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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 3 February 1994

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Legal Aid

Mr. Byers : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is the latest expenditure forecast for the legal aid budget in the financial year 1993-94.

Mr. John M. Taylor : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) on 20 January at columns 719 -20. Based on the latest information available it seems likely that total net expenditure on legal aid in the financial year 1993-94 will be £1,225 million compared with a provision of £1,283.2 million. The actual outturn will depend on the bills presented and paid between now and the end of the financial year.

Paintings and Photographs

Mr. Boyes : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to buy or borrow photographs ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John M. Taylor : I have no plans to buy or borrow any photographs.

Mr. Boyes : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many (a) paintings and (b) photographs there are on the walls of his rooms.

Mr. John M. Taylor : There are no paintings and three photographs on the walls of my room.

Small Personal Injury Claims"

Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what representations he received during the consultation over his document "Small Personal Injury Claims" ; and when he expects to announce the results of his consultations.

Mr. John M. Taylor : My Department has received approximately 150 responses to our recent consultation paper on small personal injury claims. Consultees cover the full spectrum of interests and include solicitors, doctors, insurance companies and consumer groups. Many of their letters deal with the proposals in great detail and provide us with much valuable input and information.

We are currently considering the points made by consultees and will be taking all arguments they put forward into account when finalising the detail of new procedures. The Lord Chancellor expects to issue draft rules of court and draft forms for consultation by the autumn.


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TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Electricity Industry

Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will strengthen consumer representation covering the electricity industry.

Mr. Eggar : I am satisfied that the electricity consumers' committees represent consumer interest effectively and have no plans to change the structure or the scope of their remit. The Director General of Electricity Supply is responsible for the appointment of the committees' members.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the change in electricity prices since 1989.

Mr. Eggar : The latest figures available show that domestic electricity prices fell by 0.4 per cent. in real terms between the third quarter of 1989 and the third quarter of 1993. Over the same period, average industrial electricity prices fell by about 4 per cent. in real terms.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will commission a report on the impact of electricity price rises on low -income consumers.

Mr. Eggar : I have no plans to commission such a report. Domestic electricity prices have broadly remained stable since privatisation.

Touche Ross

Mr. Darling : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if his Department or any agencies for which he is responsible has engaged the services of the firm Touche Ross or any of its partners since 1 July 1993.

Mr. Eggar : My Department has engaged the services of Touche Ross for new contracts on three occasions since 1 July 1993. During the same period two contracts previously issued were extended.

Global Warming

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will set out the basis for the statement at paragraph 19.16 of the report on sustainable development, page 133, that nuclear power provides a source of energy free from the pollutants that contribute towards global warming.

Mr. McLoughlin : An analysis of the effect on global warming of nuclear power as well as other fuels is set out in the report "The Impact of UK Electricity, Gas and Oil Use on Global Warming" by N. J. Eyre and L. A. Michaelis of the energy technology support unit, published in 1991.

This report sets out greenhouse gas emissions for a range of fuel cycles including different forms of electricity generation. The report covers for the electricity fuel cycles the extraction, processing, transport, generation, distribution and utilisation by final user. Even taking into account these aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, the emissions of greenhouse gases are very low. I have arranged for copies of this report to be placed in the Library of the House.


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Environmental Protection

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade in what ways he intends to explore within the European Community alternatives to a command and control approach to environmental protection as set out in the letter by the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Technology to Lord Ezra of 17 June 1993.

Mr. McLoughlin : The United Kingdom national sustainable development strategy, published on 25 January, restates the Government's commitment to using economic instruments, where appropriate, as an alternative to a command and control approach to environmental protection.

The European Commission has also made clear its wish to use such instruments--most recently in its communication to the Council, "Making the most of the Internal Market : Strategic Programme" (COM (93) 632 final). Officials are in touch with the Commission as specific proposals for action are developed.

In addition the Government have invited the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment to advise, from the business perspective, on the circumstances in which economic instruments, regulation or other policy instruments would be the most appropriate means for achieving environmental goals. This work will help to inform our examination of future EC proposals for environmental protection measures.

Oil Sales

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the aggregate sale of oil from the United Kingdom to all recipient countries in (a) monetary values and (b) tonnage for each month since January 1992.

