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Debt Cancellation

Ms Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will urge other countries to adopt a policy of 100 per cent. debt cancellation to the heavily indebted poor countries at the next meeting of the World bank. [157536]

Clare Short: I am pleased that a number of countries are following the UK's lead in providing additional relief on their remaining bilateral debts for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).

We will continue to take every opportunity to encourage others to follow the UK's example, including at the spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF.

Palestinian National Authority

Mr. Stephen Twigg: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make further aid to the Palestinian National Authority conditional on a reduction in corruption; and if she will make a statement. [156897]

Clare Short: All UK aid is provided in a way which is well protected against corruption.

The people of the West Bank and Gaza are suffering badly from the effects of the current conflict and the economic sanctions imposed by Israel. We will continue to provide help to reduce poverty and support democratic and accountable government in the West Bank and Gaza.


Postal Services

Mr. Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps are being taken to improve postal services in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [153579]

Mr. Foulkes: The Horizon project to computerise all post office systems is nearing completion. This will mean that all customers, regardless of location, will now have access to the same high technology and top quality service. Ring fenced support has been allocated over the next three years to implement recommendations in the Performance and Innovation Unit report on modernisation of the Post Office network.

The Government fully recognise the pivotal role which the Post Office plays in communities across Scotland. A new £2 million UK wide fund, which is available for the 2001-02 financial year to support initiatives to maintain or re-open post office facilities in areas where the traditional post office is closing, will help to strengthen the rural post office network in Scotland. All of these initiatives will ensure that we can build a post office network which goes from strength to strength.

Departmental Policies (Edinburgh, South)

Mr. Nigel Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Edinburgh, South

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constituency, the effects on Edinburgh of the Department's policies and actions in health, education and other services since 2 May 1997. [155338]

Mr. Foulkes [holding answer 26 March 2001]: On health, a range of policies have been adopted since May 1997 to improve the NHS in Scotland. These measures include, for example, the abolition of the internal market and the commitment to substantial increases in expenditure on the NHS. All areas of Scotland, including Edinburgh and Edinburgh, South, benefit from these policies.

On education, between 1997 and 1999 there was a 10 per cent. reduction (from 63 to 57) in the number of primary school classes in Edinburgh, South with more than 30 pupils. Between 1996 and 1999, the number of teachers (full-time equivalent) employed in Edinburgh, South rose by 15 in primaries and by 12 in secondaries. The pupil-teacher ratio dropped from 21.5 to 19.7 in primaries and from 13.3 to 13.0 in secondaries over this period.

Between 1996 and 1999, the percentage of the S4 school roll gaining five or more Standard Grades at levels 1-4 in secondary schools in Edinburgh, South rose from around 61 per cent. to around 74 per cent.

Early in 1999, the City of Edinburgh council was awarded funding of £600,000 over three years for a New Community schools project under phase 1 of the pilot programme. Four primary schools in Edinburgh, South are included in the project (Fernieside, Gilmerton, Moredun and St. John Vianney RC).

Also early in 1999, the City of Edinburgh council was awarded £1.5 million over three years to implement an Education Action Plan to improve attainment in schools facing particular challenges. Two secondary schools in Edinburgh, South are covered by the Education Action Plan (Gracemount and Liberton High Schools).

Additional capital resources of £0.6 million in 1997-98 and £1.7 million in 1998-99 and 1999-00 were made available to the City of Edinburgh council under the New Deal for Schools for repairs to school buildings across the council's area.

The recurrent grant in aid allocations to the three Edinburgh Further Education colleges rose from £30.762 million for financial year 1997-98 by 9.9 per cent. to £33.812 million for financial year 1999-2000.

Since 1 July 1999, health and education have been mainly devolved matters for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive.


Capital Modernisation Fund

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the impact of the Capital Modernisation Fund on his Department. [158176]

Mr. Straw: Modernising the criminal justice system is a cornerstone of effective crime fighting and in reducing the fear of crime. Capital Modernisation Fund investment

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in innovative Departmental programmes is ensuring that crimes are detected, offenders prosecuted, and victims supported more quickly, effectively and efficiently.

The Home Office has benefited from over £220 million investment from Round 1 of the Capital Modernisation Fund, including £150 million funding for a joint project with the Department for the Environment Transport and the Regions to reduce vehicle crime and improve security on housing estates.

It has also benefited from over £162 million investment from Round 2 of the Capital Modernisation Fund, including £25 million for the National Technical Assistance Centre to assist law enforcement agencies' ability to fight crime in the information age.

£4 million investment has already been secured from Round 3 of the Capital Modernisation Fund for the development by the Youth Justice Board of two small mother and baby units for girls under 18 which will enable sentenced or remanded young mothers to remain with their young babies where appropriate. The first unit should open by early 2003. A further £18 million has been secured to fund the capital costs of the Youth Justice Board's expansion of the secure juvenile estate.

I intend to announce details of further allocations to my Department from Round 3 of the Capital Modernisation Fund bidding process shortly.

Corruption White Paper

Mr. Pond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the Government's response to comments on the White Paper, "Raising Standards and Upholding Integrity: the Prevention of Corruption" (CM 4759). [158179]

Mr. Straw: The main proposals in the White Paper were to reform the law of corruption in the light of recommendations made by the Law Commission; to put beyond doubt that the crime of corrupting public officials extends to foreign public officials; to introduce a new offence of 'trading in influence'; and to take jurisdiction over United Kingdom nationals who commit bribery offences abroad.

We received six comments on the White Paper, most of which were broadly favourable to our main proposals. The main points made by commentators, and the Government's reaction to them, are contained in a paper which I have today placed in the Library.

I have decided to make two changes to the scheme set out in the White Paper in the light of comments received. Firstly, the legislation will include proposals for a new offence of 'trading in influence' which will apply to both the public and the private sectors. As the extension of the offence to the private sector is a new proposal I shall listen most carefully to the arguments on both sides when the Bill comes before the House. Secondly, the legislation will extend not only to England and Wales but to Northern Ireland as well.

I will bring forward legislation to implement the proposals at the earliest opportunity.

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Asylum and Immigration Act

Mr. Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to ensure that employers do not unlawfully discriminate when using the statutory defence against prosecution under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996. [158180]

Mrs. Roche: Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 ("the 1996 Act") allows for the prosecution of employers who knowingly employ individuals without permission to work in the United Kingdom. A statutory defence against prosecution is available which requires that the employer obtain a copy of a document showing that the individual is entitled to take work.

There were concerns that, in seeking to avail themselves of this defence, employers were unlawfully discriminating by making more checks on job applicants than the defence in Section 8 requires or by targeting checks on racial grounds. That is why we undertook, in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, to issue a Code of Practice to employers on how to avoid racial discrimination when seeking to apply the defence.

In the light of that commitment the Government have prepared a Code of Practice that sets out the responsibilities of employers under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the 1996 Act and describes how employers can use the statutory defence in a way that avoids racial discrimination. In preparing the draft Code of Practice and summary, we consulted the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and a number of other organisations.

We propose that this Code of Practice should come into force on 2 May. We plan to distribute copies to interested organisations, together with a summary, which should ensure that all employers can easily understand their responsibilities in avoiding racial discrimination. A copy of the code of practice has been placed in the Library.

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