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Government Underspend

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his forecast is for total Government underspend in this financial year; and what the figures are for (a) health and (b) education. [20472]

Mr. Andrew Smith: We make no forecast. Provisional outturn data on Supply spending for the Department of Health, Department for Education and Skills and other departments for the first six months of this financial year was shown in Table 1.6 of the Winter Summary Supplementary Request for Supply (HC391) presented on 4 December.

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Mr. McNamara: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, when and on how many occasions the Chairman and individual members of the Commission have received complaints concerning the conduct of the Commissioner for Standards. [23666]

Mr. Kirkwood [holding answer 18 December 2001]: No complaints have been received by the Commission and no individual Commissioner has raised a complaint with the Commission.

David Winnick: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, if the Commission will consult the Committee on Standards in Public Life on where

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responsibility should lie for the appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards; and if he will make a statement. [23321]

Mr. Kirkwood [holding answer 17 December 2001]: The Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended in its first report (Cm 2850), page 43, that the House of Commons itself should take responsibility for appointing a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Accordingly, at the conclusion of the selection process now under way, the House of Commons Commission proposes to make a recommendation to the House. Any change in the method of appointment would be a matter for decision by the House.

Select Committee on Standards and Privileges

Mr. McNamara: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what the annual cost was of meeting the staffing needs of the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges in each year since its establishment; and what his estimate is of the (a) funding requirements and (b) staffing needs of the Select Committee in the next three years. [23665]

Mr. Kirkwood [holding answer 18 December 2001]: The staff of the Committee consisted of the following:

Date
As Clerk of the Committee:
November 1995 to October 19971 principal clerk
November 1997 to present1 deputy principal clerk
As Second Clerk:
November 1995 to October 19991 senior clerk
November 1999 to October 20001 assistant clerk
November 2000 to present1 senior clerk
and, as secretary:
November 1995 to present1 secretary grade 3

all of whom had other duties in the Department of the Clerk of the House. It is not possible to specify precisely how much time each of these staff devoted to the work of the Committee, and so it is not possible to calculate a total attributable cost.

The Committee on Standards and Privileges will continue to be funded and staffed on the same basis as other Select Committees, commensurate with the work load.

Commission

Mr. McNamara: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, how many times the Commission has met in the past two years; how this body is serviced; how many staff at what grades are attached to the Commission; what the job title is of each post; by what method the staff are recruited; what the breakdown is of employees by (a) gender and (b) ethnicity; and what plans he has to make the work of the Commission more transparent. [23664]

Mr. Kirkwood [holding answer 18 December 2001]: In the two years to 31 December 2001 the Commission will have met 19 times.

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The Commission is advised and assisted by the Finance and Services Committee and the five Domestic Committees, by the Board of Management, and by other Committees, Chairmen, individual Members and Officers of the House, according to the business under consideration. It draws upon outside advice when appropriate.

The Secretary to the Commission is a Principal Clerk, who also serves as Clerk of the Finance and Services Committee and as a Clerk at the Table. On Commission business he is supported by one Grade 2 Secretary (this post is job shared) and one Grade 3 Secretary, who also help support the Finance and Services Committee and the Domestic Committees. All four staff are permanent members of the House of Commons Services; all were recruited by open competition. Three are female and one is male. Ethnic origin information is provided by staff in confidence; it is the House's practice not to disclose the ethnic mix of small groups of staff, in order to maintain that confidence.

The Commission reports on its work in its Annual Report, which also includes sections on the Board of Management, and on the performance and plans of individual Departments. It now includes the Annual Report of the Audit Committee. The latest Report, for 2000–01 (HC 155 of Session 2001–02), is available from the Vote Office and on the internet. The Commission is seeking further to improve content and presentation in the Annual Report for 2001–02. In addition, it has approved intranet webpages covering the Audit Committee, the Board of Management and the Office of the Clerk, as well as the Commission itself. These will be available shortly.

Standards Commissioner

Peter Bottomley: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, if the Commission will establish an inquiry into reports of briefing against the Standards Commissioner. [22723]

Mr. Kirkwood [pursuant to his reply, 17 December 2001, c. 2W]: The Parliamentary Commissioner has now replied to Mr. Speaker's letter of 6 December. Following discussion at the meeting of the Commission on 18 December Mr. Speaker has passed the Parliamentary Commissioner's letter to the Standards and Privileges Committee for consideration.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Human Rights Commission

Mr. Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will submit their second Annual Report as required by paragraph 5(1) of Schedule 7 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998. [24959]

Mr. Browne: I have today laid before Parliament the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's second Annual Report.

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New Deal (Young People)

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people are employed by the Department under the new deal for young people; and at what cost to public funds. [21324]

Dr. John Reid: The NIO (and its agencies) currently employs one person under the new deal for young people. New dealers are recruited to the NIO on a subsidised basis and take up existing vacancies. Therefore extra costs are limited to the subsidy and any additional training and development which may be needed. The cost of the latter cannot be readily identified.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Ministerial Visits (North-East)

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many times since November 2000 Ministers from the Cabinet Office have visited (a) the Teesside area and (b) Middlesbrough South and Cleveland, East constituency to meet locally based businesses. [19076]

Mr. Leslie: There have been five visits to the Teesside area by Cabinet Office Ministers since November 2000, involving meetings with locally based businesses.

Cross-Government Communications

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if new electronic tools for cross-Government communication, presentation, policy analysis and development were delivered by April. [21462]

Mr. Leslie: Yes. The Government's programme of work to ensure that the UK is a world leader in the knowledge economy were published on 4 December 2001 in the Second UK Online Report. This includes details of the UK strategy for transforming Government, empowering people to make the best of new technology, and putting in place the infrastructure for e-Government (please see Chapter 5 of the report, available at: hhtp://www.e-envoy.gov.uk/ukonline/progress/anrep2001/ default.htm).

Public Service Agreements

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will make a statement on progress since April 2000 in meeting the public service agreement target for promoting the needs of women in society; [21258]

Mrs. Roche: There is no public service agreement target for promoting the needs of women in society nor is there a public service agreement on women's interests. However, the Government are committed to bringing about practical improvements to women's lives that benefit society as a whole. The Women and Equality Unit, a cross-cutting unit within the Cabinet Office, supports the Ministers for Women in delivering these changes.

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For example, next year I will be running a series of seminars to encourage more women to take up public appointments.


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