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Bloody Sunday

Ms Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on Bloody Sunday.[24858]

Marjorie Mowlam: I refer to my hon. Friend to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last Thursday 29 January 1998, Official Report, columns 501-03.

Student Tuition Fees

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to her answer of 27 January 1998, Official Report, column 172, on fourth year fees for eligible Northern Irish students, what factors are being considered in the ministerial discussion; and when she expects to announce a decision. [26796]

Mr. Worthington: The discussion is focused mainly on matters of equity relating to student support and costs. A decision is expected soon.

PRIME MINISTER

Iraq

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the consequences of military action against Iraq in (a) Iraq, (b) the Arab world and (c) Iran. [26985]

The Prime Minister: Saddam has demonstrated that he is prepared to attack his neighbours by attacking Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990.

So long as Saddam Hussein retains the capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction he will remain a real threat to his own people and to the whole Middle East region.

It would not be sensible to speculate on possible military action at this stage.

We, and Security Council partners, continue to pursue through diplomatic means the objective of ensuring full Iraqi compliance with the Council's demands.

2 Feb 1998 : Column: 476

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral answer of 28 January 1998, Official Report, column 348, to the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson), concerning Iraq, to which neighbours he was referring; and what action he has taken to ascertain their view of the efficacy of bombing without the use of ground forces. [26807]

The Prime Minister: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 27 January 1998, Official Report, column 130.

Security Services

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the categories of persons who since 1 May are no longer the subject of security service interest. [26409]

The Prime Minister: The operations of the Security Service are constrained by its statutory remit which allows it to conduct investigations only into persons whom it suspects of presenting a threat to national security or to the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, or in support of the law enforcement agencies in the prevention and detection of serious crime.

Power Generators

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Prime Minister if he has seen the signed agreement reached by the Paymaster General with the power generators. [26413]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 30 January 1998]: No agreement was reached between the power generators and the Government. Arrangements for coal deliveries were agreed by the relevant parties.

Animal Issues

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to rationalise departmental responsibilities for animal issues to achieve better policy co-ordination.[26786]

The Prime Minister: Ministers with responsibilities for animal welfare are actively considering what new arrangements may be needed for interdepartmental co-ordination on animal welfare policies and their presentation. An announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Biotechnology

Mr. Baker: To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out departmental responsibilities for biotechnology issues; and what steps he takes to ensure (a) cross-departmental co-ordination and (b) that environmental aspects are fully taken into account. [26787]

The Prime Minister: These issues cut across a number of Government Departments. Specific information on departmental responsibilities in respect of regulation, information sources and support for biotechnology in the UK is available through the "BioGuide", published by the DTI. Copies are available in the Library.

The President of the Board of Trade as Cabinet Minister for Science, supported by the Minister for Science, Energy and Industry, takes overall responsibility for co-ordination of biotechnology issues across Government.

2 Feb 1998 : Column: 477

The cross-departmental co-ordination of biotechnology policy is undertaken, at official level, by the Interdepartmental Group on Genetic Modification Technology (IGGMOT). IGGMOT was established under the auspices of the Office of Science and Technology in 1993 to provide a forum for consideration of biotechnology policy across Government, both domestic and international. Since its inception, IGGMOT has become increasingly important tool for the co-ordination of biotechnology policy, including environmental aspects.

The official Cabinet Committee on Science and Technology (EASO), chaired by the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor, also maintains an overview of biotechnology issues.

Women's Employment

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to assist women aged over 50 years back into employment. [27047]

The Prime Minister: We shall continue with policies of economic stability and growth that create employment opportunities for all. The latest figures announced on 14 January 1998 show a continued increase in the number of people in work in the UK and a further fall in the number unemployed. Falls in unemployment have been relatively even across all age groups for both men and women.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

British Coal (Land Holdings)

Ms Walley: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will list the remaining land holdings held by British Coal, indicating which are (a) in the process of passing to the Coal Authority and (b) subject to conditional planning consents relating to opencast coal mining. [25511]

Mr. Battle: British Coal retains approximately 30 properties where sales are contracted but not yet completed. In addition it holds leasehold interests in 14 office properties and approximately 200 recreational sites which are due to transfer to the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation shortly.

It is not intended to transfer any of these properties to the Coal Authority and none are subject to conditional planning consents to opencast coal mining.

A full list detailing all the properties will be available in the HoC library.

Industrial Tribunals

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will estimate the cost to companies of their being required to submit testimony in person at industrial tribunals. [25305]

Mrs. Beckett: The most recent Survey of Industrial Tribunal Applications collected information on the total costs for employers responding to Industrial Tribunal cases (1992 Survey of Industrial Tribunal Applications: Trelett and Banerji--Employment Department, February 1994). This did not differentiate between the costs of attending a hearing and other costs. The overall median

2 Feb 1998 : Column: 478

total cost was £1,486, although this varied greatly between cases and organisations and included all costs incurred including attending a hearing, legal advice etc. The Third Survey of Industrial Tribunal Applications, which will be carried out during this year, will allow a better breakdown of the costs to both parties.

Fossil Fuel Levy

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on the reduction proposed for the fossil fuel levy. [24964]

Mr. Battle: The setting of the rate of the fossil fuel levy is a matter for the Levy Collector. On 19 December the Levy Collector announced that the rate of the fossil fuel levy for the year beginning 1 April 1998 would be 0.9 per cent.

Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on what parts of the electricity generating industry the fossil fuel levy will apply; and how much will be realised with the new formulas for the fossil fuel levy. [24967]

Mr. Battle: The Fossil Fuel Levy Bill, now before the House, would result in electricity supplied from nuclear and fossil fuel sources being subject to the fossil fuel levy as well as electricity produced under Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation arrangements. The Levy Collector estimates that the levy will need to realise £119 million in 1998-99.

Mr. Redwood: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when she plans to announce the rate and incidence of the non-fossil fuel levy. [24404]

Mrs. Beckett [holding answer 20 January 1998]: On 19 December the Levy Collector announced that the rate of the fossil fuel levy for the year beginning 1 April 1998 would be 0.9 per cent. This is pursuant to my previous answer on 24 November 1997, Official Report, column 417, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Science, Energy and Industry's answer to the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon), on 24 November 1997, Official Report, column 417.


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