Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 12 June 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Written Answers To Questions

Thursday 12 June 2003

Treasury

Gulf (Military Presence)

12.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will estimate the cost of maintaining a military presence in the Persian Gulf in the last three months. [118671]

It would be premature to make such an estimate but we expect the costs of the military campaign to be covered by the £3 billion reserve announced by the Chancellor in the Budget.

Growth Prospects

14.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his current assessment is of growth prospects in (a) the UK and (b) the euro area. [118673]

The Government published their latest forecasts for the UK economy in the Budget on April 9. We forecast:

The UK economy to grow by 2 to 2½ per cent. this year, rising to 3 to 3½ per cent. next year.
The euro area economy to grow by 1 per cent. this year, rising to 2¼ per cent. next year.

Competitiveness

15.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had since the Budget with representatives of manufacturing industry regarding competitiveness. [118674]

Treasury Ministers meet regularly with manufacturing representatives to discuss a wide range of issues and this Government has introduced a series of measures to promote business efficiency, investment and competitiveness.

Bcci

16.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Inland Revenue's action relating to the former employees of BCCI. [118675]

I understand that Revenue officials are continuing to provide guidance on the tax aspects of the proposed BCCI settlement, and I hope it will prove possible to finalise the tax position of ex-employees in the near future.

Tax Credits Helplines

17.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what support is being given to staff working on the tax credits helplines to enable them to deal with the workload. [118676]

The revenue has been able to support its staff employed in the Tax Credit Contact Centres by:

Providing an initial and comprehensive training package followed by additional, supplementary training as the workload has changed.
Backing this up with rapid escalation processes for more complex or difficult calls.
Bringing several hundred additional staff onto the helpline when the number of calls started to increase in early April.
Managers working closely and quickly with staff and their trade unions to resolve any local pressures or concerns that may develop.

Aid Statistics

18.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress the UK is making on the target ratio of aid to national income. [118677]

The Government remain fully committed to reaching the UN target of an official development assistance to Gross National Income ratio (ODA/GNI ratio) of 0.7 per cent. In the 2002 Spending Review the Government made substantial increases to the aid budget. The UK's level of official development assistance will be increased to 0.33 per cent. by 2003–04, up from 0.26 per cent. in 1997, and will reach 0.40 per cent. of GNI by 2005–06. This is the largest ever increase in UK aid and represents a 93 per cent. real terms increase since 1997.Aid effectiveness is also important as well as aid volumes. We are committed to redirecting the development assistance budget to the poorest countries, particularly those with effective governments pursuing high growth and pro-poor economic and social policies. In addition, the Government have untied all their aid as from 1 April 2001.

Bank Of England

20.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what difference has been recorded in the present value of the reserves in consequence of the instruction to the Bank of England to sell gold and to invest in particular currencies. [118679]

The restructuring of the reserves portfolio announced in May 1999 was a long-term, prudent restructuring to reduce the risk of over-exposure to a single asset. As such it is inappropriate to measure gains or losses resulting from fluctuations in market values on a particular day or over a short-term period.Once account is taken of all the elements of the restructuring programme, including earnings on foreign currency assets purchased from the proceeds of the sale, the annualised return on the assets invested in (from the sales of gold to the end of May 2003) was approximately 9 per cent. per annum in US dollar terms.

Debt Relief

21.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals he has for further debt relief to be agreed by the G8 group of countries. [118680]

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by the Chancellor earlier today to my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke).

Cancer

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what changes have been recorded over the past 20 years in the (a) survival and (b) mortality rates in men diagnosed with (i) prostate, (ii) lung, (iii) bowel and (iv) testicular cancer; and what geographical trends have been identified in the incidence of cancer in men. [118562]

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from J. Pullinger to Mr Nicholas Winterton, dated 12 June 2003:

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent question concerning what changes have been recorded over the last 20 years in the (a) survival and (b) mortality rates in men diagnosed with (i) prostate, (ii) lung, (iii) bowel and (iv) testicular cancer; and what geographical trends have been identified in the incidence of cancer in men. I am replying in his absence. (118562)
Long term trends in cancer incidence, mortality, prevalence and survival for prostate, lung, bowel and testicular cancer, and all other major cancers, for England and Wales have been published in Cancer Trends in England and Wales 1950–19991. This is available on the National Statistics website at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_health/cancertrends_5099.pdf
This publication includes the latest available cancer survival analyses for England and Wales. Survival rates for major cancers by sex and age-group are presented, with trends for cases diagnosed in the early 1970s up to those diagnosed in the early 1990s.
The Office for National Statistics is currently collaborating with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to update the cancer survival statistics in this volume with figures for the 20 commonest cancers in England and Wales. This will cover adult patients diagnosed during 1991–99 and followed up to the end of 2001. The results will be published later this year.
The publication Cancer Trends in England and Wales 1950–19991 contains analyses of mortality from all major cancers over the period 1950–1999. Variations in cancer incidence by geographical area within the UK are also described in this publication.
Data on cancer incidence by geographical area for 1998 and 1999, and mortality for 2000 and 2001 are available on the National Statistics website.
1 Quinn M. Babb P, Brock A, et al. Cancer Trends in England and Wales 1950–1999. Series SMPS No. 66. London: Office for National Statistics, 2001.

Customs And Excise

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of the working hours of the local Swansea Customs team have been spent (a) in their home areas and (b) outside their home areas during the past two years. [118533]

Over the past two years the Swansea Customs team have spent approximately 40 per cent. of their operational time in Swansea. Of the 60 per cent. of the time they spent elsewhere, the majority was at Cardiff International airport.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what seizures have been made by the Swansea local Customs team in (a) their own area and (b) outside their own area in the past two years. [118534]

The Swansea Customs team have, in the last two years, made 19 seizures in Swansea. These included 156,750 cigarettes, some small seizures of hand rolled tobacco and spirits and two knives.Operating elsewhere over the same period, the team made a further 48 seizures mostly at Cardiff International airport. These comprised 633,520 cigarettes, some small seizures of hand rolled tobacco and a small number of other minor seizures.The team made no Class A drug seizures over the two-year period.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what plans there are for further co-operative working between the Customs and Excise departments of the UK and Eire; [118538](2) what meetings have taken place in the last two years between the Customs and Excise Service of the Republic of Ireland and the UK Customs and Excise concerning co-operative working to tackle

(a) drugs smuggling, (b) cigarette smuggling, (c) oil smuggling and (d) illegal immigration. [118539]

Customs work closely with the Republic of Ireland (as well as other member states) on a number of issues and meet with them regularly, both bilaterally and as part of larger meetings.These meetings take place at both the high level to discuss strategic plans for future working and also at operational levels to discuss specific cases. There is consequently a regular flow of information between UK Customs and Excise and their Republic of Ireland counterparts in relation to suspect drug consignments and cash related movements, cigarette smuggling and oils smuggling.Illegal immigration is not an assigned matter for either Service.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the role of Customs officers is in implementing anti-terrorism measures. [118540]

Customs has prime responsibility for controls on the movement of goods into and out of the United Kingdom, including the detection of terrorist material. A significant part of the £330 million announced by the Chancellor in the Budget for counter-terrorism purposes will be used to equip Customs with new technology and staff measures to assist their detection effort.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many times in the past two years the Customs and Excise National Strike Force has undertaken operational duties in west Wales. [118546]

The National Strike Force was deployed to Wales 16 times over the last two years. On at least 12 occasions they were operating in west Wales.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the cost was of paying travel and subsistence allowances to customs officers serving in the South East Region Enforcement Team in (a) 1999, (b) 2001 and (c) 2002; and what estimate he has made of the cost of paying travel and subsistance allowances to customs officers serving in the South East Region Enforcement Team in (i) 2003, (ii) 2004 and (iii) 2005. [116731]

There is not, and never has been, a South East Region Enforcement Team in Customs and Excise. Following changes in customs' management structure in 2001, an enlarged Law Enforcement South Region was created. Travel, subsistence and other expenses are paid in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Service Management Code.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of the working hours of the local Pembroke Customs team have been spent (a) in and (b) outside their home areas during the past two years. [118530]

During the last two years, the Pembroke Customs team have spent 80 per cent. of their time in Pembroke and Fishguard and 20 per cent. elsewhere, largely at Cardiff International airport.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what seizures have been made by the Pembroke local Customs team (a) in and (b) outside their own area in the past two years. [118531]

The Pembroke Customs team have made one significant seizure, of 1.2 million cigarettes, in Pembroke in the past two years. This seizure was a result of a specific operation, based on intelligence gathered from outside Wales. In addition, the team made a small number of minor seizures of cigarettes, hand rolled tobacco, spirits and beer, in Pembroke and Fishguard.Elsewhere, over the last two years, the Pembroke Customs team seized 481,290 cigarettes at Cardiff International Airport, and made a small number of minor seizures of cigarettes and hand rolled tobacco elsewhere.The Pembroke Customs team made no significant drug seizures over the past two years.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what seizures have been made by the Customs and Excise National Strike Force in west Wales in the last two years. [118532]

The National Strike Force have been deployed to Wales 16 times in the past two years. Their seizures have included £500,000 cash and over 5.6 million in cigarettes in west Wales and the borders.

