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Industrial and Commercial Attachments Programme

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: With the closure of JICAP IV on 31 July 1999, the programmes will have cost an estimated £11.1 million. They will have allowed over 2,400 managers to benefit from both university based and practical company attachment management training.

HIPC Debt Relief

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The Government welcome the comprehensive review of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative which is currently under way and the G7 call at the Cologne Summit for faster, deeper and wider debt relief under HIPC. We strongly support the statement that the objective is to increase spending on anti-poverty programmes such as health and education. If the revisions proposed by the G7 are adopted at the annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF in September, HIPC will deliver twice as much debt relief, twice as quickly. The link to poverty reduction is being examined in the second phase of the HIPC review and proposals for strengthening it will also be considered in the autumn. We are working very closely with the Government of Tanzania on ways in which HIPC debt relief can be used to tackle poverty.

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Amos: The purpose of providing debt relief is to free resources for investment in programmes to eliminate poverty and assist countries to achieve the international development targets. Only four countries have so far received HIPC debt relief--Uganda and Bolivia in 1998, and Mozambique and Guyana recently. In the case of Uganda, its Minister of Finance wrote in June outlining his country's experience of HIPC to inform our thinking on the necessary revisions to the HIPC initiative. The Minister noted that Uganda had established a poverty action fund into which debt service

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savings are placed. In the first year of operation, the PAF had more than doubled the amount spent on priority poverty reduction programmes, including primary education, primary healthcare, rural roads and safe water. The operation of the PAF has been discussed with donors and civil society to ensure transparency and accountability. Mozambique will use the savings on its debt service payments to tackle poverty. The Government plan to increase annual current spending on health and education from 120 million dollars in 1998 to 175 million dollars in 2001, or from marginally over the amount paid on debt service in 1998 to more than double the projected debt service payments after HIPC relief.

Northern Ireland: Release of Prisoners

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the completion of the programme for the release, under the Good Friday agreement (Cm. 3883), of prisoners convicted of terrorist offences is dependent on progress being made in the decommissioning of IRA weapons and munitions.[HL3218]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): Under the legislation, the early release of prisoners is dependent upon whether organisations are maintaining complete and unequivocal ceasefires. In making her judgment, the Secretary of State must take into account all relevant factors. As the Secretary of State said, in this judgment she will "pay increasingly close attention to the extent to which an organisation is co-operating with the commission".

Asylum Seekers: Free School Meals

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What provision is made for free school meals for children of asylum seekers attending nursery, primary or secondary schools.[HL3615]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Free school meals are available for all children whose parents qualify through receipt of income support or income-based job seekers allowance, whether or not they are asylum seekers. If the asylum Bill currently before Parliament is enacted, it will remove the right of asylum seekers to claim these benefits. However, their children and unaccompanied children seeking asylum will be eligible for free school meals.

Stenography Training

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many colleges in the United Kingdom provide dedicated courses to train stenographers.[HL3617]

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Baroness Blackstone: There are no colleges of further education in England currently providing courses specifically to train stenographers.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans to promote the training of stenographers.[HL3618]

Baroness Blackstone: The Further Education Funding Council has a statutory duty to ensure that there are sufficient and adequate further education opportunities throughout England. Currently there is no evidence of insufficiency or inadequacy in the training of stenographers.

Kosovo: Operation Agricola

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What expenditure has been (a) authorised and (b) incurred for urgent operational requirements for Operation Agricola in Kosovo.[HL3443]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Urgent operational requirements of a significant value have been authorised for planning and contingency purposes in support of Kosovo-related operations. A number of these are being re-evaluated in the light of the positive developments in Kosovo in recent weeks, and the value of likely contract action has therefore yet to be determined.

Territorial Army: Classified Documents and IT Equipment

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the highest security classification of documents normally handled by (a) units and (b) sub-units of the Territorial Army which are not involved with Special Forces or intelligence matters; and[HL3543]

    What is the highest security classification of information technology equipment normally found in (a) units and (b) sub-units of the Territorial Army which are not involved with Special Forces or intelligence matters.[HL3544]

Lord Gilbert: TA units normally handle documents up to Secret and sub-units up to Restricted. IT systems capable of processing information at these levels of classification are allocated accordingly. Exceptionally, certain specialist units and sub-units may have a requirement to process information of a higher classification.

Gulf Veterans' Health Concerns

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How general medical practitioners and serving regimental medical officers are informed of illnesses within the Gulf veterans' community; and when such information was last disseminated.[HL3493]

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Lord Gilbert: Guidance on the medical assessment programme and the referral of patients has been issued to service units to ensure that veterans who are still serving in the Armed Forces are able to take advantage of the programme's services if they wish. Guidance for NHS doctors has been issued through the Department of Health in the Chief Medical Officer's update.

For its part, the MoD has produced an information pack with the intention of providing medical practitioners and other health professionals with information which they may find useful in dealing with Gulf veterans' health concerns. The pack, which was first produced in October 1998 and revised in May 1999, gives information on the MAP, the steps the Government are taking to address Gulf veterans' health concerns, the environmental factors to which veterans may have been exposed in the Gulf, an overview of the published research on this subject and a note on war pensions. A copy of the pack has been placed in the Library of the House. It is also available on the Internet. The existence of the information pack was highlighted in the May edition of the Chief Medical Officer's update, with details of how doctors or anyone else who is interested can obtain a copy. Approximately 200 requests for copies of the document have been received so far.

In addition service men and women and MoD civilians who served in the Gulf at any time between August 1990 and July 1991 or who believe that their health has suffered as a direct result of the Gulf conflict may be referred to the Gulf veterans' medical assessment programme (MAP) by their doctor. All medical practitioners, whether civilian or military, who refer patients to the MAP receive a full report of the examination, assessment and diagnosis of the patient and recommendations for treatment where appropriate. In January of this year a review of the clinical findings of the first 1,000 patients seen at the MAP was published in the British Medical Journal.

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