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Written Answers

Volume 622: debated on Tuesday 13 February 2001

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Written Answers

Tuesday, 13th February 2001.

Newbridge-On-Wye: Proposed Biomass Power Plant

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 19 June 2000 (

WA 9), whether the investigation into the allegations that have been made regarding the proposed biomass power plant at Newbridge-on-Wye has taken place; and, if so, whether the conclusions are available. [HL336]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry
(Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

The Department of Trade and Industry has received some information on the allegations relating to the proposed biomass power plant at Newbridge-on-Wye. Further clarification is needed before the department can make a firm decision whether or not to proceed with an investigation. This clarification has now been sought.

Ecgd: Claim Payments And Premium Income

asked Her Majesty's Government:For what reasons, in respect of defence related exports supported by the Export Credits Guarantee Department, was there a shortfall between claims paid (£789 million) and premiums paid (£213 million) for the year 1999–2000. [HL574]

The level of claims paid by ECGD in 1999–2000, both overall (£296 million) and in respect of defence business (£152 million), was largely affected by claims paid in respect of business with Indonesia insured earlier in the 1990s.Payments from Indonesia are currently being received under the terms of Indonesia's Paris Club rescheduling and ECGD expects to recover in due course the claims which it is paying currently on Indonesia.Premium income in 1999–2000 of £102 million (of which £27 million related to defence business) was in respect of new business supported in the year and not the business from earlier in the 1990s which was the subject of claims in 1999–2000.

Grant-Awarding Research Councils: Quinquennial Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Quinquennial Review of the six grant-awarding research councils will take place; and what the terms of reference for the review will be. [HL714]

I am today launching the Quinquennial Review of the grant-awarding research councils.Reviews of Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) are a key part of our programme to modernise government. The Government are committed to achieving better public services that are of higher quality and are more responsive to the needs of the people who use them. Regular NDPB reviews are an important element in ensuring that we have in place the right structures to deliver the Government's agenda effectively and to provide a strong focus on improving future performance.The purpose of the six grant-awarding councils is to deliver government policy for publicly funded research and postgraduate training. It would be impossible to conduct a fundamental review independently from that policy. For this reason, although quinquennial review of the six councils was due in 1999, it has been appropriate to postpone their quinquennial review until the outcome of the relevant policy reviews had been completed, so that the role of the councils could be considered in that context. Together the White Papers on Science and Innovation (

Excellence and Opportunity; Cmd 4814) and the Knowledge Economy ( Opportunity for All in a World of Change; Cm 2250) now provide the context for the review.

The terms of reference for the review of the research councils are:

The review will consider the six grant awarding research councils individually and collectively.

The review of the councils will be undertaken in two stages.

The first stage will examine the role and organisation of the councils, by reference to their charters and missions, evidence of work already undertaken to review and improve performance, current best practice for NDPBs and the councils' contribution to the delivery of government policy for publicly funded scientific research and training in the context of the new White Paper. It will set the detailed terms of reference for the second stage.

The second stage will examine the efficiency and effectiveness of the councils' operations. It will look for further opportunities for improving performance by reference to such issues as boundaries between the councils, management structures, aims and objectives, role of funded institutes, performance targets and service standards, use of processes and new technology, delegated authority and accountability and changes to the operating environment since the councils were awarded their Royal Charters in 1994, including the Modernising Government agenda.

The review will consider, in particular, how the councils can best fulfil their strategic role in identifying the key areas for future investment in research that will offer the best opportunities for science, social development, industrial application and economic growth.

The review will be conducted in accordance with the current Cabinet Office guidance (published on 31 January 2000) and will include consultation, either in person or in writing, with members of council, staff of the executive and the councils' customers and key stakeholders. It is expected that a number of working groups will be established to address key issues in detail in the second stage.

The review team will be directed by a review board which is chaired by the Director General of the Research Councils, Dr John Taylor, and with a membership which will include key representatives of both industry and academia drawn from the stakeholder communities. The review board will ensure that Ministers, the Treasury, the Cabinet Office, and the staff and customers of the councils are kept informed of the progress of the review and will facilitate the gathering of information for the review team and their communication with staff and other stakeholders.

The review team will be supported by officials in the Office of Science and Technology, with specialist advice as appropriate. The aim will be to complete the review within approximately six months, as recommended in the Cabinet Office guidance.

Self-Determination Claims

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will list all the regions in the world where a claim to self-determination exists. [HL502]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

Article I of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article I of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights provide that all peoples have the right of self-determination. This right has been claimed in many instances around the world. There is no agreed list of such claims.

Zimbabwe: Encouragement Of Good Governance

asked Her Majesty's Government:In the light of the recent bombing of the printing presses of the

Daily News, Harare, what action they are taking to secure their foreign policy objectives of good governance and democracy in the particular context of Zimbabwe. [HL565]

We deplore the attack on the printing presses of the Daily News. We have, with our EU colleagues, issued a statement condemning the attack, and asserting that a free and independent press is a vital element in the maintenance of democratic values and respect for the rule of law in any country. We urge the Zimbabwean Government to do all it can to bring the culprits to justice.

