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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 23 June 1998


Sierra Leone

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much was spent on aid to Sierra Leone by her Department in 1997-98; and if she will make a statement. [46733]

Clare Short: My Department provided £3.439 million to Sierra Leone in the 1997-98 financial year.

Of this, £250,000 was spent on Sierra Leone refugees in neighbouring countries and £250,000 for Government and civil society outside Sierra Leone.

Departmental Cash Limits

Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what changes have been made to the 1998-99 cash and running costs limits for expenditure by her Department. [47538]

Clare Short: Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the cash limit for Class III, Vote 1 will be increased by £2,261,000 from £1,618,439,000 to £1,620,700,000 and the Department for International Development running cost limit by £2,261,000 from £59,874,000 to £62,135,000.

The increase is in respect of a running cost transfer of £2,261,000 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Class II, Vote) for the costs of development staff in London and abroad.

The increase will be offset by a reduction in the FCO's Vote and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

Departmental Reviews

Mr. Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will list, for each of the last four years, all departmental inquiries and reviews instigated by ministers which have been chaired by individuals outside her Department; and in each case if she will give the date of establishment and the name of the chairman. [46835]

Clare Short: My Department has not undertaken any departmental inquiries or reviews instigated by ministers which have been chaired by individuals outside the department in the last four years.

Jubilee 2000

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what is her Department's policy in relation to the Jubilee 2000 coalition campaign to cancel debt. [46734]

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Clare Short: Both the Government and the Jubilee 2000 Coalition recognise the important part debt relief can play in the eradication of poverty. We seek the same overall objective--the remission of the unpayable debts of the world's poorest countries. Her Majesty's Government welcome the work that Jubilee 2000 and its associates have been doing to raise public awareness of these issues, and thus keep debt relief firmly on the international political agenda. This has helped us to get agreement at last month's G8 Summit in Birmingham to one of the main aims of the Government's Mauritius Mandate--to ensure that by the year 2000 all eligible highly indebted poor countries will have at least begun the process which will lead to debt relief.


Audit Commission

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish the terms upon which media and public affairs consultants have been appointed by the Audit Commission over the last five years, and the total amounts spent each year with each consultant. [46109]

Mr. Raynsford: The Audit Commission's press and public affairs functions have been provided externally for more than nine years. These services are market tested every three years in accordance with relevant EC Directives and, following the last market test, two companies--Citigate Westminster and Lawson, Lucas and Mendelsohn--were appointed. Whilst details of the contractual terms are commercially confidential between the Audit Commission and individual contractors, the Commission has incurred the following expenditure on these services in each of the last five years:

Businesses (Environmental Practice)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he has to encourage businesses to improve their environmental practices. [46226]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 16 June 1998]: This Government's long term goal is sustainable development. Under the legally binding targets agreed at Kyoto, the European Union agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, on average, by 8 per cent. Under the UK Presidency, we have secured agreement with other Member States on how to meet this European Union target. The UK contribution is to reduce emissions by 12.5 per cent. This, together with the Government's own manifesto commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent., has to be planned for. These are challenging targets and all sectors--business, domestic and transport--need to play their part in meeting them.

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The Government currently have a wide range of existing programmes and initiatives to encourage business to improve its environment practices beyond the minimum standards set by regulation. These include: the Best Practice Programmes for Energy Efficiency and Environmental Technology; the promotion of environmental management within business; energy and environmental labelling schemes; codes of practice covering environmental claims on products and services; producer responsibility for the recovery and recycling of waste; promoting waste minimisation; voluntary agreements with industry sectors; and promoting the wider take up of environmental reporting.

As part of the wide ranging Opportunities for Change consultation on a revised UK Sustainable Development Strategy, we have just launched a Sustainable Business consultation paper. This sets out and seeks views on the particular challenges posed by sustainable development for business. A further element of the strategy, the Government's recently issued consultation paper on the waste strategy for England and Wales, Less Waste: More Value, stresses the importance of industry action to reduce the environmental impact of their waste, and seeks views on what further action is needed to encourage this.

Business is taking these matters seriously. In their Climate Change report, the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment suggested that some form of tax on industrial energy may be necessary. In response the Government have set up a task force, chaired by the President of the CBI, Lord Marshall, to examine the role of economic instruments, such as an energy tax.

In the light of these various developments the Government will be looking across the array of measures they can deploy--regulation, voluntary agreements and economic instruments--to see what else they can do to encourage better environmental performance from business.

Air Quality

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he has to improve air quality. [46225]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 16 June 1998]: The UK National Air Quality Strategy sets out national air quality objectives for eight key air pollutants to be achieved by 2005. These objectives have been set with reference to air quality standards which represent no or minimal risk of health effects to the public. The Strategy also describes a range of policy options for achieving the objectives and the contribution to be made at international, national and local levels. We announced last year that we would review the Strategy urgently to look at the options for delivering improved air quality more quickly. The review is due to be completed by the end of this year.

The Government are also taking action on a number of other fronts to improve air quality. At the European level we reached agreement at the Environment Council earlier this month on tough new air quality limit values under the Air Quality Daughter Directive and improved fuel quality standards under the Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels Directive. We have also made significant progress in negotiating tighter fuel quality and emission standards under the Auto-Oil programme. At the national level we

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are implementing the Industrial Pollution Prevention and Control Directive and taking forward fiscal incentives for low emission buses/lorries, alternative fuels and legislation on vehicle emissions. At the local level we have introduced a system of local air quality management and are piloting a scheme for local transport emissions enforcement.

Environment Agency

Mr. Martlew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what conditions the Highways Agency required to be placed on the planning application for the new Environment Agency offices in Cumbria; what was the cost of complying with them; and which organisation paid. [46371]

Mr. Raynsford: Conditions were attached to the planning permission granted by Eden District Council requiring the provision of new traffic signals at the junction of the M6 and A66, together with additional road markings. With regard to the cost of complying with the conditions and which organisation paid, the information is not readily available but I will provide a written response with details as and when they become available.

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