Electoral Statistics

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will list the 100 wards with the greatest fall in electorate over the last three years, giving the (a) percentage fall, (b) total numbers of electors and (c) political make-up in each case; [118903](2) if he will list the 100 constituencies with the greatest fall in electorate over the last three years by

(a) percentage and (b) total number. [118904]

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from John Pullinger to Chris Ruane, dated 12 June 2003:

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent questions concerning the 100 constituencies and wards with the greatest fall in electorate over the last three years. I am replying in his absence. (118903, 118904)
I am placing in the House of Commons Library a table showing the percentage change and total number change of the 100 parliamentary constituencies with the greatest fall in electorate over the period 16 February 1999 to 1 December 2002. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) did not publish electoral data for parliamentary constituencies as at 16 February 2000 and this is why figures for 1999 have been used.
ONS does not produce electoral statistics on ward boundaries. The lowest geography at which electoral statistics are published is parliamentary constituencies. Electoral statistics on ward boundaries are only available from each individual local authority.

Equitable Life

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Penrose Inquiry into Equitable Life is expected to report. [118831]

The timetable for his report is a matter for Lord Penrose. He has said that he expects to report to Treasury Ministers later in the summer.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many Ombudsman's inquiries are outstanding pending the conclusion of the Penrose Inquiry. [118832]

This is a matter for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Ombudsman) who, as an Officer of the House, is independent of the Government.

Taxation Of Savings Directive

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is his Department's policy to accept the ruling of the President of the Court of First Instance of the European Communities that UK Overseas Territories are under no legal requirement to implement the EU Savings Tax Directive. [118517]

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my reply to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell), 10 June 2003, Official Report, column 748W.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the constitutional arrangements governing the relationship between the UK and UK overseas territories with regard to financial policy. [118518]

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my reply to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell) on 3 June 2003, Official Report, column 196W.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is his policy that overseas and dependent territories will make the final decision on their implementation of EU Savings Tax Directive. [118519]

The purpose of the EU Taxation of Savings Directive is to ensure that UK and other EU residents pay the tax due on all their savings income. All of the relevant associated and dependent territories, apart from the Cayman Islands, have made commitments that they will apply the same measures as in the Directive. The UK will do its utmost, within the framework of its constitutional arrangements, to ensure that appropriate measures in respect of all the relevant dependent or associated territories are in place in time for the Directive to come into effect from 1 January 2005.

G8 Summit

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on progress made at the G8 Summit (a) on greater debt relief and (b) financing for development. [118413]

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave in the Chamber earlier today to my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke), and my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, West (Valerie Davey) and for Conwy (Mrs. Williams).

Illegal Meat Importation

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many Customs and Excise staff will be employed in Wales to implement the new legislation on illegal meat importation; and where they will be based. [118537]

Customs' new anti-smuggling teams targeted at illegal meat imports are mobile and will be deployed at any UK port or airport. Locations of their deployment will be varied according to risk. All anti-smuggling staff who cover Wales now include illegal meat among their responsibilities.

Intelligence Officers (Wales)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether extra intelligence officers will be employed in Wales to counteract the loss of front-line anti-smuggling officers. [118535]

Customs will maintain the current intelligence resource levels, but will deploy them differently to combat the changing nature of criminality in Wales. They will work more closely with partner law enforcement agencies to focus on the threats posed whether they are drugs, other illegal goods or terrorism. In particular, they are joining with South Wales, Gwent and Dyfed Powys police forces to form a new Joint Intelligence Cell in Bridgend. They will make use of constant quality intelligence sources, from all over the world, and be able to determine the necessary Customs response to call upon mobile teams whether the threat is inland or at ports or airports.Moreover, under Customs' plans there will be an overall increase in the deployment of mobile teams to Wales, from a contingent of 100 officers based in Wales and the West Midlands, supported by the National Strike Force. This capability to deploy larger numbers of officers on unpredictable targeted operations will provide a real deterrence to professional smugglers and bootleggers.

Postal Services (Vat)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to introduce VAT on postal services. [118310]

The European Commission has recently published proposals to amend the provisions of the Sixth VAT Directive concerning the VAT arrangements applicable to postal services. Postal services provided by the universal service provider, Royal Mail, are currently exempt from VAT, and the Government believe that the vital social role played by the universal postal service should continue to be reflected in the tax system. The Government are therefore opposed to VAT on stamps, and will make this clear in negotiations on the proposals. Amendments to the Sixth VAT Directive must be agreed unanimously by member states.

Rosyth

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the level of Customs and Excise operations deployed to monitor ferry arrivals and departures through Rosyth, during each month since the service commenced. [118313]

Since the service commenced Customs officers have met every ferry arrival. Departures have been monitored according to risk based on intelligence.

Unitary Authority Workers' Earnings

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proportion of full-time workers in (a) Scotland, (b) each of the unitary local authority areas in Scotland and (c) Great Britain have hourly earnings gross pay (i) including and (ii) excluding overtime, below (A) £7.41, (B) £5.55 and (C) £4.20 in the categories (1) male manual, (2) male non-manual, (3) all male workers, (4) female manual, (5) female non-manual, (6) all female workers, (7) all manual, (8) all non-manual and (9) all workers. [118711]

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from Colin Mowl to Annabelle Ewing, dated 12 June 2003:

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent question on the distribution of average hourly earnings for workers in Great Britain, Scotland and the unitary authorities in Scotland. I am replying in his absence. (118711)
I have arranged for the data requested to be placed in the House of Commons Library. The information provided shows the proportion of people earning below the different thresholds you listed, both including overtime (Table 1) and excluding overtime (Table 2).
The NES can provide earnings data for small geographical areas. However, the release of NES data is restricted to figures that are derived from a sufficiently large sample of employees, and have an acceptable level of accuracy and I have provided the available data for Scotland, the unitary authorities in Scotland and Great Britain only for those areas where the samples are large enough. These are based on the 2002 NES, the latest survey for which data are available.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) weekly median earnings and (b) distribution of earnings are for those earning (i) under the point below which 10 per cent.of earners fall and (ii) the point above which 10 per cent. of earners exceed, broken down by (A) all manual, (B) all non-manual, (C) all workers, (D) male manual, (E) male non-manual, (F) all male workers, (G) female manual, (H) female non-manual and (I) all female workers in (1) Scotland and (2) each of the unitary local authority areas in Scotland. [118712]

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician. I have asked him to reply.

Letter from C. Mowl to Annabelle Ewing, dated 12 June 2003:

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent question concerning the distribution of weekly earnings for workers in Scotland and the unitary authorities in Scotland. I am replying in his absence. (118712)
I refer you to the answer given to your previous question 99978, Official Report No. 64, col 541, which contains the information requested.
The April 2003 New Earnings Survey data is expected to be published in mid-October 2003.

World Bank/International Monetary Fund

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what his policy is on reform of representation of poor countries on the World Bank and IMF. [118414]

In our 2000 White Paper—"Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor"—the Government made a commitment to strengthen the voice of developing countries in the international system. We are actively pursuing this agenda in three broad ways both at the IMF and World Bank.Firstly, strengthening developing country offices in the IMF and World Bank. Many of these offices suffer from a lack of capacity, combined with a heavy workload. That is why, earlier this year, we pushed for the provision of extra staff to the Sub-Saharan African offices. This was subsequently agreed at both the Fund and Bank. We also support the provision of more training opportunities, improved links between Washington-based delegations and their Capitals and the creation of a Fund that these offices can draw on to finance analysis.Secondly, we actively encourage the two institutions to recognise their own role in strengthening the representation of developing countries, for example through increased staff diversity.Thirdly, increasing developing country representation and voting rights on the Executive Board. The UK believes that the issues of developing country representation on the Executive Board—particularly for Africa—and increasing the basic vote, both merit serious consideration.All of these issues are being discussed at both the IMF and World Bank and the UK will continue to push for early and substantive progress.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the need for greater representation for poor countries on (a) the World Bank and (b) the International Monetary Fund. [118678]

The Department for International Development and the Treasury continually assess the effectiveness of the IMF and World Bank. And a central pillar of our efforts to increase their effectiveness has been to encourage greater developing country ownership of policy reforms and decisions.Experience suggests that when countries 'own' their policies, they are more likely to implement them. That is why both IMF and World Bank resources are increasingly being used in support of country-led strategies, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers.This ownership agenda also extends to the institutions themselves. In our 2000 White Paper—"Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor"—the Government made a commitment to strengthen the voice of developing countries in the international system. The need to address this problem was subsequently endorsed by all UN member states at the International Conference on Financing for Development in March 2002.Since then the IMF and World Bank have been actively progressing this agenda, most recently at their spring meetings in April. The UK has strongly supported this work and will continue to push for early and substantive progress.

World Poverty

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what contribution the UK is making towards meeting the 2015 targets for reducing world poverty. [117934]

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) on 11 June 2003, Official Report, column 754W.

