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Death Penalty

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to ensure that there will be a resolution condemning the use of the death penalty at the forthcoming session of the Commission on Human Rights. [41284]

Mr. MacShane: Since the death penalty was removed from the statute book in 1998, the UK has gained a reputation as a leading advocate for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide. As in recent years, the EU will table a resolution on the death penalty at the forthcoming session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The UK will be contributing fully to this resolution and will be working hard to ensure that it receives maximum support in the CHR.

World Conference Against Racism

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he has taken to encourage the 2002 Commission on Human Rights to adopt a resolution calling on all Governments to implement the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism. [40015]

Mr. MacShane: The UK reaffirmed its commitment to combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the UN General Assembly Third Committee when it co-sponsored a Resolution that endorsed the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which was passed on 26 February. The UK will be working closely with other nations to ensure that the Resolution at the CHR promotes the follow-up agreed in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Torture Convention

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to encourage the adoption of the Draft Protocol to the Torture Convention at the 2002 Commission on Human Rights. [40016]

Mr. MacShane: The UK supports the Draft Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OP/CAT) and believes it would make an important contribution to preventing and eradicating torture. We are continuing to work closely with EU partners and others to make the protocol a reality; the EU is in contact with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Optional Protocol Working Group to discuss next steps, including promoting the Optional Protocol at the Commission on Human Rights.

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European Bank for Reconstruction and

Development

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to whom the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is accountable; and when he last met (a) the president and (b) the UK director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. [40374]

Clare Short: I have been asked to reply.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is accountable to the 62 Governments and institutions that hold shares in it. The UK Government are one of these shareholders.

The EBRD is governed by 62 governors appointed by the shareholders. The board of governors meets once a year and holds full power over the bank. Governors have delegated responsibility for most general operations of the bank to a board of 23 directors. The powers and responsibilities of the governors and directors are set out in full in the agreement establishing the EBRD (available at www.ebrd.com).

In the case of the UK, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the UK governor and I am the UK alternate governor. My Department takes lead policy responsibility for EBRD on most issues. The UK director is a DFID official on secondment.

I have met the President of the EBRD on a number of occasions.

Parliamentary Debates

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish the information which underlay the statement of the hon. Member for Exeter on 6 March in Westminster Hall that the Prime Minister has spent more time in the House answering questions and making statements than either of his two predecessors. [42187]

Mr. Bradshaw: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Prime Minister on 11 March (UIN 42137).

SCOTLAND

Electricity Act

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive on the consequences for energy supply of section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989; and if she will make a statement. [41984]

Mrs. Liddell: I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a wide range of matters.

Asbestos-related Diseases

Rachel Squire: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what action she is taking to encourage insurance companies to reduce the delay in making payments to those with asbestos-related diseases in Scotland. [41434]

Mrs. Liddell: On Wednesday 6 March I chaired a meeting of parties involved in handling asbestos claims related to Chester Street Insurance Holding Ltd. Present

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at the meeting were PricewaterhouseCoopers (the Chester Street administrators); the Association of British Insurers; the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and Iron Trades Management Services (claims handlers).

At the meeting, I made it very clear that delays in dealing with agreed claims are not acceptable. All parties acknowledged that agreed claims should be paid as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The administrators, the ABI, the FSCS and ITMS made the point to me that the arrangements set up following the insolvency of Chester Street are unique. There had been complexities, particularly in relation to establishing liabilities. In some cases, solvent policyholders (i.e. the companies, or their successors, for whom the claimants had originally worked) have been traced and their liabilities have had to be established. However, this type of work has now largely been completed. As a result, it should be possible to process claims payments more quickly in the future.

In a number of cases, those present at the meeting indicated that settlement forms had been sent out to claimants' lawyers, for the claimant to sign. Clearly, it is important for these forms to be signed and returned as soon as possible, to speed the process along.

I am anxious to ensure that individual claimants are kept informed of the process. It was agreed that a newsletter will be produced within the next week, to be distributed to Members of Parliament with a constituency interest. We will also consider other ways of keeping individual claimants informed.

We also discussed whether it would be possible to establish a system so that once a claim against Chester Street is agreed, the claimant would know how long it should take for the claim to be processed. The administrators, the ABI, FSCS and ITMS agreed to consider this further and report back to me.

I will convene a further meeting in six weeks' time to discuss the claims handling process. I made it clear that, when this next meeting takes place, I want to see significant progress made in paying claims. We will invite other relevant parties to the meeting, such as claimants' solicitors. We will also have detailed statistical information available on the number of claims made; the number settled and the number still outstanding.

The Government are determined to make sure that the arrangements put in place following the insolvency of Chester Street last year work as efficiently and as quickly as possible.

TREASURY

Job Advertisements

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the job advertisements placed by his Department in the last 12 months specifying where the advertisements were placed and the cost in each case. [39062]

Ruth Kelly: The details held centrally in respect of job advertisements placed by Departments and agencies of the Chancellor have been deposited in the Library of the House. In each case details for the latest 12 months available have been provided.

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Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue, including Valuation Office, delegate much of their recruitment to their various business elements. In consequence the amount of information held centrally is limited.

Premium Bonds

Tim Loughton: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish the yield rates on premium bonds in each of the last five years. [42311]

Ruth Kelly: The rate of interest used to calculate the size of the monthly premium bond prize fund is a variable rate that can be changed on giving three months' notice. The rates that have applied over the last five years are as follows:

Rate per annum (percentage)Effective from
4.751 May 1996
5.01 November 1997
4.51 March 1999
4.01 April 1999
3.251 June 1999
3.51 January 2000
3.751 March 2000
4.01 May 2000
4.251 June 2000
4.01 April 2001
3.751 August 2001
3.51 September 2001
3.251 December 2001
2.91 February 2002
2.41 March 2002

War Insurance Cover

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will extend war insurance cover for the airlines until the end of June. [41191R]

Ruth Kelly: The Treasury announced on 21 January that the Troika insurance scheme that provides war insurance for the UK aviation industry would be extended for a final time until 20 March. I have nothing further to add to that announcement.

A minute setting out the details of the scheme and the date on which it would end was laid before Parliament on 5 February. A copy was sent to the Transport and Treasury Select Committees.


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