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AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Absenteeism

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what was the absenteeism rate for the Veterinary Medicines Directorate in 1991, 1992 and 1993;

(2) what was the absenteeism rate for the Agricultural Development Advisory Service in 1991, 1992 and 1993;

(3) what was the absenteeism rate for the Intervention Board in 1991, 1992 and 1993;

(4) what was the absenteeism rate for the Central Veterinary Laboratory in 1991, 1992 and 1993;

(5) what was the absenteeism rate for the Central Science Laboratory in 1991, 1992 and 1993;


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(6) what was the absenteeism rate for the Pesticides Safety Directorate in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

Mr. Waldegrave: These matters are the responsibilities of the chief executives concerned. I have asked them to write to the hon. Member direct.

Letter from Dr. J. M. Rutter to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 20 December 1994:

The Minister has asked me to reply to your question about absenteeism rates in the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), as this is an operational matter for which I am responsible as Chief Executive.

The VMD has a total staff of 102 as at 1 December 1994. In terms of absenteeism related to sickness, the information you requested for the Directorate is as follows:


Year       |Percentage           

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

1991       |3.4                  

1992       |2.6                  

1993       |3.0                  

Letter from Dr. J. M. Walsh to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 23 January 1995:

Recently, you tabled a Parliamentary Question (PQ 240) enquiring after the absenteeism rate for ADAS in 1991/1993. Subsequently, you requested additional data for 1994. The figures are as follows:


Year                           |Average days per                                             

                               |person                                                       

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

1991                           |6.5                                                          

1992                           |6.7                                                          

1993                           |<1>8.5                                                       

1994                           |7.8 (year to 14 December 1994)                               

<1> Introduction of new work recording system.                                               

Please note that these figures contain many reasons for absenteeism such as sick leave, maternity leave, special leave for other purposes.

Letter from Guy Stapleton to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 23 January 1995:

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has asked me to reply to your question about the absenteeism rate for the Intervention Board in 1991, 1992 and 1993, as the matter is one within my operational responsibility.

Sick absence rates in the Intervention Board for the financial years 199 91, 1991 92 and 1992 93, calculated as a percentage of total man years, were:


Year       |Percentage           

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

1990-91    |4.4                  

1991-92    |3.9                  

1992-93    |6.7                  

The increase in 1992 93 was mainly the result of a relatively small number of the Agency's staff who were then on long-term sick leave. Most of these officers have since retired on medical grounds. Letter from T. W. A. Little to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 23 January 1995:

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, what was the absenteeism rate for the Central Veterinary Laboratory in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

As you know the Minister has asked that I write to you direct with the answer to your question.

CVL was launched as an Executive Agency on 2 April 1990. Information on absences since that date is not readily available and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.


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Letter from Dr. P. I. Stanley to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 23 January 1995:

Absenteeism Rate in the Central Science Laboratory 1991 93 The Central Science Laboratory (CSL) was launched as an executive agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 1 April 1992. Questions relating to staff when they formed part of the core Department before the Agency's launch are for the Minister to consider.

Since becoming an Agency CSL has kept management information, including details of absenteeism (unauthorised absences), on a financial year basis. During the 1992 93 financial year there were no unauthorised absences and during 1993 94 there was a single incidence of eight days duration involving a junior member of the scientific staff. This was out of a total number of staff in post of 488. On 1 April 1994 CSL was re-launched as an enlarged Agency following the merger with the Food Science Laboratories at Aberdeen and Norwich. To date in the current financial year there have been no instances of absenteeism in the enlarged Agency.

Letter from G. K. Bruce to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 23 January 1995:

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has asked me to reply to your Question about absenteeism rates in respect of the Pesticides Safety Directorate.

The Directorate was launched as an executive agency on 1 April 1993. Information on absences since that date is not readily available and could only be provided at disproportionate cost. Questions relating to staff when they formed part of the core Department before the agency's launch are for the Minister to consider.

Flooding

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer of 29 November, Official Report, column 614, what evidence he has that agricultural practices which leave land without grass or crop cover can lead to an increased rate of run-off.

Mr. Jack: Grass or, indeed, any kind of crop cover has the ability to retain water, thereby leading to a natural decrease in the rate of run- off. The precise effect of crop cover on rates of run-off will however vary according to a number of factors including slope of the land, type of soil, rate of rainfall and agricultural practices.

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer of 29 November, Official Report, column 613, what assessment he has made of the need for extensive surveys and flood modelling to assess if more run-off from the land is occurring and flood damage is becoming more frequent and widespread.

