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Winter Fuel Allowance

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps she is taking to maximise the take-up of the winter-fuel allowance in Scotland. [45341]

Mr. Foulkes: Most people who are eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment do not have to claim. For those people who do need to claim, or who have other queries about the Payments, the Department for Work and Pensions have set up a Winter Fuel Payment help-line; the number is 08459 15 15 15. The DWP have also placed advertisements in the press, issued leaflets and posters and placed information on the internet.

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Euro 2008

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what support has been offered by her Department to the Scottish Executive in respect of its bid to host the Euro 2008 football championships. [45405]

Mr. Foulkes: My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State and I have regular contact with the Scottish Executive on a wide range of issues. The Scotland Office supports the decision to pursue a joint bid with the Republic of Ireland. Hosting Euro 2008 would be a tremendous boost for Scotland and the UK, and the Scotland Office will provide appropriate assistance and support.

Election Expenses

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if she will publish the returns of election expenses for the 1999 elections to the Scottish Parliament. [45294]

Mrs. Liddell: I have no plans to publish these returns. As required under the Scottish Parliament (Elections etc) Order 1999, the returns of election expenses for the elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 were made available for inspection for two years following their receipt. Notices giving details of the times and places at which returns could be inspected were also published as required.

Consultants

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much her Department has spent on external consultants in each of the past five years. [46036]

Mrs. Liddell: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Buckingham on 7 March, Official Report, column 511W.

Asbestos-related Diseases

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations she has received from the Iron Trades Management Services concerning the non-payment of insurance claims to victims of asbestos-related diseases; and what the planned time scale is for future progress on resolving the issue. [45965]

Mrs. Liddell: I made a full statement of the action I have taken to date on all aspects of this matter at the Westminster Hall adjournment debate on 19 March, initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland.

Policing

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what discussions she has had with the Scottish Police Federation concerning the pay and conditions proposed to police officers by the Home Secretary; [45960]

Mrs. Liddell: Police pay and conditions in Scotland are a matter for the Scottish Executive. I have had no discussions with either the Executive or the Scottish Police Federation.

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Rail Links

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations she has made to the (a) Strategic Rail Authority and (b) Scottish Executive on developing rail links at (i) Glasgow and (ii) Edinburgh International Airports. [45964]

Mrs. Liddell: I have regular discussions with Scottish Executive Ministers on a wide range of issues.

In their recent strategic plan, the SRA highlighted as a medium term priority an investigation of the development of rail links to both Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports.

The Scottish Executive with others, including the Strategic Rail Authority and DTLR, have commissioned an economic and engineering study into rail links to Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. The final phase of the report is expected to be completed in the Autumn.

Scottish Airports

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive concerning the number of flights from Scottish airports to those in the UK, Europe and North America. [45962]

Mrs. Liddell: I have regular discussions with Scottish Executive Ministers on a wide range of issues. I also held a Xsummit" last December with airlines and other interested parties to discuss the prospect of further direct flights from Scottish airports.

As part of a wider consultation on the future development of UK air services, the Government and the Scottish Executive will shortly issue a joint consultation document on air services in Scotland. The document will present the key information to allow an informed and structured debate about future air service and airport development in Scotland.

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Gender Pay Gap

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Council what assessment he has made of the extent of the gender pay gap amongst staff in his Department. [40994]

Mr. Robin Cook: My department uses the pay system operated by the Cabinet Office. Accordingly, I refer the hon. Member to the Answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office on 12 March 2001, Official Report, column 956W.

New Deal

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Council (1) how many people have been employed by his Department in each of the last three years under (a) the New Deal for Young People, (b) the New Deal for the Over 50s and (c) the New Deal for Lone Parents; and at what cost, listed by category, to public funds; [44923]

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Mr. Robin Cook: My department has employed one person under the New Deal for Over 50's; who is now a permanent member of staff. This was at no additional cost to my Department. My Department has not yet employed a member of staff under the New Deal for Young People or the New Deal for Lone Parents.

School Visits

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the President of the Council if he will bring forward proposals to provide financial assistance to facilitate visits to Parliament by school and youth groups from constituencies located long distances from Westminster. [46274]

Mr. Robin Cook: I have no such proposals, nor could I realistically hold out hope that such substantial expenditure could be found within the present House vote.

PRIVY COUNCIL

Correspondence

Mr. Bercow: To ask the President of the Council what his target time will be in 2002–03 (a) to reply to letters from hon. Members and (b) for the officials in his office to reply to letters received directly from members of the public. [44953]

Robin Cook: I have no plans to change my Department's 15-day target in replying to Members' correspondence, and 20-day target for public correspondence.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

HIV/AIDS

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the Government have done since 1997 to assist countries with AIDS and HIV to gain access to care and treatment; what antiretroviral drugs have been provided to Third World countries; and if she will make a statement. [46168]

Clare Short: My Department has committed significant resources to support a range of HIV/AIDS programmes, including support for national strategic HIV programmes particularly in Africa and Asia. We are also supporting the development of health systems to effectively deliver care, including home-based and palliative care. In parallel, we are supporting work to build a solid evidence base to inform effective and responsible provision of ART in developing countries. Where functioning health systems do exist we are seeking to help governments to consider the issues surrounding the introduction of ART in the most cost effective and equitable way.

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We have also pledged $200 million to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM). The aim of the fund is to support the purchase of essential commodities for tackling HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.

Our Working Group on Access to Medicines is bringing together Government, industry and others to find ways of getting medicines for HIV/AIDS and other diseases to the world's poorest at affordable prices. Better health systems are of course vital for getting drugs to the poor. We have committed over #1 billion to health systems strengthening in developing countries since 1997.

Burma

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the Government are doing (a) to help relocate Burmese people who have been internally displaced and (b) to restore democracy in Burma. [45075]

Clare Short: The UK contributes to the costs of providing safe refuge and assistance both for refugees and those internally displaced within Burma. In 2001–02 my Department increased funding to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (#805,000), the Burmese Border Consortium (#350,000) and the International Commission of the Red Cross (#800,000) to support their work with refugees on the Thai/Burma border and those internally displaced.

The UK has long been at the forefront of the international community's efforts to bring about national reconciliation, respect for human rights and democracy in Burma. With EU partners we have adopted a Common Position which includes an arms embargo, a ban on high level visits, on items that might be used for torture, and on non-humanitarian assistance, a visa ban and an asset freeze on members of the regime. The EC has also suspended Burma's trading privileges in response to the use of forced labour in Burma. We are also active in the United Nations, co-sponsoring resolutions at UNGA and UNHCR and actively supporting the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Burma's effort to facilitate political progress. An EU Troika visited Burma 19–22 March to gauge the latest political developments and press for progress to be made.


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