Mr. Eggar : Monthly exports of oil from the United Kingdom since January 1992 are as follows :


United Kingdom oil<1> exports                               

               |Value         |Volume                       

               |(£ million)   |(thousand ton-               

                              |nes)                         

------------------------------------------------------------

1992                                                        

January        |539           |6,572                        

February       |427           |5,217                        

March          |511           |6,248                        

April          |542           |6,263                        

May            |510           |5,862                        

June           |493           |5,387                        

July           |525           |5,957                        

August         |588           |7,069                        

September      |515           |6,201                        

October        |667           |7,519                        

November       |621           |6,531                        

December       |628           |6,471                        

               |_______       |_______                      

Total          |6,566         |75,297                       

                                                            

1993<2>                                                     

January        |483           |5,810                        

February       |617           |6,500                        

March          |629           |5,970                        

April          |602           |5,920                        

May            |635           |6,300                        

June           |579           |6,130                        

July           |729           |7,690                        

August         |709           |7,800                        

September      |622           |7,220                        

October        |717           |8,190                        

<1> Petroleum, petroleum products, and related materials;   

i.e. Division                                               

33 of the Standard International Trade Classification.      

<2> It should be noted that these figures remain            

provisional and are                                         

subject to greater revisions than usual. Data on exports to 

other EC                                                    

countries are only available up to October.                 

Source: Central Statistical Office.                         

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the monthly sale of oil in tonnes from the United Kingdom to Cyprus in each month since July 1992.

Mr. Eggar : Monthly exports of oil by the United Kingdom to Cyprus since July 1992 are as follows :


Volume of United Kingdom oil<1>   

exports to Cyprus                 

                  |Tonnes         

----------------------------------

1992                              

July              |364            

August            |256            

September         |240            

October           |415            

November          |259            

December          |177            

                  |-------        

Total             |1,711          

                                  

1993                              

January           |148            

February          |375            

March             |165            

April             |255            

May               |294            

June              |119            

July              |291            

August            |267            

September         |212            

October           |257            

November          |233            

                  |-------        

Total to November |2,616          

<1> Petroleum, petroleum products,

 and related materials; i.e.      

Division                          

33 of the Standard International  

Trade Classification.             

Source: Her Majesty's Customs and 

Excise.                           

Car Boot Sales

Mr. Cash : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to ensure compliance with minimum legislative requirements within the framework of his deregulation policy at car boot sales.

Mr. McLoughlin : There is no legislation relating specifically to car boot sales. In so far as car boot sales raise questions of planning law, this is a matter for local authorities and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. In so far as they raise questions of compliance with such legislation as the Trade Descriptions Act or consumer safety regulations, they are a matter for local authority trading standards departments.

Children (Accident)

Mrs. Golding : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many accidents to children were recorded in each year since 1987.

Mr. McLoughlin : Statistics on home and leisure accidents to children are published by the Department in the home accident surveillance system annual reports for the years 1987 to 1991--the latest figures available--copies of which are held in the Library of the House. It should be noted that the national figures are extrapolated from a sample of accident cases treated in hospitals.


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Statistics on road traffic and work accidents are a matter for my right hon. Friends, the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Employment.

Mrs. Golding : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what were the recorded numbers of accidents that children had (a) in the home, (b) on the roads, (c) in school and (d) in playgrounds, in each year since 1987.

Mr. McLoughlin : The statistics requested in sections (a), (c) and (d) are published by the Department in the home accident surveillance system annual reports for the years 1987 to 1991--the latest available figures--copies of which are held in the Library of the House. It should be noted that the national figure is extrapolated from a sample of accident cases treated in hospitals. The answer to section (b) is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Nightwear Safety Regulations

Mrs. Bridget Prentice : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what further representations he has received from business, medical or consumer organisations about deregulation of the nightwear safety regulations.

Mr. McLoughlin : Consultation on the Nightwear Safety Regulations 1985, under the deregulation initiative, was concluded on 29 October 1993. Since then my Department has received a further 22 letters from business, medical and consumer interests which added to the general support for the retention of the regulations.

Loan Guarantee Scheme

Mr. Patrick Thompson : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consideration he has given to the experience of T. S. Industrial Development Ltd. based in the Norwich, North constituency in failing to secure lending under the provisions of the loan guarantee scheme ; if he will review the current qualification rules on the level of turnover and the number of employees ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin : There appears to have been no correspondence with DTI about the loan guarantee scheme and T. S. Industrial Development Ltd. Neither has any application for loan guarantee scheme assistance, from this company, been rejected by DTI. No comment on the individual case can, therefore, be made.

