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NMEC: Ministerial Responsibility

Lord Gavron asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Further to the Written Answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Desai, on 17 December 2002 (Official Report, col. WA 88), the shareholding in the New Millennium Experience Company was transferred from my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton to my honourable friend the Member for Streatham on 17 October 2003.

European Convention on Human Rights: Protocol 12

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether and when they intend to sign and then ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights; and why they have not done so to date.[HL4884]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights is one of a number of instruments on which the UK's position is being reviewed under the interdepartmental review of human rights instruments announced by the former Lord Chancellor, my noble and learned friend Lord Irvine of Lairg, on 7 March 2002. We will report the outcome as soon as is reasonably possible.

War Widows: Pensions

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current number of war widows whose husbands died in or as a consequence of the Second World War; and[HL4698]

    What is the current average age of war widows whose husbands died in or as a consequence of the Second World War.[HL4699]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): The information requested is not available in the format requested as details of the particular conflict to which a deceased husband's death related would have no bearing upon the entitlement to a war widow's pension. The information could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

A range of statistics on war pensions, including an analysis by age of the numbers of widows receiving war widows pensions, is published quarterly. A copy is available in the Library of the House.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total cost, at current prices, in each of the last six years for which figures are available, of pensions paid to war widows whose husbands died before the Armed Forces Pension Scheme came into being.[HL4700]

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Lord Bach: This information is not available in the format requested and would involve the examination of approximately 40,000 individual cases and this could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Schools: Personal Finance Education

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why personal finance education, presently only an optional element of the national curriculum, should not be made compulsory.[HL4916]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Some aspects of personal finance education and financial literacy are covered within the citizenship curriculum, which is compulsory in secondary schools. For example, at key stage 4 (14-16 year olds) pupils should be taught about how the economy functions, including the role of business and financial services. The non-statutory national framework for personal, social and health education (PSHE), which provides for personal finance education to be taught throughout key stages 1 to 4, allows teachers the flexibility to cover the wide range of topics as set out in the department's Financial Capability through Personal Financial Education guidance for schools.

Pension Credit

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why only 73 per cent of those who applied for pension credit in October 2003 are expected to receive it by October 2006.[HL4851]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The Government have a target for at least 3 million pensioner households to be in receipt of pension credit by 2006 (75 per cent of eligible pensioner households). However, we want all those eligible for pension credit to take up their entitlement. That is why we have designed the application process to be straightforward. All pensioners need do is telephone the pension credit application line, where details of their application will be taken. Calls are free apart from some mobiles. The application form is then sent to the customer to check, sign and return.

The Pension Service is writing to every pensioner household to tell them about pension credit and to help them decide whether to apply. To support this process we are running a major TV and press advertising campaign. Specific advertising has been targeted at harder to reach groups such as carers and ethnic minorities. These include adverts on black and ethnic minority radio and TV stations, and in ethnic newspapers and magazines. Our local service is working closely with local partners such as Age

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Concern and Help the Aged to help ensure eligible pensioners take up their entitlement to pension credit.

All those who apply before October 2004, if they are entitled, will receive payment as though they had claimed at the very start, or to the first day they could have qualified if this is later.

We have already made 1.9 million awards of pension credit to pensioner households (over 2 million individuals). Of these, over 1.1 million pensioner households (over 1.3 million people) are getting more money than they did before.

State Benefits: Method of Payment

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How applicants who cannot operate a bank or post office card account will receive state benefits after the system of benefit payment books ceases in 2005.[HL4874]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Around 87 per cent of customers already have bank accounts. For those who do not, new easy-to-operate accounts, which are accessible at the post office, are widely available.

We have always recognised that there will be a small group of people who we cannot pay directly into an account and the department is committed to developing an alternative method of payment, which is likely to be cheque based, for those who are genuinely unable to operate any type of bank account. Payment outlets for this exceptions method of payment will include post office branches.

New Aircraft Technology

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have had any discussions with Bae Systems and other manufacturers regarding the timetable for the launch of new aircraft technology over the next 10 years and the potential effects of that technology.[HL4615]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The aerospace innovation and growth team is a current focus for industry discussions with Her Majesty's Government on the aerospace industry. Technology acquisition and its effects are at the heart of that discussion, informed by a debate about the opportunities to exploit the technology through launch of aircraft.

The Government's defence industrial policy highlighted the need for better co-ordination between government, industry and academia in targeting and exploiting defence and civil (including aerospace) technology. Government and industry have since developed a joint action plan to achieve this. The work is being taken forward primarily by the National Defence and Aerospace Systems Panel, which is also

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the prime focus for discussion between all UK stakeholders (industry, government and the science base) over a co-ordinated UK technology acquisition strategy in defence and aerospace.

The Ministry of Defence keeps in close touch with the industry over defence requirements using the National Defence Industries Council as a forum.

The Department of Trade and Industry keeps in close contact with Bae Systems and other UK companies over future technology acquisition plans.

Broadband: Rural Access

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Mr Stephen Timms MP on 7 July (HC Deb, 568W), how much of the £1 billion to be spent on public sector connectivity will be spent on rural access to broadband; and whether it will be "matched" to local authority spending on schools.[HL4859]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The broadband aggregation project will set up nine regional aggregation bodies (RABs), which will be publicly owned companies and which will aggregate and procure public sector demand for broadband. Each RAB will work closely with stakeholders in their region to develop an appropriate regional strategy that will offer best value for money and the widest availability to surrounding communities. Until each RAB has developed its own strategy it is not possible to estimate how much of the £1 billion will be spent in rural areas.

The RABs will work closely with the DfES, regional broadband consortia and local education authorities (LEAs). The £1 billion includes the £350 million announced by the Secretary of State for Education for educational broadband for 2003–06, on top of the £150 million for 2001–03. This £350 million includes direct funding from DfES and matched funding from local authorities.


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