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Pakistan

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) Pakistan and (b) United States authorities regarding Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh; and if he will make a statement. [38994]

Mr. Bradshaw: Officials at our High Commission in Islamabad have been in touch with the Pakistani authorities on consular aspects of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh's detention. They are also in regular contact with officials at the US Embassy in Islamabad and our embassy in Washington has been in contact with the US State Department.

Western Sahara

Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans Ministers from his Department have to visit (a) Morocco and (b) Western Sahara. [38490]

Mr. Bradshaw: FCO Ministers have no current plans to visit either Morocco or Western Sahara. I visited Morocco in September 2001.

Job No: 713438 Folios: 2084

Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions the Government have had with the Spanish Government regarding the Western Sahara dispute.[38487]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government have no formal contact with the Spanish Government regarding the Western Sahara dispute.

Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions the Government have had with the Government of Morocco regarding the status of the Western Sahara. [38486]

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Mr. Bradshaw: We regularly discuss the issue of the Western Sahara with the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco. I raised the issue during my visit to Morocco in September 2001 and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the subject with Mohammed Benaissa the Moroccan Foreign Minister during his visit to London on 21 February 2002.

Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contact the Government have had with the personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General with regard to his efforts to find a solution to the Western Sahara dispute. [38488]

Mr. Bradshaw: We continue to support the efforts of James Baker, the Personal Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General in trying to find a just and durable resolution to the Western Sahara dispute. UK Officials in New York are in regular contact with James Baker, most recently on 27 February when he addressed an informal group of United Nations Security Council members on his report on the situation in Western Sahara.

Job No: 713438 Folios: 2085

Mr. Alan Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what efforts the British Government are engaged in to encourage the Moroccan Government and the Polisario Front to reach an agreement in the Western Sahara dispute. [38489]

Mr. Bradshaw: Foreign Office Ministers and officials in London and New York have regular contact with their counterparts from other nations and the parties to this dispute to attempt to reach an agreement.

We continue to support the efforts of James Baker, the Personal Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General, in trying to find a mutually acceptable, just and durable resolution to the dispute. We encourage all parties to do the same.

European Union

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if his Department will publish a report, specifying and quantifying the costs and benefits arising from the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union, together with a description of the methodology employed in the analysis; and if he will make a statement. [38404]

Peter Hain: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no plans to publish such a report.

Romania

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the arrangements were finalised for the Romanian Government's visit to Britain in November 2001. [39043]

Peter Hain: [holding answer 28 February 2002]: Most arrangements for the visit had been finalised by 2 November 2001.

Job No: 713438 Folios: 2086

Laeken declaration

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will give his

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understanding of the definition of the phrase the unification of Europe used in section 1 of the Laeken declaration. [39641]

Peter Hain: As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated in his speech at the Warsaw Stock Exchange in October 2000, the Government see Europe as


WORK AND PENSIONS

Maternity Rights

Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the weekly rate is of maternity allowance offered to women who are self-employed in small businesses; [26050]

Malcolm Wicks: We are improving maternity benefits as part of our drive to help women achieve a better balance between paid work and family life. In August 2000 we abolished the separate lower rate of Maternity Allowance paid to the self-employed. They now receive the same standard rate of Maternity Allowance as employees, which is 62.20 for up to 18 weeks, provided they pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions. At the same time we also extended Maternity Allowance to self-employed women who do not pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions provided they hold a certificate of Small Earnings Exception. These women receive 27 a week for up to 18 weeks. Maternity Leave is available only to employees not the self-employed.

The standard rate of Maternity Allowance will be raised to 75 a week from April 2002. In 2003 the rate will be 100 a week and the payment period will be extended from 18 to 26 weeks.

The information available on the number of self-employed women who have received Maternity Allowance since the improvements in August 2000 is in Table 1.

Table 1
Maternity Allowance awards to women shown as self-employed.

Self-employed
1 September 2000 to 31 August 20019,400

Source:

5 per cent. scan of the computer system. Excludes late notifications to the system, and a small number of cases held clerically.

Notes:

1. Figure includes a small number of cases where the woman has a combination of self-employment and employment during the qualifying period.

2. Figure is rounded to the nearest hundred.

Information was collected on a different basis prior to the improvements made to Maternity Allowance in August 2000. The information available for the previous two years is in Table 2.


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Table 2
Maternity Allowance awards where Xself-employed" was shown as the reason for non payment of Statutory Maternity Pay.

Self-employed
5 April 1999 to 1 April 20008,000
6 April 1998 to 3 April 19999,000

Source:

Figures are from a 1 per cent. sample of claims to Maternity Allowance, and subject to a degree of sampling error.

Note: Figures are rounded to the nearest thousand or per cent.

Job No: 713438 Folios: 2088


Employment Initiatives (Cynon Valley)

Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans there are to extend employment zones, action teams for jobs and JobCentre Plus to the Cynon Valley. [26872]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: An extension of the Action Team for Jobs initiative was announced in the 2001 Budget. This included a new Action Team in Rhondda-Cynon-Taff county borough, which started on 15 October 2001. The team works in the three most employment-deprived wards in the Cynon Valley constituency; Aberaman South, Mountain Ash West and Pen-y-waun.

There are no plans at present to extend Employment Zones to Cynon Valley. We are currently fully evaluating the Zones before deciding how to take the initiative further. The full range of JobCentre help is available to the long-term unemployed in Cynon Valley. This includes new deal 25 Plus, which was extended and enhanced last April to help more long-term unemployed people get jobs and remain in them.

JobCentre Plus is currently being delivered successfully in 56 pathfinder offices. The work-focused interview process is also operating in 39 further sites, including the Aberdare district office. JobCentre Plus will come into existence as a national organisation at the beginning of April 2002.

Benefit and Pension Payments

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much money has been saved by the social security budget in each of the last four years by the withholding of benefits for those who have been in hospital. [26808]

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Mr. McCartney: [holding answer 15 January 2002]: The information requested is in the tables:

Total reduction in Benefits due to 6–52 weeks Hospital Downrating

Benefit millions 1997–981998–991999–20002000–01
Incapacity Benefit5*5*6*5*
Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA)3334
Retirement Pension22242628

Total reduction in Benefits due to 52 week Hospital Downrating


Benefit millions1997–981998–991999–20002000–01
Incapacity Benefit8*8*8*9*
SDA24232321
Retirement Pension33323029

Total reduction in Benefits due to withdrawal after 4 weeks

Benefit millions1997–981998–991999–20002000–01
Attendance Allowance46637680
Disability Living Allowance18232732
Invalid Care Allowance3333

1. The information has been obtained from a number of administrative sources and a number of assumptions have been made, i.e. numbers marked * are taken from a small number of sample cases and are subject to a relatively high sampling error and should only be used as an indication of the current situation and it has been assumed that figures in a given quarter remain constant throughout the year.

2. Figures are rounded to the nearest million.

3. It is not possible to provide accurate total reductions for Income Support, Housing Benefit, or Council Tax Benefit.

4. The figures are given in cash terms.



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