Mr. Jack: Changes in flood response in any particular catchment depend on a combination of factors notably land use, topography and climate. Ministry research carried out by the Institute of Hydrology suggests little evidence of any significant overall trend in the rate of runoff from land over time. In the light of this, the Ministry has no plans for more extensive surveys over and above those being undertaken by the National Rivers Authority to inform local planning authorities of flood risk areas.

Common Agricultural Policy

Mr. Deva: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to ensure that other member states comply with the rules in the common agricultural policy.


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Mr. Jack: Ensuring member state compliance with Community rules, including those concerning the CAP, is the responsibility of the European Commission.

The most effective sanction against non-compliance with CAP regulations is the Commission's powers to "disallow"--not reimburse--member states' expenditure which it believes was not in accordance with the rules. In December 1994, in its decision on the clearance of the 1991 CAP accounts, the Commission disallowed £1.2 billion of member states' 1991 CAP expenditure--almost 5 per cent. of the total. The Government will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Commission makes full and proper use of these powers. For example, as a result of the United Kingdom's legal challenge to Commission disallowance decisions relating to breaches of the EC milk quota legislation by Italy, Spain and Greece, the disallowance due is increased by over 50 per cent.

We also fully support a measure soon to be implemented which, among other things, seeks to speed up the clearance of accounts process and improve the financial management of the CAP in all member states. In addition, we are always ready to press the Commission to take action against another member state whenever evidence of breaches of the rules comes to light. Our agricultural attache s in other member states have specific instructions to be alert to such breaches. As a result of our initiatives, the Commission has recently ruled illegal state aids to French pig producers and Irish mushroom growers, requiring the aids to be repaid with interest.

Farm Hygiene Inspections

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many farms were visited by Agricultural Development and Advisory Service officers for the purposes of carrying out hygiene inspections in England in each year since 1990.

Mrs. Browning: The number of farm hygiene inspections carried out by ADAS officers in England in each financial year since 1990 is as follows:


        |Number       

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

1990-91 |14,457       

1991-92 |12,112       

1992-93 |12,896       

1993-94 |12,602       

1994<1> |9,203        

<1> April-December    

Fishing (Spanish Vessels)

Mr. Ainger: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what scientific advice he has received on the impact on fish stocks of 40 Spanish vessels fishing in the Irish box.

Mr. Jack: Throughout the negotiations on the integration of Spain and Portugal into the common fisheries policy I have been advised by the fisheries scientists at the Ministry's directorate of fisheries research at Lowestoft.

Spanish fishing in the Irish box from 1 January 1996 will be constrained not only by the number of vessels they are permitted there but by their quotas for the relevant International Council for the Exploration of the Seas


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zones, and by any effort control measures which may be adopted in relation to their fleet during 1995.

Live Animal Exports

Mr. Morley: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer of 12 January, Official Report , column 210 , what was the destination of the 6,662 cattle exported for immediate slaughter; and if all the animals were over six months of age.

Mrs. Browning: The destinations--and number of animals--are: France, 83; the Netherlands, 233; Republic of Ireland, 32; and Northern Ireland, 6,314.

European Community rules prohibit the export from the United Kingdom to other member states of cattle which are over six months of age--unless they were born outside the UK. Animals consigned from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are included in the ANIMO figures because health certification is required for such movements, and are not subject to an upper age limit.

Mr. Morley: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the number of (a) lorries carrying live animals and (b) animals, by species, exported live through Dover to Zeebrugge on the weekend of 13 to 15 January, stating whether these animals were being exported for (i) immediate slaughter, (ii) further fattening or (iii) breeding only.

Mrs. Browning: Such information could be provided only by the ferry companies concerned.

ENVIRONMENT

Area Cost Adjustments

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how much more would be distributed to (a) Humberside and (b) east midlands counties if the area cost adjustment was adjusted as proposed by the Association of County Councils; and if he will make a statement on his reasons for rejecting such an adjustment;

(2) what were his reasons for rejecting the Association of County Councils' proposals in July 1994 for reassessing the area cost adjustment on the basis of actual spending; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what is his estimate of the change in the area cost adjustment if it was based on actual rather than theoretical labour cost differentials as indicated by local authority pay scales and employee budgets; what are his reasons for using theoretical costs; and if he will make a statement;

(4) what is his estimate of the reduction in the gain to the south-east in the current year through the area cost adjustment of basing it only on London weighting;

(5) what are his reasons for rejecting the proposals made by the Association of County Councils in 1993 for adjusting the area cost adjustment on the basis of the actual payments to teachers, firemen and police; how much would have been deducted from the adjustment to the south- east if he had done; and if he will make a statement; (6) when he expects his new review of costs as a new base for the area cost adjustment to be (a) completed and (b) considered; on what grounds it is being carried out on the basis of travel-to-work areas rather than local


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authority areas; and what are the actual costs and wages for local authority employees or average costs;

(7) what evidence and research he relied on to demonstrate the existence of a general labour market requiring higher wages to attract good-quality staff in the south-east; and what assessment he makes of the margin of difference this makes in actual average wages of (a) teachers, (b) firemen and (c) local authority manuals between London and the south-east and the east midlands.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The area cost adjustment is based mainly on evidence of differences between areas in rates of pay in occupations within which local authorities are likely to have to compete for employees. The evidence of rates of pay is taken from the new earnings survey, and is updated each year.

