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Drug Offences (Immigration Control)

Mr. Flook: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which countries refuse entry to those UK citizens who have a conviction for drug offences in the UK. [23305]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The information is not available in the format requested. Decisions to refuse entry to United Kingdom (UK) Citizens may depend on the type and date of any conviction and the reason for entry. Normal refusal may be overturned for compassionate reasons. The recommended action for travellers who have a drug conviction would be to check their admissibility with the UK embassy or high commission of the country they are planning to visit.


Rural Affairs Forum

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will publish the terms of reference for the Rural Affairs Forum. [27658]

Alun Michael: The Rural Affairs Forum for England was set up to implement the Government's commitment in their Rural White Paper of December 2000 to establish a national sounding board so that Ministers "have regular and direct contact with the main rural groups so that they know what is going on and what countryside people think". It will be for the forum itself to define its priorities and agenda for action.

The forum met for the first time on 9 January. Following extensive consultation with rural stakeholders, its members were chosen to represent a wide range of rural organisations, people, and perspectives, including

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economic, social and environmental interests. Each regional rural affairs forum will be represented on the national forum.

The forum had a useful preliminary discussion of its work programme at its first meeting and it is clear that the forum will wish to identify issues of concern to rural people and businesses; to give views on proposed Government policies as they affect rural areas; to review the implementation of the Rural White Paper, and suggest where further policy development may be needed to deliver its objectives; and to review the quality of public services in rural areas and make recommendations for how they might be improved.

The forum has agreed to some regular items of business, including consideration of the Countryside Agency's annual State of the Countryside report on its overview of Government Departments' reports on "rural-proofing" of their policies. It will also consider other issues that its members, Ministers or the rural advocate may raise. These may include matters referred to it by a regional rural affairs forum or by the England Rural Development Programme (ERDP) Consultation Group. Reports from the forum will go to Ministers and to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Rural Renewal.

Members agreed that the full forum should normally meet four times a year, and set up sub-groups as needed. These are likely to involve a wider range of stakeholders than those directly represented on the forum.

Flood Insurance (Lewes)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress she is making in her discussions with the Association of British Insurers to ensure that residents of Lewes have access to flood insurance at reasonable cost. [27538]

Mr. Morley: The Government maintain close links with the insurance industry to help ensure continued availability of affordable flood cover. There is an agreement among Association of British Insurers (ABI) member companies that they will continue to provide flood cover, except in exceptional circumstances, for domestic properties and small businesses which they currently insure, during 2001 and 2002. Cases where there is an alleged breach of this agreement have been referred by the hon. Member to the ABI for investigation. However, it must be recognised that insurance companies need to take a commercial decision as to what risk they will cover and on what terms. Also, the insurance industry is a competitive one and customers may need to shop around to obtain the best deal.

My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and I met the ABI on 5 September to discuss our mutual aim of ensuring that affordable flood insurance cover continues to be generally available after December 2002. There have also been further meetings between officials and I expect to meet the ABI again reasonably soon.

Together with the flood defence operating authorities, we are reducing the risk of flooding and are communicating this to the insurance industry. We are reducing the risk through substantial increases in investment in flood and coastal defences (which now totals over £400 million a year). Flood defences are being repaired, renewed, maintained and improved. Flood

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warning arrangements are continually being improved. The Government have issued strengthened guidance to local planning authorities on control of development in flood risk areas, and are reviewing the financial and institutional arrangements under which the flood defence service is delivered.


Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements are in place to allocate the adjustment to the Environmental Protective and Cultural Services block announced in the provisional local government settlement to cover the costs of storage of used fridges in England. [25715]

Mr. Meacher: £6 million has been added to the provisional local government finance settlement for 2002–03 for the costs of implementing the ozone depleting substances regulation relating to the period 1 January 2002 to 31 March 2002. This will be distributed to local authorities using Standard Spending Assessments (SSA). The extra money has been added to the upper tier sub-block of the Environmental, Protective and Cultural Services SSA. We are considering urgently what sums may be necessary in the next financial year.


British-Irish Council

Jeff Ennis: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what was discussed at the recent meeting of the British-Irish Council; and if he will make a statement; [25597]

The Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State: The main focus of the summit, held on 30 November 2001, was a discussion on drug misuse and how co-operation in this area might be developed within the British-Irish Council.

In addition, each administration reported on progress that had been made in each sector of work.

I have placed a copy of the joint communiqué issued after the meeting in the House of Commons Library.


Post Offices

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the value of benefits paid through the post offices was in each year since 1995. [25359]

Malcolm Wicks: The value of benefits paid in real terms through the Post Office in each financial year since 1995 is shown in the following table:

£ billion


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The figures provided are in respect of customers paid by order book and girocheque.

Winter Fuel Payment

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people in (a) Stoke-on-Trent, North, (b) Staffordshire and (c) England he expects to receive a guaranteed winter fuel payment of £200 this winter. [25527]

Mr. McCartney: Winter fuel payments are available to most people aged 60 and over. Those people who are entitled to winter fuel payments and are in receipt of State benefits are paid automatically; others have to claim. The rate is either £200 or £100, depending on whether the individual lives alone or with another eligible person. The information in respect of this winter is not yet available, but details for last winter are shown in the table. We expect the figures for this winter to be similar.


All winter fuel paymentsWinter fuel payment of £200
Stoke on Trent, North15.87.7


1. Figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred.

2. Figures are based on a 5 per cent. sample and are therefore subject to sampling error.


Matching Intelligence Data Analysis Service Winter Fuels Payment 2000–01 exercise.

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if a pensioner (a) in receipt and (b) not in receipt of income support in winter 2000 was eligible for the winter fuel payment in winter 2000; and if payment was automatic. [25259]

Mr. McCartney: Most people aged 60 and over in a specified qualifying week are entitled to a winter fuel payment. However, people living permanently in residential care homes or nursing homes who are receiving higher levels of income support are not entitled to winter fuel payments as they are already receiving public assistance with their care costs, which includes heating.

In winter 2000–01, eligible people receiving income support in the qualifying week received payments automatically, without the need to claim, as did those receiving state retirement pension or other social security benefits (excluding housing benefit, council tax benefit and child benefit). Other eligible people needed to make a claim.

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