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Prison Education and Training

Baroness Serota asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: Yesterday I made a joint announcement with my right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Home Office, establishing a new partnership between DfEE and the Prison Service. From 1 April this new partnership will be responsible for securing improvements in the education, training and resettlement of prisoners.

Our plans for the partnership are outlined in Improving Prisoners' Learning Skills, published yesterday, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

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ECGD: Operating Policy

Lord Shutt of Greetland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their policy that the Export Credits Guarantee Department should operate with a reasonable expectation of breaking even.[HL573]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Yes. Over the years, Ministers have periodically issued assurances to Parliament that ECGD is required to break even over the long term.

In support of this, since the institution of ECGD's new Business Acount in 1991-92, Ministers have set ECGD a more measurable objective. Specifically, the department is charged to maintain the ratio of its reserves (the sum of cumulative surpluses/deficits and the Underwriting Funds on its "open" years) to its estimate of Expected Loss on amounts at risk under its guarantees--this ratio is defined as the Reserve Coverage Ratio--at a value of at least 1.5.

As at 31 March 2000, the Reserve Coverage Ratio achieved was 1.5.

MAFF: Regulatory Burden

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take to improve administration in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in response to the points made in page 63 of Farmers Weekly of 12 January.[HL571]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Government are committed to reducing the burden of regulations wherever possible. That is why we asked the industry to identify its concerns in September 1999, set up review groups to examine them and have since acted on the recommendations. The Government have taken note of the points made in the Farmers Weekly article. When the further details promised are published or made available, and clarify the concerns, we will consider whether changes can be made to benefit all producers.

Private Bills and Human Rights Legislation

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they plan to inform the House of the compatibility of Private Bills with the European Convention on Human Rights.[HL817]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 does not apply to Private Bills. However, like all legislation, any Act resulting from the passage of such a Bill can be judged in the courts, either in the UK or in Strasbourg, for its compatibility with the ECHR. As my right honourable friend the President of the Council

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announced in another place on 11 January 2001, in future when Private Bills are deposited promoters will be asked to undertake a full assessment of the compatibility of their proposals with the ECHR and to make a statement setting out their conclusion as to whether the Bill is compatible or not. A Minister in the government department within whose policy responsibilities the subject matter of the Bill falls will make a formal statement saying that he believes that the promoters have undertaken a full assessment and that he does not (or, if necessary, that he does) see any need to dispute their conclusions.

Law Officers' Departments:Expenditure Limits

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any proposals to amend the Law Officers' Departments' departmental expenditure limit and running costs limit for 2000-01.[HL778]

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimates for Class V, Vote 4 (The Crown Prosecution Service), Class V, Vote 5 (Serious Fraud Office) and Class V, Vote 6 (HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor) the Attorney-General's departments' Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2000-01 will be increased by £8,823,000 from £369,547,000 to £378,370,000.

The Crown Prosecution Service's Departmental Expenditure limit will increase by £4,438,000 from £343,790,000 to £348,228,000. The running costs limit will be increased by £2,504,000 from £245,165,000 to £247,669,000. This increase is required to fund delivery of the pledge on persistent youth offenders, deployment of Higher Court Advocates in the Crown Court and diversity and equality issues and to achieve improvements against CPS and CJS targets. An increase in capital expenditure of £500,000 will be used to fund the introduction of joint CPS/Police criminal justice and trial units.

The Serious Fraud Office's Departmental Expenditure limit will increase by £17,486,000 from £1,833,000 to £19,319,000. The running costs limit will increase by £611,000 from £11,324,000 to £11,935,000. The increase is required to fund the impact in 2000-01 of the decision to increase the office's targeted caseload to 110 cases in 2003-04; to meet the cost of trials held over from 1999-2000; and to offset reductions in police resources available to combat serious and complex fraud. Capital expenditure will increase by £34,000.

HM Procurator General and Treasury Solicitor's Departmental Expenditure limit will increase by £552,000 from £8,271,000 to £8,823,000. The running costs limit will increase by £1,550,000 from £6,432,000 to £7,982,000.The increase in net running costs is due to an increase in capital charge following a revaluation of TDS's premises (Queen Anne's Chambers). The

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increase is offset by a matching non-running cost receipt. Capital expenditure will increase by £294,000.

A transfer of £250,000 will be made to the Attorney-General's Departments Departmental Unallocated Provision from the Modernising Government Fund and a transfer of £1,750,000 will be made to the Attorney-General's departments' Departmental Unallocated Provision from the Capital Modernisation Fund.

The increases will be partly offset by transfers totalling £1,206,000 from the Home Office, surrender of £4,565,000 of the Attorney-General's departments' end year flexibility, an allocation of £500,000 from the Capital Modernisation Fund and an allocation of £250,000 from the Modernising Government Fund.

The remainder of the expenditure will be charged to the Reserve and will not, therefore, add to the planned total of public expenditure.

War Widow's Pension

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January (WA 56), how it is determined by the War Pensions Agency that a war widow is "living with a man as his wife"; and[HL629]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January (WA 56), on what evidence and from what source, in each case, the War Pensions Agency decided to stop the war widow's pensions of five war widows for "living with a man as his wife"; and[HL630]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January (WA 56), who was involved in giving evidence on the five war widows whose war widow's pensions were stopped between April 2000-January 2001 for "living with a man as his wife"; and[HL631]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January (WA 56), what was the cost to public funds of identifying each of the five war widows whose war widow's pensions were stopped between April 2000-January 2001 for "living with a man as his wife"; and[HL632]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January (WA 56), how many war widows are now entitled to cohabit, or remarry, without losing their war widow's pensions; and how many are not so entitled; and[HL633]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hollis of Heigham on 30 January (WA 56), whether those war widows whose war widow's pensions were stopped have any right of appeal.[HL634]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): No recipient is entitled to keep her war widow's pension if she remarries or lives with a man as

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his wife. War pensions legislation differs from the Armed Forces Attributable Pension Scheme, in that Ministry of Defence legislation has, since 31 October 2000, allowed a widow to keep her attributable pension if she remarries or starts to live with a man as his wife. When a question arises whether a war widow is living with a man as his wife, the War Pensions Agency normally uses the services of the Benefits Agency to investigate the case. Trained staff follow established procedures, including interviewing the widow and, if possible, the person who may be living with her as her husband. A specially trained officer of the War Pensions Agency considers the information gathered, and any other relevant evidence, when

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deciding whether war widow's pension should remain in payment.

In each of the five cases referred to by the noble Lord, the evidence used comprised the record of the interview(s), including detailed accounts of the living arrangements and financial arrangements of the household. The information was provided by the widow, and where possible, by her partner. The cost of each individual investigation is not available. None of the five decisions was appealable to an independent tribunal. However, subject to the approval of Parliament, changes being introduced as a result of the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 will provide a right of appeal to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal on such decisions made from 9 April 2001.



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