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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): At present designated senior officers within the Immigration Service may authorise the removal of certain categories of people who have entered the United Kingdom illegally while other cases are referred to Ministers for authority to remove. In future designated senior officers will be responsible for authorising removal in all cases other than those in which special features, such as parliamentary interest or a high level of public concern about a case, indicate that they should be referred to Ministers for decision.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The Fundamental Expenditure Review of the ODA was thorough and wide-ranging. It involved consultation with many of our principal partners. We deposited the report in the Libraries of the House in December and it is available also from the ODA. The FER's conclusions were recommendations only. Many built on work already in progress. The Government have taken into account Members' views expressed in the debates on development on 30 January and 7 February. The Government's response to the key recommendations is as follows.
First and foremost, the FER confirmed the continuing need for the UK to provide substantial flows of concessional aid; and recommended that the ODA should retain responsibility for bilateral and multilateral aid. The Government strongly endorse both recommendations, which underpin our commitment to remain a major donor. The review recommends clarification of the purpose of the aid programme by a better definition of its basic purpose and aims. The Government have agreed a revised mission statement
The FER recommended that ODA's country programme resources should be more concentrated in order to enhance impact. The Government agree with this principle. A larger proportion of our bilateral resources will be allocated to those countries who need it most, can use it effectively and where it will have a real impact. Account will also be taken of Britain's wider national interests. There will be no sudden change. Already the 20 largest recipients accounted for some 69 per cent. of planned country programme expenditure in the last financial year and on current plans we expect this proportion to increase to some 73 per cent. by 1998-99. There is no specific target percentage nor will the list of the largest recipients necessarily be exactly the same from year to year--though concentration on the poorer countries in Africa and Asia will continue.
The Government will continue to assist a wide variety of other countries through bilateral country aid programmes. At the same time we will increase the number of countries where a direct aid relationships is sustained through heads of mission schemes rather than a traditional bilateral country aid programme. In addition we will maintain worthwhile aid relationship through multilateral channels and through other non-country bilateral programmes, including research, scholarships, volunteers and our financial support for British NGOs.
At the same time the ODA will sharpen its focus even further on activities which contribute directly to its aims. The FER made a number of sensible recommendations to enhance the strategic planning process within the ODA. Better corporate and business planning has begun, strengthening the important links in all cases between the objectives and the resources of all kinds used to achieve them.
The United Kingdom makes an increasing contribution through multilateral aid. The FER recommended strengthening our role in multilateral organisations; improving linkages to our bilateral aid; and securing better value. The Government accept these recommendations. The ODA will continue to have lead policy and financial responsibility for those multilateral programmes which are a charge to the aid budget. We will reinforce our efforts to improve the quality and focus of
The FER made a number of recommendations concerned essentially with internal management processes. All have a common purpose: to improve further the effectiveness of the ODA, to increase impact, and to obtain better value for money. The majority have been accepted and are now being implemented.
Very few recommendations were not accepted. Notwithstanding the recommendations in the FER, the geographical Minister of State in the Foreign Office will continue to have formal responsibility for the joint assistance units managing programmes in the former Soviet Union and east and central Europe; and the ODA will continue to make a grant-in-aid to the British Council.
The FER was followed and complemented by a senior management review. Changes recommended include a restructuring of responsibility at senior management level; and the designation of a senior manager to promote each of the four aims.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The primary role of the university air squadrons is to attract new recruits of good quality and education into the Royal Air Force. The defence costs study Front Line First recognised the university air squadrons as a source of high calibre pilots for the RAF, but did identify scope for rationalisation within the organisation as a whole. As part of this rationalisation, it was proposed that the Queen's University Air Squadron (QUAS), being the least successful squadron in terms of providing pilot recruits for the RAF, should close. A consultative document covering this proposal was issued on 5 September 1995, recommending the closure of QUAS and as a consequence the closure of No. 13 Air Experience Flight based at Belfast.
My department received a number of representations from MPs and other interested parties. The consultation included the trades unions and local authorities and full and careful consideration has been given to the representations received. Following this work, we are satisfied that no issues have been raised which call into question the viability of the proposals.
We have therefore decided with regret that QUAS and No. 13 Air Experience Flight should close at the end of this academic year. Air experience flying for air cadets will be provided by offering them places at summer camps on the mainland. We also propose to reactivate No. 664 Volunteer Gliding School at Belfast with immediate effect.
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