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Tourism

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many inbound tourists to the United Kingdom there have been in (a) each of the last six months and (b) the last 12 months. [44269]

Dr. Howells: The latest available numbers of visits to the UK by overseas residents are given in the table.

Overseas residents visits to the UK

2001 Million
(a)
July2.6
August2.6
September 2.0
October 1.8
November1.8
December1.5
(b)
January-December23.4

Source:

International Passenger Survey, Office for National Statistics


Swimming

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when the Government will respond to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport report "Testing the Waters: The Sport of Swimming". [46424]

Mr. Caborn: The Government's response to the report is being laid in the House today.

ELECTORAL COMMISSION COMMITTEE

Electoral Commission Plan (2002–07)

Mr. Watson: To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick- upon-Tweed, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what the outcome was of the committee's consideration of the commission's plan for 2002–03 to 2006–07. [46333]

Mr. Beith: At its meeting on 13 February, the Speaker's Committee approved the Electoral Commission's Corporate Plan 2002–03 to 2006–07. The plan, which gives details of the commission's aims and objectives, was laid before the House today. Copies will be available in the Vote Office and it will be possible to view the plan on the commission's website: www.electoralcommission.org.uk.

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PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMISSION

Individual Learning Accounts

37. Mr. Bacon: To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission if he will make a statement on the resources made available to the National Audit Office for its inquiries into the individual learning account scheme. [43180]

Mr. Alan Williams: The Public Accounts Commission has provided funding for the National Audit Office which is consistent with the completion of some 50 major reports a year. During the course of each year the balance of the programme of reports is adjusted to reflect emerging issues, such as the Individual Learning Account scheme to which the hon. Member refers.

CHURCH COMMISSIONERS

Contracts of Employment

40. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement on clergy contracts of employment. [43183]

Mr. Bell: In general, clergy in the Church of England serving in parishes, cathedrals and dioceses are office holders and do not have contracts of employment. However, some clergy serving as chaplains do so under contacts of employment, and the same applies to some clergy who are on the staff of diocesan bodies, the Church's national institutions, or other bodies connected with the Church.

Final Salary Scheme

42. David Taylor: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent submissions relating to the future of the final salary scheme for retired clergy have been made to the Commissioners; and if he will make a statement. [43185]

Mr. Bell: The Church of England is undertaking wide-ranging consultation on this subject. As yet it is unclear whether or not there is any desire for a move away from the current defined benefit pension arrangements.

Funding (Diocesan Resources)

Mr. Lansley: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners,

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what estimate he has made of the increase in funding within diocesan resources required in 2002–03 to replace Church Commissioners' funding. [43181]

Mr. Bell: Following the Commissioners' good investment performance in recent years, they plan to distribute an extra £10 million for parish ministry over 2002–04 and will increase their transitional relief to assist dioceses and parishes in meeting contributions for clergy pension by the same amount. They continue to meet the full cost of clergy pensions for service prior to 1998.

The relationship between the Church's funding partners remains fluid and it is not particularly meaningful to express part of diocesan expenditure as a replacement for Commissioners' funding. I refer the hon. Member to the Commissioners' annual report and to our correspondence for a fuller account of these matters.

Church Repairs

Miss McIntosh: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to discuss the administration of grants to churches to cover the VAT element of the cost of repairs. [43847]

Mr. Bell: I have had no discussions recently about the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which is managed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. However, I understand that a number of successful applications have already received moneys from the scheme.

Discussions with the Treasury continue on the wider question of a reduction of VAT payable on the repair and maintenance of listed church buildings. I understand the European Commission has indicated that it will consider this matter as part of its general review of reduced rates in 2003.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Civil Defence

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what changes he plans to (a) make and (b) discuss with his ministerial colleagues on the funding for local authorities in relation to their enhanced civil defence responsibilities. [44978]

Mr. Leslie: There have been no recent changes in the civil defence and emergency planning responsibilities of local authorities. The Government have decided to allocate a total of £18.97 million to local authorities in civil defence grant for 2002–03. Figures for subsequent years will be settled as part of this year's spending review.

Age Discrimination

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his Department's policy is towards age discrimination. [42575]

Mr. Leslie: The Cabinet Office is an equal opportunities employer and is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all.

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It is the Department's policy that everyone should have equality of opportunity for employment and advancement on the basis of their ability, qualifications and suitability for work. There must be no discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin or national origin.

The Cabinet Office's age retirement policy for grades below the senior civil service supports the recommendations of "Winning the Generation Game". Our normal age for retirement is 60 years but retention beyond this age up to age 70 is possible subject to departmental needs and continuing health and efficiency for most grades.

Yarl's Wood Fire

Andrew Selous: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make it his policy that Bedfordshire does not suffer a reduction in its civil defence grant following the Yarl's Wood fire. [45007]

Mr. Leslie: In accordance with the Civil Defence (Grant) Act 2002, grant will be allocated in accordance with a nationwide formula designed to be fair to all authorities. An announcement on the formula and the allocations to individual authorities will be made shortly.

Regulatory Impact Assessment

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, pursuant to the answer of 14 February 2002, Official Report, column 557W, for what reason the Government do not publish information on the relative performance of Government Departments with respect to regulatory impact assessment. [45494]

Mr. Leslie: The Government do not hold centrally information on the relative performance of Government Departments with respect to regulatory impact assessments.

Secondments

Dr. Cable: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the Cabinet Office policy is on the publishing of individual secondees' names; and if he will make a statement. [43668]

Mr. Leslie: My Department does not disclose names, under the Code of Practice on access to Government Information, exemption 12 "Privacy of Individuals".

Parental Leave Directive

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the (a) financial costs and (b) benefits to his Department of the Parental Leave Directive. [42480]

Mr. Leslie: The cost of the Department of the Parental Leave Directive is not held centrally, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The Cabinet Office currently has a number of policies and practices, including statutory entitlement to Parental Leave, that are designed to help staff strike a balance between their working and home responsibilities.

We believe that by offering such opportunities we are helping to aid recruitment and retention, improving morale and motivation, and decreasing staff absenteeism.

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