The Association of County Councils has criticised the scale of the area cost adjustment. In 1993, it suggested that the adjustment should, in the case of teachers, police, and firefighters, take account only of London weighting payments. In 1994, the association suggested that other specific employment-related costs might also be included, although it believed that, even if this were done, the total of the area cost adjustment would be less than it is. We have misgivings, however, about the association's proposals in 1993 to base the area cost adjustment on London weighting payments alone because this would not reflect all the variations in employment costs faced by local authorities. We also have misgivings about the association's proposals in 1994 to identify and cost all the extra expenses related to operating in London and the south-east. This is partly because we seek to avoid reflecting in standard spending assessments the actual expenditures of authorities; and partly because we would be reluctant to introduce additional judgments into the determination of the SSA formula. We remain to be persuaded that a generally agreed list of extra costs could be identified and costed objectively, without reference to evidence of prevailing rates of pay in the local employment market of the kind which already forms the basis of the area cost adjustment.

The association's observations in 1994 were not developed into a methodology which could be applied in the calculation of the area cost adjustment. It is therefore not possible to say what the area cost adjustment would have been if the association's views had formed the basis of the calculation. Nor does the Department currently have sufficient information to calculate the level of the area cost adjustment if it were based solely on actual wage payments, local authority pay scales or London weighting. Any change in the basis of the area cost adjustment would also affect other aspects of the formula for calculating SSAs. For example, there would need to be a reappraisal of the weighting given to additional education needs. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend has discussed with the Association of County Councils its views on the area cost adjustment. We are prepared to consider further any proposals they may make for an alternative methodology for calculating the adjustment.

We also propose to commission research this year which may enable the area cost adjustment to take account of variations in rates of pay between travel-to-work areas in all parts of England. Travel-to-work areas are being considered because they may be a better reflection of the pattern of local labour markets than are the administrative areas of local authorities. The progress of the research will


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depend both on the availability of the necessary data and the success of the researchers in developing a method by which it could be used in the area cost adjustment. We will consider the findings of the research, once they are available.

Departmental Administration

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what assessment he made of the advantages and disadvantages of moving Cumbria from the northern standard region into the integrated north-west region;

(2) what assessment he has made of the advantagesand disadvantages of transferring Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex from the south-east standard region into the south-east integrated region; (3) what assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of transferring Merseyside from the north-west standard region and creating a free standing integrated Merseyside region;

(4) what assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of transferring Greater London from the south-east standard region to the Greater London integrated region;

(5) what assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of transferring Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk from the East Anglian standard region and Bedfordshire, Essex and Herfordshire from the south- east standard region into the new integrated eastern region.

Sir Paul Beresford: The 10 Government offices for the regions brought together the existing regional offices of the Departments of Employment, Trade and Industry, Transport and the Environment. The proposed boundaries of the new offices harmonised the existing departmental regional boundaries and were adopted, after due consultation, when the new offices opened for business in April 1994. The boundaries are depicted in my Department's annual report, available from the House of Commons Library. There is no direct relationship between the boundaries of the Government offices for the regions and the standard regions, which are used primarily for statistical purposes.

Council Tax

Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many appeals against council tax bandings are currently outstanding (a) nationally and (b) by each valuation office.

Mr. Curry: Some 959,101 proposals to alter the valuation list had been received in England by the end of December 1994, of which 229, 084 were outstanding. I am placing in the Library a table which breaks these totals down by valuation office region and office.

Railway Station, Stratford

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on how many occasions and on what dates he or Ministers or former Ministers in his Department met persons representative of interests in Stratford, east London, to discuss matters relating to proposals for a new Stratford station.


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Sir Paul Beresford: Matters relating to the proposal for an intermediate station on the new channel tunnel rail link at Stratford in east London have been raised with various Ministers in this Department in a variety of meetings over the last two years. For example, in that period, there have been four meetings of the East Thames Forum, in which Ministers responsible for urban regeneration have met the leaders of east London local authorities. The then Minister with responsibility for urban regeneration, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton, (Sir G. Young), visited the Stratford site in August 1993 and he and the Minister of State with special responsibility for the east Thames corridor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon, (Mr. Curry), received a presentation from the Stratford promoters in November 1993.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on how many occasions and on what dates he or Ministers or former Ministers in his Department have met persons in Stratford, London to discuss matters relating to the regeneration of east London.

