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Civil and Family Legal Aid

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor: We have today published a report giving details of the Government's conclusions following consultation on these proposals. The introduction of these changes to the financial eligibility tests for funding in civil cases will move towards alignment of the eligibility limits for all levels of publicly funded legal services, provide simplified means testing arrangements for both applicants and suppliers and ensure a fair balance between publicly and privately funded litigants.

We are raising the income and capital threshold for Legal Help so that an estimated 5 million more people can get the advice and assistance on everyday problems that they need. We will not be introducing contributions for Legal Help so all eligible clients will be able to receive legal advice entirely free of charge.

We have listened carefully to the responses and we will not be introducing capital contributions from equity at the present time. We believe the implementation of these proposals might deter low-income homeowners from seeking legal advice.

We will fully equalise the income eligibility limit for Legal Help with Legal Representation as soon as it financially prudent to do so. This will bring a further 2 million people into the scope of the Community Legal Service Fund.

The cost of these changes is £30 million over three years. We have been able to spend this money on increasing eligibility because of the success of our legal aid reforms in controlling and refocusing expenditure on priorities.

We undertook to consult on the new eligibility limits for all levels of service once they were available, and a consultation paper has been published today. Consultation will run until 1 May 2001. These changes will be implemented on 1 October 2001.

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Court Service Annual Report

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the Court Service annual report for 1999-2000.[HL1094]

The Lord Chancellor: The Court Service annual report for 1999-2000 has been published today and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Contaminated German Meat: Returned Consignment

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the 41 tonnes of German meat contaminated with spinal cord confiscated by Northern Ireland Food Standards Agency officials will be dyed as unfit for human consumption before being returned to Germany.[HL512]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We are advised by the Food Standards Agency that the German meat concerned was not dyed as unfit for human consumption before being returned to Germany.

EU Economic and Monetary Policy Controls

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What additional requirements in the conduct of economic and monetary policy to those laid down in Title VI of the Treaty of European Union have been introduced by the 1997 Growth and Stability Pact.[HL888]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I refer the noble Lord to Council Regulation EC No. 1466/97 of 7 July 1997, which strengthens the surveillance and co-ordination of member states' economic policies, and to Regulation EC No. 1467/97, also of 7 July 1997, which clarifies the implementation of the excessive deficits procedure. These regulations (then proposals) were submitted to Parliament under cover of a comprehensive Explanatory Memorandum on 3 June 1997.

Weapons Collection and Combatant Reintegration Programmes

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which projects they are supporting for collecting and destroying weapons and for demobilising and reintegrating combatants (a) in Africa and (b) elsewhere.[HL342]

Baroness Amos: The Department for International Development (DFID) is supporting a number of projects which are aiding the collection and

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destruction of weapons and the demobilisation and reintegration of combatants. This activity is regarded as an increasingly critical component of both conflict prevention and development.

In Africa, DFID has funded the Programme for Co-ordination and Assistance for Security and Development, which is operating in West African states. The project includes the collection and destruction of surplus weapons, establishment of a database and regional arms register and training programmes for the military, security and police forces.

DFID is funding Saferworld to develop strategies and programmes addressing the proliferation of small arms and to strengthen the co-operative efforts to prevent conflict in Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa--as well as Central and Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe and the Trans Caucasus. This programme also involves working collaboratively with southern NGOs, including the Institute of Security Studies in South Africa. As part of the programme two workshops will be held in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region later this year. The workshops will engage officials in the region and will specifically address demobilisation and reintegration as well as weapons collection and destruction. DFID is also continuing support of Sierra Leone's Disarmament and Reintegration Programme, including the provision of technical assistance.

Elsewhere, DFID has provided funds for the pioneering United Nations Development Programme project "Weapons in Exchange for Development" in Albania.

Under the proposed "Global Conflict Prevention Pool Initiative", DFID, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence have developed a joint strategy for curbing small arms misuse. A central component of this strategy will be to provide weapons collection and stockpile management systems.

Medicine Prices in Developing Countries

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to encourage drugs companies to set prices of patented medicines in developing countries at levels that reflect social need and the ability of people to pay.[HL783]

Baroness Amos: Affordable prices are a key component of strategies to improve access to essential medicines in developing countries. The Government believe that negotiations with, and providing increased incentives to, the pharmaceutical industry will have a greater impact on prices and access than reducing patent life (which may have a negative impact on research and development investment). At the International Action Against Child Poverty Conference (February 26), the Government announced a proposal for a new and innovative global purchase fund for drugs and vaccines. This will increase access by providing a strong incentive to the

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pharmaceutical industry to deliver affordable medicines. We are considering a range of policy options with the industry, including tiered pricing agreements (selling drugs more cheaply in poor countries), tax measures including tax credits, and common purchase funds.

The Government are already contributing to international partnerships between the public and private sectors, which results in reduced prices in developing countries. The Government also welcome the Accelerating Access to HIV/AIDS-related Care and Treatment Initiative. This partnership between UNAIDS and a group of pharmaceutical companies is reducing the cost of anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS in developing countries. This is a useful first step, although more needs to be done in terms of transparency and further price discounts. The price of drugs is one component of access. The Government also continue to work with developing country governments to strengthen basic health systems, without which the poorest will be unable to access the necessary drugs.

China: Population Control

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to support the Bush Administration's withdrawal of funding for agencies involved in China's one-child policy.[HL937]

Baroness Amos: The Government disagree with China's one-child policy. UK assistance for sexual and reproductive health anywhere in the world is provided in support of the principles of free and informed choice. Our annual grants to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) support their work throughout the world, including China. Both organisations have programmes in China aimed at promoting better understanding of international standards in reproductive health. We will continue to work in partnership with these organisations to try to secure greater respect for reproductive rights in China.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of reports from Hubei Province, China, of the murder of a baby by population enforcement officials, they will consider the funds they provide to organisations which, in turn, fund the Chinese Population Association.[HL936]

Baroness Amos: Both the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) are working in China to promote understanding and adoption of internationally agreed standards in reproductive health.

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The incident in Hubei Province is deplorable, and the Government remain concerned about reports of reproductive abuses and other human rights abuses in China. But we also believe that programmes of the kind supported by UNFPA can contribute to improving policy and practice, and to helping to bring about a climate where coercion and abuse will no longer be tolerated.

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