World Summit On Sustainable Development

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which United Kingdom commitments arising from the World Summit on Sustainable Development (a) have been incorporated into the Department's existing delivery plan for Service Delivery Agreements and (b) will be incorporated in its delivery plan for Service Delivery Agreement in advance of the 2004 Spending Review. [113875]

The Chancellor and I welcome the outcome and commitments made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) last year, and will work with other Government Departments and in the international community to meet them.In relation to the 2003–06 Spending Review period, the Treasury has adopted a specific Service Delivery Agreement (SDA 10.1) to work with other Departments and with other EU partners to appraise the sustainable development implications of policy proposals. Although the Treasury's current Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets do not specifically refer to WSSD commitments, as they were agreed before the Summit, PSA 4 is relevant to WSSD commitments. It reads:

[To] promote UK economic prospects by pursuing increased productivity and efficiency in the EU, international financial stability and increased global prosperity, including especially protecting the most vulnerable.

Fulfilling this objective includes promoting increased global prosperity and social justice, through working to increase the number of countries, including the poorest, successfully integrated into the global economy, making progress on debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Decisions as to what may be incorporated into delivery plans in advance of the 2004 Spending Review have not yet been reached.

Prime Minister

Inquiries

To ask the Prime Minister how many (a) public and (b) judicial inquiries the Government have set up into events which took place (i) before and (ii) after May 1997; and how much they have so far cost. [117933]

Since May 1997 two inquiries have been established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921: the Bloody Sunday Inquiry (1998) under Lord Saville and the Shipman Inquiry (2000) under Dame Janet Smith DBE. The latest available costs are £107.6 million and £11.75 million respectively.There have been a number of inquiries of different forms established since May 1997 either under other statutory provisions or on an ad hoc, non-statutory basis, dealing with events both before and after 1997. Examples include:

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (established 1997), under Sir William McPherson;
The BSE Inquiry (1997), under Lord Phillips;
The Ladbroke Grove Inquiry (1999) under Lord Cullen;
The Royal Liverpool Children's Inquiry (1999) under Mr. Michael Redfern QC.

There have also been a large number of other inquiries under various statutes, for example planning inquiries, inquiries into road schemes and inquiries into local health service issues.

A comprehensive list of all inquiries and their costs is not maintained centrally.

International Development

Common Agricultural Policy

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what further action he will take to ensure that the common agricultural policy and international trade rules are reformed in order to promote trade for poor countries. [118302]

As it stands, the EU common agricultural policy imposes high costs on developing countries and is unsustainable as EU enlargement becomes operational. We are committed to reaching agreement by June on the current proposals for reform of the common agricultural policy, as a first important step towards broader EU agriculture reforms in future.Agreement on EU CAP reform and movement of the US position on export credits and food aid are key to ensuring a successful outcome in Cancun. DFID is working hard—both through officials' and high-level meetings—to ensure that the WTO agriculture negotiations don't stall and that current polarisation is overcome. Our objective is a set of trade rules which meet the commitments made in Doha to making this round a true "development" round, by taking adequate account of the special needs of developing countries.

Debt Relief

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what proposals his Department has to encourage greater involvement of poor countries in the decision-making process of debt relief initiatives. [118428]

The UK was influential in getting agreement, at the 1999 Annual Meetings of the World bank and IMF, to the consultation process on the design of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative being widened to include developing countries. In order to ensure developing country involvement in discussions about the delivery of debt relief, we and other donor countries are co-financing the HIPC Ministerial Network, as part of the HIPC Capacity Building Project. This network, which held its first meeting in Copenhagen in November 1999, brings together, once or twice a year, Finance Ministers and senior officials from all of the HIPC countries to discuss issues relating to the design and implementation of the HIPC Initiative. These meetings help to inform our own views on debt issues. The Commonwealth HIPC Forum also provides an important platform for Ministers from HIPC countries to discuss matters of mutual interest, and has stimulated wider debate within the Commonwealth, as well as within the International Financial Institutions themselves. The UK also contributed to the recent review of the HIPC Initiative by the Operations Evaluations Department (OED) of the World Bank, and funded two meetings between the evaluators and HIPC representatives, to allow HIPC countries to feed in their views. The OED report has now been published.

Democratic Republic Of The Congo

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on the purpose of the Interim Emergency Multinational Force to be deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with particular reference to disarming the militia groups in Ituri province. [118471]

The objectives of the Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF) are to assist the UN by providing a short-term interim force to enable the reinforcement of the UN MONUC forces in Bunia in the Ituri province. The IEMF aims to contribute to the security of Bunia in order to allow the Ituri Interim Administration to function and improve the humanitarian situation. It also aims to protect the airport and the internally displaced persons in the camps in Bunia and, if the situation requires it, contribute to the safety of the population and of UN personnel in the town. The disarming of militia groups, most of which are outside Bunia, will not be part of the IEMF's mandate.

Fair Trade

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development what initiatives he will bring forward at the September World Trade Organisation's ministerial meeting in Mexico in order to promote trade for poor countries; and if he will make a statement. [118303]

The EU is committed to giving developing countries better trading opportunities through greater access to both its agricultural and non-agricultural markets by reducing tariff barriers, tackling all forms of export subsidies and substantially reducing trade-distorting domestic support. The Government are working with its partners, both in the EU and internationally, to ensure that developing countries gain real benefits from the Doha round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations. Critical to this effort will be securing a successful outcome at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun in September. This will require real progress on the issues that matter most developing countries such as agriculture, TRIPS and public health, and special and differential treatment.In addition, the Government are funding a variety of initiatives to help developing countries to set their own trade policies to reduce poverty. This includes improving developing countries' ability to negotiate favourable deals in trade negotiations, helping them interpret trade agreements, and supporting them in taking advantage of new international trading opportunities. To this end, the government have committed £45 million to trade-related capacity building since 1998.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development whether he will meet a delegation from CAFOD to discuss Trade Justice during the week commencing 23 June 2003. [118304]

DFID is hosting an open day to discuss trade and development issues on 26 June 2003. All members of the UK Trade Network—a grouping of non-governmental organisations working on trade and development issues of which CAFOD is a member— have been invited. I will be speaking to members of the UK Trade Network during the morning session and hope to meet the CAFOD delegation then.

G8 Summit

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if he will make a statement on the debt relief and the Millennium Development Goals outcomes of the G8 Summit in Evian. [118429]

The G8 met in Evian on 1 to 3 June 2003 and discussed a number of issues relating to international development:

on Africa, significant progress was made on areas such as conflict resolution. It was agreed to expand the group of Africa Personal Representatives and meet at the Africa Partners Forum in November 2003;
the G8 supported the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, as part of wider work on corruption. We are now working towards a Conference on the Initiative in mid-June 2003;
there was support for the International Finance Facility, which would significantly increase volumes of aid, up to 2015. Finance Ministers were asked to report by September 2003 on financing instruments, including this facility;
there was a commitment to making the WTO Ministerial Cancun a success;
the outcome on Access to Medicines includes some specific actions for G8 countries, which we will push forward in coming months in our country programmes;
the UK announced a further $80 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, while calling for improvements in its management. Other EU countries will announce their commitments at the European Council in late June 2003; and
the G8 renewed their commitment to eradicating polio by 2005.
On the issue of debt relief, the G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the full implementation and financing of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. They agreed that the World bank and IMF should be asked to: identify, by their next annual meetings, the specific impediments to further progress in each country and the steps needed to tackle them; intensify their efforts to secure the full participation of all creditors by exploring further options to deal with litigation issues; and review by this coming September, the methodology for calculating the amount of 'topping up' debt relief available to countries at Completion Point based on updated cost estimates, including the impact on commodity price fluctuations, so that countries exit the HIPC process with sustainable levels of debt.

Landmines

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development if she will place copies of the most recent reports and recommendations on (a) Kosovo, (b) Cambodia and (c) Sudan by the Department's consultant adviser on mine action in the Library. [117186]

I will arrange for copies of the required reports to be placed in the Libraries of the House. It should be noted that these reports and the opinions expressed in them should not be interpreted as necessarily reflecting the views or policy of DFID.

Sustainable Development

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development when the departmental strategy for sustainable development will be published; and what steps are being taken or are planned to take forward the actions outlined. [118419]

DFID's strategy to implement the Framework for Sustainable Development on the Government Estate was published, in accordance with the DEFRA guidelines, on our internet site at www.dfid.gov.uk in October 2002. This sets out timetables and planned activities to meet the relevant targets which have been set so far. The website information will also be updated to reflect the progress to date.

Uk Overseas Territories

To ask the Minister of State, Department for International Development how much was paid in aid to each UK overseas territory since 1993. [118520]

DFID bilateral disbursements in respect of the Overseas Territories for each of the UK financial years from 1993/94 to 2002/03 are set out in the table below. All 2002/03 figures are provisional at this stage.

