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Chemical Weapons

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what quantities and types of chemical weapon agents imported from the United States are held in store by the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment; and if he will make a statement on the current safety status of the containers holding these agents. [4303]

Mr. Spellar: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to my hon. Friend.

25 Jun 1997 : Column: 549

Letter from John Chisholm to Mr. Llew Smith, dated 25 June 1997:


Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what landfill locations are used for the disposal of heavy metals extracted from chemical weapons munitions being incinerated at the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment at Porton Down. [4299]

Mr. Spellar: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to my hon. Friend. Letter from John Chisholm to Mr. Llew Smith, dated 25 June 1997.


Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what environmental and safety information has been provided to his Department by those contracted to destroy outstanding British chemical weapon grenades, 9140-M6-CN-DM, held at RAF base Bad Wulfen. [4302]

Mr. Spellar: The destruction of outstanding British chemical weapon grenades at BAD Wulfen, is being conducted in accordance with German environmental legislation. Frequent meetings between my Officials, the German Authorities, selected German Army specialists, and the Contractor, have ensured this to be the case. A safety plan was also agreed following detailed discussions between local German government officials, the Contractor, and ammunition specialists from both the British and German Army. The stringent safety regulations already in force within the Ammunition Depot assisted this process. Whilst no specific information has been received by my Department from the Contractor on matters of environment and safety, the Contractor has, as a matter of course, contributed to the procedures which have been put in place.

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Ex-service Affairs Unit

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to create an Ex-service Affairs Unit; and what is the expected timetable for the implementation of such a policy. [4776]

Dr. Reid: The Government is aware of proposals made by The Royal British Legion for the creation of an ex-Service Affairs Unit. This is a matter which needs careful consideration, and the Government will be looking into it in some detail.

NATO

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment has been made of the revenue and capital costs of the current plans for NATO expansion. [5385]

Dr. Reid: No decisions have been taken on which countries will accede to NATO membership, when and on what terms. The costs of enlargement, which will fall both on the countries which join and on the existing members of the Alliance and which will be incurred over a long period, will depend on those decisions. Subject to that caveat, we expect the costs of enlargement to be manageable.

Internet

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what use he plans to make of the Internet to make Government more open. [5107]

Mr. Spellar: My Department is committed to providing information on its activities in accordance with the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. We recognise the potential of the Internet to assist in this process. The MOD Home Page is at:


Information on the MOD web-site includes Departmental policy on Open Government and the Departmental complaints procedure, as well as policy developments, Ministerial statements and speeches, procurement and technological matters, and information on MOD organisation. We are currently reviewing the MOD web-site with a view to improving both the presentation and coverage of the information carried on it.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Public Limited Liability Companies

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will introduce measures to ensure that all public limited liability companies are required to file their annual accounts at Companies House within 90 days of the year end. [4822]

Mr. Ian McCartney: I have no plans to do so.

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Coal Authority

Ms Cooper: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made in appointing a new chief executive of the Coal Authority to succeed Mr. Neville Washington. [5796]

Mr. Battle: The Coal Authority has announced the appointment, with my agreement, of Mr. Kenneth Fergusson as Chief Executive in succession to Mr. Neville Washington.

Auditors (Regulation)

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will assess the advantages of replacing the recognised supervisory bodies responsible for regulating auditors with a single independent regulator. [4824]

Mr. Ian McCartney: The Government's business manifesto said that we would ensure there is a framework of independent regulation for the accounting profession. I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion in that context.

Small Company Audits

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will introduce legislation to raise the threshold for small company audits in order to bring it in line with the definition of small company contained in the Companies Acts. [4819]

Mr. Ian McCartney: My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has no plans to do so. The threshold for audit exemption was last raised on 15 April 1997, following public consultation.

Companies Acts

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will assess the advantages of introducing powers equivalent to those contained in section 150 of the Financial Services Act 1986, into the Companies Act legislation. [4817]

Mr. Ian McCartney [holding answer 23 June 1997]: I have no plans to do so.

Genetically Engineered Food

Mr. Paice: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what studies her Department has carried out on the consumer safety aspect of the importation of genetically engineered corn. [5169]

Mr. Rooker: I have been asked to reply.

I take it that the hon. Member is referring to the genetically modified (GM) maize currently being imported into the European Union from the USA, in which case I refer him to the reply given to him about the safety of GM maize earlier today.

EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Welfare to work

Ms Hewitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what will be the minimum period of

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unemployment which will qualify lone parents under the age of 25 years for inclusion in the welfare-to-work programme. [4841]

Mr. Alan Howarth: We will offer young people aged 18-24 (including lone parents), who have been unemployed for six months or more, a choice of high quality options designed to help them into work. These include a job, the chance to train, or an opportunity to work in the voluntary sector or on the Environmental Task Force.

We also propose to offer lone parents who are on income support, regardless of age, a package of Employment Service guidance and support in their search for work once their youngest child reaches the second term of full-time education.

Ms Hewitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if, as part of the Welfare to Work programme, he will assess the advantages of introducing, on a pilot basis, social enterprise zones to promote new approaches to generating sustainable employment in disadvantaged communities. [5064]

Mr. Howarth: We are currently working to implement our manifesto commitment to introduce Employment Zones in areas of high unemployment. By encouraging innovative approaches to bringing together and making more coherent different streams of help and funding currently available, Employment Zones will greatly benefit long-term unemployed people and their communities.


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