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Local Government Finance

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much money has been given to Derbyshire county council and Derby city council in revenue support grant from central Government for 1997-98 [13753]

Mr. Raynsford: Derbyshire county council received £166.734 million and Derby city council received £84.507 million revenue support grant for 1997-98.

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Rent Officer Service

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what decision has been made in relation to the future of the rent officer service; and how many responses were received during the consultation period. [13479]

Ms Armstrong: I announced on 7 August that I had concluded that there was a strong case for the creation of a Next Steps Agency for the Rent Officer Service in England. I said then that before taking a final decision I would be consulting interested parties, including the Local Government Association, the trades unions representing rent officers and their support staff, and other interested parties. That consultation is now complete, and I am grateful for the 63 responses I received from individuals and organisations. I am placing a summary of these in the Library.

There is general agreement that the current arrangements are unsatisfactory, but views differ on the solution. Many respondents favoured the Agency proposal, but support was also expressed for various alternative proposals. I have given very careful consideration to all the views which have been submitted, but have concluded that none of the alternative suggestions would tackle satisfactorily the inherent problems of the Service, which are caused by the unclear pattern of accountability and local inconsistencies of approach. I have therefore decided to proceed with the establishment of a Next Steps Agency for the Rent Officer Service in England.

My Department will now go ahead, in consultation with interested parties, to make preparations for establishing the Agency. It will be necessary to ensure that the implementation costs can be contained within the available public expenditure provision. For this reason, and because of the amount of detailed planning yet to be done, I cannot yet say when the Agency will become operational, but it will be as soon as practicable.

Waste Dumping at Sea

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is the time scale for ending the dumping of wastes at sea. [13025]

Mr. Rooker: I have been asked to reply.

The United Kingdom is a contracting party to the Oslo convention for the prevention of marine pollution by dumping from ships and aircraft and its successor, the convention for the protection of the marine environment of the north-east Atlantic (the OSPAR convention) which is expected to come into force shortly. Under the OSPAR convention only the following may be considered for dumping.







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FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

British Passports

Mr. Robert McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many passports were issued by the British embassy in Dublin in each of the last five years and how many were refused in each of those years specifying the most frequent reason for refusal. [13020]

Mr. Fatchett: The information is as follows:

Passports issuedIneligible applications/refusals
19934,83512
19946,12224
19955,23617
19965,40620
19975,06811
Total to date26,66784

These figures do not include extensions, child additions or amendments. Entitlement to British passports is a matter of law. Passports are refused when the applicant is unable to prove identity or his or her claim to British nationality.

Belarus

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations Her Majesty's Government have made through diplomatic channels to the State of Belarus about the suspension of parliamentary democracy within that country. [13101]

Mr. Doug Henderson: We regularly make clear to the Belarus authorities our concerns over the constitutional and human rights situation in Belarus. Our ambassador in Minsk reiterated these concerns to Foreign Minister Antanovich at a meeting in September and officials from this Department made similar points to Deputy Foreign Minister Martynov in London in September.

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent contacts there have been between Her Majesty's Government and the state of Belarus. [13100]

Mr. Doug Henderson: Following the disputed constitutional referendum of November 1996, the EU General Affairs Council adopted Conclusions in February 1997, in accordance with which we have had no Ministerial contacts with Belarus. Officials from this Department made clear to Deputy Foreign Minister Martynov in London in September our concerns about the constitutional and human rights situation.

Commonwealth Summit (Bananas and Sugar)

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he had with representatives of Commonwealth Governments at Edinburgh concerning (a) the World Trade Organisation judgment on trade in bananas and (b) the consequential effects of such judgment on the Lome agreement, with particular reference to its protocol concerning sugar. [13390]

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Mr. Doug Henderson: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met representatives of Caribbean Commonwealth Governments and discussed, among other things, their concerns about the implications of the World Trade Organisation ruling. He made clear that the UK would work for a new EC banana regime which was consistent with WTO rules and which took account of our obligations under the Lome convention. He did not discuss the potential effects of the ruling on other preferential effects of the ruling on other preferential trading arrangements provided for under the Lome convention. The Edinburgh economic declaration notes our support for the legitimate interests of the African Caribbean and Pacific banana producers and our resolve to work for a successor arrangement to the Lome convention which gives the ACP adequate transitional arrangements.

European Treaties

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with which person or body articles of ratification of the treaty of Amsterdam will be deposited; if there is any time limit on such action; and what obligations will be placed on any member state, other than those entered into in the current treaties, if they are unable to deposit such articles or other necessary documents. [13050]

Mr. Doug Henderson [holding answer 30 October 1997]: Instruments of ratification of the Treaty of Amsterdam will be deposited with the Italian Government. No time limit has been set for ratifying the treaty. The treaty will only enter into force after all member states have ratified it and it will therefore impose no obligations on a state which does not ratify it.

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish prior to consideration of the Bill enabling Her Majesty's Government to ratify the treaty of Amsterdam a consolidated version of the principal treaties of the European Community and Union combining the content of the treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam. [13054]

Mr. Doug Henderson [holding answer 30 October 1997]: The intergovernmental conference agreed to attach to the Final Act, for illustrative purposes, the texts of the treaty on European Union and the treaty establishing the European Community as they result from the amendments made by the Treaty of Amsterdam. These texts are set out in Cm 3780. They do not form part of the treaty of Amsterdam and do not themselves require ratification.

Immigration Correspondence

Mr. Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many letters from hon. members have been received since May relating to immigration matters; how many were received in the same period last year; what percentage of replies to hon. Members are signed by a Minister; and what are the factors which determine that such replies are signed in this way. [13199]

Mr. Fatchett [holding answer 30 October 1997]: Between 1 May and 31 October 5,812 letters were received from Members; 4,321 were received in the same period last year; around 11 per cent. are signed by a

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Minister. There are no set factors determining which letters are signed by a Minister; each case is considered individually.


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