However, all applications for the loan guarantee scheme are reviewed by participating scheme lenders in the first instance and may be rejected by them.

The qualification rules on level of turnover and the number of employees were reviewed in 1993 and regular reviews are undertaken.

Parcelforce

Mr. Hain : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the cost to the Post Office of establishing Parcelforce as a separate business (a) in total, (b) for its Milton Keynes headquarters and (c) for new distribution and sorting depots.

Mr. McLoughlin : The establishment of a separate parcels operating unit within the Post Office has been taking place gradually since 1986, to improve efficiency and allow each of the main businesses to focus on its


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particular market. Details of the costs involved are commercially confidential ; however, all Parcelforce investment projects are required to meet standard public sector investment criteria.

Opencast Mining

Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what changes have been agreed to the regulation on opencast mining since the publication of the first report of session 1992-93 from the Trade and Industry Committee on British energy policy and the market for coal.

Mr. Eggar : The Government have published their proposals for amendments to the Opencast Coal Act 1958 in the Coal Industry Bill published on 2 December.

Regional Assistance

Mrs. Beckett : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) of 3 December 1993, Official Report, column 765, what was the total amount spent on (a) regional enterprise grants, (b) enterprise initiative schemes, (c) regional development grants and (d) regional selective assistance in 1992-93 in (i) the United Kingdom as a whole and (ii) each of the regions.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 25 January 1994] : Expenditure in 1992-93 on regional enterprise grants--REG ; enterprise initiative schemes--EI ; regional development grants--RDG ; regional selective assistance--RSA is as follows.


£ million                                                        

                         |REG    |<1>EI  |RDG    |RSA            

-----------------------------------------------------------------

South East               |-      |6.0    |-      |-              

East                     |-      |11.0   |-      |-              

Northern                 |1.5    |<2>2.0 |8.3    |28.1           

North West               |1.3    |<3>8.0 |1.3    |18.2           

Yorkshire and Humberside |1.8    |6.3    |1.1    |8.4            

South West               |0.8    |4.7    |-      |5.1            

East Midlands            |0.3    |4.0    |0.3    |0.6            

West Midlands            |0.1    |6.5    |-      |10.7           

                                                                 

England                  |5.8    |48.5   |11.0   |71.1           

Wales                    |1.1    |3.8    |5.5    |58.8           

Scotland                 |2.8    |5.4    |8.9    |59.2           

Great Britain            |9.7    |57.7   |25.4   |189.1          

Northern Ireland         |-      |0.4    |-      |-              

United Kingdom<5>        |9.7    |<4>58.6|25.4   |189.1          

<1>Expenditure relates to the Consultancy Initiative and the     

SMART and                                                        

SPUR schemes.                                                    

<2>Northern region excluding Cumbria.                            

<3>North West region including Cumbria.                          

<4>Includes £0.5 million not allocated regionally.               

<5>REG; RDG and RSA schemes operate only in Great Britain.       

Northern                                                         

Ireland schemes are not directly comparable.                     

Fireworks

Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has had from the British Standards Institute on the abolition of import licences for fireworks.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 1 February 1994] : My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has had no representations from the British Standards Institution relating to abolition of import licences for fireworks.


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Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what further representations he has had from the British Pyrotechnists Association on his proposals to abolish import licences for fireworks with particular reference to category 4 ;

(2) if he will make it his policy to amend the Consumer Protection Act 1987 to exclude category 4 fireworks from retail sales.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 1 February 1994] : On 27 January the British Pyrotechnists Association met my noble Friend Lord Strathclyde, the Minister for Consumer Affairs and Small Firms, to discuss the position of category 4 fireworks under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 following the recent changes by the Health and Safety Executive to the legislation relating to the import of fireworks.

The powers available in sections 10 and 13 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 are adequate to deal with the sale of category devices to the general public. The association has, however, promised to put forward suggestions for reinforcing the present arrangements for limiting the availability of category 4 fireworks to members of the general public and these will be considered.

Patent Office

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what will be the cost to the Exchequer of the review of the Patent Office being carried out by consultants ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 2 February 1994] : The fees paid to the consultants carrying out the review of the Patent Office are confidential for commercial reasons.

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make it his policy to raise (a) the environmental implications of the new GATT and (b) the economic implications of the international trade in nuclear materials between Europe and other economic areas at the forthcoming world economic summit in Davos.

Mr. Nelson : I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor attended an informal gathering of world economic leaders in Davos on 28-30 January as part of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. This meeting was not an intergovernmental summit to discuss specific issues ; it was an opportunity for international economic policy makers to discuss longer-term trends in the world economy on an informal basis.