Country/Year£000

Total DFID Programme
Anguilla
1993–943,271
1994–952,142
1995–961,226
1996–971,362
1997–982,520
1998–991,977
1999–20002,058
2000–012,234
2001–021,847
2002–03 (provisional)1,040
Bermuda
1993–9424
1994–9537
1995–9630
1996–9757
1997–9830
1998–990
1999–200013
2000–014
2001–020
2002–03 (provisional)0
British virgin Islands
1993–941,515
1994–95308
1995–96592
1996–971,085
1997–98604
1998–99622
1999–2000517
2000–01186
2001–0289
2002–03 (provisional)90
Cayman Islands
1993–943
1994–9586
1995–9621
1996–970
1997–980
1998–9923
1999–0018
Country/Year£000

Total DFID Programme
2000–0120
2001–023
2002–03 (provisional)0
Falkland Islands
1993–9412
1994–9588
1995–9619
1996–974
1997–980
1998–990
1999–20000
2000–010
2001–020
2002–03 (provisional)0
Gibraltar
1993–94142
1994–95179
1995–9677
1996–97118
1997–9854
1998–9928
1999–200023
2000–0127
2001–0223
2002–03 (provisional)6
Montserrat
1993–945,689
1994–955,766
1995–966,554
1996–9714,441
1997–9837,866
1998–9931,096
1999–200022,540
2000–200120,811
2001–200224,417
2002–2003 (provisional)23,797
Pitcairn Island
1993–94108
1994–95180
1995–96203
1996–97160
1997–9876
1998–99148
1999–200099
2000–0118
2001–0226
2002–03 (provisional)34
St Helena (and Tristan Da

Cunha)
1993–949,057
1994–958,161
1995–969,267
1996–977,990
1997–988,765
1998–998,805
1999–20009,363
2000–0110,116
2001–0210,106
2002–03 (provisional)8,533
Turks and Caicos Islands
1993–9410,049
1994–954,387
1995–962,674
1996–973,031
1997–982,569
1998–993,808
1999–20004,044
2000–012,848
2001–022,754
2002–03 (provisional)1,528

In addition, European Development Fund cumulative allocations to the UK Overseas territories since 1993 total some €86.33 million (about £57.55 million). This sum, some of which is still being committed to or spent on approved development activities, has been shared amongst eligible UK Overseas Territories as follows:

Euros

£ Sterling
(approx thousands)

Anguilla

14,4509,633
British Virgin4,9003,266
Islands
Cayman Islands1,6001,067
Montserrat24,90016,600
St Helena (and18,15012,100
Tristan Da Cunha)
Turks & Caicos16,28010,853
Islands
Falkland Islands3,7002,467
Pitcairn Island2,3501,566

The UK share of the above EOF allocations over the period is estimated at some €10.79 million (approximately £7.2 million).

Trade And Industry

3G Network

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what regulations the Department plans to introduce in conjunction with the mobile telecom industry to protect minors from adult content viewed over the 3G network. [119233]

The industry is in the process of drawing up a self-regulatory code of practice, which will introduce safeguards to protect minors from accessing adult content via mobile phones.

Arbre Project

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) whether the Arbre project will qualify for bioenergy funds under the (a) Bioenergy Capital Growth Scheme and (b) Energy Crops Scheme to help farmers and foresters establish energy crops; and what representations she has received to make these grants to the Arbre project; [118405](2) when the Arbre project will be in position to take willow coppice to the Vale of York; [118406](3) whether farmers with contracts to supply willow coppice to the Arbre project may be compensated under the

(a) Bioenergy Capital Grant Scheme and (b) Energy Crops Scheme following the plant going into liquidation. [118407]

The Bioenergy Capital Grants Scheme is a joint DTI/New Opportunities Fund scheme to provide support towards the capital costs of new bioenergy plant. All of the available £66 million of funding has been allocated to 21 projects throughout the United Kingdom.

Defra's Energy Crops Scheme provides grants to establish crops for any valid heat, combined heat and power and electricity generation end use. Grants of £280,000 have been made to plant 280 hectares of short rotation coppice (SRC) under the Energy Crops Scheme. 1,157 hectares of SRC had previously been planted under the Forestry Commission's Woodland Grant Scheme at a cost of approximately £1 million.

Funding for the capital cost of the Arbre demonstration project has come from the European Commission and the project partners, with support for the establishment of energy crops coming from the Forestry Commission and Defra.

DTI have not received a request for assistance from the purchasers of the Arbre plant, but have agreed to consider any proposals to minimise the technology risk of taking the plant to full operation. Any support would be from our research and development programme.

In terms of the farmers with contracts to supply the Arbre project, that is essentially a commercial undertaking between the farmers and the owners of the plant. No compensation would be paid from the schemes mentioned.

Defra's Energy Crops Scheme provides a one-off payment when the crop is established. It is a condition of the grant that the crop is used to produce energy. Arbre growers are setting up a producer group to harvest and market their energy crops with assistance from the Energy Crops Scheme and Objective 1 funding. The scheme does not restrict growers to supplying the Arbre plant and they can seek alternative markets.

Whether the crops come from the Vale of York is a matter for the owners of the Arbre plant as they decide on a route to commercial operation of the plant.

Arms Trade

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list, by year, the licences, including military and dual use ratings, granted for the export of small arms to all countries in sub-Saharan Africa. [117930]

Prior to May 1997 previous Administrations have not considered it appropriate routinely to publish information on individual licensing decisions. Since May 1997 details of all export licences issued for small arms are published by destination in the Government's Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls, copies of which are available from the Libraries of the House.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received from the UK Working Group on Arms as part of her consultation on the secondary legislation for the Export Control Act 2002. [118942]

The UK Working Group on Arms (UKWGA) has submitted two separate responses to the consultation on the Export Control Act 2002 draft secondary legislation.

Biofuels

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which Minister in her Department is responsible for trade policy on the development of biofuels. [117590]

[holding answer 9 June 2003]: As Minister for Energy, I am responsible for the development of energy generation from renewable sources including biomass. This includes both developing the home market and encouraging the industry to seek opportunities overseas. In this work I am assisted by Renewables UK, a DTI unit that I established last year. Naturally, in this I act in liaison with my hon. Friend the Minister for International Trade and Investment, with her wider responsibilities for UK Trade Policy.Lead responsibility within Government for the development of biofuels for transport lies with my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Transport.

British Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the recent loss announced by British Energy; how much public money has been given to support British Energy in each of the last three years; and what plans there are to continue this support during (a) 2003 and (b) 2004. [118466]

The bulk of British Energy's (BE) reported loss is made up of asset write-downs. These are based on expected future cash flows of the business, as reflected in the company's restructuring plan, and consequently have already been taken into consideration when considering the on-going viability of the business.On 9 September 2002 the Government agreed to provide BE with a credit facility for up to £410 million in respect of its working capital requirements and cash collateral for trading in the UK and North America. On 26 September 2002 the Government agreed to extend the facility and increase it from £410 million up to £650 million. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry informed the House on 7 March 2003,

Official Report, column 89WS that BE had repaid to Government all outstanding amounts under the facility. On a contingency basis the facility has been extended at a reduced level of £200 million to the earlier of 30 September 2004 or the date on which the company's restructuring plan becomes effective. As part of BE's restructuring, the Government plan to meet the cost of BE's historic nuclear fuel liabilities. This will include a payment of £175 million in financial year 2004–05 in line with the Secretary of State's statement of 28 November.

Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when letters from the hon. Member for Thurrock were recently received in her office; when they were referred to the Minister of State; why no holding letter has been sent to the hon. Member; and when she will make a substantive reply. [118897]

The first letter from my hon. Friend was received in my office on 6 February 2003 and was delegated to my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Construction on 7 February 2003, for him to reply on my behalf.A subsequent letter was received on 14 March 2003 and delegated again to the Minister for Energy and Construction. Unfortunately, due to an oversight, replies to neither letter were issued.I have now seen a copy of my hon. Friend's original letter, and after further consideration, it has been transferred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for reply, as the subject falls within the responsibility of his Department.I regret the time it has taken to process these pieces of correspondence and have asked for steps to be taken to ensure that there is no repeat of the problem.

Energy Efficiency

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will list the targets she has set to improve energy efficiency within her Department; and how she intends to achieve those targets. [117713]

In common with all other Government Departments, DTI is working towards the interim energy targets for the Government Estate:

An on-going 1 per cent. per annum reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, expressed in terms of carbon savings. New energy targets are now being developed on an assessment of the Estate's performance against national standards. Using this information, we will set new targets for reducing our energy consumption. These targets will be central to the energy section of the Framework and will be put in place during 2003.
Minimum of 10 per cent. of green energy is purchased by March 2008
To help meet this target, DTI undertook an estate-wide energy audit to identify areas where further savings could be made. This resulted in the enhancement of a DTI Building Energy Management System and the installation of Inverter Variable Speed Drives.Other measures which contribute to this target include; ISO 14001 certified Environmental Management Systems across the DTI HQ estate; 33 per cent. of electricity in the DTI HQ estate is purchased from renewable sources; promoting environmental and energy awareness to DTI staff through 'Green Teams' who disseminate green and energy issues to their colleagues; a number of specific measures such as installation of solar film for windows.

Energy Sources

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what resources have been allocated towards developing the production capabilities of (a) renewables and (b) alternative energy sources in each year since 1997. [116250]

I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on 9 December 2002, Official Report, column 70W.

Eu Enlargement

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she has carried out to encourage British industry to prepare for the export potential provided by the entry of the 10 accession countries into 2004. [118353]

[holding answer 10 June 2003]: I have ensured that my Department is active in promoting the benefits of enlargement to British industry.The DTI is working very closely with the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office and other Departments to help ensure that British industry does takes full advantage of the opportunities in the new markets.British Trade International is supporting a programme of 30 outward trade missions to the 10 accession states in this financial year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research her Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the export potential provided by the 10 accession countries; and if she will make a statement in terms of the effect on GDP. [118354]

[holding answer 10 June 2003]: The Department has not commissioned external research on the export potential provided by the 10 accession countries.The Department's officials are completing an analysis of the trade and investment impact of EU enlargement, which we intend to publish as soon as possible, but research [for CEPR

1 ] forecasts that enlargement will add 1.5 per cent. to the new members' GDP and boost EU GDP by 0.2 per cent. The UK's share could be worth £1.75 billion per annum.