Sir Paul Beresford: Stratford is the focal point of a number of major regeneration initiatives in east London. These includes Stratford city challenge, a successful single regeneration budget bid and the European regional development fund funded "East London and the Lea Valley Corridor" programme. Stratford is also an important part of the Government's Thames gateway initiative. Since May 1992, the earliest date for which information is readily available, the Secretary of State and departmental Ministers have visited Stratford in connection with these regeneration initiatives as follows: Secretary of State

Regeneration of east London conference, Old Town hall, Stratford, 19 October 1993.

Opening of new Stratford bus station, 16 November 1994.

Sir George Young

East London housing association, Victoria street, Stratford, 9 March 1993.

Marking the city challenge boundary, 2 August 1993.

Annual review, Stratford city challenge, 1 February 1994. Mr. Robert B. Jones

Tour of Stratford city challenge, 25 November 1994.

Announcement of successful SRB bids, Old Town hall, Stratford, 6 December 1994.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on how many occasions in the last six months civil servants in his Department met persons representative of interests in Stratford to discuss matters relating to proposals for a new Stratford station.

Sir Paul Beresford: In the last six months, officials from my Department have met officers from the London borough of Newham and others with an interest in the proposed intermediate station on the new channel tunnel rail link at Stratford on a number of occasions. Similar meetings have been held with those with an interest in other intermediate stations. For example, as part of the public consultation exercise on the Thames gateway planning framework, published on 7 September 1994 and more generally. Officials from the Department's Thames gateway task force have regularly attended, as observers, meetings of the Stratford Station Promoters Group.


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Railway Station, Ebbsfleet

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on what date Ministers in his Department were briefed by Decision Makers Ltd. either formally or informally on the international station at Ebbsfleet.

Sir Paul Beresford: Ministers naturally meet a wide range of people at social occasions to which they are invited, and it is inevitable that issues of current concern are raised during conversations at such occasions. However, the Secretary of State and Ministers in this Department have had no briefing meetings with Decision Makers Ltd. on the proposed intermediate station on the channel tunnel rail link at Ebbsfleet. They were fully briefed on the station proposals during visits to the local authority areas concerned, when they met councillors, officers and representatives of the landowners, Blue Circle Properties. The Minister of State with special responsibility for Thames gateway met representatives of Dartford borough council in June 1994, to discuss the regeneration of Kent Thamesside. Representatives of Decision Makers Ltd. were present at that meeting as advisers to Dartford council.

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Open Government

30. Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will establish an investigation into the differential charges made to applicants under the code of practice on official information by non- departmental public bodies.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: No.

40. Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what action is being taken to give the public more access to Government information.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: We are continuing to implement the policy set down in the White Paper on open government.

Public Appointments

36. Mr. Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will indicate the percentage of the total number of appointments to public bodies who are (i) women, (ii) of Asian origin, (iii) of Afro- Caribbean origin and (iv) of other ethnic minority origin.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: As I announced to the House on Friday, the proportion of public appointments held by women is 30 per cent.; and 2.6 per cent. of appointments are held by black and Asian people.

County Palatinate

37. Mr. Elletson: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he will next visit the County Palatinate to discuss science.

Mr. David Hunt: Shortly.

Civil Service Morale

38. Mr. Flynn: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what new proposals he has to improve morale in the civil service.


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Mr. Robert G. Hughes: The best way to improve morale is to allow staff to perform to the best of their abilities in their chosen career. The Government's civil service reforms enable staff to focus their attention on delivering high quality public services efficiently and effectively, with a minimum of central oversight.

Research Council Staffing

41. Mr. Simon Coombs: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the progress of Sir John Cadogan's review of the staffing of the research councils.

Mr. David Hunt: Sir John Cadogan is concluding his discussions with the research councils regarding their plans for 1995. Thereafter, the continuing search for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness is an essential part of the Government's commitment to ensure that the costs and complexities of administering the research councils' systems are minimised.

Citizens Charters

Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what further citizens charters he is proposing; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: The Northern Ireland further and higher education charters will be published later this year. This will bring the total number of charters to 42.

In addition, public service organisations continue to develop their existing service standards and a number of revised charters will be published later in the year. These include the contributors charter for national insurance payers, the council tenants charter and the court service charter, which will replace the existing courts charter.

SCOTLAND

M77

Mrs. Ray Michie: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what expressions of concern he has received regarding proposed funding for the Ayr road route, M77, from the European Commission.


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