Petrol Stations

Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimates have been made of the cost of implementation of the draft county councils directive 8348/92, stage 1, to petrol stations in rural and urban areas.

Mr. Atkins : I have been asked to reply.

There is currently under negotiation a proposed European Community directive which will introduce a system of petrol vapour recovery during the distribution of petrol. Following consultation with industry and a report


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from independent consultants, the Government have concluded that typical costs for service stations in the United Kingdom are likely to be in the range of £2,000 to £3,000. There will be variations in individual cases, dependent for example on existing equipment layout.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Goosanders

Mr. Hardy : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will reconsider her decision to allow goosanders to be shot on the River Wharfe ; and if she will ensure that this decision will not be used as a precedent for the destruction of goosanders and similar species as a matter of routine.

Mr. Soames : The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides for the issue of licences to kill or take protected wild bird species for the purpose of preventing serious damage to fisheries. The Agriculture Departments--in England, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food-- are responsible for the issue of these licences and they must not be unreasonably withheld.

Applications for licences are judged on a case by case basis and the issue of any one licence does not set a precedent. Licences to allow shooting, as an aid to scaring, will not be issued unless the applicant has provided sufficient evidence of serious damage to the fishery and where other methods of scaring are shown to be ineffective or impractical and not just difficult to implement. Each applicant is visited by Agricultural Development Advisory Service, the Ministry's wildlife advisers, before a decision is taken on whether or not to issue a licence. All licences issued are to shoot only a restricted number of birds, over a specific site, during the time of year when the serious damage is occurring.

The licence to shoot goosanders on the River Wharfe was issued only after sufficient evidence of serious damage to the fishery was presented to the Ministry.

Mr. Madden : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what considerations led her to license the Bolton Abbey Estate to kill 14 goosanders on the River Wharfe and on the estate fish farm ; what representations and advice she received from English Nature ; if she will make it her policy that all species listed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 will be guaranteed protection in future ; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Soames : The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides for the issue of licences to kill or take protected wild bird species for the purpose of preventing serious damage to fisheries. The Agriculture Departments--in England, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food-- are responsible for the issue of these licences and they must not be unreasonably withheld.

Applications for licences are judged on a case-by-case basis. Licences to allow shooting, as an aid to scaring, will not be issued unless the applicant has provided sufficient evidence of serious damage to the fishery and where other methods of scaring are shown to be ineffective or impractical and not just difficult to implement. The Agricultural Development Advisory Service, the Ministry's wildlife advisers, visit each applicant to assess the case before reporting back to the Ministry. English Nature is consulted locally and its representations are taken


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into account in making the licensing decision. Nevertheless, the responsibility for the issue of such licences must remain with the Ministry. All licences issued are to shoot only a restricted number of birds, over a specific site, during the time of year when the serious damage is occurring.

The licences to shoot goosanders on the River Wharfe and on the estate fish farm were issued only after sufficient evidence of serious damage was presented to the Ministry.

Bovine Somatotropin

Mr. Loyden : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the current policy of her Department on the use of bovine somatotropin to increase the milk yield of cows.

Mr. Soames : It remains our view that any final Community decision on the marketing and use of bovine somatotropin--BST--should be based firmly on the scientific principles of safety, quality and efficacy, but should take into account the need to avoid international trading problems, to encourage Community-based research industries, and to maintain the competitiveness of the Community's agriculture and food industries.

BST has been cleared by all advisory bodies, and the European Commission itself has accepted that milk produced from BST-treated cattle is safe. In those circumstances it should be for the market place to determine whether BST has a role to play, and it is inappropriate to introduce fresh criteria. Nevertheless, the Community should benefit from the experience of other countries where BST is available, in particular the United States of America, where approval was recently given and took effect from the beginning of February 1994.

On that basis, therefore, my right hon. Friend the Minister accepted at the December meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers that it was sensible to extend the current moratorium for not more than one year, until December 1994, so that the Council could consider these new developments and experience overseas.

National Poisons Unit

Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what resources have been made available to the national poisons unit for the assessment of (a) pesticides and (b) dietary supplements in 1992 and 1993.

Mr. Soames : The Ministry has a specific research contract with the national poisons unit--NPU--to investigate possible cases of poisoning due to dietary supplements and traditional remedies. Payments to the NPU under this contract in the financial years 1992-93 and 1993-94 were £109,000 and £117,000 respectively. MAFF is not funding any work on pesticides at the NPU.