[1 "The costs and benefits of eastern enlargement: the impact on the EU and Central Europe" Richard E. Baldwin, Joseph F. Francois and Richard Fortes, Centre for Economic Policy Research, April 1997.]

Fair Trade

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has for consultation with campaigners for fairer trade ahead of the 5th WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico. [118415]

I meet regularly with representatives from civil society to discuss the Government's international trade policy. I last met with representatives from development NGOs on 21 May to discuss how we can ensure that this is a true development round.Campaigners for fairer trade help to raise the profile of trade and development issues. It is important that Government and campaigners for trade justice continue to work together to ensure that the Doha Development Agenda becomes a reality.A representative from action Aid will be part of the official UK delegation to the WTO Ministerial Conference in Cancun and, as I announced to the House last week, I have accepted an invitation from Christian Aid to visit Guatemala prior to the Cancun meeting.

Fireworks

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the number of injuries caused by fireworks during 2002. [118241]

The total number of persons recorded as attending hospital casualty departments in Great Britain during the 2002 bonfire night period was 1,017. This represents a decrease of 25 per cent. on the 2001 total of 1,362. There were no deaths in the 2002 bonfire night period, nor are we aware of any outside the recording period.Despite the welcome fall in recorded accidents, we continue to do all we can to promote safety and to prevent misuse of fireworks.I am arranging for copies of the injury figures together with the analytical and regional tables to be placed in the Libraries of House as well as on the DTI website: www.dti.gov.uk

Fur Imports

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) of 13 May 2003, Official Report, column 166W, what research her Department has carried out into the effectiveness of the testing of labelling schemes dealing with the importation of cat and dog fur; and what the estimated cost is of such schemes. [118259]

Mislabelling can already be prosecuted: it is an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act of 1968 to apply, by any means, false or misleading statements to goods including about their composition. However, the Trade Descriptions Act is difficult to enforce in the case of made-up goods containing fur until we can ensure a robust testing method for such products.We are working with other governments and scientific advisers to develop such an enforcement mechanism as soon as possible. The Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC Ltd.) have provided advice detailing why DNA testing of these products is both difficult and, as yet, unreliable (copies of this advice are available in the Libraries of the House). However, we have identified an alternative testing method (based on mass spectrometry) that may be more reliable and are working to determine whether this is the case.The cost of mass spectrometry testing is currently €200 per sample. However, the overall cost of any scheme to test labelling of products containing furs cannot easily be estimated. The cost would be dependent on the level of testing of products that the authorities responsible for enforcing the Trade Descriptions Act considered to be necessary.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) of 11 April 2003, Official Report, column 459W, when she will report to Parliament on the issue of the importation of cat and dog fur. [118260]

My noble Friend the Minister for Trade and Investment will report to Parliament on how work is progressing on this issue before the summer recess.

Gas Order

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will publish the letter of 12 March 1999 from Transco to Ofgem. [116993]

The department is not able to publish material provided to Ofgem on a confidential basis by Transco.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the letter from Ofgem to Transco on 1 April 1999 constitutes a change to the Gas Order. [116995]

This issue will shortly be considered as part of a Judicial Review to which Ofgem is a party, and it would be inappropriate to comment whilst legal proceedings are underway.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if there is a requirement for Ofgem to consult stakeholders before making changes to the Gas Order. [116997]

It is for Ofgem to decide on the administrative process for such changes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether there have been amendments to the Gas Order. [117077]

This issue will shortly be considered as part of a judicial review to which Ofgem is a party, and it would be inappropriate to comment whilst legal proceedings are underway.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether Transco is required under the Gas Order to compensate companies if it does not provide gas connection quotations within a specific timescale. [117078]

I am advised that the payment of money to certain categories of customer in respect of delayed quotations for connections is a primary feature of Ofgem's Enforcement Order against Transco.

Horizontal Amending Directive

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when her Department will publish the draft regulations and guidance on the implementation of the Horizontal Amending Directive, with particular reference to the offshore industry. [118814]

I hope to make and lay the regulations covering all sectors affected by the Horizontal Amending Directive in early July 2003, and plan to make draft guidance on them available at about the same time.

Leisure Industry

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps she is taking to improve productivity in the leisure sector. [117069]

I recognise the immense contribution that the leisure sector makes to the UK economy. This is reflected in the recent creation a new team within Trade Partners UK devoted to providing support to the leisure industry—especially in the field of exporting, where we believe there is substantial potential.

Post Offices

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) rural and (b) urban (i) post offices and (ii) sub-post offices have closed in each of the last 10 years, broken down by region. [119148]

2000–012001–022002–03
RegionUrbanRuralUrbanRuralUrbanRural
North East1401081
North West1128942512
Yorkshire and Humber10404171412
West Midlands5318162213
South West1148726318
South East26527291823
London91171431
East of England10601221716
East Midlands342533247
Northern Ireland4174248
Scotland757521137
Wales961323117
Total106441681942301115
1 Includes 102 closures under Post Office Ltd's urban reinvention programme

Primary Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of total primary energy is generated by (a) renewables including heat and (b) electricity generation not including heat. [118570]

In 2002, 1.4 per cent. of the UK's total primary energy consumption was provided by renewables. This includes both renewables used to provide heat and renewables used for electricity generation. Primary electricity, namely nuclear, hydro and non-thermal renewables such as wind, accounted for 9.0 per cent. of total primary energy consumption.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of total primary energy is generated by (a) renewables including heat and (b) electricity generation not including heat in Wales. [118571]

Primary energy consumption is calculated only on a UK basis because sub-national data are not available for all components of primary energy consumption. Thus, the information requested is not available for Wales.

Renewable Energy

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of total electricity generation, not including heat, is generated by renewables. [118569]

In 2002, 3.0 per cent. of electricity generated in the UK was from renewable sources.

Wood Panel Industry

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will apply the renewables obligation to the wood panel industry. [116267]

The renewables obligation requires electricity suppliers in Great Britain to supply a specified and growing proportion of their electricity from renewable sources.

I understand from Post Office Ltd. that details of the total number of post office closures in the United Kingdom, recorded both by region/country and urban/rural classification are only available from March 2000 and are as follows:Suppliers are expected to produce 10.4 per cent. of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010–11 and have three ways in which to comply with the obligation:

through supplying eligible renewables electricity to customers in Great Britain;
buying renewable obligation certificates independently of the power that gave rise to their issue; and/or
paying a buy-out price to Ofgem rather than supplying renewables electricity.

The obligation is not therefore applicable to specific industries, such as the wood panel industry.

Transport

Driving Tests

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many examiners are employed by the Driving Standards Agency, broken down by Government office region; and what plans he has to increase the number of examiners. [118805]

The 11 Government office regions are covered by five Driving Standards Agency area offices. The number of examiners employed in each area is as follows.

DSA areaGovernment office

regions
Number of

examiners
London and South EastLondon, South East324
Midlands and EasternEastern, East Midlands, West

Midlands
417
Wales and WesternSouth West, Wales271
NorthernNorth West, North East,

Yorkshire and the Humber
371
ScotlandScotland130
Total1,513
The agency has recently recruited over 130 driving examiners and plans to recruit a further 330 over the coming year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment he has made of the average time taken for a follow-up driving test following an initial failure to pass a test; and if he will make a statement. [118804]

Demand for driving tests has increased from some 1,637,000 in 2002–03 to an estimated 1,746,000 in 2003–04. As a result, the national average waiting time for a practical car driving test has risen to nine weeks, compared with the published target of six weeks. The waiting time applies to all applications for test appointments, irrespective of whether for a first or a subsequent test.To meet the rising demand for driving tests and to reduce waiting times the Driving Standards Agency has recently recruited over 130 driving examiners and plans to recruit 330 more in the coming year.

Parking Penalties

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when changes were last made to the penalties for parking on a single yellow line; and if he will make a statement. [118908]

Responsibility for enforcement of illegal parking on yellow lines rests with the police or, where enforcement has been decriminalised, the relevant local authority.Fixed penalties issued by the police for illegal parking were last changed in November 2000 when the penalty was increased from £30 to £40 in London and £20 to £30 outside London.Penalty charge levels for decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) in England outside London are prescribed by the Secretary of Stale for Transport and were last changed in May 2001 when he prescribed that authorities may select either £40. £50 or £60 as the penalty charge. The penalty is discounted by 50 per cent. if paid within 14 days of issue of the penalty charge notice.Penalty charges for DPE in London are set by the Association of London Government Transport and Environment Committee and subject to approval by the Mayor. The London penalty charge bands were increased on 1 April this year to £60, £80 and £100. Again the penalty is discounted by 50 per cent. if paid within 14 days of issue of the penalty charge notice.

Rail Safety (Potters Bar)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how he plans to respond to the conclusions and recommendations of the May Progress Report by the Health and Safety Executive Board concerning the Potters Bar derailment; what plans he has for a public inquiry into the derailment; and if he will make a statement. [118064]

The Health and Safety Commission (H SC) and the Secretary of State for Transport will need to consider the implications of the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) Investigation Board report of 29 May, the response of the rail industry to the recommendations and the continuing British Transport Police investigation before deciding whether the issues raised by the Potters Bar derailment would benefit from investigation by a public inquiry.

