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Foster Carers

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to extend home responsibilities protection to all foster carers to cover the period over which they have fostered children. [54810]

Mr. McCartney: Foster carers whose allowance contains a reward element may be liable for national insurance contributions on a self-employed basis. Where there is no liability, they may choose to pay voluntary contributions to assist in qualifying for state retirement pension. Foster carers who receive child benefit for their own children aged under 16 will be eligible for home responsibilities protection. We will keep these arrangements under review as we do with all rules relating to benefits.

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Regional Organisations

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which of the agencies and NDPBs sponsored by his Department have a regional organisation; and if he will list the counties and unitary authorities in each region in (a) 1997 and (b) 2002. [58953]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 19 June 2002, Official Report, column 406W.

Ministerial Visits (Wales)

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the (a) date, (b) location and (c) purpose was of visits by Ministers in his Department to Wales since 1997; and when he next intends to visit Wales. [62078]

Mr. McCartney [holding answer 17 June 2002]: Since 1999 this Government have published an annual list of all visits undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. This Government have also published, on an annual basis, the cost of all Ministers' visits overseas. Information in respect of UK travel is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

However my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State (Alistair Darling) visited Swansea and Bridgend on the 12 February 2002, where he visited one of our new Pension Centres and a Jobcentreplus Office. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State (Andrew Smith) has no immediate plans to visit Wales, however my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Malcolm Wicks) is planning to visit Wales in the next month.

Benefits and Pensions

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what has been the cost of (a) unemployment benefit and (b) pensions as a percentage of the total services budget, in each year since 1997. [63171]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Information is not held in the precise form requested. The Department accounts for its administrative and programme expenditure in accordance with its key objectives, which are published in the Department's Public Service Agreement (PSA), and the individual Requests for Resources (RfRs), which are published in the Main Estimate. Details of the total consumption of resources from 1998–99 onwards by areas now included within the Department for Work and Pensions, and of the amounts specific to people of working age and pensioners, are published in Table 1 of the DWP Departmental Report 2002–03 to 2003–04 (Cm 5424) which is available in the Library. Directly comparable figures for 1997–98 are not available.

Early Retirement

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the impact of early retirement on pension provision. [65017]

Mr. McCartney [holding answer 27 June 2002]: If people choose to retire early, they must save more over the years that they are working to achieve the same retirement income.

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The Government believe that people should be able to make an informed choice when they plan their retirement, so that they have accumulated sufficient pension savings to provide the income they wish to receive. Our pension forecasting programme will help to achieve this by showing savers how much they can expect on retirement at state pension age.

The Government are also committed to active ageing. We are tackling age discrimination in employment, not least so that older people have increased opportunities to retain or find work, and are not forced into early retirement. Our Age Positive campaign promotes to employers the business benefits of an age-diverse work force, including the recruitment and retention of older workers. We are encouraging employers to adopt more flexible approaches to retirement for the benefits it can offer businesses and the increased choice and opportunities it offers individuals for a later more active retirement. The report 'Flexible Retirement—a snapshot of large employers' initiatives', published on 17 June, showed that some larger companies are indeed adopting more flexible retirement policies. There are also signs nationally that approaches to early retirement have been changing, as each year for the last four years the employment rate of people aged 50 to state pension age has increased faster than the overall employment rate.


Third Parties—Rights Against Insurers

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if the Government accept the recommendations made by the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission in their report on Third Parties—Rights Against Insurers. [66800]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Government have carefully considered this report, and accept the Law Commissions' recommendations. A consultation paper will be issued shortly on implementing the proposals by way of a Regulatory Reform Order.

Land Registration Act

Dr. Ladyman: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when the Lord Chancellor will implement the Land Registration Act 2002. [66799]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Land Registration Act 2002 will be brought into force on Monday 13 October 2003. This will allow sufficient time to consult on and make the necessary secondary legislation; to develop new office procedures to accommodate the new legislation and to carry out a thorough programme of education and training both within the Land Registry and across the wider conveyancing community.


Li Ruihuan

Dr. Gibson: To ask the President of the Council what representations concerning the situation in Tibet he made

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to Li Ruihuan, Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, during Chairman Li's recent visit to the UK; and what response he received. [63863]

Mr. Robin Cook: My noble friend the Lord Chancellor met Mr. Li and raised Tibet and other human rights concerns with him.

I hosted a large reception and banquet for Mr. Li, attended mainly by representatives of Scottish universities and businesses to celebrate their links with their counterparts in China. This occasion did not lend itself to exploring detailed issues of our diplomatic relations. I have raised Tibet many times with representatives of the Chinese Government and it figures prominently in the bilateral dialogue between our two Governments on human rights. In May the UK side visited a Tibetan community in Gansu Province, expressed concern at repression of monastic communities and raised the cases of 52 prisoners including Tibetans.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Beith: To ask the President of the Council what recent assessment he has made of the performance of Government Departments in providing timely answers to written parliamentary questions; and if he will make a statement. [65561]

Mr. Robin Cook: No recent assessment has been made.

However, I refer the right hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) on 2 May 2002, Official Report, column 949W.


Monarch (Taxation)

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the 1993 Memorandum of Understanding, if he will list the categories of taxation where (a) the treatment of the monarch is indistinguishable from that of other citizens, (b) the monarch is exempt and (c) the monarch is exempt but chooses to make voluntary contributions. [65154]

Mr. Gordon Brown: The position is fully set out in the memorandum, a copy of which is available in the House of Commons Library.

Civil List

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the implications for Civil List annuity payments of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. [65158]

Mr. Gordon Brown: The parliamentary annuity paid to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother ceased upon her death.

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether requirement procedures for notification of the death of recipients of Civil List annuity payments upon the death of those recipients are the same as those for recipients of state pension payments. [65163]

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Mr. Gordon Brown: Parliamentary annuities are paid under the Civil List Acts, and the legislation lays down no specific requirement for the notification of death of an annuitant.

Payments of annuities cease upon the death of the annuitant.

Norman Baker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the present level is of the Civil List Reserve. [65162]

Mr. Gordon Brown: As at 31 December 2001 the Civil List Reserve stands at £37,079,000.

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