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Civil Justice System

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what progress has been made on reviewing the remedy of distress for rent as part of the on-going reform of the civil justice system and review of civil enforcement. [160696]

Mr. Lock: As part of the on-going reform of the civil justice system and the review of civil enforcement, we have been reviewing the remedy of distress for rent. We recognise that there are concerns about the current procedure, whereby landlords of (mainly commercial) property can seize their tenants' goods for non-payment of rent, without a court order or any prior notice. The Government accept that some change is necessary and desirable, and the Lord Chancellor has today issued a consultation paper on options for reform of distress for rent. Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The aim of this consultation is to:





8 May 2001 : Column: 56W

Enforcement Review

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what progress has been made on the second phase of the enforcement review following the widening of its remit, announced by the Lord Chancellor on 6 March. [160695]

Mr. Lock: A wider remit for phase two of the enforcement review was announced on 6 March 2001, Official Report, column 212W. The review has identified the need for independent expert advice from the private, independent and public sectors actively involved in enforcement and a market evaluation of the delivery of enforcement services. An advisory group will therefore be established on the delivery of enforcement services to guarantee openness and transparency.

The broader remit of the enforcement review enables us to set better, more wide-ranging public service agreement targets, ensuring that enforcement is carried out to a consistent standard. The current target (to achieve a 10 per cent. increase in the amount recovered per pound under executed warrants issued in the county courts in 2001-04) was due to be reviewed in July 2001. The new target will need to take account of the findings of the enforcement review, to be more closely linked to service delivery and to measure return to the customer. We will now set new targets for civil enforcement by December 2001 and implement them in 2002.

SCOTLAND

Disability Rights Commission

5. Mr. Tom Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when she next plans to meet the Disability Rights Commission to discuss the promotion of the commission's remit in Scotland. [159293]

Mr. Foulkes: My officials met the Disability Rights Commission on 9 April. I hope to meet the Commission shortly.

Fuel Duties

6. Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will make a statement about the impact on rural and cross-border transport of fuel duties in Scotland. [159294]

Mr. Foulkes: In his Budget 2001 report, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a number of measures to encourage cleaner road transport, to improve access to cheaper motoring for people who need to use their cars and to enhance the efficiency and environmental sustainability of the UK haulage industry.

This package of measures represents a balance between economic, environmental and social concerns and should help mitigate the impact of fuel costs on rural and cross border transport. All motorists will benefit by an equivalent of four pence per litre cut on fuel duty and hauliers by an equivalent seven pence per litre. The proposed reforms to the lorry vehicle excise duty regime will bring typical duty rates for the cleanest vehicles down to among the lowest in Europe.

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Barnett Formula

7. Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when she last met the First Minister, what discussions she had in relation to reform of the Barnett formula. [159295]

Mrs. Liddell: I meet regularly with my colleague the First Minister to discuss a wide range of issues. This Government have no plans to change the Barnett formula.

10. Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent proposals she has put forward about reform of the Barnett formula; and if she will make a statement. [159299]

Mrs. Liddell: The Government have no plans to scrap or to review the Barnett formula. It has provided stable settlements under successive Governments for over 20 years. The Barnett formula is also flexible. It leaves detailed decisions on the allocation of resources for devolved programmes to the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament. Finally, the Barnett formula is fair, because it gives the same overall increases for devolved programmes per head of population in all four parts of the UK.

The Economy

8. Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when she last met the First Minister to discuss the Scottish economy. [159296]

Mrs. Liddell: I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a wide range of issues including the commitment of this Government to maintaining in Scotland, as in the whole of the UK, a stable and successful economy, which allows everyone to share in the nation's rising prosperity.

East Ayrshire (Rail Links)

9. Mr. Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions she has had with (a) Railtrack and (b) the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive about financial support for the improvement of rail links to East Ayrshire. [159298]

Mr. Foulkes: The Government are determined to deliver a safe, modern and high quality railway system. Investment in the railway industry in Scotland, and indeed elsewhere in the UK, is principally a matter for the industry itself. As part of Railtrack's national regeneration scheme, £1.85 million has already been invested in the refurbishment of Kilmarnock Station. Furthermore, Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive has committed funds to extend car parking at Kilmarnock station to 111 spaces, effectively doubling capacity.

The Strategic Rail Authority, under the guidance of the Scottish Executive, has asked Railtrack to cost a number of enhancement options. One option being considered is the creation of a two mile dynamic loop between Stewarton and Dunlop, which would effectively double the single track. This option would have the potential to increase service frequency between Kilmarnock and Glasgow.

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Minimum Income Guarantee

11. John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans she has to meet pensioner organisations in Scotland to discuss pension levels and the take-up of the Minimum Income Guarantee. [159300]

Mr. Foulkes: We are happy to meet pensioner organisations at any time. The Minimum Income Guarantee has been a great success, taken up by 172,000 claimants in Scotland with some 3,700 in Glasgow Anniesland.

Highlands (Economic Development)

12. Mr. Maclennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Defence concerning the impact of his Department's policies and programmes on the economic development of the highlands. [159301]

Mrs. Liddell: I have regular contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on a range of issues. On the basis of the most recent figures available, defence expenditure in Scotland is estimated at approximately £1.8 billion and supports, directly and indirectly, approximately 60,000 jobs. My right hon. Friend is very aware of the importance of defence related contracts to the economy of the Highlands and Islands.

Northern Ireland (Transport Links)

13. Mr. Eric Clarke: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions she has had regarding the future ferry services and improved road links between Scotland and Northern Ireland. [159302]

Mrs. Liddell: The Government are aware of the potential economic benefits of improving transport links between Scotland and Northern Ireland. My Department, in close consultation with the Scottish and Northern Ireland Executives, has been examining the case for a Public Service Obligation to establish a ferry link between Campbeltown and Ballycastle. I am pleased to announce that, in accordance with European Union rules, my Department will now invite potential operators for such a service to come forward with costed proposals. Subject to further evaluation of the costs and benefits of such a service, this will enable the Government to make progress this summer.

Children's Tax Credit

14. Miss Begg: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what action she is taking to encourage the take-up of the Children's Tax Credit in Scotland. [159303]

Mr. Foulkes: My right hon. Friend launched the Children's Tax Credit in Scotland at the Inland Revenue's centre in East Kilbride as part of a successful UK campaign to remind people to claim the credit. She also promoted its up-take while visiting Lloyds TSB Scotland in Aberdeen. It can benefit up to 400,000 families in Scotland.

17. Mr. McFall: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive about methods of publicising the Children's Tax Credit in Scotland. [159306]

8 May 2001 : Column: 59W

Mr. Foulkes: We are in regular contact with colleagues in the Scottish Executive on a wide range of matters. My right hon. Friend launched the Children's Tax Credit in Scotland at the Inland Revenue's centre in East Kilbride as part of a successful UK campaign to remind people to claim the credit. She also promoted its up-take while visiting Lloyds TSB Scotland in Aberdeen. It can benefit up to 400,000 families in Scotland.


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