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Payment of Bills

Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of bills to his Department were paid (a) in accordance with agreed contractual conditions and (b) within 30 days of receiving goods and services or the presentation of a valid invoice where no contractual conditions applied in the last year for which figures are available. [18813]

Sir John Wheeler: Since the implementation of a revised rigorous and consistent method of calculating payment performance from 1 June 1996 by HM Treasury, the Northern Ireland Departments and Northern Ireland Office payment performance in percentage terms are:

Percentage of invoices paid within 30 days or contract payment terms
1 June 1996 to 31 August 199694.0
1 September 1996 to 30 November 199694.3

The figures for the quarter ending February 1997 are not yet available.

Newcastle Disease

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 17 February, Official Report, column 408, if he will make a statement on the possible link between the recent outbreak and spread of Newcastle disease and the normal prohibition of the Newcastle disease vaccination. [17241]

Mr. Ancram [holding answer 24 February 1997]: Vaccination against Newcastle disease has been prohibited in Northern Ireland until recently because of the Province's status as a non-vaccinating area has effectively prohibited the importation of poultry--other than eggs and day-old chicks--from vaccinating countries. That has helped to prevent the introduction of Newcastle disease and other poultry diseases from which Northern Ireland has been free. Vaccination also makes it technically more difficult to detect and diagnose

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Newcastle disease if it does occur. Moreover, Newcastle disease occurs even in countries which pursue a policy of vaccination. In such countries it is generally only the breeding flocks and laying flocks which are vaccinated; broiler flocks, which represent the majority of birds in any national flock are normally not vaccinated. The industry relies on maternal immunity to give a degree of protection. In such circumstances, broiler flocks are those most at risk and worldwide experience shows that a disease challenge can override the maternal immunity especially in the final two to three weeks of a broiler's life when the maternal immunity is waning. It is therefore very unlikely that a vaccination policy would have prevented the present outbreaks in broiler flocks which have occurred in Northern Ireland. Where vaccination, especially spray vaccination, is useful, however, is as a means of damping down the spread of Newcastle disease once it appears, and that is the policy which is currently being applied in Northern Ireland.


Dr. Strang: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many scientists were employed by his Department and each of his Department's agencies on (a) the most recent date available and (b) for each year since 1979 on matters equivalent to those covered by MAFF; and if he will list each agency, service or central laboratory employing scientists on such projects. [18168]

Mr. Ancram [holding answer 5 March 1997]: It is possible to provide only details of the numbers of staff employed in each year since 1990. To provide details for earlier years would involve an expensive and

6 Mar 1997 : Column: 724

time-consuming exercise to extract the information. I am advising therefore that disproportionate costs apply other than where the information is provided.

February 1997446
March 1996449
March 1995460
March 1994483
March 1993483
March 1992465
March 1991476
March 1990448

The Department employs the staff at two main centres--Veterinary sciences division, Stoney road, Belfast, and the Agricultural and Food science centre, Newforge lane, Belfast.


Winter Mortality Rates

Mr. Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what have been the excess weekly mortality rates in Wales for (a) December 1996 and (b) January 1997 in terms of numbers; and how these compare with the weekly death rates for the same period in each of the previous five years. [17203]

Mr. Gwilym Jones: The data for Wales, provided by the Office for National Statistics, on deaths occurring each week--Monday to Sunday--and the annual weekly average are shown in the following tables:

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Week beginning1996-971995-96(9)1994-95(10)1993-94(11)1992-93(12)1991-92(13)
25 November622724607797638671
2 December639766716750673649
9 December674777689771670729
16 December726967715716770749
23 December879976792840811753
30 December1,107963783789839796
6 January1,061872796786771756
13 January903780782740737769
20 January804734785669668742
27 January739761749714787

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For weeks beginning:
1 27 November 1995 to 29 January 1996
2 28 November 1994 to 30 January 1995
3 29 November 1993 to 31 January 1994
4 30 November 1992 to 25 January 1993
5 25 November 1991 to 27 January 1992
Data for 1996 and January 1997 are provisional.
Annual weekly average for each calendar year:
1991: 656
1992: 650
1993: 690
1994: 652
1995: 684
1996: 1 663
1 Provisional.

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Local Government Finance

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the total revenue of local authorities in Wales for the current financial year from (a) council tax, domestic rates and community charge and (b) non-domestic rates; and what were the equivalent figures for 1994-95 and 1995-96. [18579]

Mr. Hague: Local authorities have budgeted to collect £449 million by way of council tax and will receive £459 million in respect of redistributed non-domestic rates for the current financial year. The equivalent figures for 1994-95 and 1995-96 are £342 million and £381 million for council tax and community charge arrears and £464 million and £520 million for non-domestic rates. The figures for council tax income are gross of council tax benefit grant.

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Public Bodies (Freemasonry)

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make it a requirement for senior executives in non-departmental bodies in Wales to enter membership of masonic organisations in a register available for public inspection; and if he will make a statement. [18578]

Mr. Hague: I have no plans to require the establishment of such registers.

Child Labour (Consultation Exercise)

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales to which organisations (i) working in Wales and based in Wales and (ii) working in Wales although based elsewhere he has sent a copy of the document, "Employment of Children: Results of Consultation Exercise"; on what date the document was circulated; and what plans he has to implement the changes necessary to implement the document's proposals. [18724]

Mr. Gwilym Jones: The document "Employment of Children: Results of Consultation Exercise" was sent on 13 December 1996 to:
Chief executives and directors of education, local authorities in Wales;
The Secretary, Welsh Local Government Association;
Welsh Group of Education Welfare Officers;
British Medical Association, Wales
Children in Wales;
Health Promotion, Wales
National Farmers' Union, Wales;
National Federation of Women's Institutes, Wales;
National Union of Teachers, Wales;
Royal College of Nursing, Welsh Board;
Sports Council for Wales.

Regulations are being prepared to begin the process of implementing in England, Scotland and Wales changes affecting employment of children below minimum school leaving age, to conform with the European directive on the protection of young people at work.

Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will provide a breakdown by project of PFI schemes for which his Department is responsible as identified in table 5.5 of the Red Book. [18938]

Mr. Gwilym Jones: The figures in table 5.5 of the "Financial Statement and Budget Report" show estimated capital spending by the private sector under the PFI. The £70 million estimated for 1997-98 includes one contract that has already been signed, for the Osiris information technology project. The remainder of the £70 million is made up of projects for which contracts have not yet been signed. Among these are projects for a new general hospital at Baglan; A55 improvements across Anglesey; Bute Avenue, Cardiff and provision of a new community hospital at Chepstow.

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