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Written Answers

Monday 16th February, 1998.

Development Policy

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they are making in the European Union towards greater coherence in policies of direct or indirect significance for economic and social development in the less developed countries of the world.[HL551]

Lord Whitty: The Government's development White Paper commits us to work to ensure the full range of domestic and international policies affecting developing countries take account of the UK's sustainable development objectives. The European Union's commitment to policy consistency is set out in Articles 130 u and v of the Treaty of Maastricht. The Government are therefore working with European partners for consistency between policies in the areas of development, environment, trade, agriculture and investment amongst others.

An example of recent progress is implementation of the World Trade Organisation's Least Developed Countries (LDC) Initiative. Under the UK Presidency, agreement has now been reached on how to implement the EU's commitment to extend Lome equivalent preferential trade terms to the nine non-ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) LDCs.

Income Disparities

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they endorse the calculations in the 1997 UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) Annual Report that global wealth-poverty polarisation has become greater since 1971 with 80 per cent. of the world's population taking a markedly decreasing share of world income; and what are the implications of such a trend for their international security and international development policies.[HL552]

Lord Whitty: Her Majesty's Government share the widespread international concern about the increased income inequality revealed in the UNCTAD report and agree that we should work to ensure that people everywhere can reap the benefits from the rapid changes that are taking place in the world economy.

Our main development concern is to increase the income and well-being of the people at the lowest end of the income distribution. Her Majesty's Government are committed to working to try to meet the international targets for poverty elimination. We will work to achieve this both through our aid programme, and through the full range of our policies affecting developing countries.

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Poverty Eradication

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking as holders of the Presidency of the European Union to encourage other member states to adopt the same priorities as those established in the recent White Paper Eliminating World Poverty and, in particular, to harmonise and strengthen contributions by all member states both to the United Nations multilateral institutions and to the international financial institutions.[HL577]

Lord Whitty: During the UK Presidency, we will work with our European Union partners to try to secure their commitment to the Organisation for Economic Co-op Development's (OECD) 21st Century Strategy and international development targets. We are planning to discuss how to put the strategy into practice in our programmes at a high level seminar which we will hold in March for the development Ministers from member states, appropriate European Commissioners, and representatives from the European Parliament's Development Committee. We will also seek to make sure that poverty eradication is at the heart of the EU's Lome negotiating mandate.

We will also continue to work closely with all our EU partners across the international financial institutions and the UN's development agencies in order, where possible, to reach common positions on the governance and policies of those institutions.

Animal Identification by Microchip

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, parallel with any scheme they have for micro-chipping cattle and sheep for identification purposes, they will consider a similar scheme for cats and dogs as a necessary precondition for a change in the quarantine laws.[HL488 ]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): On 2 October last year my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced a scientific assessment and review of quarantine, and alternatives to it, by the Advisory Group on Quarantine. Identification of imported cats and dogs by microchip forms part of some of the options being assessed by the group.

British Registered Fishing Vessels

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the proposals for ensuring that all registered British fishing vessels maintain a real economic link with the United Kingdom were sent to the European Commission, and when they expect a response; and[HL464]

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    Whether they will publish the proposals for ensuring that all registered British fishing vessels maintain a real economic link with the United Kingdom which have been sent to the European Commission.[HL465]

Lord Donoughue: The proposals for ensuring that all British registered fishing vessels maintain a real economic link with the United Kingdom were sent to the European Commission for consideration at the beginning of January. Discussions with the Commission are continuing. Copies of the proposals have been circulated to the industry, and placed in the Library of the House.

National Lottery Awards: Internet Publication

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the interests of public accountability, they will ask the National Lottery to publish details on their web site of the awards made.[HL545]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Details of National Lottery awards are available on the department's website,

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Ministerial Privileges

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Ministers receive any official consideration denied to sexual partners.[HL503]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Each case is decided on its own circumstances and in the light of the public interest.

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many sexual partners of Ministers, other than spouses, are currently housed in accommodation financed by the taxpayer.[HL506]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am not accountable for the private lives of Ministers.

HM Customs and Excise: Staff Numbers

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total staff of the UK Customs and Excise at the end of 1997, as compared with 1987, 1977, and 1967 and what will be the number on current plans in 1999 identifying in each case the proportion of staff whose work is focused on ports of entry.[HL444]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The number of staff in post for the years requested are:

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Year ended31 March 196731 March 197731 March 198731 March 1997Staff years planned 1998-99
Staff in Post17,57629,38926,09023,07123,245
Staff focused on ports of entryData not availableData not available8,092(1)5,6495,461
Percentage31 per cent.24.5 per cent.23.5 per cent.

(1) For "Staff focused on ports of entry" we have used the most appropriate definitions of activity from information published at the relevant time. Organisational changes mean that they are not precisely the same between 1987 and the present date.

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Equal Pay

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have plans to introduce any measures to expedite progress towards equal pay.[HL497]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Government's new earnings survey for April 1997 shows that women's average hourly earnings, excluding overtime, were 80.2 per cent. of men's, and, although this difference is still disappointingly large, it has shrunk a little more every year for 10 years. Government policies will enable more women to train for and enter higher status jobs, and will encourage employers to pay full and fair rates. In addition, the introduction of a national minimum wage will help to reduce the gap between men's and women's pay, since women form a large proportion of those workers who will benefit from this measure. The Equal Opportunities Commission is currently undertaking a review of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and Equal Pay Act 1970, and

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its draft has highlighted the need for greater understanding of equal pay issues. The Government will consider the review when it is formally presented later this year.

GCSE: European Studies

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, in view of their commitment to membership of the European Union, they have deleted European studies from the list of available GCSE subjects.[HL570]

Baroness Blackstone: It is for the GCSE Awarding Bodies, not the Government, to determine what GCSEs to offer in subjects that are not part of the statutory National Curriculum. Awarding Bodies' decisions take account of factors such as levels of demand for the qualification, the costs of offering the syllabus and the availability of the expertise necessary to provide for external assessment of candidates' performance.

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