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Ministerial Visit (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Q11. Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to visit the constituency of Meirionnydd Nant Conwy; and if he will make a statement. [143235]

The Prime Minister: I have no immediate plans to do so.

European Union

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Prime Minister if revised Article 111 of the TEC applies to the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement. [144631]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

In line with paragraph five of the Protocol on certain provisions relating to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Article 111 of the TEC does not apply to the United Kingdom.


Special Advisers

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what categories of submissions from civil servants to Ministers, other than those relating to (a) intelligence and (b) personnel matters, are not circulated to Special Advisers; [143830]

Mr. Rooker: Special Advisers in this Department have access to material produced by permanent civil servants in accordance with paragraph 14e of the "Model Contract for Special Advisers".

Benefit Overpayments

(Recovery from Third Parties)

Mr. McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent representations he has received about appeal rights against recovery of overpayments of Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit from third parties. [145210]

Angela Eagle: Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit legislation provides that where benefit has been paid to a third party, such as a landlord, the local authority

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has discretion to recover any overpayment either from the claimant or from the person to whom the benefit was actually paid. Under the current review arrangements, the local authority's exercise of discretion in this respect is not a matter reviewable by a Review Board. The decision may of course be challenged by judicial review.

In the light of the proposed changes to decision-making and appeals in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, to be introduced in July 2001, we have been examining current procedures to ensure that they remain appropriate, and we have taken account of representations received from a number of organisations. We have decided that, in cases where more than one person may be liable under the legislation to repay an overpayment, the person from whom the local authority decides to seek recovery should have a right of appeal to an appeal tribunal against that decision. Regulations giving effect to the new decision- making and appeals procedures for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit will be laid before the House shortly.


Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) how many people have been (a) prosecuted and (b) convicted of social security fraud in each of the last five years; [141433]

Mr. Rooker [pursuant to his reply, 11 December 2000, c. 48-49W]: The information is in the table.

Sanctions for benefit fraud

YearProsecutionsCautions and penalties as an alternative to prosecutionTotal


The figures do not include sanctions for benefit fraud by authorities administering housing and council tax benefits. Penalties as an alternative to prosecution were introduced by the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act with effect from December 1998.

Information on the number of prosecutions resulting in convictions is currently available only in respect of Benefit Fraud Investigation Service prosecutions in the years 1997-98 and 1998-99--in both years 99 per cent. of such prosecutions were successful.

Our research suggests that approximately 5 per cent. of prosecutions involve a person with a previous conviction for benefit fraud. We are putting in place mechanisms to identify second and further convictions.


Maternal Mortality

8. Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans she has to visit Azerbaijan to investigate the safe motherhood programme. [143202]

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Mr. Foulkes: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, maternal mortality in Azerbaijan has deteriorated from around 10 to over 40 deaths per 100,000 live births. My Department is supporting Safe Motherhood there by providing funding of £240,000 to the United Nations Population Fund's Reproductive Health Programme for Azerbaijan, which aims to train community midwives in modern contraceptive methods and maternity care.

12. Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the progress being made towards attaining international targets for the reduction of maternal mortality. [143207]

Clare Short: The UK Government are working to help to achieve the International Development Target of a reduction by three quarters in maternal mortality by 2015. Significant progress is being made in much of Asia, but progress is slow in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV is a significant factor in increasing maternal mortality rates. Progress has also been slow because safe motherhood requires investment beyond primary health care, tackling health, education, transport and gender.

DFID is taking a leadership role in supporting comprehensive, multi-sectoral Government-led safe motherhood programmes in Malawi and Nepal. More work is planned in Tanzania and Kenya. We are encouraging other bilateral and multilateral donors to include maternal health as a key component of health sector strengthening packages, using World Health Organisation standards for better pregnancy care. DFID is also supporting the World Health Organisation in its work to raise the international profile of maternal health.

Information Technology

9. Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what action her Department is taking to reduce international inequalities in the availability of digital services. [143203]

Clare Short: The UK is strongly supporting the G8 initiative to improve access to Information Technology (IT) in developing countries. In 2000 we established the Imfundo programme to improve teacher training through the use of Information Technology and other distance learning. DFID has also recently established a £6 million programme working with NGOs and the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organisation to tackle barriers to IT access in developing countries through improved regulation and by linking radio and the internet.

St. Helena

10. Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans she has to visit the island of St. Helena to commemorate the 500 anniversary of the island's discovery. [143204]

Clare Short: I have no plans to visit St. Helena.


11. Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the humanitarian situation in Kosovo with respect to children. [143206]

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Clare Short: We have provided £4.5 million for UNICEF for Kosovo. We are working jointly with the World Bank, UNMIK and UNICEF on a social protection strategy for Kosovo. An assessment of children's services has just been completed. We are also funding a Living Standards Measurement Survey by the World Bank, which will measure the situation of children and their families.

Debt Relief

13. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which countries will be working with the UK on meeting the target for debt reduction. [143208]

Clare Short: The UK worked closely with many others in the international community last year, to achieve--and exceed--our target on implementing the HIPC Initiative. By the end of 2000, 22 countries had qualified for debt relief. We will continue to work with others to secure the full implementation of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. However, many of the remaining countries are affected by conflict. These countries need to establish peace in order to make a commitment to poverty reduction, and to qualify for HIPC relief.

Ensuring that debt relief benefits the poor is central to the HIPC Initiative. We are working closely with a number of HIPC countries on their national poverty reduction strategies, which will provide a framework for all development resources, including debt relief savings. Like the IMF and World bank, we have agreed to focus our international development programmes on supporting these strategies, and encourage other donors to do the same.

Mrs. Dean: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans she has to take forward her Department's policy on releasing countries from debt. [143205]

Clare Short: I am pleased to report that 22 countries have qualified for exceptional debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, exceeding our target of 20 countries qualifying by end of 2000. This has resulted in over $50 billion in debt relief being agreed for these countries, which will reduce their debts by almost two-thirds on average. We hope that a number of other countries will qualify for relief this year, but for many of the remaining HIPC countries conflict is a major barrier to making substantial further progress.

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