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20 Mar 1996 : Column WA99

Written Answers

Wednesday, 20th March 1996.

Hong Kong: Annual Report

Lord Geddes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Annual Report on Hong Kong will be laid before Parliament.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The report is being published and laid before Parliament today. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

Know How Fund

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total amount that they have provided through the Know How Fund since 1990 and what qualitative and quantitative criteria they apply to evaluate Britain's bilateral technical assistance to central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Know How Fund spent £228 million up to the end of March 1995. In the 1995-96 financial year we expect to spend about £80 million.

The Know How Fund has a team of professional advisers who help design, monitor and appraise projects. The main criterion used in assessing completed projects is their contribution to the Know How Fund's wider aims of helping the transition to pluralist democracy and a free market economy.

EU Phare and TACIS Programmes

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total amount that the United Kingdom has contributed in each year since 1989 to the European Union's Phare and TACIS programmes and to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Phare programme began in 1990. The TACIS programme and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development were established the following year. The table below sets out UK contributions to the EC Phare and TACIS programmes in each calendar year since 1990 and also

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shows the UK's capital expenditure on the EBRD in each financial year since 1990-91:

UK contributions to EC budget expenditure (1)UK Capital Expenditure
YearPhare (£m)TACIS (£m)Yearon EBRD (£m)
199025.38--1990-910.01
199131.410.041991-9235.30
199252.983.901992-9353.68
199368.0323.541993-9445.52
199476.0631.571994-9539.55
1995101.7749.401995-9642.10

(1)Excludes (a) UK share of capital subscriptions made by the European Commission and (b) contributions from the Know How Fund to the EBRD's Technical Co-operation Trust Funds.


Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking with the European Commission following the comments in the latest report of the Court of Auditors that the implementation of the Phare and TACIS programmes is too slow and that the Commission has still not devised an autonomous system for evaluating these programmes.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Since the Court of Auditors reported, the share of Phare and TACIS funds committed for which contracts have been signed has risen by around 10 per cent. Phare has also launched a number of further efficiency improvements. We will monitor these changes and encourage TACIS to make similar improvements where appropriate.

Following pressure from the UK and other member states, monitoring and evaluation units have been set up in both Phare and TACIS. We also expect to secure improved monitoring provisions in the new TACIS regulation.

Helms-Burton Act

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they propose to take with other governments affected by the Helms-Burton Act (which purports to extend US jurisdiction into areas disallowed by international law) and with which other governments they are discussing such measures.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: As my noble friend Lady Miller told the House on 13th March, we are deeply concerned about the Helms-Burton Act. We have lobbied hard against those provisions which are likely to affect British interests, and, together with our EU and other key partners, are considering what further action to take. We will be pressing the US Administration to use the widest discretion in implementing the legislation, and will take whatever action we can to protect our legitimate trading interests.

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US Peacekeeping Forces in Romania

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether to their knowledge the US intends to set up a base for its peacekeeping forces in Bosnia at Timisoara, Western Romania; whether these forces are intended to stay on in Romania under NATO auspices (in the same manner as was intended in Hungary) after the withdrawal of US peacekeeping forces from Bosnia; and whether these developments represent an early stage of the eastward enlargement of NATO.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: This is a matter for the US Administration.

Proliferation Policy: Co-ordination

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What co-ordination is there between British participants in the NATO Counter-Proliferation Committee discussions and those in the 1996 Review of the Convention on Biological and Toxin Weapons.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The United Kingdom is playing a leading role both in current efforts to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention through the addition of a verification regime and in the work of the NATO Senior Defence Group on Proliferation. Care is taken to ensure that Her Majesty's Government's policy on all aspects of proliferation is fully co-ordinated.

Child Support Policy: Evaluation

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Answer of 31st January (WA 111), whether they have a secure baseline for quantifying the financial consequences of the Child Support Act 1991 without figures for the numbers of single parents coming off Income Support before the year 1993-94.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The overall impact of child support policy will be evaluated against a range of objectives set out in the White Papers Children Come First and Improving Child Support. The absolute number of single parents leaving Income Support in each year before 1993-94 is not essential for the construction of a baseline against which to evaluate the financial consequences of the policy, since other data are available to estimate the probability of a single parent leaving benefit in any particular year.

Absent Parents: Maintenance Collection

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Written Answer of 31st January (H.L. Deb., WA 112) what criteria they used in deciding that the cost of discussing the average cost

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    per case of collecting maintenance from absent parents on Income Support was disproportionate.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Detailed analysis would be required to provide the information requested. The cost of such analysis would exceed £470.00, which is the guideline for preparing written answers.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Written Answer of 31st January (H.L. Deb., WA 112), since they do not know the average cost per case of collecting child maintenance from absent parents on Income Support, how they can decide whether the policy of collecting those sums is in the interests of the taxpayer.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The collection of child maintenance from absent parents on Income Support is only one element of the child support scheme, which, taken as a whole, is proving to be very cost effective. It is important that, where they are able to, absent parents on Income Support should get into the habit of paying maintenance, or not break the habit if they were previously paying. Many will not stay on Income Support indefinitely.

DoE Annual Report

Lord Mountevans asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce the spending plans of the Department of the Environment, Ordnance Survey and the Office of Water Services for the years 1996-97 to 1998-99.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has today published the Department of the Environment's Annual Report for 1996. This sets out in detail the outcome of the Public Expenditure Survey which was announced in the November 1995 Budget Statement as it affects the areas of his responsibility. The report records how the department, Ordnance Survey and the Office of Water Services have discharged their functions over the past year. It provides the background to each spending programme and it sets out our plans for the future, where it sees environmental concerns playing a key role both within the UK and in the European Union.

Emergency Towing: Report

Viscount Mersey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will place in the Library a copy of the emergency towing study final report.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): A copy has now been placed in the Library of the House.

Asylum Applications

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many applications for asylum were outstanding at the latest convenient date, and whether they will give a breakdown of the total according to the age in months of the applications.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The number of asylum applications awaiting

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an initial decision as at 29th February 1996 was 69,185. The available information on the years in which these applications were made is given in the table.

Proportion of total number of asylum applications awaiting initial decisions as at 29th February 1996, by year of application.

Year of applicationPercentage (%)
Pre 19915
199110
199215
199310
199420
199535
19965

The estimated number of asylum appeals outstanding on this same date was 14,300.



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