Environment, Food And Rural Affairs

Coffee

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures her Department has established to manage better the international supply of coffee. [117076]

Coffee is traded on a free market. Any attempt to intervene in the international coffee market to manage supply is unlikely to work. However, the Government share the concern for the way that coffee growers have been hit by low prices and deteriorating quality, largely as a result of global over supply and structural imbalances in the industry.We support action to improve the sustainability of the coffee supply chain and to improve co-operation between all market participants. The UK is a member, through the EU, of the International Coffee Organisation (ICO), a United Nations body established to, amongst other things,

"achieve a reasonable balance between world supply and demand on a basis which will assure adequate supplies of coffee at fair prices to consumers and markets for coffee at remunerative prices to producers…to facilitate the expansion and transparency of international trade in coffee".

Officials from the Department regularly attend meetings of the ICO. They also meet with representatives of the coffee trade, other interested organisations and other Government Departments with an interest in coffee matters. They also consider representations and reports provided by these organisations.

Rural Transport Partnership

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the transport schemes funded since the initiation of the Rural Transport Partnership scheme: and how much funding each scheme received. [117527]

A total of 85 Rural Transport Partnerships have been funded since the launch of the scheme in 2001. Defra has provided nearly £5 million of funding for these schemes through the Countryside Agency. A complete list of the Rural Transport Partnerships and the level of funding for each scheme has been placed in the Library of the House. Further details of these schemes can be found at www.countryside.gov.uk/vitalvillages.

Abattoirs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many working abattoirs there were in (a) 1980, (b) 1985, (c) 1990, (d) 1995 and (e) 2000; how many there are now; and if she will make a statement. [117743]

The numbers of red meat abattoirs in Great Britain for the five-year intervals from 1980 until 2000 were as follows:

Red meat abbatoirs
1980–811,135
1985–861,000
1990–91779
1995–96488
2000–01359

Source:

The Meat and Livestock Commission.

In 2002–03 there were 320 red meat abattoirs in Great Britain.

Animal Sanctuaries

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what financial support her Department has given to animal sanctuaries in the United Kingdom since 1997. [117865]

The department does not provide financial support to animal sanctuaries. However, a considerable number of animal sanctuaries are registered charities. The Government have policies in place to increase the value of these charitable gifts by generous tax concessions, thereby supporting the work of all charities without compromising their independence.As part of the Government's policy to encourage more people to give to charity, the tax incentives for charitable giving were improved in Budget 2000, and further built upon in Budget 2002. There are now no limits on the amounts that individuals can give through the Gift Aid and Payroll Giving Schemes. In addition, tax relief is available on gifts to charity of listed shares and securities, land and buildings. Businesses can also get tax relief when they donate money, stock or equipment to charities in general.

Animal Welfare

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has for promoting alternative methods of testing other than using animals. [115584]

Responsibility for policy on the use of animals in scientific procedures rests with the Home Office.

Defra is playing a full part in collective efforts led by the Home Office to promote the fullest application of the 3Rs—the replacement of procedures with others which do not use animals, the reduction of the number of animals used and the refinement of procedures to minimise pain and suffering—including the inter-Departmental Concordat on Data Sharing and other measures. Among other things, signatories to the concordat aim to minimise data requirements for animal tests as far as possible; encourage data sharing between clients, wherever appropriate, and to identify and overcome any procedural and legal barriers to data sharing.

Departmental Report

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the cost was of publishing her Department's annual report for each of the past five years; and if she will provide a breakdown of the costs incurred. [118722]

The Defra annual report for 2002 was produced with the assistance of the Central Office of Information at a cost of £17,887, exclusive of VAT. These costs were in relation to proof-reading, design, layout and artwork and production of the web version of the report.The printing of the document was handled by The Stationary Office Ltd. They bore the full cost of printing and publishing.The costs for the 2003 Departmental Report have not yet been finalised. The production costs and any print costs for the previous three Annual Departmental Reports for MAFF could be supplied only at a disproportionate cost.

Beef Exports

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to her answer of 4 June 2003, Official Report, column 409W, ref. 116584, how much beef was exported over the last three years; and what plans she has to increase this. [118581]

The following table shows UK exports of beef of both UK and non-UK origin for the last three years. It is not possible to distinguish between exports of beef of UK origin and beef of non-UK origin which has been imported into the UK and subsequently exported.

Exports of beef and veal from United Kingdom 2000–02
Unit: Thousand tonnes,

carcase weight equivalent
20008.9
20018.3
2002110.4
1Provisional data

Note:

Figures include an estimate for unrecorded trade.

Sources:

HM Custom and Excise OTS

DARD, Northern Ireland

One of the commercial difficulties for beef exporters has been the constrictive nature of the conditions of the Date Based Export Scheme (DBES) which still prohibits the export of bone-in beef more than nine months old and has very stringent cattle eligibility criteria. Another problem has been the strength of sterling against the euro. However the possibility that the DBES can be modified or dismantled altogether is becoming a very real prospect as the number of BSE cases continues to decline and this, combined with a strengthening of the euro is likely to improve prospects for exports of British origin beef towards the end of next year.

Business Allowances

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what value of allowances has been made available to businesses since the introduction of the Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme; and what the take up has been. [113454]

At the time of its introduction, it was estimated that the scheme would be worth £200 million in its first two years (2001–02 and 2002–03), depending on take-up. I regret that information on actual take-up is not yet available.

Avian Influenza

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations her Department has received about chicken influenza in Germany and Holland and importing poultry from these countries; and if she will make a statement. [117139]

Aside from three written Parliamentary Questions and three letters from MPs, Defra has received letters from the National Farmers Union and the British Egg Industry Council concerning the outbreak of Avian Influenza (AI) in the Netherlands and the affected part of Germany.European Community law (Council Directive 92/40/ EEC) lays down procedures for controlling AI outbreaks in EU member states. The measures taken by the Dutch and German authorities and endorsed by the European Commission follow the rules laid down in this Directive.In line with Community Law, in March 2003 Defra issued a Declaration under Regulation 27 of the Animals and Animal (Import and Export) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 introducing a ban on the import of live poultry, hatching eggs and racing/show pigeons from the Netherlands. Further Declarations have been issued prohibiting the import of poultry and hatching eggs from the affected part of Germany. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland introduced similar measures.The European Commission is keeping all member states informed of the AI situation in the Netherlands and in the affected part of Germany. The Government are satisfied that the German and Dutch Authorities are doing all that is needed to control the disease.Defra will continue to monitor the situation in both Germany and the Netherlands. Officials have reviewed and updated the AI contingency arrangements and the Department is in close touch with the UK poultry industry about measures we would take should AI appear here.

Defra has kept the industry informed and up to date information on the AI situation may be obtained from the Defra website.

Countryside And Rights Of Way Act

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect of an overspend in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 mapping exercise on other Countryside Agency programmes. [118197]

The Countryside Agency has reviewed its budget for 2003–04 across all its programmes in the light of current commitments and priorities, including mapping open country under the CRoW Act 2000, high demand for some of its programmes, and to make some efficiency savings shared across its programmes. The Agency is working with the Department and partners to ensure that planned outcomes for its key programmes are delivered and that best use is made of its budget of £98 million in 2003–04 compared with £92 million in 2002–03.

Egg Printing

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether her proposals for egg printing will allow printing to take place (a) on farm and (b) at processing factories; and if she will make a statement. [117140]

From 1 January 2004, EU rules will require all grade A hen eggs sold at retail level to be marked with an identifying code. This can be carried out either on the farm or at any approved packing centre. Eggs sold directly to the final consumer, to approved food manufacturers or to non-food establishments for processing will not have to be marked.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received about the 1 January 2004 deadline for the introduction of egg printing; and if she will make a statement. [117141]

I have received a number of representations from hon. Members and individuals about the new rules which will require all grade A hen eggs to be marked with an identifying code from 1 January 2004 but none specifically about the implementation date. Departmental officials have been working closely with industry representatives and individual egg packers to advise on the new requirements and how best to meet them.

English Wine

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures she has taken to promote English wine. [116466]

The Government fosters an environment which encourages English wine producers to innovate and exploit an expanding but highly competitive market. Close liaison between industry representatives and Defra is the cornerstone of this relationship. Officials meet regularly with the industry to discuss producer concerns, and to monitor the UK Quality and Regional Wine Schemes which were introduced by the Government to promote the quality and reputation of English wine. Defra also offers English wine at large functions that it hosts from time to time, and regularly attends industry organised events.

Fallen Stock

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received about the use of on-farm incinerators to dispose of fallen stock; and if she will make a statement. [117144]

The Department has had a number of discussions with interested parties regarding the impact of the new EU Animal By-Products Regulation and a proposal for a National Fallen Stock Collection and Disposal Scheme.We are currently working with interested organisations, including incinerator manufacturers and end-users (such as farmers) on detailed guidance on implementation of the Regulation's controls on incinerators.In the light of proposals for a national collection/ disposal scheme, representations were made to confirm that on-farm incineration continues to be a permitted disposal route for fallen stock and that incinerator manufacturers were not placed at a commercial disadvantage.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has for maintaining prices to be charged for removing fallen stock in the next five years; and if she will make a statement. [117145]

Charges for removal of fallen stock are a commercial matter between providers of fallen stock collection services and owners of the fallen stock.The Government have proposed a national fallen stock subscription scheme which would include an element of Government subsidy on a degressive basis over 3 years. However, support for the proposed scheme has been disappointing and discussions continue about options in the light of this response.