Sudan: Cathedral Bombing

asked Her Majesty's Government:What recent reports they have received concerning the aerial bombing of the Episcopal Church Cathedral in Lui, Equatorial Province of Sudan; and what representations they have made or are intending to make to the Sudanese authorities concerning the bombing of civilian centres such as the cathedral. [HL589]

We have received several reports from NGOs and church representatives regarding the aerial bombing of the Episcopal Church Cathedral in Lui in southern Sudan. Our Ambassador in Khartoum has made our concerns about the bombing of the cathedral, and other civilian targets, clear to the Sudanese authorities. We will continue to urge both sides in Sudan's civil war to return to the negotiating table and agree a comprehensive ceasefire.

Sudan: Abduction

asked Her Majesty's Government:What representations have been made to encourage the "Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children" set up by the Sudanese Government, in particular:

  • (a) aiding it to examine the underlying causes of slavery; and
  • (b) providing the means for independent investigators and human rights experts to work alongside the committee. [HL588]
  • Abduction is a key issue to which we pay particular attention in Sudan and we are active in our support of the Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC).Through the EU, we have part financed the work of the CEAWC. Our Ambassador in Khartoum has visited the areas affected and has attended CEAWC workshops in Khartoum to urge all concerned to greater efforts and to demonstrate our concerns. Both UNICEF and Save the Children Fund (UK) are closely involved in efforts to resolve this distressing problem.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:In view of the overwhelming evidence of the existence of slavery in Sudan, what recent representations they have made to the Government of Sudan concerning the issue. [HL590]

    Our Ambassador in Khartoum has been active in support of the Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC) and has urged all concerned, including the Government of Sudan, to greater efforts. In support of this action in Khartoum, we recently co-sponsored a United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Sudan with our EU partners. The resolution called upon the Government of Sudan to reinforce action undertaken to prevent and stop abductions of women and children, and to bring to trial any person suspected of supporting or participating in such activities.

    Zimbabwe: Freedom Of Expression

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will consult with other members of the Commonwealth and the European Union to ensure that freedom of expression in Zimbabwe is scrutinised at the forthcoming Session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and that a resolution on this matter is tabled for consideration by the Commission. [HL596]

    We are currently holding discussions with EU partners about the forthcoming session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR). There are no plans at present to table an EU resolution on Zimbabwe. However, the EU issued a statement on 31 January condemning the bombing of the Daily News printing presses. We will continue to monitor the situation in Zimbabwe closely.

    Army: Operational Tours

    asked Her Majesty's Government:If no soldier were required to serve more than one six-month emergency tour in each 24-month period, how many soldiers would now be available for deployment. [HL516]

    We do not hold the information requested centrally.We concluded during the Strategic Defence Review that, for the Army, six-month operational tours and an average interval between tours of 24 months are optimum for operational effectiveness and retention. The current average unit tour interval in the Army is around 28 months.In addition, some 21 per cent of the trained Army is currently committed to operations. This figure includes units preparing for, deployed on and recovering from operations. Within this, 15 per cent of the trained Army is currently deployed on operations.

    Defence Diversification Agency

    asked Her Majesty's Government:When the period of formal consultation with stakeholders will begin for the Defence Diversification Agency. [HL659]

    A consultative document outlining the options considered for the future of the Defence Diversification Agency and the proposed way forward is now available. Copies have been placed in the Library of both Houses and are being sent to key stakeholders. Additional copies are available on request from:

    • Deputy Director Equipment Secretariat
    • Room 2332
    • MoD Main Building
    • London SW1A 2HB
    An electronic version of the consultative document will also be made available through the MoD website. The period of consultation will end on 23 March 2001.

    Armed Forces Pay Review Body Recommendations

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What recommendations have been made in the 2001 report of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. [HL686]

    The 2001 Report of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body was published on Friday 9 February. Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House. We wish to thank the chairman and members of the review body for their hard work in producing this report.The AFPRB has recommended an increase in basic military salary of 3.7 per cent for all ranks. The AFPRB has also recommended increases in the rates of Additional Pay (eg Flying Pay, Submarine Pay and Diving Pay), the Reserves' Bounties, and in charges.These recommendations fully support the Armed Forces' strategic personnel policies, in particular in relation to recruitment and retention. The additional cost to the Defence Budget will be £222 million. This will be met within existing departmental expenditure limits.The AFPRB's recommendations are to be accepted in full, with implementation effective from 1 April 2001.In addition, alongside the copies of the review body's report, we have placed in the Library a copy of a supplementary letter from the chairman of the AFPRB recommending the introduction of two financial retention incentives for certain categories of aircrew. The additional cost of these measures will be £16.8 million in 2001–02, which will also be met within existing departmental expenditure limits.

