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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 14 February 2001


Variant CJD

Ms Rosie Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will make an announcement on compensation for victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. [150839]

Mr. Milburn: We are committed to constructing a compensation scheme that is effective and properly meets the needs of those affected. Discussions are under way with the legal representatives of the families affected. In the meantime we will be making interim payments of £25,000 when regulations have been put in place to ensure the payments are not taken into account in the calculation of income-related social security benefits and are exempted from the provisions of the Social Security (Recovery of Benefits) Act 1997. We intend to present this legislation to Parliament as soon as possible. Details of the full compensation package are still under consideration.

Communication Aids

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what response he plans to make to the recent Scope report, "Speak for Yourself", concerning communication aids. [150078]

Mr. Hutton: The report is a detailed and very valuable assessment of the importance of communication aids for disabled people and we are studying its recommendations carefully.


North Korea

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on UK aid to North Korea. [150311]

Mr. Mullin: The UK has provided humanitarian assistance in North Korea by channelling modest and well-targeted contributions through UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations--over £2.5 million since 1998. The programmes we support have primarily focused on agricultural rehabilitation and food security. In addition, the UK share of humanitarian assistance to North Korea through the EC was approximately £0.5 million in 1999-2000.

Our engagement with North Korea through provision of humanitarian assistance has been instrumental in opening the country up to external influences. It has allowed us to maintain a dialogue with the North Korean authorities on issues of concern such as human rights abuse, the misappropriation of aid, and the problems of

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access faced by agencies working in the country. We will continue to work through the EU and with the international community as a whole to encourage a process of transformation in North Korea.

Brahimi Report

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement about the Brahimi report. [149875]

Mr. Mullin: The Brahimi report makes a number of fundamental recommendations on improving the way the UN and the international community tackle peacekeeping, conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and on clarifying the mandates of UN agencies involved in tackling crises and conflict situations. The UK is very supportive of the Brahimi report and is working with the UN and other member states to take rapid and decision action on its speedy and effective implementation.



Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to place the consultation document on the protection of sunken military vessels in the Library. [150689]

Dr. Moonie: I have today placed a copy of the consultation paper in the Libraries of both Houses.

A copy of the consultation paper has been sent to those hon. Members who have shown an interest in the subject of the protection of military maritime graves.

Gulf War Syndrome

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if members of the armed forces who received multiple vaccines in preparation for deployment during the Gulf War, but were not deployed, are eligible to participate in the Gulf veterans medical assessment programme. [150260]

Mr. Spellar: Yes. The Gulf veterans medical assessment programme is open to all present and former Service personnel or Ministry of Defence civilians who believe that their health has suffered as a direct result of the Gulf conflict.


Television Reception

Mr. Sarwar: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps he takes to ensure that publicly funded projects do not cause disruption of television reception for neighbouring households during building works and after completion. [149668]

Janet Anderson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is responsible for the Planning Policy Guidance note 8 on telecommunications development in England. This includes advice on the potential in any development to

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interfere with television reception. The Scottish Executive are responsible for such planning policy issues in Scotland.


Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will ask the BBC to publish figures indicating the (a) funding of and (b) audience figures for (i) BBC Choice, (ii) BBC Knowledge and (iii) BBC 24 hours since their inception. [150213]

Janet Anderson: The BBC has published figures showing their spending on each of these channels in the Corporation's Annual Report and Accounts every year since they were launched. Audience figures are published independently by BARB, the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board Ltd.

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what permission was sought by the BBC from his Department in launching (a) BBC Choice, (b) BBC Knowledge and (c) BBC 24 hours. [150212]

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Janet Anderson: BBC Choice and BBC News 24 were approved in principle in March 1997 and BBC Knowledge in January 1998. Specific approvals were given for the carriage of these new services on digital terrestrial television, digital satellite and digital cable in February 1998, May 1998 and October 1999 respectively.


Pension-earnings Link

Miss Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will calculate the extra cost if state retirement pensions had been linked to earnings since 1997. [149082]

Mr. Rooker: If our policy had been only to link the basic pension to earnings we would have spent £5.2 billion less over a five-year period. Instead we will have spent an estimated £8.5 billion extra in the five years since 1997-98 as a result of our discretionary measures for pensioners. This is over £5 billion more than uprating the basic state pension by earnings since April 1998.

Further details are in the table.

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£ million

Discretionary spending on Government measures2002001,2702,7304,3908,800
Net cost of earnings uprating--1405001,3801,5703,580
Extra spending above earnings uprating200607701,3602,8305,220


1. Our measures included the above-inflation increase in the basic State Pension, the Minimum Income Guarantee, Winter Fuel Payments and concessionary TV licences for those aged 75 and over.

2. It is assumed that the date at which uprating of basic State Pension by earnings begins is April 1998.

3. Costs are net of income-related benefits. Gross costs have been estimated by the Government Actuary's Department. Income-related benefit offsets are estimated using the Policy Simulation Model.

4. The cost of linked benefits, particularly widows'/bereavement benefits, is excluded.

5. The definition of earnings used for uprating is the average earnings index, seasonally adjusted, in the three months to July in the preceding year.

6. The costs are shown in 1999-2000 prices and are rounded to the nearest £10 million.

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Maternity Grant

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many mothers in Yorkshire and Humberside received maternity grant in (a) 1996-97, (b) 1997-98, (c) 1998-99, (d) 1999-2000 and (e) 2000 to date; and what the value of the grant was in each of these years. [149438]

Angela Eagle: The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is in the table.

Maternity Payment (MP) and Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) awards for the Benefits Agency's Yorkshire area directorate

Financial yearApplication typeNumber of awardsAmount awarded


1. These figures are for the BA Yorkshire area directorate which comprises the following districts--South East Yorkshire, Rother and Dearne, Sheffield, Bradford and Keighley, Calderdale and Kirklees, Wakefield, East Yorkshire, Leeds and North Yorkshire.

2. Sure Start Maternity Grant replaced the Social Fund Maternity Payment from 27 March 2000 for confinements/adoptions on or after 11 June 2000. The Social Fund Maternity Payment was £100 per child and the Sure Start Maternity Grant was initially £200 per child. This was increased to £300 for babies due, born or adopted from 3 December 2000. The amount of the SFMP or SSMG is reduced on a pound for pound basis by any savings over £500 held by an applicant or partner (£1,000 for applicants aged 60 or over).

3. Figures for year 2000-2001 are for April to December 2000 only.

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