Sheep Dip

Mr. Butler : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when she plans to set up a panel to evaluate research into reports of long- term health effects arising from exposure to organophosphorus sheep dips ; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Soames : Dr. D. N. Bateman BSc, MB BS, MRCS, MD, FRCP, consultant physician of Freeman hospital,


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Newcastle upon Tyne ; reader in therapeutics ; and medical director of the northern region drug and therapeutics centre, has agreed to chair a panel to look into reports of long-term health effects claimed to arise from organophosphorus--OP--sheep dip exposure. In its recent advice, the Veterinary Products Committee pointed to a lack of firm scientific evidence to support any such link, but nevertheless considered that knowledge of potential toxicity should be enhanced. The committee went on to recommend the setting up of a panel of independent medical and scientific experts to address this question, and the Government accepted the recommendation.

The terms of reference of the panel, which will act as a sub-committee to the Veterinary Products Committee, will be : to evaluate research currently available, and in progress, on OP sheep dip products in relation to possible human exposure : to advise on any additional work that may be needed to elucidate the potential long term effects on humans of OP sheep dips ; to advise on the suitability of any projects submitted for research ; and

to report findings to the Veterinary Products Committee, as its sub- committee.

Prospective members of the panel are now being approached and invited to serve. A further announcement will be made once the panel's composition has been finalised.

The Government treat with the utmost seriousness any suggestion of potential harm to human health. I am sure that the panel's work will make a valuable contribution in adding to our state of knowledge in this field.

Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning)

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proportion of the moneys allocated to decommissioning fishing vessels in the current financial year has been taken up ; how many tenders accepted by her Department have not been taken up ; how much is left ; and what she proposes to do with the remaining moneys.

Mr. Jack : As explained in my reply to the hon. Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) on 14 December, fishermen whose bids have been accepted will receive their grants provided they comply with the rules. Some vessel owners who were successful in the tender have since decided not to go ahead with decommissioning and there may be others who in the event do not submit valid claims. The final position will not be clear until the 1 March closing date for the submission of claims. Any shortfall in the extent of decommissioning flowing from this round will have to be taken into account in future decisions about how the United Kingdom is to meet the targets laid down in its multi-annual guidance programme, which provides that 55 per cent. of the total reduction has to be met by cuts in fishing capacity.

Currently a shortfall of about £ million is expected. In the context of the overall management of the Department's budgets I would expect that expenditure on any subsequent decommissioning schemes could be correspondingly adjusted. A total of £25 million remains available for expenditure on decommissioning in the present and future financial years.


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Coppicing

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what new proposals she has to extend coppicing.

Mr. Jack : In 1993 we secured agreement in the EC Council of Ministers that short rotation coppice could be grown on non-rotational set- aside land. On land outside the Arable area payments scheme, short rotation coppice is eligible for grants under the woodland grant scheme. Also electricity generated using coppice as a fuel may benefit from the provisions of the President of the Board of Trade's third Renewables Order imposing a non-fossil fuel obligation on public electricity supply licensees. We are considering whether any further measures to encourage coppice might be necessary, against the background of the common agricultural policy and our own forestry review.

Organic Farming

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what new proposals she has to increase organic farming production.

Mr. Jack : The Government's efforts to encourage British farmers to respond to demand for organic food include a substantial research and development programme and on 10 August 1993 my hon. Friend the Minister announced a proposed organic aid scheme, designed to increase the area under organic production in England threefold. My right hon. Friend also met representatives of the organic farming movement recently. It was agreed that there should be further discussions with officials, and another ministerial meeting in the spring concentrating on the role of organic farming in relation to reform of the Community's common agricultural policy.

NATIONAL FINANCE

Inflation

13. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the latest estimate of inflation rates in 1994.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : I expect underlying inflation in 1994 to remain safely within its 1 to 4 per cent. target range.

28. Mr. David Atkinson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the target rate of inflation.

Mr. Nelson : The Government announced in October 1992 that they would aim to keep underlying inflation--as measured by the retail prices index excluding mortgage interest payments--in the range 1 to 4 per cent. and to bring it down to the lower half of this range by the end of the present Parliament. This objective was confirmed in the March and November 1993 Budgets. Underlying inflation has been within the target range in each month since October 1992. The most recent figure, for December 1993, showed underlying inflation of 2.7 per cent.


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