    Doctors' And Dentists' Pay: Review Body's Supplementary Recommendation

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish the supplementary report of the Doctors' and Dentists' Pay Review Body. [HL712]

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
    (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)

    I am responding on behalf of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the supplementary report of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB). I understand that a similar announcement has been made by the First Minister and the Minister for Health and Community Care in Scotland. Copies of the reports are available in the Printed Paper Office and the Library. We are grateful to the chairman and members of the DDRB for their hard work.We announced on 18 December that the pay recommendations of the DDRB were being accepted in full and without staging. The DDRB recommended an overall pay increase of 3.9 per cent for salaried doctors and dentists and general medical and dental practitioners.To encourage the retention of general medical practitioners, the DDRB has also recommended a 7 per cent increase in seniority allowances, worth in the region of £500 for a general medical practitioner with 25 years' service. This is in addition to the 3.9 per cent increase in intended average net remuneration.The supplementary report from the DDRB covers areas of GPs income aimed at meeting the expense of running their practices and any balancing recovery from debts owed by the profession. In its considerations of what provision to make for indirectly reimbursed practice expenses and the operation of the balancing correction, the review body has recommended:provision for indirect expenses of £23,790 for each GP;a recovery of £248 per GP in accordance with normal rules; anda joint review by the BMA and Health Departments of the operation of the pay system.This should look at handling the cumulative overpayment that has occurred in the system (£2,684 per GP), the operation of the balancing mechanism and forecasting of expenses in time for next year's round.The Government have accepted DDRB's recommendation on the level of practice expenses.The Government share DDRB's concerns about the operation of the balancing mechanism, the setting of practice expenses and the management of the cumulative debt. We have decided that the BMA and the Health Departments should put work in hand immediately to develop a review of these issues. That being the case, the Government have decided to suspend the balancing mechanism pending the outcome of the review.The average GP will benefit by a further £248 above what the DDRB have recommended. In addition, we will consider constructively how to manage the cumulative debt of the profession (around £80 million) for the benefit of patients and the development of practices.DDRB also recommended that urgent agreement was needed on flu vaccination payments. Higher payments to GPs were introduced in last autumn's campaign to increase vaccination coverage of people aged 65 and over. We now propose that the whole cost of these payments, not just the proportion relating to the extra coverage achieved, should remain available for investment in general practice.The gross income of GPs will therefore increase to £80,300 pa, as shown in the following table, with effect from 1 April 2001.

    1. IANI (includes 2001 seniority increase)54,22056,510
    2. Expenses Provision24,51023,790
    3. IANI plus Expenses (1 + 2)78,73080,300
    4. Balancing recovery(261)(248)
    5. IAGI (3 + 4)78,46980,300

    Audit And Accountability: Sharman Review

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have now received Lord Sharman's review of audit and accountability in the 21st century. [HL713]

    My right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has today received Lord Sharman's review. Copies are available in the Printed Paper Office and the Library of the House.The Government are most grateful to Lord Sharman for reviewing this important and complex area, and for conducting his review so speedily.The twin principles of accountability of the Executive to Parliament and independent scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General are enormously important to good government. Present arrangements have evolved gradually over the past century and it is valuable to have the benefit of Lord Sharman's views on how these arrangements should now be developed to best fit the 21st century.The Government will consider Lord Sharman's recommendations very carefully with a view to improving the present system of accountability, and will issue a formal response in due course.

    Lord Chancellor: Judicial Sittings

    asked Her Majesty's Government:On how many occasions during the calendar year 2000 the Lord Chancellor sat judicially; and for how many days. [HL539]

    I did not sit in a judicial capacity on any occasion during the calendar year 2000.

    Metropolitan Police: Sickness

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What have been the annual sickness rates for the Metropolitan Police force over the last decade. [HL614]

    The Metropolitan Police Service has informed me that the average number of days sick per officer for the financial years 1991–92 to 1999–2000 were as shown in the table. The Metropolitan Police have no centrally collated record of average days sick per officer before 1991–92. However, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary holds statistics for the calendar year 1990 which show that the average number of days sick per officer in that year for the Metropolitan Police Service was 12.7.

    Metropolitan Police Service
    YearAverage days sick per officer

    Oakington Detention Centre

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What investigations they have conducted into allegations that Chinese women passing through Oakington Detention Centre are recruited into the sex trade on being granted temporary admission; and why they have not answered letters on this subject from Cambridge Oakington Concern dated 1 November and 18 December 2000. [HL623]

    It is to be regretted that the Home Office failed to respond promptly to correspondence from Dr Louise Pirouet of Cambridge Oakington Concern and I apologise for this failure. The matter has been raised with the appropriate sections, and will be addressed as a matter of urgency.I am assured that investigations are currently under way regarding the very serious allegations put forward by Cambridge Oakington Concern, though it would be prejudicial to speculate on the outcome of any enquiries at this stage.

    Emergency Planning: Review

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they intend to take following the agreement made at the Leeds Castle meeting of the Central Local Partnership concerning the review of emergency planning. [HL732]

    My right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister proposed that the arrangements for emergency planning in England and Wales be reviewed and we have set up a steering group to take forward this review. It will identify strengths and weaknesses in the current arrangements for emergency planning; suggest ways in which the community preparedness for emergencies can be enhanced; consult widely with stakeholders and provide advice to Ministers on the result, of the consultation.