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Winter Fuel Payments

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to his answer of 18 October 2001, Official Report, column 1301W, how many winter fuel payments have been returned to his Department in each year since 1997. [24214]

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Mr. McCartney: Information regarding the number of payments returned in previous years is not available. This year, up to 7 December, 270 payments have been returned.

Savings Interest Rates

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much must a person hold in savings to receive a weekly income of £23, assuming that interest is paid at (a) the bank base rate and (b) 10 per cent. [24224]

Mr. McCartney: It requires a simple calculation to establish that a person would need savings of £29,900 to receive a weekly income of £23 if interest was paid at 4 per cent. per annum. Similarly savings around £12,000 would generate a weekly income of £23 if interest were paid at 10 per cent. per annum.

A pensioner with savings at these levels would be excluded from income support now. On the basis of illustrative rates, when pension credit is introduced in October 2003 a single pensioner with a full basic state pension and no other relevant income or capital other than savings of (a) £29,900 and (b) £12,000 would receive (a) £3.80 and (b) £18.20 a week.

Industrial Deafness

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received for industrial deafness to be classified as an industrial disease from (a) the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council and (b) other bodies or individuals; and if he will make a statement. [25028]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Sensorineural hearing loss due to noise at work has been on the list of Prescribed Diseases under the Industrial Injuries Scheme since 1974 (Prescribed Disease A10 [Occupational Deafness]). The full terms of the qualifying conditions, both in relation to the severity of the hearing loss and the prescribed occupations are set out in the Social Security (Industrial Injuries) (Prescribed Diseases) Regulations 1985, Schedule 1.

In February 1997 the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council announced that it would be undertaking a review of the current schedule of occupational diseases for which benefits are paid. Subsequently, an Occupational Deafness Working Group was set up specifically to review prescribed disease A10 (Occupational Deafness). The council is currently working through all the evidence received and preparing a report to Ministers of its findings.

From time to time we receive correspondence from various bodies and individuals on the subject which we make available to the council.

Digital Hearing Aids

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to integrate provisions of digital hearing aids through the access to work scheme with NHS digital hearing aid provision; and if he will make a statement. [25368]

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Mr. McCartney [holding answer 11 January 2002]: The Department has no plans to integrate NHS and Access to Work digital hearing aid provision.

The Access to Work Programme helps disabled people gain, or keep, a job, by providing practical advice and support to disabled people and their employers to overcome specific work-related obstacles which result from disability. Providing funding towards the purchase of a digital hearing aid is one of the ways Access to Work can help. NHS digital hearing aid provision is not limited to work-related needs.

The Employment Service (ES) has met with the NHS Executive and its purchasing agency to explore how the ES might access NHS Trust contracts with suppliers on assessment for and supply of digital hearing aids.

Employment Zones

Mr. David: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what studies have been recently undertaken of the effectiveness of employment zones; and if he will make a statement. [25468]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: A robust and comprehensive evaluation of Employment Zones is currently being undertaken. The evaluation combines qualitative research, a cohort survey and an economic analysis. The qualitative research report is due in spring 2002, and the cohort study and economic analysis reports are due in autumn 2003.

The performance of Employment Zones is promising. Early indications are that about half of participants find work. We will need to consider the complete evaluation findings before deciding how to take the initiative further.

DEFENCE

International Terrorism

14. Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on spending plans for the money announced in the Chancellor's pre-Budget statement for operations to combat terrorism. [24475]

Mr. Hoon: The Government have made an additional £100 million available to the Ministry of Defence for new equipment and immediate operational requirements needed for the campaign against international terrorism.

This will include equipment to improve our ability to work with the US and other allies; additional secure communications equipment; enhancements to our intelligence capabilities; and a range of small but significant enhancements to our forces for operations in Afghanistan.

31. Mr. Savidge: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on recent discussions with his US counterpart on defence issues relating to the international campaign against terrorism. [24493]

Mr. Hoon: I last met the US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, on 18–19 December during the course of the NATO Defence Ministers' meetings in Brussels. We continue to work closely with the United States in pursuit of our shared objectives in the campaign against international terrorism.

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Kosovo

19. Ross Cranston: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what analysis he has made of the role of his Department in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo. [24481]

Mr. Ingram: British forces have made a significant contribution to the multi-national effort to build peace and stability in Kosovo. A detailed analysis of the early part of the Kosovo campaign was undertaken from which lessons have been drawn for the future.

Our forces continue to play a pivotal role in KFOR as lead nation of the MultiNational Brigade (Centre). We continue fully to support the UN Mission in Kosovo in its work to help the people of Kosovo in the reconstruction of their country.

29. Ms Drown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the land mines clearance programme in Kosovo to be complete. [24491]

Mr. Ingram: The primary responsibility for the clearance of land mines in Kosovo is that of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Within Kosovo, UNMIK works with non-governmental organisations, national military contingents and the indigenous Kosovo protection corps. British forces are not employed directly in land mine clearance, although KFOR troops continue to provide assistance to the UN when requested, to make areas safe for the return of displaced persons. The Government contribute through the provision of grants, specialist staff and equipment to the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre. The UN task is now regarded as largely complete, although there are still two areas west of Prizren, towards the border with Albania, that contain known minefields, where work will continue through 2002.

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what British troops are deployed in Kosovo. [24461]

Mr. Ingram: The UK currently contributes some 3,000 personnel to KFOR operations in Kosovo, though this figure fluctuates as a result of unit rotation and the deployment of differing sizes of battlegroup. The major elements currently deployed are Headquarters 20 Armoured Brigade, 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Wales and the Queens' Royal Hussars. The UK are the lead nation in Multi-national Brigade (Centre), where our forces operate primarily with Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and Czech troops.

Tanzania

20. Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what input his Department has had in the grant of an export licence for an air traffic control system for Tanzania. [24482]

Dr. Moonie: Export licensing decisions are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The Ministry of Defence provides advice to the Department of Trade and Industry, together with the other advisory Departments, as appropriate.

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Territorial Army

21. Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to review the role of the Territorial Army. [24483]

Dr. Moonie: The strategy for the Army, announced in March last year, identified a number of areas where further study was required to ensure the Army can undertake its role as effectively and efficiently as possible. These studies are on going and include how to maximise the contribution of the reserves in an expeditionary environment. In parallel, work on a new chapter of the Strategic Defence Review, following the 11 September attacks, is exploring the role that the armed forces, including the reserves, have in defending and protecting the United Kingdom.


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