity to learn to enjoy it. Sport England has a facilities strategy in place, covering both excellence and recreational swimming; the sport has received £280,000 exchequer funding for 1999-2000; and has been awarded £184 million Lottery funding to date, which is more than for any other single sport. In addition, between January and September of this year, £2 million of Lottery funds have been allocated to top individual British swimmers under the World Class Performance Programme, and £750,000 towards excellence in disabled swimming, which is laying the foundations for future British success.

Royal Parks Agency

Mr. McNulty: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what targets he has set for the Royal Parks Agency. [83812]

Mr. Alan Howarth: The following targets have been set for the Royal Parks Agency for 1999-2000:









7 May 1999 : Column: 473


    Maintain an average score of at least 85 per cent. for soft landscape presentation, compared with a score of 84 per cent. in 1998-99. The minimum score for a park should be no lower than 80 per cent.


    Complete the first phase of refurbishment works of White Lodge in Bushy Park by the end of 1999-2000, with a view to ensuring the building is removed from English Heritage's "Buildings at Risk" register by 2001.

I shall be reviewing progress against these targets and against the Agency's objectives at my six months review of the Agency's Funding Agreement.


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