Fisheries

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what appeal process is available to communities affected by European Commission plans to remove their right to administer fish quota leasing schemes; [118307](2) what representations her Department will make to the European Commission regarding plans to remove the right of communities to administer fish quota leasing schemes; [118308](3) when her Department received notification that the European Commission planned to remove the right of communities to administer fish quota leasing schemes. [118309]

The European Commission has been investigating the schemes in the Orkney and Shetland islands since 1999. The Commission's doubts about the compatibility of the schemes with the Treaty were made clear when it opened a formal investigation into the schemes in November 2001. In its two letters of 28 November 2001, one on each of the schemes, the Commission observed that there existed:

"serious doubts on the compatibility of this aid scheme with the Guidelines for the examination of State aid to fisheries and aquaculture and, therefore, with the EC Treaty." (Official Journal C 38 of 12.02.2002 p.6 and p.11)
These letters were passed to the relevant local authority in each case soon after receipt and published in the Official Journal on 12 February 2002.The Commission Decisions of 3 June 2003 constitute the formal view of the Commission on the non-compatibility of these schemes with the Treaty. They were received at the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the EU on 4 June and sent that day to my Department and to the Scottish Executive who sent them the next day to the local authorities concerned.The Decisions require the schemes to be either ended or brought into compliance with the Treaty within two months. If this corrective action is not taken, the provisions of Article 88(2) of the Treaty and Council Regulation (EC) No. 659/1999 allow the Commission to refer the United Kingdom's non-compliance to the European Court of Justice direct. In this case it would fall to the Government, not the administrators of the scheme, to defend or bring the case.There is no specific appeal mechanism against Commission State aid Decisions. However, a member state or any natural or legal person may apply to bring an action before the European Court of Justice for annulment of a Decision on certain grounds listed in Article 230 of the Treaty.In addition, the provisions of Article 88(2) of the Treaty permit a member state to apply in exceptional circumstances for approval of a State aid by the Council acting unanimously.The Commission Decisions are still being considered. We will continue to work closely with the Scottish Executive and the local authorities involved.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the basis was for her policy on invoking the Hague Preference, in the current year, to the UK's benefit in fish stocks; what stocks qualified for the Hague Preference but were not invoked; and who the beneficiaries and losers were in each case as a result of her policy. [116966]

The policy was, as usual, to invoke Hague Preference on stocks where the UK's quota allocation would otherwise fall below the trigger level. This involves, in particular, invoking to counteract the effect of Irish invocations of Hague Preference on the UK's allocation. However, we do refrain from invoking in some cases where stocks are seriously depleted, as in these cases the operation of Hague Preference would transfer a very high proportion of other member states' allocations to the UK. This is the approach that we judge to be, overall, to the benefit of UK fishermen. For 2003 we did not invoke Hague Preference for any of the depleted North Sea stocks or for saithe in Area VI (where there was no Irish invocation).

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what EU competence exists over (a) fish, (b) shellfish, (c) other products of the sea, (d) related quotas and (e) regulation in the (i) six and (ii) 12 mile limits. [117999]

The European Union has exclusive competence over marine biological resources under the Common Fisheries Policy. Within this framework, the CFP Regulation EC 2371/2002 allows member states to take non-discriminatory conservation measures, conforming with the CFP, up to 12 miles from the shore line.

Invasive Weeds

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to assist those responsible for habitats where invasive non-native weeds are growing (a) to offset financial implications, (b) to install long-term plans to ensure these weeds are not just temporarily cleared but that all rhizomes are killed off and (c) to assist with safe disposal of cleared weeds to ensure that spread is not encouraged; and if she will make a statement. [117798]

The Department has no plans to provide specific funding to meet the costs for landowners of dealing with invasive non-native plants, although statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency, English Nature and local authorities may on occasion be involved with control projects.Guidance on control and disposal of non-native plants is made available by the Environment Agency and English Nature. Fuller details are given in the response to my hon. Friend's separate question 117799. Waste containing Japanese knot weed is controlled under the Environment Protection Act 1990.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to assist those responsible for habitats where invasive non-native weeds are growing; and if she will make a statement. [117799]

The Environment Agency and English Nature produce a range of guidance on controlling invasive non-native plants. The Environment Agency produces detailed guidance for landowners and managers on how to control a number of invasive species. In addition, English Nature has provided funding for 'The Invasive Alien Species' website (http:// www.appliedvegetationdynamics.co.uk/IAAPwebsite/ index.asp), which provides guidance for controlling problem species. Leaflets on invasive non-native pond plants produced jointly by English Nature, the Environment Agency and others also give guidance on control and on safe disposal to avoid further spread of the plants.In addition, the Department has set up a working group to undertake a fundamental Review of Non-Native Species Policy. Its report, published on 28 March 2003, is available in the House library. It includes a range of measures for dealing with invasive non-native species. We are developing, in liaison with the Devolved Administrations, the Government response to the report, and there will be public consultation later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had regarding the control of invasive non-native weeds; and if she will make a statement. [117801]

In March this year, the Department completed a Review of Non-native Species Policy. The Review involved discussions with other Government Departments, the Devolved Administrations, the statutory conservation agencies and representatives from the trade sector, animal welfare and conservation organisations. This included discussion of control of invasive non-native plants.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received regarding the role of educating gardeners and others in controlling invasive non-native weeds; and if she will make a statement. [117802]

The Department receives numerous representations on invasive non-native species. The Review of Non-native Species Policy reported that stakeholders, including gardeners, have a key role to play, for example, in avoiding further introductions of invasive non-native plants, and recommended a public education and awareness campaign. The Government are considering their response to the Review's report.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimates she has made of the costs of tackling invasive non-native weeds; and if she will make a statement. [117803]

The report of the Review of Non-native Species Policy provided rough cost estimates for national control programmes for various invasive species, including invasive non-native plants, by way of illustration of the issue. For example, the report included estimates that a national Japanese knotweed eradication programme using current techniques would cost approximately £1.56 billion. At this level of cost, national control programmes are unlikely to be feasible. This shows the importance of effective measures to prevent introductions. However, the Department is also contributing research into novel methods of control of Japanese knotweed, which may help reduce costs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research has been done into effective methods of killing invasive non-native weeds with (a) chemicals available in garden centres to tackle weeds, (b) weedkillers which have now been withdrawn from general circulation and (c) chemical preparations available only to professionals; and what plans she has to reassess the status of the withdrawn chemical preparations if they are proved to be better at tackling the problem. [117804]

The Department has undertaken a number of research projects looking into the impact of the use of pesticides on weeds in, or around, agricultural and horticultural crops. The Environment Agency's leaflet on control of invasive non-native plants gives guidance on use of chemical control. Only one research project has specifically focussed on invasive non-native plants and this is investigating alternatives to chemicals. The Department is contributing with Cornwall county council, the Environment Agency and others, to research into biological control of one of the problem species—Japanese knotweed. The study will undertake the necessary research to establish whether biological control is a feasible method for the long-term, sustainable management of Japanese knotweed in the UK.The Department is not undertaking any research into the effectiveness of withdrawn weedkillers to control invasive non-native plants. The UK's pesticide regulatory system allows for the granting of 'emergency' approvals whereby the marketing and use of plant protection products may be permitted, subject to an environmental risk assessment, for a limited period to control invasive non-native weeds if the threat they pose cannot be controlled by other means.

Meat Imports

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the estimated tonnage of illegal meat imported into the UK was in each of the last three years. [118023]

The Veterinary Laboratories Agency published a risk assessment report on 25 March 2003. This estimated the amount of illegal meat imported annually, on average, to be 7,500 tonnes, with 90 per cent. certainty that the amount of illegal meat imported will range from 2,800 tonnes to 17,500 tonnes per year.Copies of the report have been placed in the House Libraries.

Local Food Chains

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what help is available to those organisations which wish to develop local food chains. [116439]

We recognise the benefits that local food can bring and are keen to encourage the development of sustainable local food chains. Funding under the England Rural Development Programme has been used to support a range of local food chain related initiatives, including the establishment of farmers' markets and other direct sales outlets, the development of local branding initiatives and the formation of collaborative groups to market produce. We will continue to deploy our various funding schemes to encourage a flourishing local food sector. This activity will complement the measures at a regional level which the Regional Development Agencies will be implementing as part of their wider food and drink strategies.

Local Produce

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will introduce (a) rate relief and (b) other incentives to stores supplying local produce. [116349]

The information is as follows:

(a) There are reasons of both principle and of practical effect which argue against this recommendation. Non-domestic rates are designed to raise revenue for the Exchequer. Ratepayers pay rates that reflect the rental value of the property regardless of the activity that takes place within that property. Rates are not there to encourage or discourage particular types of behaviour or investment. There are innumerable worthy causes that the rates system could support by granting relief and this would introduce complexity to a system that aims to be fair and equitable. There are, however, other options, which may be more effective. The Local Government Bill will introduce a new scheme of rate relief for small businesses. Many small retailers supplying local produce could benefit under this scheme.

(b) There is growing consumer interest in local food. Many retailers have responded to this and have adopted local sourcing policies. We welcome this and want to encourage more local sourcing. We have recently financed a series of workshops organised by the Institute of Grocery Distribution, designed to bring together supermarkets and small local producers to explore how barriers to local sourcing may be overcome. In addition to this, we have just announced an extra £3 million over the next three years for Food from Britain to undertake a series of measures encouraging retailers to source more quality regional food and consumers to buy it.

Marine Resources

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she was consulted by (a) the EU constitutional convention and (b) the UK representative on the convention about the provision in the draft constitution giving EU exclusive competence over the marine resources of the sea; and what representations she (i) has made and (ii) will be making on this issue. [117723]

The line taken on this matter by the United Kingdom reflects this Department's views.

Milk Quotas

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans have been put in place to ensure that unused UK milk quota is redistributed to UK farmers after 31 March 2004; and if she will make a statement. [117147]

As a result of the Thomsen European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgment, quota holders who are no longer in active milk production will, by 31 March 2004, have to sell their milk quota, resume production, or otherwise have their quota confiscated. We anticipate that the vast majority will either sell their quota or resume production. Where quota is confiscated, under the current UK legislation the quota holder has six years in which to resume production (and thus have the quota restored to him or her) before the quota is definitively taken into the national reserve of quota, and therefore potentially available for redistribution. Under the current CAP reform proposals, this period would be reduced to two years. We would propose to consult relevant trade organisations on the basis for redistributing quota confiscated as a result of the Thomsen ECJ case, if significant amounts of quota were confiscated, and thus potentially available for redistribution.

Shellhaven Scheme

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of the Shellhaven Pact proposals in the Thames Estuary on (a) ground water levels in the Castle Point constituency and (b) the fishing industry in that area. [117994]

The Environment Agency has a duty to secure the proper use of water resources in England and Wales. The Agency advises me that the main water bearing aquifer in the area is chalk which, because it is hydraulically isolated from the surface by being deeply buried beneath London clay, will not be affected by the Shellhaven proposal.The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), an Executive Agency of Defra, provides expert scientific advice on marine and freshwater issues. It has contributed to the current public inquiry into the Shellhaven scheme given the international importance of the Thames Estuary as an area for sole spawning and juvenile sole. CEFAS has recommended that further survey work be carried out and assessment made of whether seasonal restrictions on dredging may be necessary to mitigate any adverse impact.

Ospar Commission

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action will be taken to ensure that the Government meet the commitments of the OSPAR Commission proposals of July 1998 in advance of the meeting in Bremen in June 2003. [116119]

In 1998, OSPAR agreed strategies on hazardous substances, eutrophication, radioactive substances, biodiversity, and assessment and monitoring. A strategy for offshore oil and gas was agreed the following year. These strategies set long term goals—in some cases, looking a generation ahead (i.e. 2020).The strategy with regard to hazardous substances sets the objective of preventing pollution of the maritime area by continuously reducing discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances, with the ultimate aim of achieving concentrations in the marine environment near background values for naturally occurring substances and close to zero for man-made synthetic substances. The UK has worked with other OSPAR contracting parties, including the European Commission, to update and prioritise a list of substances that cause concern for the marine environment and to identify the most appropriate additional action to achieve the objective.The objective of the strategy to combat eutrophication is to seek to achieve and maintain a healthy marine environment where eutrophication does not occur by the year 2010. A key milestone to this is the assessment of the current eutrophication status of the various parts of the OSPAR maritime area. In this assessment the UK identified 16 marine areas of concern. These are being addressed by action under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and the Nitrates Directive.

The strategy with regard to radioactive substances requires the OSPAR Commission, by the year 2020, to ensure that discharges of radioactive substances are reduced to levels where the additional concentrations in the marine environment above historic levels, resulting from such discharges, are close to zero. In July 2002, the Government published a strategy showing how the United Kingdom will contribute to the achievement of the 2020 target.

OSPAR's biodiversity strategy aims to protect and conserve ecosystems and marine biological diversity. Annex V was brought into force on 30 August 2000. Since then, the UK has prepared for the forthcoming meeting in Bremen by helping to develop a criteria for identifying threatened and declining species, developing guidelines on the identification and management of marine protected areas, developing guidance on the construction and operation of offshore wind farms, developing an agreement on sand and gravel extraction, arid the development of proposed ecological quality objectives which will be piloted in the North sea.

The strategy for oil and gas addresses the effects of offshore activity through the setting of environmental goals and the establishment of management mechanisms to achieve them. Good progress has been made, in particular with controls on chemicals being agreed and an ambitious goal being set to reduce discharges of produced water. A goal of all operators having internationally recognised environmental management systems in place by the end of 2005 has also been developed and is expected to be adopted at the meeting later this month.

In respect of assessment and monitoring, the forthcoming meeting will invite Ministers to endorse a new OSPAR strategy known as the Joint Assessment and Monitoring Programme (JAMP). This provides the framework for OSPAR's work in this area, both in support of other OSPAR strategies and to facilitate the production in 2010 of a Quality Status Report for the OSPAR maritime area.

Overall the UK has been implementing the plans and. measures set out above in accordance with these strategies, and the milestones contained within them, and has met its commitments to date.

Partnership Agreements

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether she plans to conclude a partnership agreement with the trade unions representing the staff in her Department. [117458]

Work on a partnership agreement is well in hand. Senior managers and the Department's Trade Union Side have met on several occasions to discuss partnership working in the Department and the Agencies. A further meeting is scheduled to discuss a draft policy document and subject to it being mutually acceptable we anticipate a partnership agreement will be concluded.

Rural Affairs

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on funding arrangements for the implementing of (a) the rights of way legislation and (b) the vital villages policy. [116442]

The information is as follows:

(a) Under the new burdens procedure, local authorities are being fully funded for their new duties in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. In the explanatory notes presented to Parliament with the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill in March 2000, we estimated those costs to be between £12 million and £19 million. The total funding is within this band and is paid through the unhypothecated Environment and Cultural Services Block. We are also funding various activities relating to the Act via the Countryside Agency.

(b) The Vital Villages Initiative was launched in 2001 as a three year demand led programme. It is administered by the Countryside Agency on behalf of Defra. The scheme delivered nearly £24.5 million to rural communities in its first two years of operation. A further £17 million has been budgeted for 2003–04, of which some £12 million has already been allocated. Due to the overwhelming success of the scheme there are currently more applications than available funding. Applications are being prioritised to ensure projects that benefit those communities in greatest need receive funding.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she last met the Chairman of the Countryside Agency to discuss rural proofing. [115578]

I meet Sir Ewen Cameron frequently and regularly to discuss a wide range of issues in connection with his role as Rural Advocate and his role as Chairman of the Countryside Agency. Rural proofing is a regular topic of conversation. The Secretary of State and Ministers from Defra and other Departments also meet Sir Ewen from time to time.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding she expects the Countryside Agency to give the Rural Transport Partnership in Gloucestershire in (a) 2003–04 and (b) 2004–05; and if she will make a statement. [118603]

On behalf of Defra, the Countryside Agency plans to give Gloucestershire Rural Transport Partnership a £90,000 grant over the period 2003–04 to 2004–05. The 2004–05 funds will be subject to approval after 2003–04. For each of the years 2003–04 and 2004–05 Gloucestershire RTP will receive the core costs for running the partnership (including a rural transport officer post) of £35,000, plus £10,000 delegated fund for small scale transport projects in their area.

State Veterinary Service

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many veterinary surgeons have been employed by the State Veterinary Service in each year since 1997. [118070]

[holding answer 12 June 2003]: The number of permanent veterinary surgeons (full time equivalent) employed by the State Veterinary Service at 1 January each year since 1997, is given in the table. The figures for 2002 and 2003 do not include Headquarters veterinary surgeons responsible for policy development in the Animal Health and Welfare Directorate General. In addition as at 1 January 2003 there were 58 casual and fixed term appointee veterinary staff.

YearNumber of vets
1997289.5
1998302.0
1999283.0
2000284.0
2001286.0
2002252.3
2003257.4

Defence

Animal Welfare

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the Government's policy is on the use of animal fur in the manufacture of army uniforms. [117834]

The Ministry of Defence is not aware of any Government policy on the use of animal fur in the manufacture of Army (or other military) uniforms. The Department does, however, purchase various clothing items which incorporate animal fur as part of their specification to an agreed quality standard. However, MOD is open to change and we are actively seeking suitable synthetic alternatives where feasible.

Warships

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 13 May 2003 to the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), Official Report, column 159W, on warships, which frigates will be disposed of earlier than previously planned. [117657]

As I stated in my answer of 13 May 2003, Official Report, column 159W to the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), there are currently no plans to dispose of any Royal Navy Type 23 Frigates earlier than scheduled. I also refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 12 May 2003, Official Report, column 47W to the hon. Member for New Forest, East and to the answer I gave him on 3 June 2003, Official Report, column 44W.

Nuclear Weapons

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps the Government plan to take as a contribution to the elimination of the UK nuclear arsenal, as reaffirmed at the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. [118412]